Between Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia: The Abacha Coup, the National Conference, and Prospects for Peace and Democracy in Nigeria
Human rights activists around the world have been monitoring the worst repression Nigeria has known since independence from Britain in 1960, including massive arrests, secret tribunals, and the possibility of executing opponents of the military government. Calls have gone out for the release of political prisoners and the respect of human rights. Capital punishment has been extensively employed against persons convicted of violent crimes such as armed robbery, in the context of the recent deterioration of economic and political life in Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country. Nahzeem Oluwafemi Mimiko provides crucial background information on these events. It concerns the political-economic crisis provoked in Nigeria’s federal system by the annulment of the generally acclaimed free, fair, and peaceful election of June 12, 1993, which was won convincingly by Moshood Abiola, the Social Democratic Party candidate. The prevention of Abiola, a Yoruba from the southwest, from exercising his mandate by General Ibrahim Babangida’s government, which is strongly supported by the northern oligarchy, is generally perceived by southerners as evidence of the former’s determination to retain power at all cost. This article argues that given the depth of mutual ethno-national distrust prevalent across the country, another presidential election cannot be held under existing structural arrangements without plunging the country into total chaos, anarchy, and violent disintegration. It also notes that such a catastrophic development can only be avoided if a truly democratic and independent National Conference is called to negotiate the basis of Nigeria’s unity or peaceful break-up. The study concludes that given the inversion of the National Conference idea and the manipulation of its processes and outcomes by the Abacha military junta, which assumed power from the Babangida- installed interim national government in 1993, a situation of breakdown of peace and security in the near future or a violent, armed intervention in the political process cannot be ruled out. Under these circumstances, the prospects for democracy in Nigeria are rather dim.
Nigeria; democratization; military regimes; coups d’etat
Citation: Social Justice Vol. 22, No. 3 (1995): 129-142