Letter: Time for a new government in beleaguered Nigeria

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Sir: Regarding Wole Soyinka's excellent denunciation of Ibrahim Babangida and his supporters (29 June), we as Africans wish to express our concern over the absurd attempt by Nigeria's military ruler, General Babangida, to hold another presidential election. This is yet another plot to prolong his embattled and discredited administration, which has been an unqualified disaster not only for Nigeria but also for the whole of Africa.

By crying foul over the 12 June presidential election in which Alhaji Mashood Abiola of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) was the clear winner, General Babangida is treading on dangerous terrain. The latest change in the rules of the game and spurious changes in various electoral and transitional decrees are mischievous. But for the fact that these last-minute changes are tearing the fragile fabric of Nigeria, they could have been laughed at as the desperate manoeuvres of a dying dictator.

By this clinging stratagem, General Babangida is giving empirical credence to the rumours that he is dancing in all directions, because he believes that 'no southern Nigerian can become president of Nigeria'. Nigerians must unite and demand the exit of Babangida and of the military.

This is why we welcome the resignation of Colonel Umar from the Nigerian army (report, 29 June) and the courageous statement of the former head of state, General Buhari, on the need for Babangida to hand over to Mashood Abiola.

The president-elect and his SDP need to be resolute. He must form his cabinet and bring forward-looking and patriotic people to government. We would suggest the following programme to the president-elect as a means of isolating the Babangida clique and ensuring the wishes of Nigerian voters are upheld.

The formation of a new government now, not later. This would reassert the mandate given him by the 12 June election result.

The seeking of international recognition as the legitimate president of Nigeria.

Unbanning of all political parties and associations banned by the military.

Immediate recall of all heads of Nigerian diplomatic missions.

President-elect Abiola must take the bull by the horns by stopping the millions that are wasted on the Nigerian armed forces, and rechannel the resources into providing basic necessities for Nigerians.

Nigeria presents the British Government and the rest of the West with an opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to democratic reform. This they would do by refusing to deal with the Babangida regime and its agents, and according immediate recognition to the duly elected candidate as the legitimate president of Nigeria. This way they would be contributing positively to the defeat of a dictatorship, and helping to prevent the threatened decline into civil war that will affect the whole region.

Yours sincerely,


London, SE1