Monday, January 16, 2012

Analysis: Nigeria: will it fall apart or can it hold?

15 January 2012

By Tim Cocks

LAGOS (Reuters) - "Nigeria is not Animal Farm!" read one placard brandished during days of furious fuel price protests by Nigerians which have combined with a violent Islamist insurgency to move Africa's top oil producer closer to what many fear may be a breaking point.

The same political vices of corrupt leadership and abuse of power which George Orwell skewered in his 1945 novella "Animal Farm" have corroded Nigeria's politics since independence from Britain in 1960. Angry popular backlash against these is fuelling the latest violence and unrest in the African continent's most populous state.

This anti-establishment fury brought Africa's second largest economy to a standstill last week. Citizens from all walks of life have taken to the streets after President Goodluck Jonathan's government announced on January 1 it would scrap a motor fuel subsidy, more than doubling fuel prices.

The volcano of public rage has erupted at the same time that a spate of bombings and shootings by a shadowy Islamist sect is threatening to fracture the country's sensitive north-south, Muslim-Christian divide. This religious faultline has caused sectarian conflict claiming thousands of lives in the past.

Some are now asking whether this dynamic but troubled country of 160 million, carved by colonial rulers out of a jigsaw of ethnic and religious groups, can still hold together or risks plunging again into all-out conflict and even break-up.

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