Friday, April 29, 2011

Nigeria's post election violence and what to do about it

Nigeria's latest election was met with widespread violence when people didn't like the fact that the incumbent won. Youths began to set fire to buildings from the President's old neighborhood in the north of the country. The death toll from the post-election violence is estimated to be anywhere from 300 to 500 people.

From this commentary that we found at the Economist, the magazine's editors have a suggestion on what can be done to avoid any future riots.

When Nigeria’s presidential election results started trickling in on April 17th, showing that the incumbent, Goodluck Jonathan, was heading for victory, youths in the country’s north started to burn buildings in protest. The election itself was hailed as an improvement on the rigged and violent polls that have kept the ruling People’s Democratic Party in power for a dozen years. But its outcome has widened old divisions in Africa’s most populous country, home to 150m people and over 250 ethnic groups.

But soldiers and curfews are only a temporary solution. The youths are angry not just because of this month’s election results. Northern Nigerians lag behind their southern counterparts on almost every measure of development, even though poverty blights the whole country. The average annual income of $718 per person in the northernmost 19 states is half the figure in the remaining 17 states, according to UN data. Literacy rates and child nutrition are also poor.

Rather than foster industries, successive governments have relied on the oil revenues of Africa’s largest energy producer for their income. Such neglect has hit the north, far away from the coast’s ports and banks, a lot harder. “If those youths were employed, they would have just gone to work on that Monday morning,” says Ismaila Zango, a sociology lecturer in Kano, the north’s biggest city, referring to the day Mr Jonathan’s victory became clear. “What happened then was just the beginning—unless there is development.”

Many northerners hope the president will make the development of their region a priority, now that it seems to pose a security threat. In recent years the PDP has paid off and tried to rehabilitate and retrain insurgents in the delta, because their attacks have threatened the oil industry that provides around 80% of government revenues. Unrest in the north has bothered those in the corridors of power a lot less. If they were wise, they would change tack.

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