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Tuesday, July 7, 1998 Published at 21:28 GMT 22:28 UK

Timeline: Abiola's detention years

Chief Abiola campaigns for the presidency in 1993

1993: Democratic elections annulled

Abiola: "Overwhelming mandate"
Chief Moshood Abiola appears to win a vast majority in democratic elections that are pronounced largely free and fair.

[ image: Abiola claimed victory in 1993]
Abiola claimed victory in 1993
He claims to have as much as 60% of the vote and calls it an "overwhelming mandate" from Nigerians.

The military government annuls the election. Extensive rioting in Lagos is quelled by the army but Chief Abiola refuses to co-operate with the military. He campaigns vociferously for the restoration of the election result.

Within a couple of months General Sani Abacha assumes power.

June 1994: Abiola declares himself president

Abiola denies charges of treason made against him
Chief Abiola slips past the army guard at his home to address a huge crowd of supporters and reject charges that his insistence on his mandate amounts to treason.

He asked supporters: "If I committed treason by upholding the mandate of the Nigerian people, what did Abacha commit by continuing with the government which the court has declared illegal?"

Abiola arrested: "It's part of democracy"
Chief Abiola is subsequently taken into custody. In an extraordinary BBC interview during his arrest, he declares that he is not afraid. He points to the 27 years Nelson Mandela spent in jail.

1995: Transition to civilian rule announced

A three-year programme for the swap to civilian rule is declared. The announcement allows for a new president to be inaugurated in October 1998 with elections at local, state and national level.

[ image: Saro-Wiwa: Executed]
Saro-Wiwa: Executed
Opposition leaders denouce the programme as a sham and point to a history of broken promises by the military.

In November a military tribunal orders the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and nine other activists prompting world outrage. Nigeria is suspended from the Commonwealth. The economy continues to deteriorate.

1997: Abacha approves political parties

[ image: Abacha: Five years in power]
Abacha: Five years in power
Five political parties are approved from the 15 which applied. The successful applicants appear to be General Abacha's puppets.

The Nigerian commission responsible for the transition to democracy announces that Presidential elections will be held on August 1, 1998. The handover to civilian rule is to occur by the beginning of October.

1998: Abacha dies

As the election approaches the five approved political parties announce they will all adopt General Abacha as their candidate for the presidential elections.

On June 8, the general dies of a heart attack aged 54. He is replaced by General Abdulsalam Abubakar. His first days in power hint at a more conciliatory regime and is followed by the release of prominent political prisoners but not Chief Abiola.

July 2, 1998: Abiola release nears

The secretaries-general of the United Nations and the Commonwealth, Kofi Annan and Chief Emeka Anyaoku, hold private talks with Mr Abiola. The Nigerian Foreign Minister, Chief Tom Ikimi, indicates the chief will be released soon.

July 7, 1998: Abiola dies

Chief Abiola collapses and dies of an apparent heart attack during a meeting with Nigerian and United States officials in the capital, Abuja. He was 60.

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In this section

Special report: Nigeria in transition

Abiola: Millionaire turned politician

Profile: How General Abubakar emerged from the shadows

Obituary: Abacha leader with an iron grip

Abiola's death captures world headlines

Nigeria's ethnic divisions

From Our Own Correspondent

Analysis: What next for Nigeria?

Abacha's uniting shadow