Nigerian elections go smoothly but violence follows

The Christian Science Monitor provides a good analysis of the recent Nigerian presidential elections which went reasonably smoothly, and the ethnic/religious violence that has ensued nonetheless. Gubernatorial elections take place April 26th.

Nigeria election riots: How leaders stoke Muslim-Christian violence

Despite the divergences in the various accounts of how Jos came to be an epicenter of horrific violence over the past decade, many residents pinpoint an issue that drives the conflict: the “‘indigene” concept, which has become a discriminatory, state government-enforced policy. The Muslim community, which makes up the majority of the population in the northern part of the city, accuses the state government of consistently denying the Muslim community their basic rights as citizens on the basis that they are “settlers” in the state, and therefore not so-called indigenes privy to citizen rights.

Mohamed Lawal Ishaq, a lawyer and a member of a Muslim affairs council, says that – like all Muslim residents in Jos – his children are unable to enroll in public schools because they lack indigene certificates, despite the fact that they were born in Jos, as were there parents. Like many other Muslims – and moderate Christians – Mr. Ishaq holds Plateau State Gov. Jonah David Jang responsible for such discriminatory polices and says that the governor is fanning the flames of the trouble.

Governor Jang told the Monitor in an interview that he is “very conscious of the fact that all of the citizens ” in his state are his responsibility. Jang then gave his take on the Constitution, suggesting that his state’s so-called settlers are, in effect, second-class citizens who should respect, even adopt, the culture, traditions, and religion of the “indigenous” population. The governor, an evangelical Christian who received a divinity degree from a Nigerian theological college after he retired from the Air Force in the early 1990s, is unequivocal about defending Christianity as the religion of his state. “As a result of the failure of the Muslim jihad here [in the 1800s], they still think they can get [Plateau state] back to Islamicize,” he told the Monitor.

Running for re-election in the April 26 elections with the campaign slogan of “REDEMPTION 2011,” the current governor is not publicly seen as taking the initiative to embrace the Muslim community who he views as “settlers,” despite their two century-long history in his state. Some long-time Jos residents who did not want to be quoted publicly say that Jang has benefited from the ongoing crisis in his state. Last year’s crisis resulted in additional federal government funds being allocated to Jang for bosltering security. Jang has also used the tense situation to rally Christians behind him, cultivating a savior-like image during his gubernatorial campaign.

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