Mar 15 2010

Nigeria’s turn: a culture of political violence takes root

Category: Uncategorized<ADMINNICENAME> @ 12:19 PM

The detonation of two car bombs in the oil city of Warri today represent a new level of violent protest — and another sign of the unrest that’s undermined the legitimacy of the Nigerian state.

Violence aimed at innocent civilians has not been part of the grammar of dissent in Nigeria — one reason for optimism in a country where human sympathy, despite the rigors and hardships of ordinary existence, runs high.

Yet perhaps the long era of good feelings — of more than a decade since the end of Nigeria’s period of military mis-rule — may have ended ingloriously, if not surprisingly.

The sense of betrayal is understandable. There’s hardly been time to absorb last week’s massacre of villagers near Jos in Nigeria’s central plateau — apparently reprisals by Muslims against Christians. These attacks, while part of a cycle of religious violence, themselves seemed especially disturbing because many of the victims were women and children who were attacked while they slept.

And now car bombs in the oil-rich Niger Delta, a region of armed revolt where kidnapping has been a norm for some time. The Nigerian national government believed it had bought off the most militant of the Ijaw oil rebels last year, but the rebellion has been reborn even as a member of the ethnic group has temporarily assumed the presidency of Nigeria.

Nigeria is of course experiencing a worsening crisis. The country is too big for an international power to come to the rescue. While the world waits for a new election in Nigeria, which may indeed be the only basis to establish a durable security environment in the country, Nigerians living abroad — especially those hundreds of thousands of well hybridized Nigerians living in Britain, Canada and the U.S. — must do their best to help their people back home rise above narrow differences in pursuit of humane, rationale steps towards addressing, if not settling, the many and complex grievances in this public sphere of this dangerously mismanaged nation.

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