Publisher Council on Foreign Relations Press
Release Date September 2010
In February 2015, the author wrote an update to this memo to reflect recent developments in Nigeria. Read the update.
Elections in Nigeria scheduled for January 2011 may well be the first in the country's history featuring a genuine political contest between the predominantly Christian South and the Muslim North. Candidates could be tempted to leverage Nigerians' ethnic and religious identities for political gain, a practice that may lead to widespread electoral violence or even a military coup. This Center for Preventive Action Contingency Planning Memorandum by Ambassador John Campbell describes the events and trends that indicate Nigerian politics are following this dangerous trajectory and recommends U.S. policy options for preventing and containing violent fragmentation of Nigerian society. The memo concludes that the United States should capitalize on the value elite Nigerians place on their country's bilateral relationship with the United States to hedge against the worst outcomes the 2011 Nigerian election might produce.