Nigeria's Drift into Turmoil

Article excerpt

The brutality of Nigeria's military government was on display again last week when it defied world opinion by hanging a well-known playwright, Ken Saro-Wiwa, and eight other environmental and human-rights activists. Their crimes? They dared to criticize a range of government policies.

Officially, the victims were accused of involvement in the killings of four traditional chiefs who supported the government. In fact, the army-chosen tribunal that conducted the trial never put the writer at the scene of the crime. It claimed that he was liable because his political activism supposedly created the climate that caused such violent acts.

The nine executions are only the latest incident to provoke global outrage against Nigeria's rulers. Previously, they voided a presidential election and arrested the winner, Moshood Abiola, to avoid turning the country over to civilian rule.

Nigerians themselves have grown accustomed to military government promises that the nation will soon come under civilian rule, only to wake up the next morning and learn of yet another coup. …