New level of depravity in Nigeria

Friday, May 09, 2014    

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THE abduction of 270 teenage girls in Nigeria by the Muslim Boko Haram terrorist group and the threat to sell them into slavery is not only a disaster for Nigeria but an embarrassment to people of African descent all over the world.

It is incomprehensible, given the history of Africa, that black men could contemplate selling other black people into slavery. It represents a new level of depravity and brutality in a country to which all of Africa looks for leadership.

Nigeria is the African country with the largest population, numbering some 180 million, and is the ancestral home of millions of people all over the world, including Jamaicans.

Nigeria has never been able to attain its true economic potential, although it is endowed with vast resources, most notably oil, but is a country where the majority of the population is desperately poor. The poverty is attributed in large measure to widespread corruption.

Nigeria is ranked 139th out of 176 countries on Transparency International's 2012 Corruption Perceptions Index. Successive administrations have drained considerable sums from the oil revenues. For example, after the collapse of the Abacha regime, more than US$1 billion was found in various bank accounts throughout Europe.

An even more debilitating factor has been the social and political instability which arise from the many differences in Nigeria. Differences so profound as to challenge the notion of the nation state.

The boundaries were artificial, ignoring tribal and cultural differences dating back to the colonial era. Compounding these artificial national boundaries is the fact that the Federal Republic of Nigeria is an uneasy federation of 36 states.

First, there are ethnic differences which frequently flare into violence. The country has over 500 ethnic groups, several with their own languages. The population is dominated by the three largest ethnic groups, namely the Hausa, Ibo, and Yoruba.

In May 1967, the Ibo people voted to declare the eastern region as the independent state of the Republic of Biafra. The resulting bloody civil war lasted two-and-a-half years and cost an estimated three million lives by the time it ended in 1970.

Second, the population practises numerous traditional and native religions, such as the Igbo and Yoruba. However, the dominant religions are Christianity and Islam. The Christians are concentrated in the southern and central parts of the country, and Muslims live mostly in the north and south-west. There are fundamentalists among the Muslims who would like more autonomy in their part of the country because they would like to establish Sharia law.

Third, there are wide disparities in income and wealth and the associated class antagonisms it generates. The National Bureau of Statistics said 60.9 per cent of Nigerians in 2010 were living in "absolute poverty". That represents almost 100 million people living on less than US$1 per day.

Fourth, there are two contending political philosophies, neither of which is as secure as a political tradition and a political culture. Indeed, political independence from Britain has been interrupted by military coups, whose leaders ruled the country from 1966-1979 and 1983-1998. Democracy flourished briefly between 1979 and 1983 and was finally restored in 1999 when Mr Olusegun Obasanjo, the former military head of state, was elected president, ending almost 33 years of military rule.

Many people had to flee the country to avoid execution, including author Mr Wole Soyinka, who was arrested and spent two years in solitary confinement. He came to realise that "all forms of writing are terror to those who wish to suppress the truth".

The Nigerian Government has a duty to put a stop to the current atrocity immediately.





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