Babangida cancels farewell address: New protests erupt on eve on power hand-over

PRESIDENT Ibrahim Babangida yesterday postponed without explanation a nationwide farewell address he was to have given today before handing power to an interim government. No new time was announced for the speech and there was no indication of how the decision would affect the hand-over.

The announcement came as a new round of stayaway protests was launched in Nigeria by the Campaign for Democracy. Strikes were called for the weekend by the National Labour Congress (NLC) and the oil workers' union, Nupeng.

The pro-democracy activists and the unions have rejected the proposed army-backed interim administration and demanded that Gen Babangida hand over power tomorrow to a constitutional government led either by Chief Moshood Abiola, the winner of the cancelled 12 June presidential elections, or the President of the Senate, Iyorchia Ayu.

'Whatever dressing they give this animal, the interim government, it will still be a bastard,' Chief Abiola said from exile in London yesterday. Predicting that the new administration would last 'a few days', he said: 'No credible person who values his name would be a part of it, because he would go down in history as a traitor to the people's cause.'

The hand-picked interim administration Gen Babangida plans to install today is likely to be the weakest government Africa's most populous nation has seen.

A hugely expensive on-again, off- again transition programme to guide a massive nation riddled with complex ethnic and religious divisions toward an America-in-Africa, complete with a two-party political system and a trim free-market economy, has collapsed into confusion. At no time since the 1967-70 Biafran civil war has Nigeria been closer to an outbreak of fratricidal violence.

Most private banks and shops were shut in Lagos yesterday at the start of the three-day stayaway while traffic was light on the commercial centre's usually congested streets. There was congestion at petrol stations, however, as people queued to purchase cheap fuel before big price rises announced on Monday took effect. The Campaign for Democracy's protests went largely ignored in the north, however, and government offices in Lagos remained open.

The 3.5 million-strong NLC rejected the government's call on the workers to defy the strike due to begin on Saturday. The acting NLC secretary general, Morgan Anigbo, dismissed the government's attempt to undermine union power. 'The colonial masters tried and failed,' he said. 'Segments of the Nigerian bourgeoisie tried it and failed.'

Although Gen Babangida's press secretary, Duro Onabule, announced that the general would be leaving office after eight years in power, there were still no details on the military's role in the new administration. That issue will be the key to acceptance of the new government by pro-democracy activists and Western governments which have conditioned the lifting of mild sanctions against Nigeria on the installation of a civilian administration free of military control.

Western governments have jointly outlined a package of new sanctions, including the simultaneous withdrawal of all heads of mission and the extension of the ban on visas to military officers to include all government officials, if they decide the interim administration is unacceptable. Current military sales, such as a tank contract with the British firm Vickers, would be unaffected.

The military's attempt to assuage Western opinion by obtaining a vote of confidence from the National Assembly failed this week when the lower chamber, the House of Representatives, was reduced to two days of acrimony between supporters of Chief Abiola and Gen Babangida.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Manchester

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE: SThree: Recruitment and Sales People wanted f...

Recruitment Genius: Multi Skilled Engineer - Electrical / Mechanical / Maintenance

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A multi-skilled engineer with a...

Recruitment Genius: Electronic Service Engineer - Television & HI-FI

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Engineers for field & bench ser...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Designer - Award Winning Agency

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity for a t...

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada