Aide quits in Nigeria poll row

A SENIOR Nigerian army officer and close associate of President Ibrahim Babangida has resigned his commission in protest at the President's cancellation of the recent election.

Colonel Abubakar Umar, a former military governor of Kaduna and a descendant of Dan Fodio, the 19th-century Islamic conqueror of northern Nigeria, is reported to have resigned because he said he could not justify the President's decision to his colleagues.

Col Umar has been a close associate of President Babangida and is said to have acted for him in arresting his predecessor as head of state, Mohammadu Buhari, during the coup in 1985. The resignation is especially significant because Col Umar is a powerful northern Muslim soldier and has come out in support of the election of a southerner, Mashood Abiola, who won most votes in the cancelled election.

President Babangida has called a meeting of state governors in the capital, Abuja, today. He will come under pressure again later this week when Mr Abiola's supporters call a stayaway protest. A member of his Social Democratic Party said: 'We don't want street violence or bloodshed. People must stay at home to protest, otherwise the army wins.'

Britain and the US, which expressed outrage at cancellation of the election, remained silent yesterday over President Babangida's plan to hold fresh elections and be ready to hand over power to a civilian president on 27 August.

State of purgatory, page 19

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