Nigeria Strives to Reform Democratically

Regarding the article "Nigeria Waits to See if Military Allows Vote," May 21: President Ibrahim Babangida recently reaffirmed his administration's commitment to relinquish power to a democratically elected president. Formal transfer of power was postponed from January to August this year because of the civilian politicians' failure to conduct free and fair elections for presidential nomination in July 1992. Resulting tensions could lead to civil war and Nigeria's disintegration.

At the request of politicians from both parties, the government canceled the elections and ordered an investigation of the malpractice allegations. The Nigerian National Electoral Commission, an independent body consisting wholly of civilians, recommended postponement of the political transition after verifying these allegations.

General Babangida and his colleagues have been implementing a comprehensive program of social mobilization and political education to instill Nigeria's body politic with the essential ingredients of Western-style democratic culture and to encourage national cohesion. As a result, the primary elections for party presidential nominations resulted in the peaceful emergence of two candidates in March this year. The stage is now set for the presidential election expected to be held this June.

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The two decrees mentioned in the article were not aimed at derailing the transition process. The decree increasing the powers of the National Electoral Commission is aimed at deterring a serious breach of the peace during the election. The provision of the decree has been in the Nigerian electoral laws since 1982.

The other decree, on sedition, has been issued to maintain the unity and territorial integrity of Nigeria. The experience of the civil war is too fresh in our minds for us to be indifferent to those who call for the dismemberment of the nation. Zubair M. Kazaure, Washington Nigerian Ambassador to the US

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