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Vol 39 No 14

Published 10th July 1998


Nigeria

The President who never was

Hopes for a credible and popular transition to civil rule have been shaken by the death of the gaoled winner of the 1993 election

Although the sudden death of Chief Moshood Abiola (60) happened in the presence of a visiting United States’ delegation on 7 July, it has nevertheless raised suspicions of foul play among his supporters and doused hopes that the country's new military leader General Abdulsalaam Abubakar might be able to usher in a new climate of popular political reform. News of Abiola's death was quickly followed by militant protests in Lagos, Ibadan and Abeokuta in the south-west of the country. If anything, his death emphasised Abiola's centrality to political developments in the country and his emergence over the past five years as a symbol for its pro-democracy movement. Reacting to news of Abiola's death, one activist said, ' Now we are leaderless, headless... and that's dangerous'.

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