Moshood Abiola will go free, the Nigerian junta says, along with every other political prisoner. Exactly when that freedom will come has become the big question.

His family thinks the apparent winner of 1993's presidential elections will have his liberty any day now. Many government officials think it won't come until after the mourning period for former dictator Sani Abacha ends Tuesday.Some officials even see Abiola languishing in his guest-house/

prison for weeks, or even months, because his supporters have reacted loudly and angrily to reports that he has renounced his presidential mandate.

The day to watch is Wednesday, says the Lagos-based newspaper, This Day.

The newspaper, quoting unidentified sources in the presidency, said Abiola's freedom will come that day. The newspaper also predicted that Nigeria's new junta leader, Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar, also will announce a plan to move the country from military to civilian rule.

The current transition program was blatantly manipulated by Abacha before his death from heart failure on June 8. It called for the military to cede power to a civilian government by Oct. 1. Abubakar has pledged to stand by that date, but a new timetable is widely rumored.

Abubakar has moved forcefully to bring change to Nigeria, which floundered under Abacha. Authoritarianism and corruption left the country an economic cripple and a diplomatic pariah, particularly after Abacha executed playwright and pro-democracy activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others in November 1995.