Editorial: “Free Fall” Although there ma

Editorial: “Free Fall”

Although there may be doubts over how soon Nigeria will be convulsed by another civil war, there can be little uncertainty over the fact that the situation in the country has taken a turn for the worse. There is unceasing sectarian violence and continuing public protests against the government`s fuel policy, but the situation would perhaps have appeared less desperate had the president of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, not admitted in public that the enemies of the State now permeate the entire administration. Mr Jonathan was making a veiled reference to Boko Haram, the militant Islamic group of northern Nigeria, which has claimed responsibility for many of the incidents of violence over the past few weeks. The president`s quiet admission of helplessness is unlikely to boost confidence in his government. Mr Jonathan has already been blamed for worsening the situation by his weak-kneed response to the challenge of Boko Haram, which is seeking to expunge the Muslim north of Christians and all other non-Muslim communities. In fact, Mr Jonathan`s withdrawal of oil subsidy — which has resulted in nation-wide protests — is seen as a tactic to divert attention from his government`s abject failure to tackle insurgency. His public admission of vulnerability may now prompt Nigeria`s militias, which are yet to be disarmed, from taking up arms to protect their interests, and thereby add to the volatility of the situation. Given that there are innumerable interests to protect — tribal, ethnic, religious, regional, and more mundane ones such as access to land, water and precious natural resources such as oil — the violence may peak in the days to come.

It is unfortunate that despite the overwhelming mandate that Mr Jonathan received in the elections in April last year, he has been unable to make much headway in loosening the past`s grip over Nigeria`s future. He started his tenure with his controversial attempt to undo the practice of alternating the presidency between the Muslim north and the Christian south. The fact that a southerner once again claimed the presidency has added to the north`s sense of alienation that owes its roots to years of bad governance, poverty and denial of opportunities. Mr Jonathan`s policies — and the withdrawal of the oil subsidy was one such — could have rid Nigeria of inequities and reduced the vice-like hold of vested interests on the economy. But the festering insurgency and Mr Jonathan`s indecisiveness seem to have once again denied Nigeria that opportunity.

(Description of Source: Kolkata The Telegraph online in English — Website of Kolkata`s highest circulation English daily, owned by ABP Group, with a flagship publication Anandabazar Patrika in Bengali. Known for in-depth coverage of east and northeast India issues, and India-Bangladesh relations. Maintains an impartial editorial policy. Circulation 457,100; URL: http://www.telegraphindia.com)

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