Nigerian unrest due to unequal distribution of resources

Abducted school girls pawns in a dangerous game

William Covington | 7/17/2014, midnight
Three months after 276 young girls were stolen from the “safety” of the private Chibok School in Northern Nigeria by ...
Cover Design by Andrew Nunez

Three months after 276 young girls were stolen from the “safety” of the private Chibok School in Northern Nigeria by armed insurgents of Boko Haram, one native of the region with a deep understanding of the history and geopolitical dynamics, said the real story has not been told by the mainstream media. According to Ebuna Naka, a successful businessman who made millions importing hair relaxer into his homeland during the jheri curl fad, and whose family served in politics, medicine and owned two hospitals, there is a back story that underlies the kidnapping.

From 1967-1970, Nigeria was engaged in a very vicious and bloody civil conflict known as the Biafran War which resulted from tribal factionalism and the pull out of colonial powers from the nation.

The civil war ended when all the factions convened a meeting (Naka was present). An informal agreement among the political elite in the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) was made and stated that the presidency and the vice presidency should alternate between North and South after every two four-year terms. For example when the president is a Christian Southerner, the vice president is an Islamic Northerner.

In May 2007, Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua was sworn in as president of Nigeria and three years into his term began to fall ill. According to Encyclopedia Brittanica, Yar’Adua’s extended absence from the country for medical treatment made many Nigerians anxious and generated calls for Yar’Adua to formally transfer power to his vice president, Azikiwe Jonathan, better known as “Goodluck” Jonathan.

As concerns mounted and there was no word from Yar’Adua on the request to transfer power to his vice president, members of Nigeria’s National Assembly took matters into their own hands and on Feb. 9, 2010, voted to have Jonathan assume full power and serve as acting president until Yar’Adua was able to resume his duties. Jonathan agreed and assumed power later that day, but it was unclear whether the assumption of power was constitutional.

When Yar’Adua returned to Nigeria on Feb. 24, 2010, it was announced that Jonathan would remain as acting president while Yar’Adua continued to recuperate. The next month, Jonathan asserted his power by replacing Yar’Adua’s cabinet. The president never fully recovered, and died on May 5, 2010; and Jonathan was sworn in as president the following day.

According to The New Yorker, widespread violence broke out in the North when Jonathan’s presidential appointment was announced, with some residents claiming the assembly election was rigged. The next election is planned for February 2015.

Traditionally Northern presidents funnel resources to their constituents and Southern presidents do the same. Naka says this is considered an equitable distribution of the wealth. However, the North interprets Jonathan’s actions to remain president as a way to continue sending all the government funding to the South. The North is saying “now it’s time to take care of us—provide hospitals, water, food—we are hurting, and you can afford to take care of the North.”

According to a United Nations report, Nigeria has overtaken South Africa in 2013 as the country with the highest gross domestic product in Africa. Oil revenues have turned this country into an economic powerhouse. At the same time, Nigeria remains one of the most unequal societies in the world with the World Bank estimating it to be one of the poorest countries when it comes to wealth distribution.