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Wada Nas: Controversial Nigerian Politician

By Shola Adenekan

 

As Nigeria's education minister and then minister of special duties during the dictatorship of the 1990s, Wada Nas, who has died aged 66, was the regime's chief propagandist.

 

He came to prominence following the annulment of the 1993 presidential election and the subsequent bloodless coup by General Sanni Abacha. Nas provided a public face for the reclusive soldier.

 

In 1995, when the writer and campaigner Ken Saro-Wiwa was executed by the military alongside eight other activists from the oil-rich Ogoniland, Nas defended the government's action, accusing foreign governments of supporting insurgency.

 

The next year, Nas accused Amnesty International of troublemaking, and three of its staff were arrested en route to a reception hosted by the US ambassador Walter Carrington. When Carrington's own farewell party was broken up by soldiers and riot police in 1997, Nas blamed him for the incident, and US-Nigerian relations reached their nadir.

 

Nas was born in Funtua, Northern Nigeria, and studied at Katsina Teachers College. In 1959, the year before Nigeria achieved independence, Nas was elected to a regional assembly, and later to the national house of representatives, where he served until 1964. Then he started his own business, returning to politics in 1979.

 

After Abacha's sudden death in 1998, Nas was sacked by the new military government that returned Nigeria to civil rule in 1999. He then remoulded himself as a human rights campaigner and champion of free speech, while still protecting Abacha's posthumous reputation.

 

As a columnist, Nas became one of the government's most respected critics, his words, notably on corruption, often approvingly quoted by the very opposition media that had once railed against him.

 

He is survived by two wives and 20 children.

 

Wada Nas, politician, born 1938; died January 3 2005

 

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