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Nigeria has chance for fresh start - or more oppression

SHARE Nigeria has chance for fresh start - or more oppression

FIVE YEARS AGO, when my father, Moshood Abiola, was elected president of Nigeria, I did not expect that the military would arrest him on false charges of treason and put him in prison.

Nor did I expect that my mother, Kudirat Abiola, who fought for his release, would be gunned down three years later. Such political violence against a woman was unprecedented.I have never been able to accept what has happened to my family and to my country. I cannot accept that the Western democracies, attracted by Nigeria's oil reserves, ignored my father's plea for justice in Nigeria after Gen. Sani Abacha illegally seized power and promised a free election that was never held.

I cannot accept that the United States, while it imposed limited sanctions on Nigeria, did not enforce stricter measures that might have forced Abacha to step aside. I cannot accept that, when my mother placed herself in danger by calling the world's attention to the suffering of the Nigerian people, foreign delegations were seeking "constructive engagement" with her murderers.

The greatest victims of this indifference have been the people, who have been brought low by military oppression and misrule.

Earlier this month Abacha, my father's jailer and my mother's murderer, died, reportedly of a heart attack. His successor, Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar, has called for acceptance as Nigeria's legitimate ruler.

But before the world acknowledges him, some changes must be made. Abubakar must release all political prisoners, including my father. As the country's elected president, he can help solve the country's current crisis.

Anything short of this will deprive the people of real progress toward democratic government.

Several times in the last five years, freedom has seemed within the grasp of Nigerians. So it is on this occasion, too. Nigerians are prepared to defy the bullets and prisons. We have freedom chants and eyes set on a free Nigeria.

But the outcome will depend, in large part, on how the world acts at this crucial moment.