Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The north: Frustration boils over among the have-nots

Financial Times
22 November 2011

By William Wallis

The polls that cemented Goodluck Jonathan’s presidency in April were feted by some election observers as among the fairest to have taken place in Nigeria. This was not necessarily a ringing endorsement, given the scale of past fraud, but a measure of progress nonetheless.

Yet violent protests that erupted in several states in the predominantly Muslim north attest to how little parts of the electorate there felt invested in the process. Several hundred people were killed as rival factions clashed.

As well as being the result of anger at the consolidation of power by a southern Christian (at a time many in the north felt it was their turn to rule), the violence was a measure of frustration at the absence of dividends flowing to the region since the advent of civilian rule in 1999.

The north has been hit, industrialists and politicians there say, by the liberalisation of the economy, by a loss of political ascendancy and by a flood of cheap and often smuggled Asian goods. Together with the collapse of power and transport infrastructure, the latter has seen large numbers of factories close and hundreds of thousands of workers lose their jobs.

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