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Tuesday, 11 April, 2000, 01:14 GMT 02:14 UK
Nigerian 'grand old man' calls for reform
Anthony Enahoro
Anthony Enahoro has returned to Nigeria after four years in exile
By Barnaby Phillips in Lagos

The last pro-democracy activist to return to Nigeria following the end of military rule has called for a radical reform to the country's political structure.

Chief Anthony Enahoro was speaking at a rally in the commercial capital, Lagos, after flying home from the United States where he spent the past four years.

Mr Enahoro, now in his late seventies, campaigned for independence from the British in the 1950s and has played a prominent role in Nigerian politics ever since.

His return closes a sad chapter in Nigerian history. He is the leader of NADECO, the movement that opposed General Sani Abacha.

We must not fear radicalism or radical ideas. The future lies in Nigeria becoming a union of nationalities

Chief Anthony Enahoro
He was one of many prominent Nigerians to flee the country during the mid 1990s, when General Abacha's security forces operated with virtual impunity.

He's now "the grand old man" of Nigerian politics, but in a passionate speech at a rally in central Lagos he gave every indication that he would return to the political fray.

Mr Enahoro said Nigerians were not enjoying true democracy despite the fact that the military are no longer in power. Above all, said Mr Enahoro, Nigeria's diverse ethnic groups are not given recognition under the present constitution, which was written by the military.

It was time, he said, to contemplate radical change where each ethnic nationality would have much more freedom.

"We must not fear radicalism or radical ideas. If you agree with my vision of Nigeria as a nation of nationalities, then surely we must see that the future lies in Nigeria becoming a union of nationalities."

Mr Enahoro's call for a sovereign national conference leading to a restructuring of Nigeria will be extremely popular in the south west of the country, but it will not be welcomed by Nigeria's president, Olusegun Obasanjo.

Despite the great ethnic, religious and social tensions, which currently exist in the south west of Nigeria, the president has always voiced strong objections to any loosening of the political bonds that hold the Nigerian people together.

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