Approximately one million Nigerians packed onto a dusty plain yesterday to see Pope John Paul II and applaud his call for an end to military rule in Africa’s most populous nation.
Although some observers say the Pope’s statements have lacked some of the bluntness of his Cuban declarations, he has stressed in yesterday’s mass the need for democracy, reconciliation and social justice.
Successive military regimes in oil-rich Nigeria have enriched a small elite and deepened the poverty of most Nigerians. The current dictator, General Sani Abacha, has been particularly fierce. He ordered the execution of environmental activist and playwright Ken Saro Wiwa, despite worldwide appeals for clemency.
General Abacha seized power in 1993 after a previous military government had annulled the results of national elections. The presumed winner of those elections, Moshood Abiola, has been in jail ever since. But Pope John Paul has asked Soni Abacha to release some 60 political prisoners, including presumably Mashood Abiola.
- Dupe Abiola, the wife of Mashood Abiola, the presumed winner of Nigeria’s 1993 presidential elections that were annulled by a military coup. This is the first U.S. broadcast interview she has granted since her husband’s death.