The Associated Press today has a good analysis on the problems in Nigeria. Wrirter Michelle Faul has covered Africa for over 25 years.
The militants have carried out a string of devastating attacks on pipelines and other oil installations as well as kidnappings of petroleum company employees.
When the oil militants attacked a fuel depot in Lagos, the economic capital — for the first time striking outside the delta — the government reacted by freeing a long-jailed leader of the movement and urging negotiations.
But that fight likely will continue as long as the government fails to address decades-long grievances about the unrelenting poverty of the delta people.
In the north, governments have done little over the years beyond commissioning reports after particularly bloody bouts of violence, never acting on them because those orchestrating the violence have links to well-placed members of the elite that has controlled successive governments.
The foot soldiers are ill-educated manual workers who are easy to manipulate: one of the names of the radical sect behind the latest violence is "Boko Haram," which means "Western education is sin."
It's one of the legacies of British colonization that never has been rectified. The colonizers ruled the north of Nigeria indirectly through sultans and caliphs. In the south, they governed directly and missionaries brought Western education. The gulf remains to this day.
Corruption and inefficiency are blamed for the persisting poverty in Nigeria, the world's eighth-biggest oil exporter and fifth-largest source of U.S. oil imports.
Some Nigerians were hopeful 10 years ago when decades of corrupt and brutal military rule ended, and again two years ago when they had the first handover of power from one civilian president to another.
But both former President Olusegun Obasanjo and current President Umaru Yar'Adua have links to the powerful military — and that has helped perpetuate Nigeria's cycle of corruption.