RealNews

Ethnicity and religion inflame Nigerian politics

Three politicians have been killed recently in the run-up to next month’s national elections. Presidential hopeful Emeka Ojukwu arrived for his opening campaign rally waving from the open roof of a black car barely visible through a jubilant crowd of thousands. Police officers had to beat the supporters back with whips and truncheons as the candidate approached the stage. “They will literally mob him,” noted one bystander. This enthusiastic response is not one the controversial candidate would likely get in other parts of Nigeria. Mr. Ojukwu is best known for his involvement in a secessionist war in the 1960s that left 1 million or more people dead. But the magnitude of his appeal here is a revealing indicator of the challenge facing the winner of next month’s presidential election: uniting disparate segments of a culture whose religious and ethnic diversity has long been exploited by opportunistic politicians, often with violent results. Some observers fear that the candidates in the election, or their supporters, could tap these undercurrents, exacerbating the existing unease and threatening the stability of the country’s precarious federalist structure. Full Story

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