In one of the first stops along his trip, Minister Farrakhan visited the home of
Nigeria's military ruler, Sani Abacha, to console the General on the death of is son,
Ibrahim. Farrakhan and his delegation later returned to Nigeria for a six-day, state
sponsored tour of the country.
Supporting a Military Dictator
Farrakhan reportedly expressed support for Abacha's leadership,
undermining the efforts of many black community leaders who have harshly criticized the
military junta. In March 1995, a group of prominent African-Americans condemned
Nigeria's military dictatorship and launched a campaign to restore democracy to the
nation. TransAfrica, a Washington-based lobbying organization, charged that as "an
absolute military dictatorship," the Nigerian regime had violated human rights and
had banned all political activity in the country. Randall Robinson, executive director of
TransAfrica, announced that his group "would oppose the Nigerian government with as
much tenacity as we opposed the [former white] South African government."
While Abacha has promised to return Nigeria to democratic rule over a three-year
period, the U.S. and other Western countries have pressured him to implement such plans
more quickly. Speaking to journalists in Lagos, Nigeria, Farrakhan reportedly defended
Abacha's timetable, and chastised the West for exerting pressure on the military leader.
His statements sparked bitter criticism from pro-democracy activists in Nigeria, who
accused him of being an agent of the military junta, and urged him to "ponder
whether his famous march ... would have been possible if Americans were to be laboring
under the yoke of military dictatorship."
Condoning Suppression of Dissent
Farrakhan also decried Western countries for criticizing Abacha's recent
execution of Nigerian writer and environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, who was condemned
by a military tribunal for demanding a greater share of oil revenues for his people, the
Ogoni tribe. Addressing Nigeria's critics, Farrakhan said, "You hanged one
man. So what? Ask them, too, `How many did you hang?"'
Not surprisingly, TransAfrica's Robinson was upset with Farrakhan's overtures to the
Nigerian government. "I am extremely disappointed with the statements made on this
trip," he told The New York Times. "His statements ... appear to make
Minister Farrakhan an apologist for an authoritarian, corrupt and repressive regime."