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Nigeria: The Morning After

Author: John Campbell, Ralph Bunche Senior Fellow for Africa Policy Studies
May 2, 2011
International Herald Tribune


The just-concluded Nigerian elections are being hailed as the most credible since the restoration of civilian governance in 1999. International observers and governments have congratulated the Nigerian people on their conduct and Goodluck Jonathan on his presidential election. They have also expressed satisfaction that Nigeria is resuming its role as the beacon of democracy in Africa.

Not so fast.

The elections have polarized Nigeria and resulted in likely underreported bloodshed in the northern parts of the country. The traditional northern Islamic establishment, which might have moderated the religious and sectarian conflict, has come under attack, and the North's perceived marginalization from national politics could potentially radicalize an Islamic population that already views the United States as a partisan supporter of southern Christian president Goodluck Jonathan.

The predominately Christian South sees the elections as credible. However, many in the North view the presidency and the elections as having been stolen from their region and their candidate, the northern Muslim Muhammadu Buhari. While many northerners believed it would be their “turn to eat” until 2015, Jonathan's presidential nomination by the governing People's Democratic Party earlier this year essentially ended the informal powersharing arrangement under which the presidency alternated between the South and the North.

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