Nigerian Opposition Rejects Taylor's Asylum ---Asks Obassanjo to "Discontinue Discussion"

By: Wellington Geevon-Smith

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia

July 12, 2003

Nigeria's main opposition party, the All Nigerian People's Party (ANPP), has sharply protested the decision by President Olusegun Obassanjo to offer asylum to Liberia's embattled President Charles McArthur Taylor.

The ANPP, in a statement issued on Tuesday July 8, 2003 and signed by Mr. Abdulrahoof Bello, Media and Publicity Secretary, said the granting of asylum to Mr. Taylor amounts to an affront to the psyche of Nigerians, especially the widows and children of peacekeepers and the families of Nigerians killed by Mr. Taylor in the Liberian crisis.

Specifically, the opposition's statement made reference to the brutal murder by Taylor's National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) of two Nigerian journalists, Tayo Awotusin of ‘Daily Champion' and Krees Imodibe of ‘The Guardian' newspapers.

"The bodies of Awotusin and Imodibe shall turn in their graves to learn that the country they served and died for has betrayed them by granting an asylum to the man who was responsible for their untimely death while performing their lawful duties"', the opposition lamented.

The ANPP also queried: "Has the President forgotten so soon that President Taylor's soldiers attacked the Nigerian Embassy in Monrovia and killed many innocent Nigerians taking refuge in the Embassy? ...We are of the opinion that President Obassanjo is carrying too far, the ego of Nigeria, being a big brother in the West-African sub-region by appearing to have loved President Charles Taylor more than the Nigerian journalists who were murdered by Charles Taylor against international conventions", they said.

The opposition asked President Obassanjo to "withdraw the asylum and discontinue the discussions. "The party advised the Nigerian President to consider the diplomatic and domestic implications of his current mission to Liberia in pursuit of his foreign policy.

The position of the Nigerian opposition party signals that West African nationals are not prepared to let Mr. Taylor completely off the hook for the gruesome death of their fellow compatriots in the hands of NPFL's forces during the war.

Mr. Taylor was indicted in June by the UN Special Court for Sierra Leone for his involvement in what has been labeled as the most 'cruel' war in West African conflict history. Mr. Taylor first denied his involvement but later admitted, stating "national security concern" as a justification.

During the Liberian civil war, most West African nationals, mainly Nigerians and Ghanaians, were targeted by forces of Taylor's NPFL in the early 1990s largely because of the involvement of their countries in the regional peacekeeping operations that Mr. Taylor considered an obstacle to capture the country militarily.

Mr. Taylor, upon his election as president in 1997, practically drove the regional peacekeeping force [ECOMOG] out of Liberia. Many blamed the renewed fighting that has engulfed the country on the early departure of ECOMOG.