- Published: Wednesday, 15 April 2015 19:49
Two weeks after Muhammadu Buhari was elected president, the world remembers a year's passing since 200 school girls were abducted in Chibok in northern Nigeria. His pledge as the leader of West Africa's powerhouse is to combat both the Muslim insurgency spearheaded by Boko Haram and corruption which has plagued the country since its independence and especially since the discovery of oil some 50 years ago.
He has his work cut out for him, but his first success has been the peaceful transition of power from the opposition party, a first for the country.
As a president from the Muslim north of Nigeria, his influence may be greater than his southern, Christian predecessor. Moreover, partisanship may also be an encouraging factor in stemming corruption, as claims against former president Goodluck Jonathan include billions of dollars in missing funds. But if there is any hope for overcoming the steep challenges faced by the country, one of the fastest growing economies in the world, these efforts must be strategically aligned in order to improve institutional quality nationwide.
The petro-state has long suffered from a resource curse, allowing its government to subsist on oil revenue instead of the development of democratic institutions. These revenues have also benefitted the wealthy elite and multinational petrochemical corporations without remuneration to its citizens, either in the form of distribution of capital or a properly functioning democracy. Further, environmental destruction has destroyed the subsistence economy of people in the oil-rich Niger Delta region.
The growth of Boko Haram in the north parallels the rise of violent activists in the south, where marginalized groups have taken up arms largely because of a lack of other options and opportunities. In the south, surrounding oil conflicts, groups like the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, or MEND, grew after peaceful efforts to resolve oil conflicts in the 90s failed. Boko Haram, which translates literally to "Western Education is Sin", joining the global fundamenatlist Islamist movements, also appeared after a perceived marginalization by the ongoing leadership of Christians from the south. In both cases, a lack of institutions providing basic social welfare lead to increased violence which only seems to be growing today. To boot, any central Nigerian government must not only be federal because of the size and power of its states, but also incorporate the traditional governance mechanisms of its many ethnic groups.
Without holistic effort towards the redistribution of wealth and the improvement of social policies through the strategic development of institutions, Nigeria and its people may continue to suffer. The abduction and slaughter of civilian populations will continue to be a threat unless Buhari can provide a viable alternative to joining insurgent and terror movements.
Photo Credit: Barefoot in Florida