Nigeria is a country that is large and difficult to manage. The most populous country in Africa, Nigeria accounts for over half of West Africa's population. Although less than 25% of Nigerians are urban dwellers, at least 24 cities have populations of more than 100,000. The variety of customs, languages, and traditions among Nigeria's 250 ethnic groups gives the country a rich diversity. The dominant ethnic group in the northern two-thirds of the country is the Hausa-Fulani, most of whom are Muslim. Other major ethnic groups of the north are the Nupe, Tiv, and Kanuri. The Yoruba people are predominant in the southwest. Nigeria is still very much a tribal society, in which clan, tribal and regional jealousies, hostilities and interests count for more than national attachment.
About half of the Yorubas are Christian and half Muslim. The predominantly Catholic Igbo are the largest ethnic group in the southeast, with the Efik, Ibibio, and Ijaw comprising a substantial segment of the population in that area. Persons of different language backgrounds most commonly communicate in English, although knowledge of two or more Nigerian languages is widespread. Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo, Fulani, and Kanuri are the most widely used Nigerian languages.
Nigeria faces enormous economic and social problems, despite being the world's sixth largest oil exporting country. Under the impact of the collapse of oil prices and years of military rule, it has become the world's thirteenth poorest nation.
Nigeria has been very helpful in mediating conflicts. When the conflict in Liberia broke out initially, under ECOWAS, Nigeria went in to stabilize Liberia before Taylor took over. Following the situation in Liberia, Nigeria was called to go to Sierra Leone to fight the RUF and Foday Sankoh and those brutal terrorists who chopped off limbs of children and wreaked havoc on their population, and once again, it was leadership of the Nigerians that went in recently into Sao Tome and Principe, the government was almost overtaken by a planned coups d'etat, but it was Nigeria's President Obasanjo who sent word to Sao Tome and Principe that they needed to go back into the barracks, and there would not be a military takeover because of the newly found oil in the Gulf of Guinea. And that was settled. And even in Togo, where the son of the President decided that he would take the leadership of the country without due elections, it was Nigerian President Obasanjo who said there is a process and you cannot become President because your father has died. There is a process, and the process won out.
Twenty years of military rule and poor governance from 1975 to 1999 have done much to intensify the prospects for conflict, while seriously damaging Nigerian society's capacity to contain, manage, and resolve disputes. The vast looting of petroleum-derived public resources, the open door to corruption, and the lack of accountability of GFRN officials to citizens combined to produce economic stagnation, declining living standards, and abuse of power. Protests highlighting these ills, such as in Ogoni land in the Niger Delta over oil-related problems, and in the Southwest over the 1993 elections, elicited immediate and ruthless repression from most of Nigeria’s military regimes (i.e., those headed by Buhari and Sani Abacha).
Simultaneously, praetorian leaders and their military and civilian supporters corrupted, dismissed, or destroyed the staffs of the conventional institutions of constitutional systems for managing conflict, such as legislatures, human rights commissions, and courts. Notable among them was Ibrahim Babangida (1985–1993). He employed gentler tactics than his friend Abacha, but did more to corrupt the society as a whole. Military leaders also corrupted, manipulated, and intimidated local-level, indigenous, and community institutions of conflict management and collective action. Military misrule weakened the economy and severely undermined the middle class and the institutions it staffed (universities and the civil service). Growing inequality brought together a generation of youths facing extremely limited economic prospects, led to the rise of intimidating groups of “area boys” (local toughs), and forced all political players to compete for their “slice of the federal cake.” Many analysts also assert that poverty explains much of the rise of contemporary mass religious movements, whether in the South or the North.
During this same period the military government ignored or suppressed burning problems and grievances, which are now bursting into the open. These include the problem of the rise of serious crime and personal insecurity, illustrated by the growth of the area boys, the corruption of the police and much of the judicial system, and the rise of vigilantism as practiced by the “Bakassi Boys” and the Oodudwa People’s Congress (OPC). Although crime appears less an issue in the North, many assert that popular support for the Muslim hisba groups, who work to enforce the shari’a, can be understood as a rejection of the social disorder growing in part from the corruption and decline of conventional governance institutions. In the oil-rich Delta, Nigeria’s failure to deal with the environmental and economic problems has spawned persistent, low-grade anarchic behavior, typically between small groups of youths and oil companies, but also frequently between youths from neighboring communities. Depending on circumstances, such groups function either as self-defense associations or incipient mafias.
As part of preparation for the Army Remembrance Day celebration on January 15, 2011, the Nigerian Army has advised the public not to panic during the movement of military equipment in the Federal Capital Territory like helicopters, armored tanks, and various uniformed armed forces in and around the Eagle Square and Federal Capital Territory areas. Nigeria had entered into the electoral campaign season, with political conventions, rallies, and voter registration, which culminated in the general elections on three successive weekends in April. Throughout the electoral campaign period, political parties and candidates held numerous rallies and other events throughout the country.
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