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
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own