||ARCHIVES: THE TRANSITION
As on the government page, throughout this page,
I will focus on the names of the leaders, and not the titles that went before
their names (like Dr, Honourable, General, Lieutenant, etc.). I am not trying
to be rude or disrespectful, but titles change and are difficult to confirm, so
that will not be my focus.
Between the death of Abacha and around the end of 1998, I tried to summarize news articles I read concerning the transition to democratic rule. Most of the things here are old news, but I figured I'd leave it here rather than delete it from the site altogether. For a summary of the transition, go to the Back to Democracy page.
BOOKMARK'S WITHIN THIS PAGE:
*** Please remember that the information on this page is mostly factual rather than opinion. It does not express my views or beliefs. I simply try to summarize the zillions of news articles I receive that have to do with the transition.
On June 8, Nigeria's ruler at the time, General Sani Abacha died of a heart attack, and he is mourned by few. The death and some information about his rule were both broadcast, and you can get more information about that from many sources including the following:
Abdulsalam Abubakar took his place, and initially was still promising a return to civilian rule in October (only then, Abacha could not be a candidate in the election, and definitely not the only one at that), and also set aside a month of mourning for Abacha. With the state of affairs the way they have been in the last few years, many are hoping that things will improve from here on. Amnesty International, pro-democracy activists, and others were urging him to return to democracy and human rights.
Initially, Abubakar did not mention what he intended to do with political prisoners, but he did invite Nigerians in exile to return home to return and join in nation-building.
Some of the people in exile include:
On Friday, June 12th, the 5th anniversary of the 1993 annulled elections to which Abiola was declared the winner, there was a rally organized by the Joint Action Committee of Nigeria (JACON) consisting of hundreds of demonstrators, demanding the release of Abiola and the end of military rule in Nigeria. Police used tear gas and fired shots to disperse the demonstrators, and some people were arrested, including Dupe Abiola (one of Abiola's wives) and Gani Fawehinmi (a lawyer and opposition leader), some of Fawehinmi's sisters, and over a dozen other people. On Monday June 15th, the charges were dropped, and those arrested were released.
- Wole Soyinka (Nobel prize winner in literature)
- Tony Enahoro (frontline nationalist)
- Alani Akinrinade (Second Republic defense boss)
- Dan Suleiman (retired Commodore)
- John Odigie-Oyegun (Third Republic governor)
- Bola Tinubu (Senator)
- Chief Ralph Obioha
On June 15, 1998, Abubakar released nine political prisoners:
On June 18, Abubakar released 6 more political prisoners, but these are the only names I've been able to obtain:
- Olusegun Obasanjo (former president)
- Beko Ransome-Kuti (human rights activist)
- Mrs. Chris Anyanwu (journalist)
- Frank Kokori (oil union leader)
- Milton Dabibi (oil union leader)
- Bola Ige (politician)
- Olabiyi Durojaiye (politician)
- Uwen Udoh
- Ibrahim Dasuki (former Sultan of Sokoto)
On June 26, Abubakar released 17 more political prisoners, including:
- Arthur Nwankwo (writer and pro-democracy activist)
- Ebun Olu Adegboruwa (human rights lawyer)
Abiola, Diya and some of Diya's staff (whereas other people in Diya's staff have been released but reassigned) were still in prison, but on July 3rd, there were promises that ALL political prisoners (numbering more than 400), including Abiola would be released.
- Lou Falae (former Secretary to the Government of the Federation)
- Abubakar Rime (former Kano State Governor)
- Olisa Agbakoba (human rights activist)
- Segun Maiyegun (human rights activists)
- Frederick Fasheun (former presidential aspirant in the Social Democratic Party)
- Sule Lamido (former SDP chieftain)
- Ayo Opadokun (chieftain of the opposition group the National Democratic Coalition)
As the middle of July approached, and the month of mourning for Abacha was over, people thought that they would be able to see what Abubakar's real intentions were, which were (and still are slightly) unclear.
Meanwhile, there were many cries for the release of Abiola from prison. Some thought Abiola should be instated as President since he won the last election, and others think that is history and new elections should be held. From my readings, it seemed that his holding on to the title of president was what has kept him from being released with the others that Abubakar was releasing. There were rumors that he had dropped his claim to the presidency, which was what was keeping him in jail. However, later on, one of the papers published a letter of his that he had sent to them stating that he had done no such thing, though there was pressure to do so.
Expectations that Abiola would be released were high, and many were looking forward to it, whether or not they wanted him as president. However, on July 7th, at about 4 p.m. (Nigerian time) he died of cardiac arrest after falling ill during a meeting with the U.S. Delegation, at the age of 60 (almost a month after Abacha died).
Initially, there was an outraged nation, and many people suspected that he was poisoned. For the next few days, there were demonstrations around the country, carried out by people of all ages, because southerners believed that the northern military was responsible for his death. Over 55 people died in the riots, and over 400 were arrested. (And no, not all areas were affected.)
Though Muslim tradition would require that a body be buried within 24 hours of death, the family agreed to an international autopsy (with doctors from the US and from Britain), with Abiola's doctors participating, to determine the exact cause of death, thus delaying his funeral. There were hopes that the findings would appease the family, supporters, and those who thought he was poisoned for political convenience.
The autopsy was performed on Saturday, July 11th, and he was buried the same day. The preliminary report stated that they believe he died of "natural causes as a result of his long-standing heart disease", though further testing was to be accomplished over the next three weeks, since tissue samples would be sent to Canada and Britain. As of July 21st, there is no proof of poisoning being the cause of death, though there is a article stating that the doctors determined he was definitely neglected in prison, which is not a situation that is restricted only to him, and many people still blame the government, including Wole Soyinka.
Some sites where you can get more information on Abiola are:
On August 12, 1998, after three weeks of intensive testing on tests that would have been capable of testing over 220 drugs and poisons, the international team of pathologists that examined Abiola's body once again confirm that he died of natural causes, and that the only drugs found in his body were things like anti-malaria, and anti-inflammatory drugs.
On July 15th, Abubakar ordered the release of all prisoners that had completed their jail terms.
The government said that "All of those to be freed had been held without trial or jailed even though they had served out their prison sentences" and that the releases were "part of the total efforts of the administration to decongest our prisons and its determination to defend and protect the freedom and basic rights of individuals.'' There was no indication of whether political detainees would be among them, but at that time, he asked for a list of all prisoners that were being held for political reasons.
On July 20th, Abubakar released 10 more political prisoners including:
Around the middle of September, I was still reading about one or another political prisoner being released (including Kudirat Abiola's aide - Bayo Osinowo), so I think he is doing this gradually.
- Ben Charles Obi (journalist)
- George Mba (journalist)
- Kule Ajibade (journalist)
- Shehu Musua (human rights activist)
Also, on September 20th, I read that a panel of the Nigerian Medical Council is collating information on the health records of Abiola and Yar' Adua (both politicians jailed by Abacha, and both died in prison, and both had the same physician - Ibrahim Yakassai) to determine whether an army colonel (Yakassai) was culpable in their sudden deaths.
With Abiola gone, the world waited to hear Abubakar's plans for the transition to democracy, and on July 20th, they were finally released. The highlight is that A NEW ELECTED PRESIDENT WILL BE SWORN IN ON MAY 29, 1999, and he is claiming to take the nation on a path of political and economic reform.
You can read the full text of the speech here, but the key points were that:
- All five political parties disbanded. Assets taken over by administrators. NECON dissolved
- New independent electoral body to be established. Registration of parties, voter, and election, observers from UN, Commonwealth, and OAU to be invited. Everybody allowed to join or create a party. New parties must not take contributions from outside the country. Government will not interfere with parties.
- Constitutional conference constitution will be published.
- No government of National Unity, as it would be undemocratic, so will not be constituted. New Federal cabinet will reflect national character.
- Cannot pretend that June 12th did not happen, but a call to return to the past is not practical or fair. Asks those aggrieved to count it as sacrifice on the path to democracy.
- All political detained to be released
- Exiles asked to return.
- Granted pardon to Obasanjo, and Yar'Adua.
- Will continue with macro economic features of the past administration. Dual exchange rate to stay.
- Joint venture oil exploration to be serviced. $630M to be paid immediately to partners. Alternative funding to be determined so that cash calls do not burden the government in the future.
- Telecommunications, Oil, Transport and other public ventures to get full competition as soon as possible (40% of Nitel, NAFCON NEPA, to be privatized). Proceeds to be used to reduce foreign debt and enhance local infrastructure.
- PTF to focus on education , road, and health.
- Local contractors to be fully paid.
- OMPADEC to be reconstituted
- Salaries of public serviced to done; Federal retrenchment suspended.
- Unions to be fully democratized; no government interference.
- All government contracts to be under open contract.
- Drug running to be combated with international cooperation
- Air links to USA and UK to be restored.
- Paris Club, IMF and World bank to be involved in debt reduction and repayment.
- 1st Quarter 1999 will be date for presidential election. New president to be sworn in on May 29th 1999.
(Not necessarily related to government matters, but I understand that there are also plans to perform a population census in the year 2001.)
On August 24th, Abubakar administered the oath of office on the cabinet team. Six former ministers under Abacha, but the rest were dismissed. The names I have been able to obtain for the current cabinet are:
- Abdullahi Ibrahim - Justice Minister and Attorney General
- Alfa Wali - Agriculture
- Jonah Madugu - Minister of State Agriculture
- Benoni Briggs - Aviation
- Canice Umenwaliri - Communications
- Patrick Aziza - Commerce and Tourism
- Samuel Oni - Education
- Saka Sa'adu: Minister of State Education
- Maman Kontagora - Federal Capital Territory
- Adebisi Ogunneye - Minister of State FCT
- Ismaila Usman - Finance (Is it Usman or Isman? I've seen both.)
- Akpan Etuk-Udo - Minister of State Finance
- Ignatius Olisemeka - Foreign Affairs
- Buhari Bala - Minister of State Foreign Affairs
- Debo Adeyemi - Health
- Abubakar Ali - Minister of State Health
- John Nwodo Jr - Informal Affairs
- Emmanuel Udogu - Employment, Labour and Productivity
- Rasheed Gbadamosi - National Planning
- Bello Suleiman - Power and Steel
- Godwin Ogbaga - Minister of State Power and Steel
- Sam Momah - Science and Technology
- Patrick Yakowa - Solid Minerals
- Festus Porbeni - Transport
- Hamza Sakwa - Water Resources
- Laraba Abdullahi - Women Affairs
- Garba Mohammed - Works and Housing
- Ambrose Fesse - Minister of State Works and Housing
- Emeka Omeruah - Youths and Sports.
After the ceremony, Abubakar warned his new cabinet ministers that they face enormous responsibilities in overseeing the transition to democracy. He said that the military would be watching the government closely to prevent corruption or involvement in party politics. The new ministers were told that their tasks were to support the program for the transition, to keep out of civilian politics, and to prepare for the hand-over to the elected government next May.
All eyes are watching to see what happens, but many are confident that Abubakar will keep his promise despite the fact that he used to serve under Abacha, and despite the fact that only one military ruler has kept his promise of returning to democratic rule. Some nations that previously had sanctions against Nigeria are placing sort of a 'temporary lift' on their sanctions to give Nigeria an opportunity to turn around. To quote Canada "At this stage, we cannot be certain of the outcome given the country's recent history, but we want to give the government of Nigeria every chance to achieve its stated objectives", and Nelson Mandela has moved to renew the relationship between Nigeria and South Africa. During the week of August 24th, Abubakar went to visit South Africa, and this ended on a high note.
On August 27th, Abubakar released his time-table for the transition. The highlights of this are:
As part of Abubakar's goal to rid of corruption in the government, Nigerian security officials are investigating the activities of politicians to determine their eligibility before the upcoming elections. The officials will disqualify any politician found guilty of economic crimes against the country.
- New voters registration exercise will take place in October
- Nation will go to the polls for local government elections on December 5, 1998
- Elections for state governors will be held in January 1999
- National assembly polls scheduled for February 20, 1999
- Presidential polls scheduled for February 27, 1999
- And of course, new president will be sworn in on May 29, 1999
Also, fraud has been confirmed during the Abacha regime, and these have been under investigation. On September 7th, Abubakar announced that his government has started discussions with foreign countries to recover money illegally stashed abroad by Abacha and his aides. His aides have been under investigation, and some of them have fled the country. Abacha's family is not allowed to leave the country at this time. Once evidence is found appropriate decisions would be made. Investigations continue. On September 23rd, I read that some of the aides (Ibrahim Saho, Frank Omenka) were arrested and others (especially Ismaila Gwarzo) were still under investigation. I have also read that some of the countries are willing to help Nigeria to recover some of the money that Abacha illegally stored away in foreign banks. (Later on in October, Gwarzo was arrested, but later released.)
This may or may not affect the transition, but on July 29th, Babangida (you remember, the guy who was president, and annulled the elections that Abiola won) said that he accepts full blame for annulling the elections in 1993, saying that "What we did was wrong, but we tried to rationalize it." So far, I have not seen anything saying he revealed why he did so (especially since Abiola was supposedly also a friend of his), though I did see something where his son said he was under pressure to do so by some other generals (including Abacha, who was said "if power was ceded to a southerner like Chief Moshood Abiola, the north would have nothing left"). On September 11th, I read that The Joint Action Committee of Nigeria sued him in an effort to unravel the annulment of the election. The lawsuit was filed at the Federal High Court in Lagos Monday. Gani Fawehinmi, the committee's chairman, is seeking an injunction barring any election under the current political transition programme until the reasons for the annulment are made known. At that time, the date of hearing has not been fixed, but Abubakar, the attorney general
of the Federation, and the Independent National Electoral Commission are named as co-defendants in the suit.
On September 9th, 25 political parties registered for the elections. The officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said parties would be registered if the documents they submitted were genuine and if they had a following from different parts of the country. The list of those who have been granted provisional registration will be released on September 24. To qualify for full registration in presidential and parliamentary elections, parties must then score more than 10 percent in two-thirds of Nigeria's 37 states in December 5 local government elections.
The 25 parties that registered, and their leaders were:
| Alliance for Democracy||Jolly Tanko Yusuf |
| All Peoples Party||Mahmud Waziri |
| All Nigeria Party||Isa Mohammed |
| Community Party of Nigeria||David Barau |
| Democratic Advance Movement||Tunji Braithwaite |
| Democratic Alternative||Emma Ezeazu |
| Masses Democratic Party (Agenda 99)||Daniel Kanu |
| Minority Rights Party||Ken Enahoro |
| Movement for Democracy and Justice||Kau A. Al-Gazali |
| National Coalition Party||Jubah Obiefunna |
| National Democratic Movement||Emmanuel Osammor |
| National Development Party of Nigeria||Chinedu Ogbonna |
| Nigeria Millenium Party||Abayomi Mumini |
| National Restoration Democratic Party||Dr. Emeka |
| National Solidarity Movement||I.Y.M. Takpa |
| National Unity Party of Nigeria||Adisa Akinloye |
| Nigeria Labour Party||R. M. Al-Hassan |
| Nigeria Liberation Party||Muhammed Ringim |
| Nigeria Renaissance Movement||Ayo Omideyi |
| Peoples Democratic Congress||Odumegwu Ojukwu |
| People Liberation Party||Goodnews Agbi |
| Peoples Democratic Party||Solomon Lar |
| Peoples Redemption Party||Balarabe Musa |
| United Democratic Party||Umaru Dikko |
| United People's Party||Nicholas Onyeabu|
Recognize the name Ojukwu? He was the leader of the Biafra war. He said in a later statement that he is just leading the party, he has no intent on presidency himself. Also, I keep reading that people (including Northerners) are trying to get Obasanjo to run for president. If you don't remember him, he is the only military ruler that voluntarily handed political power back to the civilians, and he was jailed by Abacha (he is also NOT from the North). On October 7th, I read that he had been given a registration form by the People's Democratic Party, that he said he would not fill at the time. Of course, there is also a lot of opposition to him running, partly because he used to be in the military.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) began their verification of claims made by the parties listed above. By September 24th, the commission will release the names of the provisionally registered political parties. One of the requirements are that each association has to have functional offices in at least 24 states (that's 2/3rd of the nation).
Also, the Federal Government has assured journalists that they would now have free press, as long as they always quote their sources or respondents accurately.
On September 18th, Nigerian authorities dropped treason charges against Wole Soyinka and 14 other people, in response to Abubakar's orders, saying he was seeking national reconciliation.
Police spokesman Young Arabamen confirmed the charges were withdrawn Friday on Abubakar's orders. (Remember that part of the transition speech was that all exiles were invited home.)
NADECO (National Democratic Coalition) vice-chairman, Dr. Arthur Nwankwo, met with the exiles in Europe and USA an reported when he returned to Nigeria that the exiles had agreed to take part in the transition program, but that they had no intentions to return home until certain laws had been revoked.
According to Nwankwo, the discussions centered on the return of the exiles, participation of NADECO in politics and the issue of restructuring the country. He said "We discussed extensively. The key issue is their coming back. We agreed they have to come back in batches, and also agreed that it is not a question of verbalisation by the Head of State that they have to come back (that), he has dropped all the charges. There are important decrees that must be abolished.", namely Decrees 2, 3, 18, and 29 (want to tell me the highlights of these decrees?)
Also, as part of his efforts to make a clean break from the past, Abubakar, has appointed 15 new state administrators, redeployed 18 others and retained only three in their current posts.
On September 22nd, Abubakar traveled to London, and the following day, to the United States. U.S. While in the U.S., he met with president Bill Clinton who urged him to continue Nigeria's transition to democracy. According to an anonymous U.S. official, the meeting lasted about half an hour at the White House, and "The president expressed his support for General Abubakar's efforts. He stressed how important Nigeria's transition to democracy is for all of Africa...". He also said that Washington had no current plans to lift its military and other sanctions on Nigeria, but he suggested the issue would be under
consideration as Nigeria moved toward democracy. "It is something we need to review as appropriate in the context of this transition," the official said. "We are not at a decision point currently." (Remember, Clinton had called Abubakar on June 15th.)
Also, while in the U.S., Abubakar met with the president of the Nigerian Advocacy
Group for Democracy and Human Rights (NAG-DHR), and you can read the article about that conversation here.
Also, Wole Soyinka, head of the United Democratic Front of Nigeria (UDFN) at its weekend meeting in New York with General Abdulsalami Abubakar
said it was imperative to probe the last regime, according to details of the meeting Sunday. The UDFN declared in a letter presented to Gen. Abubakar at the meeting: "In view of the record of the late General Sani Abacha regime and the recent revelations about the most reckless handling of the national treasury, the UDFN believes that your administration must not saddle the
incoming civilian government with the task of probing the military."
The letter was actually quite interesting, and you can read it here.
Foreign Minister Ignatius Olisemeka attended the meeting of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) taking place on October 8-9 in London. If you remember, Nigeria was suspended from the Commonwealth in 1995 after Abacha executed Ken Saro-Wiwa and the others, but since Abubakar is driving towards democracy, they are watching Nigeria closely to see if the membership will be renewed. They agreed to lift sanctions but also decided that Nigeria will not be re-admitted until a civilian president is elected next May. (Later the European Union agreed to lift all sanction on Nigeria's government except for those dealing with military supplies and training.)
On September 22nd, it was announced that only about five of the 25 political parties that applied for
provisional registration for elections met the requirements. "We discovered that most of the office addresses given by some parties were fictitious, because when we went to verify we couldn't find them. We also discovered that most of the political associations were either ethnic or regional. INEC insists on national parties, parties that have the whole country as their constituency," a senior official of the INEC said.
As a result, the INEC extended the party registration to October 12, thus extending the date for the release of provisionally registered parties to October 19. The INEC chairmain explained that the extension is at the request of many political associations and will not affect the time-frame of other activities under the current transition to civil rule process.
Only parties that score at least 10 percent of votes in two-thirds of Nigeria's 36 states will be granted full registration to contest February national elections.
Registered users will be sent the approved parties as soon as the INEC receives it.
In continuing the corruption cleanup of the government, the military government ordered all senior government administrators and ministers to disclose their personal assets in a crackdown on
corruption, and Abubakar has had to declare his as well, though it is unknown whether the figures will be made public. The goal of this exercise is accountability.
On October 1st, Nigeria celebrated it's 38th year of independence. To mark it, Abubakar gave a speech which you can read here, in which he promised once again for the record, that he was committed to democracy.
However, JACON led a rally against the military government, saying that we have had enough of the military rule, and that JACON would not support the transition program. If you read the 'historical' part of this page, you can understand the statement that "Nigerians had repeatedly been betrayed by the military and can not trust them". You can read more about that here.
Obviously, in the 4 months that Abubakar has taken over, he has made some significant changes to the country, and it seems some people want him to stay, while others suspect that he intends to stay. In response to that, he gave a speech on "Why I must quit".
Only time will tell, but some believe that Nigeria will reach democracy, especially with the international pressure placed on her. In Mid-October the United States Congress even approved an aid of two million dollars for the transition, saying that they had seen enough cause for USAID to step up its activities in Nigeria, and that they view the events in Nigeria with "cautious optimism".
Voter registration for the elections begins on Monday, October 5th. The federal electoral commission estimated that the country has 60 million eligible voters at least 18 years of age. They have distributed registration cards and other relevant documents to all the states, and have warned against multiple registration or purchase of voter cards for electoral fraud, and are promising to go against any counter-efforts towards their goal of a fair election.
Big developments were made when 5 of the exiles returned home on October 7th
This is supposed to represent the first batch of exiles, who said in a previous signed statement that "the struggle is far from over. We wish to take this opportunity to express our appreciation to all who have made this happy event possible particularly, the head of state Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, who
has taken measures that have considerably eased the tension and threats to life in Nigeria. We also salute the tenacious pro- democracy press and our many friends who in one way or the other, have contributed to this happy event. And finally, our big thanks to NADECO in Nigeria and the entire pro-democracy community for doing all that was humanly possible to obtain guarantees for our security and safety." The exiles that returned eventually joined the Alliance for Democracy. Also, the exiles have asked that the Abacha regime undergo the same type of investigation that followed World War II and the Holocaust, to make sure that the experience is not repeated. (Interesting that Abacha was compared to Hitler.)
- Dan Suleiman, Vice Chairman of the National Democratic Coalition
- John Odigie Oyegun, former civilian governor of Edo State
- Obadan, Oyegun's deputy
- Bola Tinubu, senator
- Tokunbo Afikuyomi, a member of the former House of Representatives.
In terms of the elections, and this is unfortunately not surprising, there have been attempts to disrupt voters' registrations, and suspects of fraud. INEC discovered multiple registration by some of the prospective voters, and the people caught face the full weight of the law. There have also been problems with the alleged buying of cards by politicians, and the non-turn-up of registration officials. INEC had appealed to politicians to discourage their supporters from getting multiple cards. About 60 million cards were printed, though 56 million people in Nigeria were registered as voters for the last election that was supposed to take place (in August of this year that is). The 60 million was depleted way too soon. The INEC has said that the transition timetable may be extended or adjusted depending on prevailing circumstances, but that the ongoing registration exercise would not be extended by one minute, and that exercise ended Monday as scheduled, though there were many calls for extensions by some politicians.
On October 14th, to the joy of many, Wole Soyinka returned home (though I am not sure if this is for a visit, or permanent). He was greeted by over 500 supporters at the airport, his home had been renovated, he was scheduled to speak at the University of Lagos, and of course, there are many interviews set up, and he plans to visit Abiola's family. (The return of Anthony Enahoro and Alani Akinrinade is not confirmed yet.) You can read about his interview with the Guardian here, where he speaks on several subjects including his escape to exile, the atrocities of the Abacha days, the struggle from exile, the on-going transition, an Obasanjo presidency, the Ogoni's and the way forward for Nigeria.
Also on an interesting note, former presidential aspirant of the NRC (Alhaji Samaila Mamman) has advised other northerners interested in the presidency to forget it for the unity and peace of the nation. You can read that article here.
Also on another interesting note, the Director of the National Development Agency (a man) made a case for women participation in politics. You can read that article here.
On Monday, October 19th, the INEC approved 9 out of the 25 political parties that registered.
The approved parties are:
Late October, to the joy of some, and to the dismay of some, Olusegun Obasanjo formally accepted his membership into the People's Democratic Party, though he is still insisting that he has no intentions of running for the presidency. If you visit other sites on Nigeria, there are many debates and many opinions about this issue.
- Alliance for Democracy (this is the group that most of the exiles joined)
- People's Democratic Party (later included the National Democratic Movement, the Nigerian Liberation Party, the Nigerian Labor Party, the National Development Party of Nigeria, and the New Nigerian Party).
- All People's Party (later included the People's Democratic Congress, and consists of previous Abacha supporters)
- Movement for Social Justice
- Democratic Advanced Movement
- Peoples Redemption Party
- National Solidarity Movement
- United Democratic Party
- United People's Party
Also, I have read that many people would have liked Wole Soyinka to run for presidency, but at the time, he dismissed any claims that he was interested, and to this day, I have not read any information to the contrary.
Not surprising, there have been some attempts to rig the elections, and some arrests have been made. As a result, 7 senior Commonwealth electoral experts are going to provide technical assistance to the INEC. They will assist in the areas of planning, management, and training for the election that will be help in 4 stages between December and February. Besides leading to elections that will be fair, it is hoped that this will aid in improving the relations between the Commonwealth and Nigeria.
In late October, I also read that ALL suspects awaiting trial for offenses punishable under laws that are now non-existent would be released by the Federal Government. However, mid-November, I also read that President Clinton appealed to Abubakar to free the remaining political prisoners (according to Jesse Jackson during his visit).
Early November, another past-military-president (Babangida) declared that he would register for one of the political parties, though it was not mentioned which one it would be. In addition, another Northerner is speaking for a southern president, even if that doesn't follow democracy in the strictest sense. You can read that article here.
Abubakar has opened a debate on the 1995 draft constitution that is supposed to guide the country to civilian rule by next May. There is a 25-member Constitutional Debate Coordinating Committee, and Nigerians are urged to freely give their views on key issues of the document, while the the CDCC has the responsibility to coordinate the debate and assemble views expressed, and submit it to the government by the end of the year.
In terms of the investigation into the previous regime, and the efforts to recover money that had been stolen from the nation, in early November, 81.7 billion Naira of the estimated 114.5 billion Naira had been recovered, with the remaining 32.8 billion still unaccounted for. At least 250 million Naira was recovered from the family. The family and aides are going to face trial. Any money recovered has been deposited in a special recovery account of the Central Bank of Nigeria. According to Abubakar Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, the money would be used to finance national projects that would benefit ALL Nigerians. Though he did not specify the projects to be funded, he gave assurance that undisclosed measures would be taken against offenders after a government investigation into the money. (There are also accusations that the president of Ghana was given a substantial bribe to go against Nigeria being expelled from the Commonwealth. These accusations have been denied, but they are being investigated.)
Meanwhile, on November 11th, Obasanjo donated 130 MILLION Naira to the party. This has caused a lot of concern and suspicion, especially since the source of the money is unknown, and some suspect that it may have come from the nation during Obasanjo's rule. Obasanjo has spoken out about the money, claiming among other things that it came from "wholesome, credible Nigerians" (and generous). You can read the full text of his statement here. There are also suspicions that he is being sponsored in part by also-former-president Ibrahim Babangida, which he also denied. Later on November 19th or November 20th (not sure which), a formal lawsuit was filed against Obasanjo (by Gani Fawehinmi), asking the court to compel Obasanjo to disclose the source of the donation, and "confirm whether or not the sum of 130 million Naira he donated is part of the 2.8 billion dollars (I dont know if this is a typo or not) oil proceed allegedly missing from the national treasury during his (Obasanjo's) regime (1976-79)." As I find out more about that, I'll update this section.
Early during the week of November 16th, the INEC began the screening of the candidates for the local government elections to be held December 5th. The screening ended on November 19th, and the successful candidates will be announced on November 20th.
The qualifications for candidates are:
The rest of the time table for the local government elections is as follows:
- At least 35 years old
- Payment of a non-refundable fee of 10,000 Naira
- at least a school certificate
- unquestionable evidence of tax payment.
- can not be an ex-convict or drug peddler
- must be presented by his party after scaling the primaries
- The list of cleared candidates will be released to parties on November 20th (did I say that already?)
- November 23rd-November 25th will be for collection, completion and return of nomination forms, publication of notice of nominations and commencement of electioneering campaign and appeals against disqualification .
- On Thursday, November 26, disqualified candidates will be substituted and screened
- On Friday, November 27, notice for the polls will be published.
- Thursday, December 2, is for submission of names of party agents to electoral offices
- electioneering campaigns ends on Friday, December 4.
- People vote on December 5.
Meanwhile, political troubles continue (sigh).
Around November 9th, a member of the PDP who was entrusted with 5 million Naira of the party's money narrated how his car was broken into and the money stolen. The loss generated several questions among party loyalists, some of whom don't believe that the incident even happened, and others who ask why such a large sum of money was entrusted to someone besides the treasurer.
Also, on November 15th, in the Osun State Secretariat of the Alliance for Democracy, AD, aggrieved party members who alleged imposition of candidates for December 5 elections beat up the party state secretary and made away with all the documents in the office (they also got away with some money, and tore up the party flag), most of which were relevant to the December 5 elections, and thus, have brought that division to a halt. The secretary does not suspect any member of AD.
On November 19th, it was reported that after losing in last weekend's party primarie, members of the AD have started decamping to other parties with their supporters, mostly to the PDP.
Late November, Abubakar announced that it as very difficult to resolve the issue of prosecuting Abacha's family and aides, since 'the main actor is dead and gone'. He said that they were trying to do as much damage control as possible, but basically he could not prosecute the people in whose hands the money was found.
Also, he was asked about the 1995 coup and the possible release of Diya and the others. To this he said it was another Catch 22 situation, because "the way some people will interpret it in the military will be different". He said that they were looking into the situation, and would hopefully take the right decision to do justice.
Politicians and other interest groups were worried that wealthy individuals could hijack parties through huge donations, and so they asked the INEC to limit the amount that an individual could donate to political associations.
Meanwhile, the INEC has prepared a budget of 382 million Naira for conducting the December 5 council polls, which is expected to be spent on logistics, publicity, payment of allowances, and related matters. They have been approved for a certain amount, and are trying not to go over the budget.
Also, the National Coucil of Women Societies is speaking out to women to continue pushing for gender political equality, and you can read that article here.
Around the end of November, violence erupted at the Cheli Ward in Kano, during an actiity for the nomination of candidates for the December 5 local government elections. At least 4 members of the APP were feared dead, and an unspecified number of persons were injured. The violence lasted for hours, and dangerous weapons were used.
Also, the PDP is in crisis over the attempt by a group within the party to impose a former commissioner as the party's gubernatorial candidate.
Another aspect of recent news over the last few months has been violence and communal clashes between different ethnic groups and many have been killed in the process, young and old. Around the end of November, Abubakar met with traditional rulers in various communities, urging them to discourage violence within their communities. He stated that "Violence and incessant militant agitations do not augur well for peace and harmonious co-existence", and asked the rulers to take that message to their subjects, and remind them that we all belong to the same country, and all had to work together for fairness and justice, and that the government had taken all necessary measures aimed at bringing about an amicable resolution of conflicts between the different individuals and groups.
Public discussions on Nigeria's draft 1995 constitution began on November 30 and was to last through December 4. The debate was open to all Nigerians of all ages. (Remember that this was announced a few weeks ago?). The debate is supposed to take into account parts of the draft that people feel needs to be modified for a durable democracy. The initial draft had been prepared by a national conference under Abacha (and took over a year), and it's contents were never made public until recently. The Abubakar regime has been using the newspaper to publicize the correct version of the draft, in hopes of facilitating national debate.
Indirectly related to the transition is the problem of the oil crisis in Nigeria. On November 24th, the federal government confirmed that they are proposing to raise fuel prices to aid with this problem. Though the matter is open to debate by Nigerians, according to the Chief Press Secretary, "the consensus among the traditional rulers is that if the deregulated pricing system is the only way that would allow the fuel to flow, so be it". The actual price, and the timing of this is unknown, and is apparently dependent on consultations being made with several groups of Nigerians (religious leaders, youth leaders, and other interest groups). I have read one article that states that most Nigerians are outraged by this idea.
Obasanjo has stated that he would readily withdraw from the presidential race if the Yoruba people presented a better candidate, saying that his interest in returning to power is purely from an urge to redeem a worsening national state, and that if the regimes that came after his rule had not mismanaged things, he would not have thought of running again, but that "You can see that I have a farm to keep me going...A lot of things have gone bad and people want me to go back and do some repair work". He claimed that he would have loved to live a private life if not for the pressure put on him to contest by friends and associates.
He announced that if elected, he would fight corruption and right the wrongs that have taken place. He identified selfishness and corruption as the two vices that have destroyed the nation, and said that the task ahead of Nigeria was enormous, and could not be handled by a single ethnic group, but that all of the groups had to join together. He also promised that if elected, people who lost their jobs because of political beliefs would be re-employed.
Beko Ransome-Kuti believes the pardon given to Obasanjo was to enable him to contest in the upcoming elections, so that the government could install a retired military officer as the next civilian president. Meanwhile, opposition to Obasanjo's aspirations is definitely increasing. He has reportedly scaled down his donation because his friends had not redeemed their pledges to him.
The local government elections took place on December 5th as planned, and in preparation, INEC declared beforehand that they had put in place a rig-proof strategy for the elections. Some of the measures taken included not allowing voters to leave the station until accredited (making it impossible for voters to accredit themselves at multiple polling stations), restriction of movement between 8 am and 2:30 pm, no inter-state movement, and no intra-state movement. Also, the Federal Government ordered the closure of the borders from 6 a.m. till 6 p.m. to prevent illegal immigrant who may have been recruited by politicians. The border patrols were warned to be extra vigilant to prevent foreigners from coming in to vote. (Of course, as the elections drew near, more violence erupted in different areas.)
The chairman of the Joint Action Committee of Nigeria (JACON) has directed that the pro-democracy groups and human rights organizations boycott the December 5th elections, and any other elections under the transition program, due to "a unanimous resolution by the organization at a general meeting held on July 23, 1998 to reject the transition program of Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar and to boycott all elections under the transition". He believes that the transition was doomed to fail, and that the consequences of the election may lead to country into trouble. He believes that the only alternative is a sovereign national conference through a Government of National Unity (GNU).
The original deadline for input on the constitution was December 1st. However, because of poor response by the Nigerian public (only 40 memoranda had been received by then), this deadline has been extended to December 10th, hoping that the extension would give Nigerians more time to send their memoranda in. However, this was the maximum amount of grace time that could be given because the committee has a deadline of December 31 to get back to the Federal Government.
Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu has been unanimously nominated by the APP in the 5 Igbo states of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo as their presidential candidate. In his comments, he said that he has now taken the presidency very seriously and that he had acquired enough experience to be able to lead the country to the next millenium. He said that he was happy to be have nominated unanimously by the APP and that he promised to fight the battle with all his might. He had also donated 5 million Naira to the party to aid in the elections. The other parties have multiple presidential aspirants.
The INEC was quite impressed with the turnout at the elections. It was much higher than usual, and it shows the strength of support for a return to civilian rule (despite some boycotts). Considering the situation of things lately, the elections were also relatively peaceful, with less casualties than recently. Also, they believe that the elections were pretty fair. If you recall, they had electoral experts from outside of the country to help prevent this election from being rigged, and they believe that no one was successfully able to rig the elections (but a few were caught trying).
The official results of the elections were announced on Wednesday, December 9th. Not surprisingly, they confirmed that PDP was in the lead, followed by APP, and then by AD, and that the other parties did not receive enough to continue in the race, unless results from run-off polls on December 12 changed things. Recall that a condition for qualifying in the parliamentary and presidential elections was winning at least 5 percent from 2/3 of Nigeria's 36 states.
There were a total of 774 local councils. PDP won 389 of them, giving them about half of the total. APP won 182, and AD won 100. You can read the INEC report here, and see the breakdown by state and region (though I'm not sure if it was preliminary or final) here. Surprisingly, AD won most of the votes in the Southwest regions of the state, where Obasanjo (the candidate for the PDP) is from, and some are speculating that though the party won quite a lot of votes, the fact that they lost in the Yoruba-land will affect Obasanjo's aspirations. However, some of the other parties also believe that the PDP is favored by the government, and/or that people are blinded by the huge donation that Obasanjo promised the party. Both APP and AD have threatened to withdraw from the transition program unless the local government elections are cancelled, or the INEC reviews some aspects that the parties believe are unfair. (And the INEC office was burnt on December 12, supporters of the APP are suspected.)
The AD met to discuss merging with one of the other parties, because they felt like their chances otherwise were nothing.
Also, during the same week, Abubakar announced that the focus of the budget for the following year would be around poverty and unemployment by aiding with the nation's economy. His goal is to ensure that the country become a reasonably developed nation with economic prosperity, political
stability and social harmony. He has also promised (in a separate report) to address the problem with Nigerian universities, stating that "This is why our richly endowed country in natural and human resources,
cannot grow to full capacity and compete favourably in a rapidly globalizing world in the next millennium, without or virile, resourceful and well managed university system."
Legislative and governorship elections will be held in January next year. Primary elections for the candidates were held on Saturday, 19 December.
According to INEC, a governorship candidate must be a high school graduate and must be at least 35 years old. He must not be a member of secret cult and must not have been convicted for narcotics offences. He is expected to pay a deposit of N25, 000 to INEC. His nomination by his party must reach INEC by 23 December.
The requirements for legislative candidates were similar: the candidate must be 30 years old and must pay the electoral commission a non-refundable deposit of N5, 000.
Abacha's security chief (Hamza Al-Mustapha) has confessed to involvement in the killings of several political opponents, including the murder of Kudirat Abiola (the wife of MKO Abiola) and the attempted bombing of Oladipo Diya (Abacha's former right-hand-man who is now in jail on charges of attempting a coup). Gani Fawehinmi has asked that Al-Mustapha be brought to trial for this. Early the week of December 21, numerous people were arrested in connection with her murder.
For more political information, you can try this link which has links to (Nigerian) political resources on the net.
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