PR PLAY OF THE WEEK: Obasanjo is made unlikely soap star

LAGOS: Mired in a brutal economic slump and torn by ethnic and religious strife, Nigeria has hardly had time to catch its breath since a succession of military dictatorships gave way to a fragile democracy two years ago.

LAGOS: Mired in a brutal economic slump and torn by ethnic and religious strife, Nigeria has hardly had time to catch its breath since a succession of military dictatorships gave way to a fragile democracy two years ago.

LAGOS: Mired in a brutal economic slump and torn by ethnic and religious strife, Nigeria has hardly had time to catch its breath since a succession of military dictatorships gave way to a fragile democracy two years ago.

The government of President Olusegun Obasanjo has struggled to keep things from falling apart while fending off corruption scandals and charges of autocracy. Entire regions of the sub-Saharan powerhouse have threatened secession, and a series of violent skirmishes between religious and ethnic groups has put the country on edge.

But there is at least one thing that brings the nation's citizens together.

Every evening, Nigerians of all walks of life gather to watch the soap du jour: televised hearings of the nation's Human Rights Violations Investigation Commission.

Though the hearings do not offer their accused amnesty (as did South Africa's post-Apartheid truth commission), they have featured an A-list of Nigeria's military, economic and cultural elite. In doing so, they have offered the country a sort of cathartic national soap opera of history repeated as farce.

The hearings have also helped legitimize Obasanjo, both at home and abroad.

This fact hasn't escaped the press. An op/ed in Lagos' Daily Vanguard railed that the 'Oputa comic-show ... helps shield Obasanjo's regime from the popular anger and disgust it deserves.'

While Lagos' famously scrappy press may not be buying it, the hearings have bought Obasanjo - himself a one-time military ruler - a measure of respect from both Nigerians and the international community, along with a PR Play of the Week.



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