Letter: Can Nigeria be pulled back from the brink?

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Sir: Karl Maier gives an excellent account of the precarious situation evolving in Nigeria ('An African giant on the edge of the abyss', 12 August). However, Mr Maier's analysis of recent developments falls short by failing to take account of the open scepticism in Nigeria that has, since 1986, accompanied General Babangida's transition programme to democratic government.

Such scepticism extends beyond past and recent actions of the current administration, and rests much more firmly with public ambivalence towards the degree of trust and hope Nigerians feel able to vest in either civilian or military administrations. The public response, of relief, towards the overthrow of President Shagari's civilian administration (1979-83) and General Buhari's regime (1983-85) are but two cases in point in a litany of administrations that have scarred Nigeria since 1960.

It is clear that Nigeria's programme towards democratic government, the cornerstone of which was grounded on two lacklustre and artificially created parties, has become an expensive disaster that increases economic, social and political uncertainties in Nigeria, threatens the stability of other countries in the region, and worsens the precarious situation in Liberia. The attempt by the Nigeria's Social Democratic Party (SDP) to rally support in Western capitals marginalises its leadership and may actually arouse latent nationalist sentiment in support of a mortally wounded regime. Perhaps a better, and more productive, course of action would be for the SDP to devote its energies to a pragmatic power-sharing accord with the Babangida administration before it proposes to step down on 27 August.

By such means the Social Democratic Party will not only tap into the rich vein of ambivalence Nigerians exhibit towards both civilian and military administrations, but also lend support and give leadership to the struggling local and state civilian arms of government that are already in place.

Yours faithfully,


Watford, Hertfordshire