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Explosion Exposes Nigeria's Rotten Regime
THE NIGERIAN city of Lagos was devastated by the explosion of an ammunition dump at the Ikeja military barracks on 27 January. More than 1,000 people were killed and the Nigerian Red Cross is still trying to find over 500 missing persons. Most of the missing are children. Thousands more have been made homeless.
The Obasanjo government's response to this disaster has been contemptuous. On visiting the scene of the explosion the President enraged survivors by telling them to "shut up" and stop complaining! He later apologised and promised an inquiry and compensation.
Such is the anger however, that when the Vice-President visited the devastated area he was pelted with bottles from civilians and hundreds of homeless soldiers. And to compound the government's problems the police struck for two days over unpaid allowances and other grievances.
The explosion has brought to the fore a new, dangerous dimension to the political situation. Disturbingly, the aftermath has renewed ethnic tensions leading to fighting and deaths.
Before last weekend's ethnic violence SEGUN SANGO general secretary of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM - the Socialist Party's counterpart in Nigeria) spoke to The Socialist:
"Initially many people in Lagos assumed that a coup had started and significantly many said that the 'military would be better' than the civilian government. The local TV showed scenes of people celebrating in areas away from the explosions before they got the news of what was actually taking place!
"This is extremely significant. After 32 months of civilian rule we are in a similar situation to that of 1983 when Buhari's military coup was welcomed.
"This is also a comment on the failure of the NLC [Nigerian Labour Congress] leaders. The failure of the general strike [organised by the NLC three weeks' ago - see The Socialist, issue 238] to offer an alternative, worsens the situation. Such is the despair that many see that even if the NLC had forced back the fuel price rise this would not have solved the country's fundamental problems. The key issue is, who can offer an alternative way out of the crisis?
"Up to now the 'national question' [i.e., whether Nigeria will split along ethnic/religious lines] has been a major factor holding back the ethnically northern military leaders from carrying out a coup. But now, if there is potential support for a coup in the south, that fundamentally changes the situation."
DSM MEMBER and student activist Alex Amujar, (a student at the University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (UNAAB), Ogun State, Nigeria), has been expelled by the college authorities.
Alex, who is the Public Relations Officer for the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) Zone D, in south west Nigeria, has been falsely accused of assaulting a lecturer. The DSM maintains that Alex is being victimised for leading a student protest on 7 January against the government's massive price hike in fuel.
Send protests to: The governing council, c/o The Registrar, University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (UNAAB), P.M.B. 2240, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Nigeria.
Fax: ++ 234 39 244299 or
++ 234 39 243045.
In The Socialist 8 February 2002: