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Nigerian bishop: next president must address divisions within country

February 12, 2015

A Nigerian bishop has warned that the winner of the country’s presidential elections will face formidable challenges because of religious and regional divisions, and the failure of the incumbent government to address them.

“Years of corruption have diminished the sense of loyalty to the Nigerian state,” Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of Sokoto wrote in a report for Aid to the Church in Need. He said that the country’s people are now approaching the election with a “deep sense of caution and even trepidation.”

The elections—which had been scheduled for February 7, but have now been postponed until March 28—pit the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan against Muhammadu Buhari. The same two candidates were matched in the country’s previous election, in 2011, and the narrow victory by Jonathan led to charges of vote-rigging and widespread violence after the vote.

The renewed contest between Jonathan, a Christian from the south of Nigeria, and Buhari, a Muslim from the north, illustrates the main difficulties of the country, Bishop Kukah notes. “Both of them represent the difficult and unresolved fault lines of Nigerian politics, namely, religion and region, two identities that continue to create tensions in the power politics of Nigeria.”

These difficulties have been aggravated by the advances of the Boko Haram terrorist group, the bishop continued. “The insurgency has further deepened the internal fractures within the Muslim community on the one hand and the nation in general. The elections are coming against a backdrop of a national feeling of breakdown of common norms and values in a severely fractured society such as ours.”

Unfortunately, Bishop Kukah writes, President Jonathan has been unable to curb the Boko Haram offensive or to bring unity to Nigeria. He charges that the current government has “done very little if anything serious to stem the ugly tide of corruption.”

Three key challenges face the next president, Bishop Kukah writes: stopping Boko Haram, bringing economic growth to Nigeria, and helping to “rally citizens around the project of a national identity and national unity.”


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