Friday, October 16, 1998 Published at 22:55 GMT 23:55 UK
Soyinka upbeat on Nigeria's future
Wole Soyinka speaking at the Nigerian Law School in Lagos on Friday
Nigeria's best known political dissident, the poet Wole Soyinka, says the country has turned the corner towards democracy.
"The era of subterfuge is over," he said. "The people have been denied the right to a part in the national state for too long."
The Nobel literature laureate criticised the late military ruler, General Sani Abacha.
Mr Soyinka fled Nigeria in 1994 after being forbidden from travelling by Gen Abacha, who died suddenly in June.
Addressing cheering university students and academics, Mr Soyinka urged Nigerians to push for political changes which would allow the country's four main regions to collect and distribute their own revenues.
'We need to repair the cracks'
The poet, speaking in Lagos, compared the country to a house riddled with cracks.
He said: "If the house we occupy develops cracks we have a number of choices.
"Our choices are governed by the level of deterioration ... and not all of them need tearing down the building."
He said centralisation was the bane of Nigeria and called for a national conference which would give self-determination to the country's many ethnic groups.