POLITICS Editor Nathan Lewis Lawrence is a biracial graduate student, world traveler, and jujitsu enthusiast from Lancaster, Ohio. He received his bachelor’s degree in Security studies from Tiffin University in Tiffin, Ohio and received a M.A. in Peace and Conflict studies at the Department of International Relations at Hacettepe University. Currently, he attends the School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University. Check out his personal blog Taming Cynicism.
Earlier this year was a landmark event for Nigeria. The Nigerian presidential election was held on March 29th and was an opportunity for violence in an already unstable political environment. Incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) ran against the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) (a consultative member of the Socialist International) and former military head of state Muhammadu Buhari, but lost and ceded defeat on March 31st. Buhari’s letter to the New York Times immediatelyafter the election charges former President Goodluck Jonathan with inaction and suggeststhat this is “why the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan was swept aside last month”. He promises to deploy more troops to north-eastern Nigeria to fight Boko Haram and advocates increased education services for the country’s population, quoting Nelson Mandela:“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” This bears the question, can socialism and progressivism as articulated by Buhari save Nigeria?
The new president has a lot ahead of him.The colossal growth of the Nigerian economy due to oil speculation has lifted millions out of poverty while leaving others in what can only be called poverty. The Christian majority, residing in the southernmost part of the country, has disproportionately benefited from this economic growth as compared to their Muslim and northern brethren. This causes resentment not just based on religion but also based on socioeconomic status. Although Nigeria has great oil wealth, 70 percent of Nigerian citizens are unemployed and living on less than $1.25 per day. The north suffers greatly, with 72 percent of the people living in poverty, compared to 27 percent in the south and 35 percent in the Niger Delta.This is the origin of Boko Haram’s anti-capitalist stance and its stance against western education. The organization makes the analytical mistake of lumping the state, large oil corporations, and Christianity into one entity. Can Buhari turn the country around with what he calls “true federalism” or is this just another left-ward sham like the Democratic Party in the United States or the Labour Party in the United Kingdom? Wide spread corruption in many case can easily be correlated to poverty, but this is especially true in Nigeria.
The election was the first of six in the region; therefore, it sets a precedence for the rest of the western Africa and it was not without deep controversy. The election was already postponed once before by six weeks and the International Crisis Group believedthis postponement of the election “seems to have been motivated by politics rather than security. Over the previous few months, public backing for Jonathan and his ruling PDP had shrunk.”This contrasts with the recent offensive against Boko Haram by the Nigerian Government. It could be argued that the postponement was largely motivated by the political ambitions of the election rather than concerns about the health and wellbeing of Nigerian citizens. As expected, violence did in fact surround the elections, especially in the light of over 800 people losing their lives in the 2011 elections. There have been reports of Boko Haram attacking polling stations. According to Al-Jazeera, at least 39 people were gunned down in north-eastern Nigeria the day before the elections, including Gombe state legislator Umaru Ali, as well as other attacks around the country. For example, there was also “two car bombs exploded at two polling stations in south-central Enugu state but did not hurt voters. Two other car bombs were detonated at a primary school in Enugu, state police Commissioner Dan Bature said.” In contrast, the African Union issued a statement declaring that the:
“The polling process was generally peaceful during the accreditation as well as voting and counting processes, despite isolated incidence of violence reported in Bayelsa and Enugu. Whilst crowd control was a challenge in a number of polling units observed, the AUEOM commends the security agencies for their professional conduct in upholding a peaceful atmosphere throughout the Election Day.”
In order to understand how significant the election truly was, there must be a deeper understanding of Nigeria’s political system. The ruling People’s Democratic Party is considered to be center-right and is in favor of economic liberalism. They have won every presidential election since 1999 and is the party of the current former President Goodluck Jonathan. In contrast, the opposition and the victors of the 2015 election, All Progressives Congress (APC) promote a more leftward economic platform that includes a push for free education. In fact, it is consultative member of the Socialist International, but any progressive worth his or her salt should be concerned. General Muhammadu Buhari, the new president of Nigeria, was briefly the head of state in the mid-1980s following a military coup that overthrew the democratically elected government of Shehu Shagari; therefore, making his new presidency a highly controversial one. President Buhari is well entrenched into the Nigerian upper-class and is a career politician. Buhari’s commitment to anti-colonial efforts and economic reform should remain under our scrutiny.
Though Boko Haram’s analysis of the situation is fundamentally flawed, in that western corporations and Christianity are one in the same, there is a point to be made. The former president and many power structures in Nigeria are decidedly Christian. In order to fix the current conflict in Nigeria, underlining structural issues must be addressed but these structures are most accessible to traditionally Christian peoples; therefore, it is the responsibility of Christians to address the issue of poverty and economic disparity in the country. For Christians in the United States, our response must not only include a focus on exposing the atrocities of Boko Haram and remembering those who died for Christ, but also remember His call to feed the poor and nurture the sick.
Agbiboa, D. (2013). The Ongoing Campaign of Terror in Nigeria: Boko Haram versus the State. Stability: International Journal Of Security & Development, 2(3), 1-17.
Photo Image: Photo was found on Flickr and is a picture of Nigeria’s green and white flag flying on a flag pole and over a black car.