Abiola, once close to the military rulers, had bridged the gulf between the northern Hausa group (which dominates the military) and the Ibo and Yoruba groups that populate the wealthier southern regions. His loss leaves a void of candidates that could unite the fractious electorate of Africa's most populous nation in October's scheduled poll.
"Whether the current rioting degenerates into something far more serious depends on whether opposition groups suspect that the generals plan to renege on their commitment to hand over power in October -- if they think the military is entrenching itself, they'll try and make the country ungovernable. Right now, it's anybody's guess what the military is planning." In a country where the two most important politicians suddenly expire of natural causes at age 60, anything seems possible.