Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Unity and Faith, Part 1

Nigeria is an interesting country. It is the most populous country in Africa, and the 7th most populous country in the world. It is estimated that more than one fifth of the world's black population lives in Nigeria, and Nigeria has what is considered one of the world's major developing economies. Add to that its central location in Africa, with its own significant oil fields and adjacent to many other oil fields, and Nigeria is perhaps the major player in Africa, and a significant player on the world scene.

On April 16, Nigeria held presidential elections. For an overview of how the election process itself went, I refer you to Sahel Blog's article entitled International Observers Comment on Nigeria's Elections.

The election results are sparking some turbulence in a nation that already is simmering with other problems.

The incumbent, Goodluck Jonathan, was elected as vice president and sworn in on May 29, 2007. Due to illness, President Umaru Yar'Adua was unable to function as president, so Jonathan became acting president as of February 9, 2010; upon Yar'Adua's death, Jonathan took the oath of office to become president on May 6, 2010. President Jonathan is a member of the People's Democratic Party, which also controls Nigeria's National Assembly.

Re-elected: Incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan

2011 Nigerian Presidential Election Results

2011 Nigerian National Assembly Election Results

Now, for background, we consider an excerpt from a paper entitled Key Issues in Nigeria's 2011 Elections by Sola Tayo, dated March 29, 2011:

While other parties had a smoother journey in declaring their candidates the PDP spent much of the latter part of 2010 embroiled in a debate over the origin of its candidate. An agreement within the party dictates that the presidency should rotate between Nigeria's north and south – a system commonly known as 'zoning'. It appears in the party's constitution but without detail of its implementation, which casts doubt on whether it is legally enforceable.[2] On the basis of this, many people, particularly in the north, consider it to be the north's turn to hold the presidency as Nigeria's last president, northerner Umaru Yar'Adua, died before completing his first term in office, and his predecessor in office, Obasanjo, was a southerner. Yet Goodluck Jonathan, who as vice-president took over the presidency upon Yar'Adua's death, is himself also a southerner. A powerful coalition of northern interests combined to try to prevent Jonathan's assumption of the interim presidency, and subsequently his nomination to PDP candidate for these upcoming elections, precisely because they foresaw the north missing out on 'its turn'.

The excerpt tells of a north/south split within the ruling PDP. But, as I looked at results published by Nigeria's Independent National Electoral Commission, evidence of another kind of north-south political split was quite obvious.

The main runner-up for the presidency was a candidate from the Congress for Progressive Change, General Muhammadu Buhari. From Q&A: Nigeria elections, April 19, 2011:

Goodluck Jonathan from the governing People's Democratic Party (PDP) was declared the winner with 57% of the vote, taking 22.5 million votes.

The runner-up, General Muhammadu Buhari, of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), took 12.2 million votes.

International observers said polling was generally free and fair and there has been praise for the Independent National Electoral Commission.

The African Union observer team said it was Nigeria's best poll for decades, but this did not stop riots breaking out in many northern cities, where Gen Buhari is popular.

To win in the first round, a candidate needs at least 25% of the vote in two-thirds of Nigeria's 36 states, as well as a majority of the total votes cast.

The protesters accuse PDP politicians in the north of rigging to allow Mr Jonathan to reach this threshold.

They also claim there are discrepancies between turnout and results in some areas of the south, Mr Jonathan's powerbase.

From a March 7, 2011, article entitled Buhari Warns Of Arab-style Revolution In Nigeria, we have the following:

PRESIDENTIAL candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), General Mohammadu Buhari, has warned that the current unrest in North Africa and Middle East would not elude Nigeria if the leadership remains unaccountable to the people.

Buhari, who was in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital, yesterday to flag off the CPC presidential campaign rally for the South-South zone of the country, said no one should rule out the North African revolution in Nigeria, if the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) does not change its style of governance.

You know, it occurred to me that there also seems to be a split along religious lines, which is a roughly north-south split. In fact, skipping down in Q&A: Nigeria elections:

Is there always a north-south divide to politics?

Elections in Nigeria tend to be about ethnicity, religion and regionalism, not issues.

But it is the first time in Nigeria's recent history that the presidential election result has exposed the huge division between the mainly Muslim, Hausa-speaking north and Christian and animist south.

Often the winning candidate - irrespective of region, religion or ethnicity - has commanded a wide national spread in the first round.

Historically, this was due either to a formal alliance by political parties or - more recently - an informal agreement within the governing PDP party to alternate the presidency between the north and the south after two terms in office.

However, this rotation was broken when Mr Jonathan succeeded to the presidency last year after the death of Umaru Yar'Adua, a northerner. PDP powerbrokers wanted their candidate in this election to be a northerner.

And much of the anger being expressed by the young men rioting in northern cities comes down to frustration.

The north is far behind the south in terms of development, education and job opportunities - some of the issues politicians have often promised to address and failed to deliver.

Coupled with Buhari's warnings, this sounds like a recipe for big trouble.

I can't help but notice that Nigeria also has trouble with the Boko Haram militants, that half the country already has sharia as state law, and that Nigeria is along the Sahara/Sahel corridor that I have written about in previous posts - a corridor through which flow contraband, illegal arms, and people with political-religious agendas.

It seems to me I started a series about Côte d'Ivoire with a post kind of like this one, and look what happened there.

Of course, Nigeria is very different from Côte d'Ivoire...


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