With an annual growth rate of around 7 per cent, Nigeria should have been the envy of the world. But it is not. Violent and corrupt, Nigeria has become a test case for everything that is wrong with modern Africa. The ethnic and religious disputes that are tearing the country apart have their roots in more mundane disputes over land and water. If the long years under colonial rule deepened old conflicts and set off new ones, the new prosperity is not doing anything different for the country that is grappling with crises in its north, centre and south. Over the last two months, the northeastern militant Islamist grouping, Boko Haram, has sharply escalated its attacks, leading to the death of around 1,300 people. Its latest killing of scores of school children in Buni Yadi has sent shock waves through the country, but is yet to galvanize the administration into confronting the challenge. In addition to the continuing instances of oil theft, kidnapping and piracy in the delta region in the south, Nigeria now has to deal with another bout of internecine violence in its central districts. Over the last two weeks, violence between Fulani Muslim herders and Christian farmers of the region has lead to the death of hundreds, the displacement of thousands, and a general intensification of insecurity in the country.
Nigerians — who dared to upset the country’s tradition of giving political charge to a Muslim and a Christian alternately and voted dispassionately in 2011 to elect a government that they hoped would be competent — have been let down by the inefficient Goodluck Jonathan government. They fear a widening conflict, with the Islamist militancy in the north merging with the Fulani Muslim vengeance in the central region. Boko Haram has shown how easy it is to increase the tension by repeatedly targeting the churches in these districts. Unless the government acts fast to control the violence, Nigeria might soon be in a state of war.