Obasanjo Cleans House

Within hours of his inauguration as Nigeria's president on May 29, Olusegun Obasanjo launched a widespread purge of the armed forces, removing 93 top military and police officers who had held political posts. He also revoked all contracts and appointments made since January 1 by his immediate predecessor, General Abdulsalami Abubakar and set up a high-level pane to review them. A second panel will investigate human rights violations under the regime of the late dictator General Sani Abacha.

Obasanjo's swift action to remove holdovers from the outgoing regime and hit corruption head-on "has impressed all but the most skeptical," says the independent newsletter Africa Confidential of London. "Obasanjo's credibility has shot up,” agrees Cameron Duodu, writing in Johannesburg's liberal Mail & Guardian, "for it has seemed that the military administration ... was in a disgraceful hurry to parcel out favors before it left office," including lucrative oil prospecting and processing contracts: It is believed that top officers were behind most of the companies that obtained the contracts.

Since Obasanjo's campaign was heavily financed by tired officers, many believe that Obasanjo was in cahoots with the outgoing administration in rewarding his backers. "Now Obasanjo is demonstrating that he is his own man," says Duodu.