Magazine article Newsweek

A Daughter's Demands

Magazine article Newsweek

A Daughter's Demands

Article excerpt

America must force the military to release my imprisoned father and insist on a democratic future for troubled Nigeria. NIGERIA IS MY COUNtry. My father, Moshood Abiola, languishes in jail there for winning the presidential election in 1993. Kept in solitary confinement, he is denied visits by his doctor, lawyer and family. His crime: taking the electorate seriously, insisting that the people and not the military must choose the country's government. I last saw my father in January 1995, six months after he was jailed. My siblings and I were allowed only 10 minutes with him. Usually a fit man, he was limping, suffering from a pinched nerve that resulted from being beaten by a soldier. He was disheveled and had lost a great deal of weight. I spent my 10 minutes trying to assure him that he had not been forgotten. The junta ignored my mother when she sought access to my father, but it listened as she spoke to the media about the cruelty visited on him. The regime's response was fatal: she was gunned down on the streets of Lagos in broad daylight in 1996-the day before my commencement at Harvard. Obviously, the military couldn't care less about the concerns of the Nigerian people. And why should it? After all, the regime's survival depends not on the people but on countries, such as the United States, that purchase Nigerian oil, the major source of government revenue. The military uses the money to line its own pockets, to buy weapons used to kill unarmed civilians, and to build prisons that incarcerate activists for democracy and human rights. Last Monday, Nigeria's military ruler, Gen. Sani Abacha, died and was succeeded by his chief of defense staff, Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar. The swearing-in took place in typical military fashion at 4 a.m., with complete disregard for the opinions of the people. The nation woke to find a new dictatorship. …

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