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DATE=05/15/99 TYPE=ON THE LINE NUMBER=1-00739 TITLE=THE DEMOCRATIC TRANSITION IN NIGERIA EDITOR=OFFICE OF POLICY - 619-0037 CONTENT= THEME: UP, HOLD UNDER AND FADE ANNCR: ON THE LINE -- A DISCUSSION OF UNITED STATES POLICIES AND CONTEMPORARY ISSUES. THIS WEEK, "THE DEMOCRATIC TRANSITION IN NIGERIA." HERE IS YOUR HOST, ROBERT REILLY. HOST: HELLO AND WELCOME TO ON THE LINE. FOR THE FIRST TIME IN TWO DECADES, A DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED PRESIDENT WILL TAKE OFFICE IN NIGERIA ON MAY 29TH. PRESIDENT-ELECT OLUSEGUN OBASANJO IS A FORMER GENERAL AND HEAD OF STATE WHO VOLUNTARILY RETURNED POWER TO CIVILIANS IN 1979. NIGERIA BEGAN ITS TRANSITION LAST JUNE AFTER THE DEATH OF DICTATOR SANI ABACHA. HIS REPLACEMENT, GENERAL ABDULSALAM ABUBAKAR, WON PRAISE FOR KEEPING HIS PROMISE TO RETURN NIGERIA TO CIVILIAN RULE. PRESIDENT OBASANJO WILL FACE FORMIDABLE CHALLENGES AFTER MANY YEARS OF MISRULE AND RAMPANT CORRUPTION. JOINING ME TODAY TO DISCUSS THE TRANSITION TO DEMOCRACY IN NIGERIA AND U.S. POLICY IS UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR POLITICAL AFFAIRS, THOMAS PICKERING. WELCOME TO THE PROGRAM. LET ME BEGIN BY ASKING YOU ABOUT YOUR RECENT TRIP TO NIGERIA AND HOW YOU ASSESS THE CHANCES OF DEMOCRACY REALLY TAKING ROOT, FINALLY, IN THAT COUNTRY. PICKERING: I RETURNED FROM THAT TRIP QUITE OPTIMISTIC. I HAD AN OPPORTUNITY TO SEE A NUMBER OF PEOPLE, INCLUDING THE PRESIDENT-ELECT AND THE PRESENT HEAD OF STATE. THE PRESIDENT-ELECT I FOUND VERY UPBEAT, VERY MUCH HIS OWN THINKER ABOUT THE FUTURE, BUT FOCUSED ON SOME OF THE KEY ISSUES THAT ARE NOW BEFORE NIGERIA AND ITS PEOPLE: THE ISSUES OF CORRUPTION, OF ECONOMIC REFORM AND HOW ONE CAN IMPROVE THE STANDARD OF LIFE AND LIVING, AND THE ISSUE OF CONTINUED DEMOCRACY, SOMETHING, AS YOU KNOW, THAT HE HAS SOME EXPERIENCE WITH. HE WAS BOTH THE ONLY MILITARY RULER OF NIGERIA TO TURN IT OVER TO A CIVILIAN GOVERNMENT, AND A RULER OF NIGERIA WHO SPENT FOUR VERY UNFORTUNATE AND DIFFICULT YEARS IN JAIL FOR HIS COMMITMENT TO DEMOCRACY. HOST: LET ME ASK YOU ABOUT THE CHARACTER OF MR. OBASANJO BECAUSE SO MUCH RELIES UPON IT. NIGERIA IS A COUNTRY THAT HAS BEEN TORN BY STRIFE ALONG A NUMBER OF FAULT LINES -- TRIBAL LINES: IBO, YORUBA, HAUSA; RELIGIOUS LINES: MUSLIM, CHRISTIAN; THE DIVISION BETWEEN THE CIVILIAN AND THE MILITARY. DOES HE HAVE THE STATURE AND THE CONTACTS TO MELD THAT COUNTRY BACK TOGETHER ACROSS THOSE FISSURES? PICKERING: I BELIEVE HE DOES, AND IT IS AN IMPORTANT AND VERY SERIOUS QUESTION. HE WAS A MILITARY OFFICER AND A MILITARY LEADER OF HIS COUNTRY WHEN HE STEPPED DOWN IN 1979 IN FAVOR OF A CONSTITUTIONALLY ELECTED GOVERNMENT. HE IS AN INDIVIDUAL WHO IS WELL THOUGHT OF INTERNATIONALLY. HE WAS A FOUNDING MEMBER AND DIRECTOR OF TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL, AN ORGANIZATION THAT SUPPORTS DEMOCRACY AND THE FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION. HE WAS ELECTED -- A YORUBA FROM THE SOUTHWEST -- BY STRONG MAJORITIES, PARTICULARLY IN THE NORTH AND IN THE EAST. SO HE IS NATIONALLY WELL THOUGHT OF AS A LEADER OF HIS COUNTRY. AS YOU KNOW, THERE WERE IRREGULARITIES IN THE ELECTION, BUT I THINK IT IS IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER -- AND CERTAINLY IT WAS THE IMPRESSION DURING MY SHORT, RECENT STAY IN NIGERIA -- THAT HE REPRESENTS THE DESIRES AND THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE OF NIGERIA FOR GOVERNING THE COUNTRY. THIS WOULD NOT, IN MY VIEW, IN ANY WAY MINIMIZE THE PROBLEMS THAT HE FACES. BUT I THINK IT GOES TO SHOW THAT THE THEORY BEHIND YOUR QUESTION -- THAT HE MAY BE THE RIGHT MAN, IN THE RIGHT PLACE, AT THE RIGHT TIME -- IS ONE THAT I THINK IS A GOOD ONE. HOST: CERTAINLY GENERAL ABUBAKAR WAS THE RIGHT MAN, IN THE RIGHT PLACE, AT THE RIGHT TIME. HE CONFOUNDED A LOT OF SKEPTICS IN FOLLOWING A VERY TIGHT SCHEDULE FOR THIS TRANSITION TO DEMOCRACY. YOU ALSO MET WITH HIM, MR. UNDER SECRETARY? PICKERING: YES I DID. AND I TOOK THE OPPORTUNITY TO CONGRATULATE GENERAL ABUBAKAR. I HAD SEEN HIM IN JULY LAST YEAR, AND HE SET OUT FOR ME WHAT HE INTENDED TO DO. AND HE EITHER MET OR BEAT, IF I CAN PUT IT THIS WAY, HIS GOALS AND THE OBJECTIVES THAT HE HAS SET HIMSELF, OBJECTIVES WHICH WE FULLY SUPPORTED AND, INDEED, WHICH WE HAD ENCOURAGED, FOR DEMOCRATIZATION, FOR ELECTIONS, FOR BRINGING IN A NEW CONSTITUTION, FOR COMPLETING THE TRANSITION AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE, FOR DEALING WITH HIS MILITARY COLLEAGUES, WHICH IS NOT AN EASY PROBLEM IN NIGERIA. AND PROFESSIONALIZATION OF THE MILITARY IS CERTAINLY SOMETHING HE TOLD ME HE WAS COMMITTED TO, AND I BELIEVE THAT PRESIDENT-ELLECT OBASANJO IS COMMITTED TO. SO THOSE ARE ALL, IN MY VIEW, RATHER GOOD SIGNS, AGAINST THE BACKDROP OF A LOT OF VERY DIFFICULT PROBLEMS. HOST: MR. PICKERING, AFTER MR. OBASANJO WAS RELEASED FROM PRISON LAST YEAR, HE SPOKE OF THE NIGERIAN MILITARY, AND I'M QUOTING HIM HERE, AS A "LIABILITY TO THE NATION," AND AS AN INSTITUTION WITH "NO CREDIBILITY." YET THE MILITARY IS PERHAPS THE ONLY NATIONAL INSTITUTION IN NIGERIA. HOW DO YOU ASSESS ITS FUTURE ROLE IN NIGERIA AND ALSO PRESIDENT-ELECT OBASANJO 'S RELATIONSHIP WITH IT? SOME PEOPLE SAY HE IS TOO CLOSE TO THE MILITARY; OTHERS MAY THINK THAT VERY CLOSENESS IS AN ASSET IN GETTING THE MILITARY TO STEP BACK. WHAT DO YOU THINK? PICKERING: THERE ARE A COUPLE OF GOOD QUESTIONS THERE. IT IS ONE OF THE TRULY NATIONAL INSTITUTIONS. I THINK RELIGIOUS BODIES CONSTITUTE OTHERS THAT TRANSCEND ETHNIC DIVISIONS AND REGIONAL DIVISIONS. I THINK THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE IS SOMETHING OF A NATIONAL INSTITUTION IN NIGERIA, PARTICULARLY THE SPECIAL FORM OF ENGLISH SPOKEN IN THE COUNTRY. SO I THINK IT IS A MISTAKE TO THINK OF NIGERIA AS FRACTURED AND ONLY HELD TOGETHER BY THE MILITARY. THE MILITARY HAVE, AT ONE AND THE SAME TIME, BEEN A SOURCE OF UNITY IN THE COUNTRY, BUT A SOURCE OF CONCERN BECAUSE THEY HAVE MOVED IN TO TAKE OVER THE COUNTRY AT VARIOUS TIMES WHEN DEMOCRACY HAD A CHANCE, AND WAS BEING GIVEN A CHANCE, BUT NOT BEING EFFECTIVELY USED. AND IN THEIR VIEW, THEREFORE, THEY DESERVED THE RIGHT TO COME BACK. HAVING APPOINTED THEMSELVES TO GOVERN THE COUNTRY AT VARIOUS TIMES IN THE PAST, THEY MADE HUGE PROFITS, MANY OF THEM IN DOING SO -- NOT ALL OF THEM. AND NOW THE TRICK IS, OF COURSE, TO SEE HOW THE MILITARY, AS AN INSTITUTION IN ITS UNIFYING FORCE, CAN GO BACK TO THE ROLE THAT WAS ORIGINALLY DESIGNED FOR IT AND WHICH IS TRADITIONAL FOR MILITARIES -- DEFENDING THE COUNTRY AND PROVIDING A SOURCE OF SUPPORT FOR THE COUNTRY'S FOREIGN POLICY. AND IN NIGERIA IN RECENT YEARS, THE MILITARY HAS PLAYED A VERY IMPORTANT ROLE IN TRYING TO BRING PEACE AND STABILITY TO LIBERIA, WHICH WAS WAR-TORN, AND TO SIERRA LEONE, WHICH CONTINUES TO BE WAR-TORN AND ABOUT WHICH WE SHARE CONCERNS WITH NIGERIA. AND I FOUND THAT, WHEN I WAS IN NIGERIA RECENTLY, THERE WAS AS STRONG SENSE THAT THEY OUGHT TO BRING THE BOYS HOME. WE SPOKE TO PRESIDENT-ELECT OBASANJO ABOUT THAT. HE HAD MADE A PUBLIC COMMITMENT TO KEEP THEM THERE IN ORDER TO INSURE THAT THE PEACE PROCESS, WHICH IS ONGOING, WILL BE SUCCESSFUL. THE FINAL POINT ON THE MILITARY IS THAT THE MILITARY NOW HAVE TO FIND A PROFESSIONAL NICHE FOR THEMSELVES IN THE CONTEXT OF THE SERVICES THEY CAN PERFORM FOR THE COUNTRY. PRESIDENT-ELECT OBASANJO TOLD ME A YEAR AGO THAT HE WAS INTENT UPON THIS; SO DID GENERAL ABUBAKAR. I THINK IT IS IMPORTANT NOW THAT THE MILITARY TAKE A LOOK AT THEMSELVES, CLEARY DESIGN THEMSELVES FOR THE FUTURE -- IF I COULD PUT IT THAT WAY -- IN TERMS OF THE SIZE AND SCOPE OF THEIR EFFORT. SOME HAVE TALKED ABOUT DOWN-SIZING. THAT'S A MAJOR QUESTION ON THE LIPS OF MANY NIGERIANS AND IN THE MINDS OF MANY NIGERIANS. THESE WILL BE BIG PROBLEMS TO BE FACED. BUT I WANT TO ADD THAT WE WILL, ON THE PART OF THE UNITED STATES, DO WHAT WE CAN TO HELP BOTH IN TERM OF TECHNOLOGY AND FUNDING, [AND] IN ADVICE, IF NIGERIANS WANT IT. WE ARE PREPARED AND ABLE TO HELP, ALSO, IN THE AREA OF TRAINING IN ORDER TO FIND A WAY TO PROVIDE A PROFESSIONAL FUTURE FOR THE MILITARY IN THE SERVICE OF THEIR COUNTRY. HOST: BY THE WAY, THIS MIGHT BE A GOOD TIME TO ASK YOU THE QUESTION ABOUT WHAT IS THE STATUS OF THE VARIOUS SANCTIONS THAT THE UNITED STATES PLACED ON NIGERIA BECAUSE OF ANNULLED ELECTIONS UNDER SANI ABACHA AND OTHER HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES. HAVE VISA RESTRICTIONS AND THAT KIND OF THING BEEN LIFTED NOW? PICKERING: YES, VISA RESTRICTIONS WERE LIFTED LAST YEAR AS A RESULT OF THE PROGRESS THAT HAD BEEN MADE BY GENERAL ABUBAKAR IN NIGERIA. THE QUESTION OF DRUG CERTIFICATION, WHICH IMPOSED A NUMBER OF SANCTIONS, WAS DEALT WITH THIS YEAR BY A NATIONAL INTEREST WAIVER. AND I ENCOURAGED NIGERIANS WHEN I WAS THERE TO THINK OF CERTIFICATION, TO THINK OF POLICE COOPERATION, OF EXTRADITION AND OTHER ISSUES TO DEAL WITH THAT PROBLEM. ALSO, THE LAGOS AIRPORT REMAINS, AS MANY AMERICAN TRAVELLERS KNOW, ON THE LIST OF DANGEROUS AIRPORTS BECAUSE OF A FAILURE OF SECURITY AND SAFETY. WE HAVE SPOKEN WITH NIGERIANS ABOUT THAT. WE HAVE WORKED WITH THEM CLOSELY, PROVIDED A LOT OF TECHNICAL ADVICE. PROGRESS IS BEING MADE AND WE HOPE THAT, WITHIN MONTHS, THAT PARTICULAR ISSUE CAN BE DEALT WITH. SO [THERE IS] REAL PROGRESS IN LAGOS, BUT THEY ARE NOT THERE YET. SO LAGOS AIRPORT IS ON THE LIST OF DANGEROUS AIRPORTS AND AMERICAN CARRIERS, AS A RESULT OF THAT, ARE NOT SERVING NIGERIA, SOMETHING THE NIGERIANS HAVE URGED US TO DO AND WHICH WE WILL CONTINUE TO WORK ON. HOST: YOU MENTIONED PRESIDENT-ELECT OBASANJO'S ASSOCIATION WITH THE GROUP, TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL. AND IT WAS TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL THAT SAID LAST YEAR THAT NIGERIA WAS THE MOST CORRUPT COUNTRY IN THE WORLD. HOW CAN THE PRESIDENT-ELECT BEGIN TO APPROACH CORRUPTION THAT HAS RUN THAT DEEPLY -- ONE OF THE LARGEST PETROLEUM PRODUCING COUNTRIES IN THE WORLD WHERE THERE ARE HORRENDOUS GAS LINES? WHAT IS THE MOST URGENT THING HE NEEDS TO DO TO ADDRESS THAT PROBLEM? PICKERING: HE HAS TOLD ME THAT THIS IS AT THE TOP OF HIS AGENDA, AND I'M DELIGHTED. I BELIEVE HIM. HE'S BEEN COMMITTED ON THIS PARTICULAR ISSUE FOR A LONG TIME. HIS ROLE AS A MEMBER OF THE BOARD OF TRANSPARENCY INDICATES HIS BONA FIDES AND HIS SERIOUS INTENTIONS TO MOVE AHEAD ON THIS PARTICULAR QUESTION. I THINK THAT CORRUPTION INVOLVES THE OPPOSITE OF GOOD GOVERNANCE. SO HE HAS TO ASSURE GOOD GOVERNANCE. HE HAS TO ASSURE RESPONSIBILITY OF CIVIL SERVANTS IN THEIR JOBS. HE HAS TO ASSURE THE CODE OF ETHICS AND CONDUCT. HE HAS TO ASSURE THAT THERE IS ADEQUATE ENFORCEMENT FOR THOSE WHO STRAY FROM THE PATH. AND HE HAS TO CREATE A CULTURE -- SOMETHING THAT UNFORTUNATELY HAS DISAPPEARED IN NIGERIA -- OF PUBLIC SERVICE FOR THE SAKE OF SERVING THE PUBLIC, RATHER THAN FOR THE SAKE OF SERVING THE PERSON WHO IS DOING THE SERVING OF THE PUBLIC. THESE WILL TAKE A LOT OF WORK AND A LOT OF EFFORT. I THINK HE IS PREPARED TO DO THAT. THAT IS THE COMMITMENT HE HAS TOLD ME HE MUST MAKE. HE UNDERSTANDS IT; HE UNDERSTANDS THAT CORRUPTION EATS AWAY AT THE FABRIC OF A COUNTRY, IF IT IS NOT DEALT WITH. PRESIDENT-ELECT OBASANJO HAS TOLD ME THAT THIS IS WHAT HE IS INTENT UPON DOING. WE WILL GIVE HIM HELP AND RUNNING ROOM TO TRY TO DO IT. AND CERTAINLY, WE WILL WISH HIM THE BEST OF LUCK IN THIS, PERHAPS, MOST DIFFICULT OF HIS TASKS AHEAD, CERTAINLY IN THE NEAR TERM. HOST: I KNOW, MR. PICKERING, THAT GENERAL ABUBAKAR TRIED TO GET A START ON ECONOMIC REFORM BY SAYING THAT CERTAIN STATE MONOPOLIES WOULD BE ABOLISHED BY TRYING TO INTRODUCE SOME COMPETITION INTO THE ECONOMY. AND HE WAS PROPOSING TO SELL OFF A CERTAIN PERCENTAGE OF CERTAIN STATE ASSETS. WAS THERE ANY PROGRESS IN ECONOMIC REFORM UNDER GENERAL ABUBAKAR, AND WILL OLUSEGUN OBASANJO FOLLOW THROUGH ON THOSE REFORMS? PICKERING: THERE WAS SOME. THE GAS LINES YOU SPOKE ABOUT ARE NOT ELIMINATED. SOME HAVE TOLD ME THEY ARE REDUCED. THAT REQUIRES A VERY SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT OF REPAIR TO THE NIGERIAN REFINERIES THAT WERE NOT PRODUCING UP TO STANDARD. BUT IT ALSO REQUIRES A CHANGE IN MINDSET, BECAUSE THERE WERE PEOPLE WHO WERE PROFITING FROM IMPORTS WHO REALLY DID NOT CARE ABOUT BRINGING THOSE REFINERIES UP TO STANDARD, BECAUSE IT CUT INTO THE PROFITS THEY WERE MAKING. GENERAL ABUBAKAR MOVED AHEAD TO BEGIN THE PROCESS OF REPAIRING THE REFINERIES, AND ON PRIVATIZATION. GENERAL OBASANJO TELLS ME HE WANTS TO CONTINUE WITH THE PROGRAM. IT IS AN EXTREMELY IMPORTANT ONE. THERE IS DISTRUST IN NIGERIA ABOUT THE VALUATION OF THOSE ASSETS AND SOME DISTRUST ABOUT FOREIGN HOLDINGS OF THEM. I DON'T BELIEVE THAT THEY RUN PROHIBITIVELY DEEP. AND I DO BELIEVE THAT PRIVATIZATION CAN HELP THE NIGERIANS IN TERMS OF THEIR CASH FLOW AND MEETING SOME OF THE MOST IMMEDIATE PROBLEMS THEY HAVE IN SHORT FALLS IN REVENUE AGAINST BUDGET. I THINK COUNTER-CORRUPTION WILL HELP IN THAT A GREAT DEAL. I THINK THEY NEED A SERIOUS EFFORT TO LOOK AT THE OIL INDUSTRY AND ITS ROLE IN NIGERIA AND THE REGULATION OF OIL INCOME, AND TO MAKE SURE THAT ALL OF THE OIL INCOME FINDS ITS WAY INTO THE GOVERNMENT BUDGET, AND NOT INTO PRIVATE POCKETS. ALL OF THOSE ARE VERY IMPORTANT STEPS AND WILL HELP ENORMOUSLY IN MOVING AHEAD IN REFORMING THE ECONOMY. HOST: AMBASSADOR, WHEN YOU SAY THE UNITED STATES WILL HELP IN THIS PROCESS, EXACTLY WHAT DO YOU MEAN? IN TERMS OF THE ECONOMIC REFORM, WHAT KIND OF HELP CAN WE SUPPLY? PICKERING: WE CAN SUPPLY BOTH TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE, WHICH I BELIEVE CAN BE VERY USEFUL, SOME ADDED FUNDING FOR PROGRAMS IN THE AREAS OF TRANSPORTATION, ENERGY, MILITARY REFORM, CONTINUE OUR WORK IN THE HEALTH SECTOR, IN THE STRUGGLE AGAINST AIDS AND SO ON. IT IS THAT COMBINATION. PERHAPS WE CAN OFFER HELP THROUGH SOME OF THE AMERICAN NATIONAL PARTY ASSISTANCE INSTITUTIONS, THE N-D-I [NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC INSTITUTE] AND I-R-I [INTERNATIONAL REPUBLICAN INSTITUTE]. HELP, FOR EXAMPLE, FOR THE NEW LEGISLATURES AT ALL THREE LEVELS OF GOVERNMENT WHO WOULD PERHAPS REQUIRE, FOR THEIR INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS, TRAINING, SOME INCREASED FAMILIARITY WITH THE LEGISLATIVE PROCESS, THE ROLE OF THE LEGISLATIVE BRANCH. SOMETHING HAS BEEN ABSENT IN NIGERIA FOR A NUMBER OF YEARS: HOW EXECUTIVE-LEGISLATIVE RELATIONS CAN HELP IN PURSUING COMMON PLATFORMS AND PROGRAMS. HOST: WHAT SORT OF FEEL DID YOU GET IN NIGERIA FROM THE SUCCESS OF THESE ELECTIONS THAT WERE HELD AT EVERY LEVEL -- THE REGIONAL LEVEL FOR LOCAL LEGISLATURES, GOVERNORS, AND THEN THE NATIONAL LEGISLATURE AND THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION? HAS THIS CREATED A MOOD OF SOME OPTIMISM AND SOME CONFIDENCE IN THE FUTURE? PICKERING: I THINK IT HAS, AND I HAD AN OPPORTUNITY TO SPEAK WITH OUR AID [AGENCY FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT] PEOPLE, WHO HAVE BEEN ALREADY RUNNING SEMINARS WITH THESE GROUPS OF LEGISLATORS. AND IT IS INTERESTING, BECAUSE MANY OF THEIR ASPIRATIONS FOR THE FUTURE OF THE COUNTRY MATCH THOSE THAT THE OUTSIDE WORLD HOLDS FOR NIGERIA. ECONOMIC REFORM AND A FIGHT AGAINST CORRUPTION ARE HIGH ON THE LIST. DEMOCRACY BUILDING IS HIGH ON THE LIST. FOREIGN INVESTMENT SEEMS TO BE QUITE HIGH ON THE LIST. SO THAT IS INTERESTING IN THAT THESE LEGISLATORS, MANY OF THEM AT THE NATIONAL LEVEL, BUT ALSO AT THE LOCAL LEVEL, ARE INDIVIDUALS WHO HAVE SOME STATURE, EITHER IN THEIR LOCAL REGIONS OR NATIONALLY, WHO ARE PEOPLE WHO CAN BRING TO THIS PARTICULAR PROCESS SOME EXPERIENCE AND SOME WISDOM. THIS WAS ALL VERY ENCOURAGING TO US. OBVIOUSLY, IT IS STILL VERY NEW. THERE ARE THIRTY-SIX STATE LEGISLATURES, THOUSANDS OF LOCAL COMMUNITY ASSEMBLIES, AND, OF COURSE, THE NEW NATIONAL PARLIAMENT WITH TWO HOUSES TO BRING TOGETHER AND GET FUNCTIONING AFTER THE INAUGURATION, A HERCULEAN TASK. HOST: SPEAKING OF DEMOCRACY BUILDING, AMBASSADOR, THERE ARE SEVERAL CRITICAL ELEMENTS TO A FUNCTIONING DEMOCRACY THAT NIGERIA, AT THE PRESENT MOMENT, DOES NOT HAVE. ONE IS A MIDDLE CLASS. ANOTHER IS A FREE PRESS. I KNOW THAT SOME OF NIGERIA'S PRESS IS STATE-CONTROLLED. OTHER PRESS IS SORT OF PARTY PRESS. AND MANY OF ITS MEMBERS RECEIVING A BROWN ENVELOPE WITH EMOLUMENTS IN IT FOR WRITING CERTAIN KINDS OF STORIES IS STANDARD PRACTICE. WHAT DO YOU THINK IS GOING TO BE DONE TO FACE THOSE TWO VERY SERIOUS PROBLEMS -- ESTABLISHING FREE PRESS IN NIGERIA AND BEGINNING WITH THE FORMATION OF A MIDDLE CLASS? PICKERING: I THINK THAT THERE IS A LARGE AND GROWING MIDDLE CLASS IN NIGERIA, WHICH HAS BEEN ON HARD TIMES RECENTLY. BUT I THINK THEY WILL EXPAND AS THE ECONOMY EXPANDS, AND I THINK THEY WILL PROVIDE THE BASIS FOR SOME OF THESE NEW INSTITUTIONS, IN THE SENSE THAT MANY OF THEM WILL GO INTO POLITICAL LIFE, OTHERS WILL BE VERY INFLUENTIAL IN NATIONAL POLITICAL LIFE. THE FREE PRESS HAS BEEN A PROBLEM IN NIGERIA, MORE IN MY VIEW ASSAILED BY TWO SETS OF ACTIVITIES. SOME GOVERNMENT RESTRICTIONS AND HEAVY-HANDEDNESS UNDER THE MILITARY. A LOT OF THAT HAS DISAPPEARED UNDER GENERAL ABUBAKAR. AND THEN THE PAYING FOR STORIES, THAT IS THE POSITIVE IMPOSITION THROUGH FUNDING OF PARTICULAR VIEWS THAT ARE NOT NECESSARILY REPRESENTATIVE OF THE PRESS OR THE PUBLIC AT LARGE. THAT'S HARDER, BUT I THINK WE NEED TO WORK WITH THE PRESS IN PROGRAMS OF INDIVIDUAL PRESS RESPONSIBILITY. I'M QUITE PLEASED THAT THERE ARE STILL INDIVIDUALS THAT I KNOW WORKING IN THE NIGERIAN PRESS WHO ARE RESISTANT TO THAT KIND OF BEHAVIOR. A SMALL GROUP, BUT AN IMPORTANT ONE. AND I HOPE THEY WILL BE THE CENTERPIECE FOR BUILDING ON THE FUTURE OF A TRULY FREE AND COMPETITIVE PRESS OF NIGERIA. NIGERIA IS A SOCIETY THAT, IN THE CITIES IN PARTICULAR, IS HEAVILY DEPENDENT ON NEWSPAPER NEWS. A WIDE NUMBER OF PAPERS, COMPETITION, SHOULD HELP. COMPETITION SHOULD OBVIOUSLY INVOKE ITS OWN STANDARDS, IF I COULD PUT IT THAT WAY, FOR THE PRESS. AND I HOPE THAT THE NEWSPAPER READERS WILL REWARD PEOPLE IN WHOM THEY TRUST TO PROVIDE THE TRUTH AND THE INSIDE INFORMATION, RATHER THAN THE PAID-FOR PUBLIC ANNOUNCEMENTS IN THE DISGUISE OF A NEWS STORY. HOST: AMBASSADOR, LET ME CLOSE BY ASKING YOU THE QUESTION: WHAT KIND OF ROLE IN AFRICA DO YOU SEE FOR A DEMOCRATIC NIGERIA.? YOU ALLUDED EARLIER TO ONE VERY IMPORTANT ROLE THAT IT IS ALREADY PLAYING, AND HAS BEEN PLAYING, AS THE KEY PART OF THE PEACEKEEPING FORCE IN SIERRA LEONE. PICKERING: I WOULD SAY A COUPLE OF THINGS. NIGERIA IS A REGIONAL POWER HOUSE. AND EVEN IN THE BAD DAYS OF THE MILITARY AND THE SOMEWHAT RECLUSIVE DAYS OF GENERAL ABACHA, IT STILL PLAYED A IMPORTANT ROLE IN WEST AFRICA. PRESIDENT OBASANJO LOOKS AT THE FUTURE OF NIGERIA'S ROLE, AS HE TOLD ME, AS ONE IN WHICH EACH OF THE STATES WILL PLAY A PARTICIPATORY ROLE, THAT IT WILL NOT ALL FALL ON THE SHOULDERS OF ONE LARGE STATE TO CARRY ALL OF THE FUNDING AND ALL OF THE PEACEKEEPING. AND HE HOPES TO DO THAT, AND HE HOPES TO CONSULT VERY CLOSELY WITH HIS FELLOW LEADERS IN WEST AFRICA AND BUILD A POLITICS OF CONSENSUS IN WEST AFRICA, WITH NIGERIA CONTINUING TO PLAY A LEADERSHIP ROLE DUE TO ITS SIZE AND ECONOMY. I THINK NIGERIA HAS RECUSED ITSELF, UNFORTUNATELY, FROM A MORE VIGOROUS AFRICAN ROLE OVER RECENT YEARS UNDER THE MILITARY GOVERNMENTS. AND THERE, I THINK, THE UNITED STATES AND OTHERS WOULD LOOK FOR NIGERIA TO PLAY THAT ROLE. THERE ARE MANY DIFFICULTIES AND DISPUTES IN AFRICA. NIGERIA IN THE PAST HAS PLAYED A TRADITIONAL ROLE IN DISPUTE SETTLEMENT AND IN DEALING WITH PROBLEMS ON THE CONTINENT THAT WERE LIKELY TO END IN CONFLICT. THIS CAN BE IMPORTANT. NIGERIA HAS A WORLD-CLASS STATE WITH A HUNDRED AND TWENTY OR MORE MILLION PEOPLE. IT'S OUR SECOND LARGEST OIL SUPPLIER ON THE AFRICAN COAST, AND CERTAINLY A MAJOR WORLD ECONOMIC STATE IN THE OIL EXPORTING SENSE. NIGERIA WILL, I HOPE, LOOK AT A ROLE AT THE UNITED NATIONS, A ROLE IN INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTIONS THAT IS MORE BEFITTING ITS SIZE AND NATURAL POSITION IN THE SCHEME OF THINGS. HOST: I'M AFRAID THAT'S ALL THE TIME WE HAVE THIS WEEK. I'D LIKE TO THANK OUR GUEST -- UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE THOMAS PICKERING -- FOR JOINING ME TO DISCUSS U.S. POLICY AND THE TRANSITION TO DEMOCRACY IN NIGERIA. THIS IS ROBERT REILLY FOR ON THE LINE. 14-May-99 12:19 PM EDT (1619 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .





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