Last December, Chief Bola Ige, the Nigerian Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, was assassinated. The political violence that has ensued will culminate in elections next year, when the ostensibly democratic Government of Olusegun Obasanjo, a retired general, hopes to return for a second term. Its chances of success are slim. There have been two previous attempts by civilian Governments in Nigeria to organise their own succession: both ended in military takeover, and with it levels of executive lawlessness that saw one general, Ibrahim Babangida, spirit away US$12 billion of crude oil revenue. The other, Sani Abacha, turned the country into a pariah state by hanging Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni activists on 10 November 1995 after a trial that everyone agreed was flawed. Saro-Wiwa had been charged with complicity in the murder of four Ogoni chiefs the previous year, although he was nowhere near the scene at the time. However, he had already been identified by the authorities as the person responsible for stirring up international opinion against the environmental degradation caused by the activities of Shell, and they were out to get him. Within days of his arrest, he was pronounced guilty by the psychopathic military administrator of Rivers State, Lt Col. Dauda Komo, who called him a 'dictator who has no room for any dissenting view', and described his organisation, the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), as a 'reckless and irresponsible terror group'.
LRB 25 July 2002 | PDF Download