Nigerian President Promises Justice for Condemned Woman

Obasanjo Says ´Macho´ Society Can´t Change Quickly

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ROME, FEB. 20, 2002 ( Nigeria´s president promised that his country will handle justly the case of a woman sentenced to death for adultery.

Olusegun Obasanjo, who is in Rome attending a meeting of the U.N. Fund for Agricultural Development, told the press Tuesday: «Nigerian society is macho and chauvinist, and a society is not changed overnight. However, we must begin to change it and to break those social rules on which it has been based to date.»

He said that justice can be «expected» for Safiya Husseini, 35, sentenced to stoning by a Muslim court of Sokoto state, for having a child out of wedlock.

«I have perceived great attention and concern on the part of the whole world in regard to Safiya, a situation that has made me happy but at the same time worried,» the president said. «I am happy to see how small the global village is in which we all live. The whole world has known and paid attention to the story of a young woman who lives in a lost province of my country.»

Obasanjo said, «Safiya has presented an appeal and, on the basis of this appeal, we hope that justice will be done, a justice that will gladden the hearts of all those who have asked for it for her, and which will also make me very happy.»

He mentioned education and schooling as the indispensable instruments to defeat the macho basis of Nigerian society.

«A woman who has received an education is a free woman,» the president said. He recalled that one of his first initiatives, as head of the democratic government, was the introduction of compulsory education for nine years for all boys and girls.

Obasanjo, a Catholic, is kept very much in sight by Muslim fundamentalists in the country who have introduced Islamic law in 13 northern states. The country suffers from interethnic struggles in the south and in the oil-rich Delta region.

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