Surprised Nigerians have witnessed two unprecedented events in the last month. A new truth-commission, known as the Oputa Panel, held its first hearings into abuses of power by military rulers, and the administration of the recently-elected president Olusegun Obasanjo announced a plan for the drastic reduction of the army that could cut it by half. Nigerians are watching both developments with interest and no small trepidation.
When general Abdulsalam Abubakar took over as Nigerian head of State in June, following the sudden death of his predecessor general Sani Abacha, he promised to reform the country’s political system, re-introduce democracy, and ‘withdraw all charges against political offenders.’
Nigeria’s president Abdulsalami Abubakar appears to have convinced doubters that he is indeed prepared to vacate Aso Rock, the presidential palace in the capital Abuja, as soon as a successor is elected on May 29, 1999 - a date the general insists is ‘sacrosanct.’
All the five registered political parties in Nigeria have adopted general Sani Abacha, the military ruler, as their candidate for the August presidential elections.
Nigerian authorities last month arrested and imprisoned the wives and children of two senior Islamic activists already under arrest. Zeenah Ibrahim, wife of imprisoned Muslim leader Mu’allim Ibrahim Al-Zakzaky, was arrested in the northern town of Zaria on April 17...