LETTER:How to prevent tragedy and return Nigeria to democracy

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From Mr I. T. Robbins

Sir: It is hoped that no one is surprised or encouraged by anything that General Sani Abacha had to say in his Nigerian Independence Day anniversary speech.

Nigeria is a complex country, of this there is no doubt. It took a transition plan of eight years by the Babangida administration (in which General Abacha was a key player) to put in place all the necessary political paraphernalia required to form 598 local governments, 31 state governors, state legislators, the federal House of Representatives, the Senate, etc. (All, incidentally, later dissolved by General Abacha.) So, everything was in place and up and running by the time the presidential elections took place on 12 June 1993. Under the two-party system (the multi-party system had been rejected by the military as "too divisive"), Chief Moshood Abiola of the Social Democratic Party and Alhaji Otman Tofa of the National Republican Party vied for the presidency. Chief Abiola, having found popular support across all regions, religious, ethnic and occupational groups, secured 58 per cent of the vote in an election recognised as free and fair by national and international observers. The military lost its nerve, annulled the election and plunged Nigeria into a downward spiral of corruption and maladministration.

I read with interest last week, that it may be possible to travel back in time. Would that we could, for it is this concept that offers Nigerians the only hope they have for a future that encompasses freedom, hope, integrity and dignity. For they must, with the help of Britain, Europe, the US and the Commonwealth, go back to 12 June 1993.

Yours faithfully,

I. T. Robbins

Bloxwich, Staffordshire

2 October