Discussion: The Oil-rich Delta Region
Nearly halfway through his first term, nothing was yet being done about the country’s inadequate infrastructure, nationwide electricity cuts were still a common occurrence, and continuing attacks by militants in the oil-rich Delta region were severely disrupting oil production, which provides 95% of Nigeria’s export revenues. Meanwhile, all but a few Nigerians continued to languish in poverty—and frequently darkness as well.
Yar’Adua died in office after an extended illness that left him incapacitated and the government in limbo. Vice-president Goodluck Jonathan (yes, that’s his real name) formally succeeded Yar’Adua as president in May 2010, pledging to fight endemic corruption, clean up the electoral process, and fix the electricity grid
As a member of the Ijaw, an ethnic group native to the Niger delta where rebels have engaged in a prolonged and bloody battle for a bigger share of the oil income that makes up 80% of the central government’s revenues, Jonathan is perhaps Nigeria’s best hope of ending this bitter dispute.
Jonathan won the presidential election in 2011, a mixed blessing for any Nigerian civilian leader intent upon improving the life of the long-suffering Nigerian people. Four years later, in late March 2015, General Muhammadu Buhari defeated Goodluck Jonathan in a lopsided vote. It was the first time in Nigerian history that an incumbent president was defeated. General Buhari vowed to defeat the Boko Haram Islamist insurgents responsible for attacks on civilians and mass kidnappings. Nigeria continues to be plagued by a dysfunctional economy and a corrupt state bureaucracy.
Nigeria’s oil-wealth has not led to diversification of its economy or any significant redistribution of income. The unemployment rate was almost 30% (!) in 2013 and most Nigerians—as much as 70% of the population—live below the poverty line.
As noted earlier, Nigeria is a diverse society with deep ethnic and religious divisions that frequently erupt in violence. The absence of a well-established rule-of-law culture and dependable law enforcement puts life and property at constant risk. In 2014, a militant Islamist group called Boko Haram seized control of towns and territory in northeast Nigeria and declared it a caliphate—an Islamic theocratic state—with the city of Gwoza, a city of close to half a million people, as its capital. “Few outsiders dare to visit. A trader who recently returned after making a delivery approved by the militants described it as an abattoir after hours: ‘cold, calm and full of blood’.”*
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