Yoruba protests became violent after the death of the political prisoner, Mashood Abiola, who won the 1993 presidential election in 1993 but was subsequently imprisoned by the military government. The government claims Abiol died of a heart attack while in prison, but protesters claim that Abiola was murdered. Abiola was a dissident that protested the military rule and presented hope for representation of the Yoruba, which they feel they have been denied.
The Government of Nigeria during 1998 went from an authoritarian dictatorship to a transitional government that at year's end was in the process of implementing a program of democratic transition to democratic civilian government in the first half of 1999. For the first half of the year, the Government was dominated by General Sani Abacha, and committed serious human rights abuses systematically in order to retain political power.