Nigeria: United Democratic Front, 04/18/96

Nigeria: United Democratic Front, 04/18/96

Nigeria: United Democratic Front
Date Distributed (ymd): 960418

The United Democratic Front of Nigeria (UDFN) is a common platform of pro-democracy organizations which, following simultaneous meetings (Nigerian Pro-Democracy Summit) in South Africa (Johannesburg) and in Europe (Oslo, Norway) on March 29-31, 1996, resolved to work together to effectively harness and facilitate activities toward the restoration of democracy in Nigeria on the basis of the popular mandate of June 12th, 1993.

The Communique from the Summit, as well as short excerpts from a speech by Nobel Prize Winner Wole Soyinka, are reproduced below. Additional information on the summit, including the full text of the speech, can be found on the Web site of the Nigerian Democratic Movement at:

Communique from the Nigerian Pro-Democracy Summit
March 29th - 31st, 1996


Nigeria has been in political turmoil since June 12th 1993 when the military government of General Ibrahim Babangida annulled a democratically conducted presidential election

The transition program was designed and executed by the military regime under General Ibrahim Babangida whose defense minister and de facto second-in-command was General Sani Abacha.

The presidential election of June 12th 1993 was adjudged by Nigerian and international observers as the freest and fairest in Nigeria's history.

The Babangida regime illegally imposed on Nigerians an <<Interim National Government>> headed by Chief Ernest Shonekan with General Sani Abacha as Vice Chairman rather than accept the will of the people as expressed in the election.

Subsequently, General Abacha illegally seized power on November 17th 1993 and dissolved all legislatures that had been duly elected at the local, state and federal levels under the military's transition program, and reinstated full military rule.

General Abacha has since June 1994, placed in detention Chief M.K.O. Abiola, the president-elect, on charges of treason, for claiming his mandate.

The Abacha regime has prevented president-elect Abiola from communicating with the outside world, including his immediate family, as a means of forcing Abiola to renounce the mandate given to him by the Nigerian people.

In spite of many well-meaning initiatives, the Abacha regime has scorned all appeals by the international community for respect for human rights and a speedy return of Nigeria to democratic civil rule.

General Abacha is intimidating Nigerians and deceiving the international community into accepting ANOTHER transition program similar to the one he and Babangida reneged on.

Therefore, Abacha's three year transition program is an excuse to prolong his stay in power. It is fraught with dangers and threatens further chaos and violence. It is a deliberate waste of time and resources.

Similarly, Abacha's plan to create more states in Nigeria under this bogus transition program is a desperate attempt to divert people's attention from the real social, economic and political problems facing the country.

The real and primary incentive for the Abacha regime's insistence on power is oil revenue which the regime is looting to the detriment of the majority of Nigerians.

The Abacha regime has orchestrated a reign of barbaric terror on the people of Nigeria, tragically illustrated by the state murder of Ken Saro-Wiwa and other Ogoni human rights and environmental activists. Further more, every institution of civilized society in Nigeria has been systematically destroyed.

Abacha's rule has been characterized by institutionalized anarchy, corruption, economic decline and gross human rights abuses.

Therefore, the limited sanctions imposed on Nigeria by the U.S. and the European Union have not been effective in forcing Abacha and his regime either to bow to the wishes of the people as expressed in the presidential election of June 12th 1993, or to respect the basic standards of international behavior.


We, the pro-democracy organizations listed below, having deliberated in our simultaneous meetings in South Africa and in Europe, hereby resolve to work together under a common platform (United Democratic Front of Nigeria, UDFN) to effectively harness and facilitate our activities toward the restoration of democracy in Nigeria on the basis of the popular mandate of June 12th, 1993.

The immediate task of the Government of National Unity to be so formed is to call a Sovereign National Conference whose main task is to preside over the restoration of full democratization in the country.

Further, we resolve that:

1. we reject in its entirety the 3-year transition program of the Abacha dictatorship in Nigeria;

2. any actions including the creation of states and the conduction of elections under the illegal Abacha regime shall be null and void;

3. the only moral, just and lasting solution to the Nigerian crisis is respect for the mandate of the Nigerian people as expressed in elections prior to and including the June 12th 1993, presidential elections;

4. We appeal to all people of conscience all over the world to insist on respect for the will of the people of Nigeria as expressed in elections prior to and including the presidential elections of June 12th, 1993.

5. We call on Nigerians at home to boycott any new elections and to take measures to establish parallel zones of authority at local levels to deny any legitimacy to Abacha's transition.

6. We demand that all political prisoners in Nigeria be released immediately and without conditions, and also that president-elect M.K.O. Abiola be released to form a broad-based Government of National Unity.

7. We call on the international community to impose oil embargo and full economic, cultural and sporting isolation on Nigeria until democracy is restored.

8. We call on all governments, the UN, OAU, EU and non-governmental organizations to desist from giving the Abacha dictatorship any semblance of legitimacy by

a) Not providing any financial, logistic or other support for Abacha's illegal elections;

b) Not sending any observers to his shambolic elections.

9. We strongly advise all governments, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and other international financial institutions not to negotiate any further debt rescheduling or grant any new loans to the Abacha regime, as the future legitimate government of Nigeria will not be compelled to honor such agreements.

10. We request all governments to freeze all the assets of members of the miitary junta and their civilian collaborators.

Adopted by:

Action Group for Democracy (AGD), African Democratic League (ADL), Campaign for Democracy (CD), Coalition for Democratic Awareness (CDA), Democratic Alternative (DA), National Alliance for Democracy (NAD), National Democratic Alliance Committee (NDAC), National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), National Freedom Foundation (NFF), National Liberation Council of Nigeria (NALICON), New Nigerian Forum (NNF), Nigerian Democratic Movement (NDM), Nigerian Liberation Group (NLG)

31st March, 1996

For further information:

Tel: + 44 956 949 055 Fax: + 44 181-244 8682

Summit speech by Wole Soyinka, "Towards a Sustainable Vision of Nigeria" (Excerpts)

The army is a creation, and a property of the people. It is established to serve and to defend the people and safeguard their nation space. Even where nations have come into being as a fruit of conquest, such histories have proved to be ephemeral, incomplete. A cycle of restitution has merely been initiated, one that will become complete only when the people, the authentic constituents of the nation entity, recover their own being, melt down the power-spawned aliens in their midst into the common purpose of existence and redraw the lines of relationship along egalitarian precepts. This process of reckoning is not peculiar to any one part of the globe - we read the authentic history of the world today in many of the infernoes that have engulfed once placid states, exploded even centuries-old mythifications that have sustained alienated power. The only question that remains is: are we prepared to take our instruction from these incontestable patterns of socio-political being of nations? Or do we wait until a Rwanda, a Yugoslavia or a Chechnya blows up in our complacent faces?

Nigeria appears, alas, to be poised on the brink of the latter option. If we have a purpose here today, it is to address our collective minds to methods for the avoidance of that option. ... Obviously, there will be differences in our concepts of approaches to solutions but, it is our expectation that those who are assembled here are agreed on a number of minimal principles, the very core of which is the rapid termination, not merely of the existence of the present bunch of military predators, but of military interventionism in Nigeria for all time.

I believe that we have agreed to assemble here because we can neither understand nor accept the contradictory motions of the political class, its collaborationist approach with those who have placed our people under the most brutal subjugation in our history as Nigerians, as earlier defined. We are appalled by the failure of understanding of the enemy that leads to a gathering of the political class actually appointing a 2l-man delegation to request audience with a military junta in order to discuss how such a junta - which has shown such stark, contemptuous resolve to remain in power- can be persuaded to leave. Needless to say, this approach was publicly derided by the junta's yes-men, and the emissaries thoroughly humiliated.

I believe that we have agreed to meet here because, between the five-year transition plan of Sani Abacha, dishonestly described as a three-year plan, and the one-year transition plan outlined by Chief Tony Enahoro, the Vice-President of the National Democratic Coalition of Nigeria, we believe that the latter respresents the absolute, outside temporal concession that we are prepared to make towards the military, and that we would indeed prefer that the military depart today, hand over power to the President-elect who would run a transition goveratment of National Unity, leading to the next elections.

I believe that we have agreed to assemble here because we recognise that there cannot be peace in that nation, Nigeria, while a former Head of State, General Olusegun Obasanjo, his former deputy Shehu Yar'Adua, Beko Ransome-Kuti, chairman of the Campaign for Democracy, Chris Anyawu, Colonel Gwadabe and scores of others are held under sentences of long years in prison, after universally denounced secret trials for a coup attempt that was manufactured by the present junta in order to rid itself of perceived opponents and champions of the democratic movement.

We have consented to be present here because Frank Kokori secretary-general of the Petroleum workers union, and hundreds of trade unionists from all the nation's productive sectors are incarcerated in different corners of the nation, without trial, without contact with their families, accused of no crime but agitating for social, political and economic justice. We are here because we will not accept a dispensation that permits the torture of our kind, the hostage taking of relations of wanted opponents of govemment, state inspired murders and attempted murders of Chief Alfred Rewane, Alex Ibru, Gani Fawehinmi etc. We have set ourselves our present task because we cannot accept that the President-elect of the Nigerian nation, Moshood M.K.O. Abiola, should be kept from executing the freely given mandate of the Nigerian people. We are assembled because we are resolved to unearth the bones of seventy-three non-commissioned officers who were secretly executed near Abuja, at the Lower Usman dam on March 18, 1994, soldiers whose names were added to the list of fatalities and "Missing in Action" in Liberia and other areas where our peace-keeping forces are in action. We propose to demonstrate that our soldiers do not deserve such cynical treachery nor their profession be reduced to such a costly and cynical travesty of command.

We are here because we seek to build a nation where such dark deeds are no longer permitted, are no longer conceivable.

In the process, we believe that we have a responsibility to inform the outside world that those who wish to impose a double standard in their consideration of our plight, those who take sadistic pleasure in reducing us to second class citizens of the world, are enemies of all humanity, yellow, black and white. Along the way, we must remind the apologists of the Abacha regime, especially our own black brothers from the United States of America, that they are traitors to their own history, and captives of a chronic slave mentality. That any self-declared leader of the black peoples of the United States of America should declare, in the dying years of the twentieth century that the most populous black nation in the world requires the plague of dictatorship for its progress, even for its very existence, simply warns us that emancipation is a mere word, a mere rhetorical condition to a handful of demagogic representatives of our race on that continent. It warns us that emancipation as the profound state of being, as the true, mental and spiritual condition of free being, is alien to their conceptual powers. Given the chance, such spokesmen and women would collaborate in the second enslavement of our continent, in order to experience the vicarious thrill of power. Let all those who wine and dine with our oppressors, who trumpet virtues of dictatorship that exist only in their own sated bellies remember that some day, this struggle will be over, and that history will assign them their richly deserved spaces in the records of our liberated peoples.

Our task here is not to produce an agreement in all details of strategy, but we shall not leave without a definite plan of action, one that is time-specific. We do not intend, in a mere two days, to weld together differing philosophies and visions of the participating groups, yet we are duty bound to create a unified body for the democratic forces of the nation. We are obliged to search out what each group does best, so that we can launch the new organisation on its task of assigning responsibilities that correspond to their past records and future potential. ...

Let me thank our hosts for this meeting, made possible by the non-governmental South Africa-Nigeria Democracy Support Group. History often commences not with a flourish, not with bravura, but with the small gesture, often indeed, a mere statement of intent. If this meeting does no more than galvanise and unity ihe progressive forces of our nation, reduce their sense of aloneness, of abandonment, it would still be a psychological shot in the arm, whose concrete results will become apparent only after the event. To be a visionary is unfashionable we know, in the sphere of realpolitick, and the task is made even more utopian when any grouping seeks to identity and structure, among others, a practical, sustainable vision. For a nation that has sunk so low however, one that has squandered its potential in a way that criminalises almost every citizen by the mere act of belonging, we have nothing left to lose but the loftiness of our vision. That vision, a sustainable one, must inform the laying of the foundations of a new Nigeria. It is a project that will commence at this and at its twin meeting, and the people of South Africa will have cause to be proud, at the end, to have midwifed such a beginning.

Wole Soyinka


Message-Id: <> From: "APIC" <> Date: Thu, 18 Apr 1996 10:43:51 -0500 Subject: Nigeria: United Democratic Front

Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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