Dean Rohrer

Nigeria, Slouching Toward Nationhood

Nigeria's recent elections mean another four years of incompetent rule by the People's Democratic Party, which has in power since 1999. The main challenge now is to maintain peace and unity between the country’s fractious ethnic groups, while forging ahead slowly with efforts to create a strong national identity.

ABUJA – Nigerians like political theater, particularly if it is loud, colorful, and has a rich cast of “good” and “bad” characters. Such melodrama abounded from November 2009, when ailing President Umaru Yar’Adua was flown out of the country for treatment, until the just-concluded general elections, Nigeria’s fourth since military rule ended in 1999. According to the official results, Goodluck Jonathan, who succeeded Yar’Adua upon his death and became the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, was sworn in as President on May 29.

Jonathan was the unlikeliest of candidates in Nigeria’s take-no-prisoners presidential power game. He is an Ijaw, an ethnic minority in the South-South, one of Nigeria’s six political regions, whereas the country’s governance had historically been dominated by the three largest ethnic groups – the Hausa-Fulani, found mainly in the North-West and North-East, the Igbo in the South-East, and the Yoruba in the South-West. Complex ethnic bargaining had made Jonathan Yar’Adua’s running mate in the fraudulent 2007 election.

Jonathan entered the election campaign fighting off powerful conservative northern politicians who insisted that the PDP’s informal agreement to rotate power periodically between north and south implied that their region was entitled to five years more in office. After all, they argued, Olusegun Obasanjo, Yar’Adua’s predecessor from the largely Christian south, had wielded presidential power for eight uninterrupted years.

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