»The Hausa man is selfish in his quest for power. Why shouldn’t he be? Who will protect him?«[1]

The Rise of Militias

With the transition to democracy, Nigerians expected that a government elected by the people would be in a better position to balance ethnic and religious interests. However, the Nigerian experience confirmed what had been observed in other African countries: »In societies that are still deeply divided by race, religion or ethnicity […] democratization has the tendency of only reinforcing cleavages that are already very hard to manage. Democratic politics in these countries becomes the politics of identity.«[2] Self-determination was demanded not for the Nigerian people, but for Nigeria’s ethnic and religious groups who used their autonomy to distance themselves from one another. Each of these groups claimed control over its own territory, so conflicts between them were almost inevitable. As long as the military ruled with an iron fist, they were able to suppress most of these conflicts, yet with the end of the Abacha regime, religious and ethnic violence ›exploded.‹[3] Journalists who had always wrangled with the rule of the generals came to realize that the liberation from centralist rule was a mixed blessing: »Nigerians were living in harmony with one another until the exit of the military.«[4]

Immediately after the death of General Abacha, ethnic self-determination groups had formed or resurfaced. In the Southeast, representatives of Ohanaeze, a forum of prominent Igbo politicians, demanded that the Nigerian army be replaced by six »regional armies.«[5] In the Southwest, ethnic leaders among the Yoruba discussed similar models of decentralization. For Afenifere, a ›socio-cultural‹ organization, which comprised nearly all eminent Yoruba politicians, it was (and still is) a matter of course that only the Yoruba people are entitled to decide the future of their home region. Members of other ethnic groups that have settled in Lagos, Ibadan and other cities of the Southwest, were regarded as »guests« who had to recognize the prerogatives of the indigenous population.[6] As Yoruba leaders saw their nation as being sovereign in their ancestral land, they reserved the right to decide whether the six states of Southwest Nigeria should split from the rest of the federation. In order to prepare for a possible secession, the delegates at the Sixth Pan-Yoruba Congress in 2001 decided to design a national flag and compose a national anthem.[7]

Democracy permits ethnic and religious interest groups to develop almost unimpeded: »Chauvinists in almost every country, if freed from authoritarian constraints, exploit the media and the right to assemble freely, using these opportunities to mobilize their followers.«[8] Nigeria’s democracy allowed communal tensions to rise, but it did not provide creditable institutions that could have balanced the rival claims. In principle, the federal arrangements of the constitution were meant to defuse ethnic and religious conflicts. However, the right of regional self-determination has strengthened those centrifugal powers that endanger Nigeria’s cohesion. State governors seeking the support of the local population acted as representatives of their ethnic groups, demanding more influence and resources on behalf of the Igbo, Yoruba, Ijaw and other nations. Their patriotism blended well with their own political ambitions, because what they demanded in the name of their people, served to extend the competence of their governments and to evade surveillance by the federal authorities. In order to strengthen regional autonomy, they demanded, among other things, the right to have their own police forces. Yet President Obasanjo, who was in command of all police and army units, did not want to relinquish the federal government’s monopoly on power, so some of the state governors formed their own armed gangs. Governor Mbadinuju, for example, declared that he needed men who obeyed his commands, no matter whether it was an official state police or the local vigilante group, the Bakassi Boys: »I’ll prefer something I’ll control, whether you call it police or you call it anything. This is because when I make my own law, I will have somebody to enforce it.«[9] The vigilante group, which was popular among his Igbo people, gave him some independence from the President in distant Abuja, and it helped him intimidate political rivals.[10] The hisba vigilante, organized by Governor Sani, assumed a similar function. Its members were personally committed to the Governor, so he could deploy them against opposition politicians.[11]

The efforts to turn one’s home region into a bastion of power against the federal government show that Nigeria’s fragmented elites had no trust in the new democratic institutions. The former rulers from the North who saw themselves as the losers of democracy, had more than others reason to be worried. Their influence on federal politics was waning, so they were faced with the prospect of being increasingly excluded from government jobs and contracts. While politicians and businessmen feared for their traditional privileges, ordinary citizens felt threatened as well. As long as the military had ruled, the Hausa-Fulani diaspora in Southern Nigeriacould feel relatively safe, whereas under democracy they were massacred in Lagos, Abaand other cities. Dr. Datti Ahmed, who later presided over the Supreme Council for Sharia, lamented that in the first ten months of the Obasanjo government more Northerners were murdered in the South than in the previous forty years.[12] The organization responsible for most of the attacks was the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), a militia named after the mythical ancestor of the Yoruba people. It enjoyed the support of the six governors in Southwest Nigeria, so it could operate openly in the streets of Lagos and Ibadan. From the perspective of Hausa-Fulani nationalists, the President’s people seemed to be on the offensive: »Obasanjo tribesmen are running roughshod over other tribes and killing them like chicken[s].«[13]

The OPC militia had been formed in August 1994, during the struggle against military dictatorship. As the Abacha regime had forced opposition groups into illegality, human rights activists and trade union leaders in Lagosdecided to organize their own security service, and founded the OPC as the armed wing of the National Democratic Coalition. Nigeria’s pro-democracy movement, whose protests against the Abacha regime enjoyed considerable support abroad, was largely run by Yoruba activists. Moshood Abiola, who had won the 1993 elections, was a fellow Yoruba, so they had more interest than politicians of other ethnic groups in actualizing his democratic mandate. They even appealed to the international community to impose economic sanctions against Nigeria, until the generals abdicated and the duly elected president was inaugurated. When military rule ended, their commitment to democracy and human rights took a back seat, and the OPC fighters assumed a new mission: the »protection of Yoruba interests anywhere in the world.«[14] So far, OPC units have not operated outside Nigeria; their main area of operation is the Southwest of the country, but here, in their home territory, the struggle for Yoruba interests went quite far. When dock workers elected some Igbo as their trade union leaders, an OPC commando stormed the port of Apapa and shot members of the rival faction to ensure that a Yoruba candidate would be head of the organisation. Dr. Fasehun, the leader of the more moderate OPC faction, defended this intervention: »we felt that our fatherland was being taken away from us. The OPC had to invade the ports to show solidarity and assert the rights of the marginalized Yoruba.«[15] OPC gangs also attacked Igbo traders who were accused of having ›monopolized‹ parts of the Alaba electronics market, and they clashed with militias of the Ijaw community in Lagos, but their main targets were members of the Hausa diaspora. The militiamen were not willing to accept that the biggest abattoir in Lagos was managed by Hausa butchers, and they also intervened at the Mile 12 market when Yoruba traders clashed with the Hausa Yam Sellers Association, giving their rivals an ultimatum »to cede control of the market.«[16] Another target was a radio station broadcasting BBC news in Hausa, the lingua franca of the North. The OPC »accused the management of Raypower of cultural imperialism which undermine[s] the culture of Yoruba people«,[17] and »threatened to deal with them if the broadcast were not stopped within two weeks.«[18]

Although OPC fighters had killed hundreds of Hausa, Igbo and Ijaw, no prominent Yoruba politician condemned the militia.[19] The governor of Ondo State called the militiamen »freedom fighters«, and his colleague in Lagos, who acted like a »patron« of the OPC, wanted to entrust them with official police functions.[20] Given this acquiescence in large-scale violence, it is understandable that Governor Sani was annoyed by the hypocrisy of most Sharia critics. On the front page of The News, a Lagos-based magazine, he was presented as ›The Butcher of Zamfara‹;[21] whereas the Governor of Lagos, who sponsored the OPC and its war against criminals, was not portrayed in such an insulting manner: »Do people in Lagos not prefer the OPC method of arresting robbers and cutting them to pieces […]? There was a day when the OPC killed 25 suspected robbers.«[22] Journalists and human rights campaigners in the South got all excited about the »primitive«, »stone-age« methods of Sharia,[23] while calmly accepting the brutality of their own militias. Dr. Beko Ransome-Kuti, for example, who enjoyed much respect in Western human rights circles as chairman of the Campaign for Democracy, was also national treasurer of the OPC.[24] And Gani Fawehinmi, Nigeria’s most prominent human rights lawyer, was allied with the more militant Gani Adam’s faction which later became notorious through acid attacks on policemen. When asked about his involvement, he claimed that until 1999 he had not known about violent acts, but had mistaken the organisation for a »human rights group.«[25] Personal ties between the OPC and other segments of civil society may explain why the Civil Liberties Organisation defended the militia against attempts to ban it: »Banning the OPC […] will lead to an increase in crime rate. The group has instilled fears in the mind of criminals«[26] Sunday Mbang, Bishop of the Methodist Church and President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, also pleaded against a ban, and Professor Wole Soyinka, the Nobel Laureate, stated that the OPC was a »legitimate organisation.«[27]

Some critics in the North accused President Obasanjo of having »licensed« the »ethnic cleansing.«[28] Others blamed him for having failed to protect the Hausa diaspora in the South: »His people in Ogun State massacred our people«, »without Obasanjo raising a finger.«[29] Yet these accusations are unfounded. After the Governor of Lagos failed to curb the violence, Obasanjo declared the OPC illegal and gave the order to shoot at any member who resisted being arrested. In order to enforce the ban, he deployed anti-riot police and army units which executed their mission with »ruthless« force.[30] Business people suspected of financing the OPC were brutally beaten and their property destroyed in an »orgy of violence.” Scores of OPC members were killed and at least 2000 were detained,[31] yet the security forces were unable to regain control overLagos with its ten or twelve million inhabitants.

Spokesmen for Afenifere accused the police of taking sides in the ethnic clashes, arresting mostly Yoruba and letting Hausa killers go free. Eyewitnesses reported that soldiers were accompanied by local Hausa youths who »pointed at the houses of perceived adversaries after which the armed men set in to unleash violence.«[32] The OPC leader Gani Adams claimed that the infamous Rapid Response Squad 129 consisted of »bizarre looking Hausa policemen« who were sent, along with other police units, on a »state-sponsored mission to systematically silence the Yoruba race.”[33] From the viewpoint of many Yoruba, the security forces acted like an army of occupation. This lessened scruples among OPC fighters to kill them. Hausa police officers learnt that they ran a high risk in Lagos, thus many of them applied for transfers back to their home region.[34]

The Hausa diaspora could not expect much support from the Lagospolice, who consisted of only 12,000 poorly paid and miserably equipped men. Since the state could not guarantee their security, they had to protect themselves by arming young men who guarded streets and quarters where the Hausa ›settlers‹ were concentrated. Given the high demand for security, large numbers of weapons have been smuggled into the country, often by members of the army who had been dispatched to Sierra Leoneand Liberiaon international peacekeeping missions. For the demand of OPC members, some Yoruba smiths have specialized in making rifles. Moreover, policemen and soldiers kept supplies up on the arms market by selling their service guns to the highest bidder: »people […] were going from barracks to barracks looking for rifles and ammunition to buy. […] buyers [are] probably those presently engaged in communal wars, robberies or politicians getting ready for 2003 [elections].«[35]

As soon as armed gangs patrol the streets and defend their territory, any minor incident may trigger a wave of violence. The unrest in Ajegunle, a multi-ethnic slum in Lagos, started when OPC militiamen pursued an alleged thief who happened to be a Hausa. The man on the run grasped his only chance to evade instant justice by hiding among some fellow Hausa who refused to hand him over to his persuers. The Yoruba fighters, however, insisted on their right to secure law and order in all parts of their hometown. They called in reinforcement and embarked on a »kill-and-burn operation«[36] against the Hausa. From Ajegunle, the violence spread to other parts of Lagos so that the governor had to call in the army and impose a curfew. After three days of fighting, when journalists could finally inspect the »war zones«, they saw the streets »littered« with corpses.[37]

Leaders of the Hausa community threatened »to ruin Lagosif any Hausa resident is killed again.«[38] Yet as a minority, Hausa fighters had no chance to gain the upper hand. In the North, however, they could strike back en masse. So whenever ethnic clashes erupted in the Southwest, the Yoruba minority in the North had to fear for their life. After the killings of Hausa in Sagamu, near Lagos, Yoruba migrants in Kano had to pay. Hundreds of them were killed, and endless convoys of refugees headed south, back to their homeland where they could feel safe.[39] In a press communiqué, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), an association of Northern politicians, announced: »henceforth, attack on northerners in any part of [the] country will not […] go unavenged.«[40] In order to give credence to this threat, the ACF set up its own militia with the help of Brigadier Akilu, a former Director of Military Intelligence. Its prime aim was »to check Yoruba expansionism«[41] which was seen as the biggest security threat: »The North does not need the hate-race Yoruba to be in power.«[42] Since Obasanjo had been head of state, the »OPC anarchists« had »turned the socio-political landscape into an abattoir.«[43]

Elite Pacts instead of Democracy

In June 2000, a magazine in Northern Nigeriafeatured a photograph of the president on its front page with the headline »Face of a Betrayer.«[44] The magazine reminded its readers that politicians in the North had trusted Obasanjo to protect their interests. But as soon as he was sworn in, he began to marginalize them. For the Hausa-Fulani elite, this ›betrayal‹ was a serious affront, as Obasanjo owed his presidency solely to their support: »It is very rare in human life to see a people who will surrender power voluntarily […]. When the north supported General Obasanjo as a presidential candidate, it did so because it had confidence.«[45] When asked why they had made such a generous concession, the standard reply was that they had acted in the interest of the Nigerian nation: »the northerners picked a Yoruba to be the president […] because we believe in unity, in power sharing.«[46] But had they really intended to share power? Or had it been their plan to install, for as short a period as possible, a proxy, a man like Obasanjo who was regarded by many as a Hausa-Fulani in a Yoruba skin?[47] Nigeria’s press speculated that Obasanjo had only gained the support of ex-President Babangida and other Northern leaders because he had promised to stay in office for just one term. In addition, he had allegedly accepted to fill certain cabinet positions with candidates from the North. When he broke his part of the deal, they looked for ways to put his government under pressure. They had »looked for someone whom they thought could dance to their tune and they [had] found him in Obasanjo. […] But unfortunately, after his inauguration, the very first speech Obasanjo made shocked so many people, especially some bigwigs in the north […]. First, they complained, saying the north was marginalised by this government […]. Then they […] played up sharia and politicised it.«[48] Seen from this perspective, a broken promise lay at the bottom of the Sharia crisis, and the pious campaign was entangled in a web of intrigues and betrayal.

In October 2002, when Northern politicians initiated impeachment proceedings against the President, he disclosed that a secret pact actually existed. The terms of the agreement did not become very clear,[49] but it seems Obasanjo’s partners had persuaded him to sign a document that committed him to stay in power for only four years and to be a largely ceremonial president.[50] It is quite possible that he never intended to keep his part of the bargain. His inauguration speech had already perturbed many people, as he announced an uncompromising fight against corruption: »There will be no sacred cows. Nobody, no matter who and where, will be allowed to get away with the breach of the law.«[51] A few days later he dismissed 150 senior army officers, most of whom were from the North. They were »political officers« who had served the military junta in high government offices.[52] Thus it is understandable that they were retired with the beginning of democracy. But it is also understandable that Muslims in the North saw this measure as a kind of »coup.«[53] They were now clearly under-represented in the army leadership, so they insisted that some younger Hausa and Fulani officers be promoted over the heads of their superiors. However, Defense Minister Danjuma, a Christian from the North, resisted such a move arguing that politically motivated promotions would undermine the professionalism and morale of the officer corps. The vacant posts were filled strictly according to the rules of merit and seniority, and in this process the leadership of the army, air force and navy went to generals who belonged to the minorities in the Middle Belt.[54] Thanks to the President’s ›betrayal‹ the position of the old rulers was decisively weakened within a few days. In case of conflict they could no longer count on the army to intimidate their rivals.

Deals negotiated between elites to share power have an advantage over democratic majority decisions in that they can consider the interests of all ethnic and religious groups involved. In deeply divided societies in which the losers of elections must fear exclusion from state resources, it makes sense to negotiate compromises in order to forestall violent conflicts. Yet these compromises are fragile, as they are not backed by an independent authority that could force all parties to respect the agreements. Nobody can rely on the other side to keep its promises. This uncertainty becomes a serious problem when the balance of forces, which was reflected in the initial settlement, begins to shift. Elite pacts which involve a political transformation from a military to a democratic regime, necessarily produce a shift of power structures, and consequently, the interests of the parties involved also change. Groups whose influence is rising have little incentive to abide by concessions made at an earlier date. Their opponents whose bargaining position is weakening, must reckon with being damnified. Rather than waiting until they get into a hopeless situation, it can be advantageous for them to risk an open confrontation, even if this means accepting high losses.[55]

InNigeria’s case, the transition from military to civilian rule went hand in hand with a shift of power from North to South and from a Muslim to a Christian head of state. This made the position of the former rulers precarious. At the beginning of the transition process, when the Provisional Ruling Council under General Abubakar decided to lead the country back to democracy, they consulted among themselves and with their Northern allies, while Yoruba and Igbo politicians had little influence on the course of the political transformation. The military refused to organize a constitutional conference at which representatives of all ethnic groups could have negotiated the future of the country. All important decisions were taken in closed circles. The military and their legal advisers devised the constitution of theFourthRepublic, basically a replica of the 1979 constitution, and they selected the head of state. After the inauguration of Obasanjo, the formerly marginalized groups gained influence, but this was, of course, inevitable in the interest of ›national‹ reconciliation. As the Northerners had dominated for decades, it was a matter of fairness to curb their influence. Nevertheless, the aims of the Yoruba President were not clear. Was he laying the foundation for a fair equilibrium? Or was the redistribution of public offices just a first step to sideline the outgoing elite?

There could be no certainty in this issue. In a religiously- or ethnically-divided society, nobody knows the intentions of his opponents. Nor is it possible for the party that gains supremacy to give the weaker side reliable assurances that it will keep earlier promises. After all, as soon as it is strong enough to turn the situation to its advantage, nobody can prevent it from exploiting this opportunity.[56] At any rate, it would have been imprudent for the Hausa-Fulani elite to count on the good intentions of the President. Nor could they rely on the protection of democratic institutions, as Nigeria’s elections had always been manipulated. Once Northern politicians had established themselves in power in 1960, they never gave their rivals a chance: »the North simply went berserk in terms of appropriation of government machinery for itself. […] the head of state and all his principal officers, the military, the parastatals and key organs of government were dominated by the North.«[57] What was to prevent their successors from behaving the same way? There were no institutional safeguards. The transition to theFourthRepublic, with its flawed elections, had not established new rules for a more restrained political competition.

When Obasanjo broke the pact with his backers in the North, they assumed that he would turn to his own ethnic group to build a new power base. Wada Nas, a former minister and close confidant of General Abacha, accused him of pursuing an aggressive ethnic strategy: »Marginalisation of the North is part of Yoruba agenda. […] They have a long-term plan and that plan is how to deal with the Northern part of this country. I warned all of us before the election: don’t vote for them, they are our number one enemy. […] The hatred is deep in their blood.«[58] The allegation that Yoruba politicians sought to ruin their rivals was also made by the governors of the 19 Northern states, who met on November 18, 2000, for a kind of emergency meeting. In a press statement, they accused their counterparts from the South, in particular the Yoruba governors, »of ganging up against the North« and of planning the »economic strangulation« and »political repression of the North.« Since the federal government under Obasanjo did not defend them, the governors appealed to the leadership of the North to unite and fight for their interests: »ensur[e] that the north gets its due share of the national cake.« The governors’ communiqué made specific demands for this purpose: The federal government should finance the construction of a trans-Sahara highway, build more power stations, and resume the dredging of the rivers Niger and Benue, which connect Northern Nigeria with the coast.[59]

Whether the governors’ main concern was the country’s infrastructure is open to doubt. When politicians from the North had controlled the resources of the federation, they had never cared about the needs of the population. Public schools and health facilities in the North were even less developed than in the rest of the country: »the minister of education was a northerner. His minister of state (education) was a northerner. And all the parastatals under the ministry of education: JAMB, Universities Commission, NPEC, NBTE, NTI, they were all under northerners […]. And surprisingly, this total control by the North of the ministry of education and its parastatals has not improved the level of education in northern Nigeria.«[60] Obasanjo could not win the support of the Northern elites by introducing a free education scheme. They did not send their children to state schools, nor did they depend on the public supply of electricity and potable water. Behind the walls of their compounds, they kept their own water tanks and generators. General Abacha, like his predecessor, had not invested in the development of his home region; instead he had transferred over four billion dollars to his bank accounts abroad.[61] Those Northern power brokers, who protested the marginalization of the North, were mainly interested in securing their ill-gotten wealth. And they succeeded. Obasanjo did not touch them.

Investigations conducted after Abacha’s death traced his booty to a global network of 130 banks. Yet Nigeria’s government was reluctant to collect the embezzled money. In order to freeze the accounts of the Abacha family in England, it would have been necessary to open criminal proceedings against them. But the President preferred an out-of-court settlement.[62] Maryam Abacha, the dictator’s widow, and now in charge of the robbed assets, was allowed to continue living her privileged lifestyle. When the government negotiated with her about a return of the stolen money, she declared that she would not succumb to state »intimidation.«[63] After three months of negotiations, she offered between five and ten percent of her family fortune, in addition to the 800 million dollars which had already been confiscated, because it had been hoarded in the family’s private rooms or at local banks.

Mrs. Abacha had good reason to be annoyed, since no action was taken against ex-President Babangida, who had evidently embezzled much more money. A government commission, appointed in 1994, a year after the fall of the dictator, had uncovered spectacular instances of official corruption. In 1990/91, during the Kuwaitcrisis, when the prices for oil had risen dramatically, he had paid the oil windfall of 12.4 billion dollars into a so-called ›dedicated account‹ from which most of the money disappeared without a trace.[64] Like other military leaders, Babangida was implicated in political murders, but when asked to give evidence before a panel of investigation, which had held public hearings throughout the country since October 2000, he ignored all summons. His refusal to assist in the investigation did not cause any protests in his constituency in the North. For many Muslims, the investigations by the Oputa Panel were merely a show which the new rulers from the South had arranged to discredit their old rivals. A professor of Political Science at a Northern university told me laconically: »Yorubas are always trumpeting human rights.«

The President could have forced the retired generals to testify before the tribunal, but he accepted that most of them kept mute. Obasanjo did not even intervene when the newly-elected governors and their administrations started embezzling money. Six years after he had taken office and promised an all-out fight against corruption, not a single high-ranking politician had been sentenced under the new Anti-Corruption law.[65] This restraint surprised many Nigerians, as some of Obasanjo’s successors had staged a lot of crime-fighting activities. General Buhari, who came to power in 1983, dismissed 50,000 corrupt civil servants, decreed on a minimum punishment of 21 years’ imprisonment for economic crimes, and made oil smuggling punishable by death.[66] Even Sani Abacha, who scarcely kept account of the money coming into and flowing out of his government, launched a crusade against state mismanagement under the motto: War Against Indiscipline and Corruption. Part of it was a tribunal that investigated shady dealings in the financial sector. However, the main victims of this clean-up were bank manages from Yorubaland.[67]

Obasanjo, who had barely survived his imprisonment under the Abacha regime, had no personal reasons to make allowances for the former rulers. Years before he had already expressed his disgust about Ibrahim Babangida: »Since independence […] there is no leader that has been credited with so great a capacity for mischief, for evil like Babangida.«[68] Obasanjo presumably had a similar relationship to his immediate predecessor, General Abubakar, who had led the interim government after Abacha’s death. Since Abubakar had handed over power to a civilian government, he had earned a great deal of respect abroad, so the United Nations appointed him a ›special envoy‹. But for him and his followers even the brief, hasty transformation process was a lucrative business. When he left the presidential palace after eleven months, the central bank’s foreign currency reserves had fallen within a few weeks from 6.7 to 4 billion dollars.[69] Under his successor, Abubakar did not need to answer any questions. Obasanjo stopped the investigations even though he knew that Abubakar, who had served the Abacha regime as chief of defense staff, shared responsibility for Obasanjo’s detention. Thanks to a video which Abacha’s security adviser had recorded, it became known that Abubakar had pleaded before the Provisional Ruling Council to execute Obasanjo.[70]

There was widespread speculation why Obasanjo, who had headed the Advisory Council of Transparency International, sabotaged all efforts to prosecute the generals and their civilian allies. Was he under the thumb of Babangida and other politicians from the North? Or did he opt for a policy of reconciliation in order to secure a smooth political transition? A wave of proceedings against the beneficiaries of military rule would have destabilized the country. When Obasanjo started some official investigations into corruption and human rights abuses, it was probably meant as a warning to the former rulers. Yet they did not know how far he would go. Parts of the military establishment had never trusted him. When the Provisional Ruling Council decided to adopt Obasanjo as a presidential candidate, some of its members warned that he would use his office to take revenge on those who had put him into prison.[71] A small group of Abacha’s henchmen was indeed detained, among them one of the dictator’s sons, who was accused of assassination attempts against opposition politicians. Critics of Obasanjo called the trial against Abacha’s son a »vendetta.«[72] They rejected all official investigations, arguing that politicians from all parts of the country had lined their pockets under military rule: Targeting Muhammed Abacha and his accomplices was just hypocrisy. »What a selective justice. Every Nigerian is corrupt, in fact corruption runs in our blood.«[73] However, the charge against the seven defendants was murder, not corruption. But even murder cases, it was argued, ought to be forgotten in the interests of »reconciliation.«[74] When, in August 2002, 58 senators supported an impeachment against Obasanjo, he could only avert his fall by releasing the dictator’s son from prison.[75]

Migrants as Hostages

The governors in the North had threatened their opponents in the South: »Our restraint must not be mistaken for weakness. There is a limit to patience and tolerance. […] we cannot tolerate any more killings of our people.«[76] But what could they use as a threat? How could they prevent further marginalization? Under the Abacha regime, with the army on their side, it had been easy to intimidate their rivals. A minister of the Abacha cabinet stated openly that »the North was ready to go to war over the oil reserves down South.«[77] With Obasanjo’s purge of Hausa and Fulani officers, the army was neutralized as an instrument of political blackmail. Moreover, Northerners lacked the economic power to exert pressure on their opponents. Compared to the rest of the country, their region was hopelessly backward, a fact which reflected, among others, the education gap between Muslims and Christians. The few industries that foreign investors had set up in Kano or Kaduna, did not work profitably, and many firms have been closed, not least because of the Sharia crisis. To make matters worse, the North did not possess any mineral resources worth speaking of, and its agricultural sector was unproductive. Until the 1970s, it had generated enough surplus for export, whereas today it barely meets the local demand. The ruling classes could not collect taxes or tributes from their impoverished peasants who have been struggling with scarcity of land, ecological degradation and rudimentary farming technology.[78] The wealth of the Islamic elite derived solely from the oil resources, which accounted for 98 percent of Nigeria’s export earnings and made up 95 percent of the federal government’s income.[79] At the height of the first oil boom, in 1979, Nigeria’s president had announced that the country would become »one of the ten leading nations in the world by the end of the century.«[80] Since then industrial production has declined to under five percent of the gross domestic product.[81] Over 60 percent of industrial activity is concentrated in the region around Lagos, which is also the site of West Africa’s largest port.[82] The governor of Lagos State could finance most of the monthly wages of his administration through internally-generated revenues,[83] while his counterpart in Zamfara collected just three million dollars a year in taxes from his three million citizens.[84] Without the oil money from the federation account, the authorities in the North could not pay the salaries of their teachers and administrative staff; there would be no funds for road construction and other public investments, and the Fulani aristocracy could not keep their palaces bright and shiny. Their rivals in Yoruba- and Igboland, who had suffered long enough under the arrogance of the old rulers, had little interest in financing their opponents’ extravagant lifestyle. What was to prevent them from dissolving the federation with the »parasitic«[85] North and secede?

As Hausa-Fulani politicians and traditional rulers were losing control over the means of their existence, they had good reason to feel threatened. The only way to extract concessions from their opponents was to threaten them with massive damage. Sharia was well-suited to this end, because it could have extremely dangerous consequences. When Ahmad Sani and other governors announced that they were introducing an orthodox form of Sharia, everyone realized that this would spark religious riots. Since the early 1980s, clashes between Christians and Muslims in cities of the North had claimed thousands of lives. With the Sharia controversy, these conflicts were rekindled, bringing some of the bloodiest massacres since the Biafra War. Everybody knew that the number of dead could grow if the authorities in the North provoked further clashes. All they needed to do was to insist that the newly-created laws were strictly applied, or worse still, that non-Muslims were subjected to the hudud punishments.

People in the South were not directly affected by the Sharia campaign. They could have sat back and watched the North marginalize itself through religious fanaticism, had it not been for the millions of Igbo, Yoruba and other Southerners who had settled there. These minorities would be the first victims if religious conflicts escalated. In the worst-case scenario they would have to flee en masse, like the Igbo did in 1966, when tens of thousands were killed and over a million fled to their place of origin in the Southeast. Since their expulsion and the civil war over the secessionist Republic of Biafra, the Igbo have settled once again in the North. As they are, on average, better educated (like other Christians in Nigeria who attended mission schools), they are more successful economically than the majority of the indigenous population. The prospect that they could be forced to abandon all their property and return to the hopelessly over-populated Igbo region is a nightmare, not least for their relatives who have remained at home. Land in the South-east is so scarce that rural areas have turned into net importers of food.[86]

At the height of the crisis, in February and May 2000, refugees fled to the South in droves. Many who no longer felt safe in Kano, Kadunaor Bauchi, sought refuge in Jos, where the Christian population was still in the majority. But even here, riots broke out a year later. A Yoruba, who gave up his business in the North reported: »If you were there, you would never advise Yoruba to return. People were roasted like chicken[s].«[87] Despite this trauma, most refugees have returned, as they could not establish a reasonable existence in Igbo- or Yorubaland. Back in the North, their status has deteriorated. Since the indigenous population has asserted its Islamic identity, non-Muslims are already segregated by their appearance and, in case of violent conflict, marked as potential victims.

By using the threat of religious violence, Hausa-Fulani politicians pursued a risky policy of confrontation. The five governors in the Southeast condemned the »institutionalised kind of violence against the Igbo race«[88] and threatened revenge. A few days after the Sharia riots in Kaduna, when truckloads of corpses arrived in Igboland, the main mosque in Aba went up in flames and hundreds of Hausa-Fulani died in Igbo towns. The massacres were not a spontaneous reaction, but had been carefully planned.[89] In Okigwe, for instance, the transport workers’ union made sure that no buses or taxis left the town, lest the local Hausa-Fulani have a chance of escaping their murderers. It was the first time since the lost civil war that non-Igbo were massacred in Igboland. For 30 years, Igbo had exercised restraint, and for good reason. Millions of them are living in cities of the North, while just a few Hausa-Fulani are residing in Igboland. If mutual killings escalated, Igbo would be the losers, like in 1966, before the war broke out. Their defensive attitude had other reasons as well: The Catholic and Anglican churches, which enjoy much influence in Igboland, vouch for the secular tradition of the constitution and advocate for equal coexistence. So they urged their followers not to expel adherents of other faiths. For decades, Muslims could live safely in Igboland and other parts of the South. However, it is difficult to keep one’s supporters from launching attacks, when the opposite side does not exercise the same restraint. Anyone who shrinks away from hitting back, feeds the suspicion that he fears an escalation, and therefore invites the other side to behave even more ruthlessly. Attempts to de-escalate can easily be taken as a sign of weakness, therefore, church representatives emphasized that their appeal not to take revenge should not be misconstrued: »What is holding Christians back at the moment is what we are telling them, it is good to live in peace and not in pieces. But if they [Muslims – J.H.] take that as a weakness, good luck to them.«[90]

Most Igbo I spoke to about the massacres alluded to the murders of the Hausa with pride: »It shows them that an Igbo life is not so cheap.« Of course, no Igbo leader wanted to accept responsibility for the rage of their ›boys‹, but they advised their opponents to take the 300 deaths as a »warning signal.«[91] Their belligerent mood was expressed by the former Biafran leader, ex-General Ojukwu, who is still popular among many Igbo: »there is nothing actually wrong with vengeance. It is the national policy of Israel you know, ours cannot be different. […] I am a Roman Catholic. Every time, you hear Muslims say we want jihad, we want jihad. When did Jihad start frightening Christians?«[92]

The religious confrontation deepened the mistrust among Nigeria’s fragmented elites and made it more difficult to forge alliances. During the First and Second Republics, prominent Igbo politicians had sided with the Muslim North against their Yoruba rivals, but after the Sharia campaign the political landscape changed completely: »The recent killing of Igbo residents in Kaduna over Sharia finally cut the Igbo political link with the North.«[93] Though resentment against ›the Yoruba‹ remained strong among Igbo politicians, it was no longer possible to play them off against each other. The Igbo establishment had supported Obasanjo in the 1999 election, but did not gain much influence on his government and soon felt sidelined by the Yoruba president. Nevertheless, the North could not exploit the rift between them. Members of Ohanaeze Ndigbo rejected a pact with the North: »[It is] unreasonable, for any person to think that the Igbo will continue to unite with their killers.« [94] Not all Igbo politicians were so categorical in ruling out an alliance. Ahead of the 2003 elections, Governor Kalu and others started negotiations about a joint presidential ticket, but they insisted that the North could no longer be the dominant force in a coalition: »it is our turn to rule Nigeria.«[95] Hausa-Fulani politicians had no interest in assisting a Christian Igbo get into power; they wanted Igbo support for their own candidate and offered their interlocutors only the vice presidency, so the negotiations broke down. The dominant party in the Muslim North, the ANPP, picked its candidate for the presidential election without strong allies in the South. Muhammadu Buhari, a former military ruler and staunch Sharia supporter, found much support among ordinary Muslims in the North where he could win ten states. His image as a law-and-order politician who would fight corruption also appealed to Christians, but his role in the religious crisis weighed against him. As the elections were »massively manipulated«, it is impossible to say how much support the candidates truly had.[96] Outside observers assumed that Obasanjo would have won the contest even without vote-rigging.[97] Among the Yoruba, who had rejected him in 1999, his reputation had changed. He was no longer seen as a puppet of the Hausa-Fulani, but as their defender against Northern domination. His challenger Buhari, in contrast, »has always been accused of prosecuting an anti-South agenda when he was military head of state.«[98] For the Igbo and the Christian minorities of the Middle Belt, who had suffered most from the Sharia clashes, it was not appealing to entrust an »Islamic hardliner«[99] with control over the police and the army. At the height of the religious campaign, Buhari had demanded the introduction of Sharia throughout Nigeria.[100] When the 2003 elections came up and he addressed a Muslim audience, he called on them not to vote for a Christian candidate.[101] At the same time he avoided talking about Sharia, as he had to win Christian votes.[102] In the 2007 presidential election, the Sharia issue was eschewed again, yet Buhari, the most promising opposition candidate, lost a second time.

The Sharia campaign had many unintended consequences which forced Muslim politicians to reassess its benefit. In a paper for the Arewa Consultative Forum, one of its members suggested that the political class in the North rethink its strategy: »What is the reason for using religion as a political weapon? What are the short/long term benefits? An in depth study is necessary to ensure that the disadvantages do not outweigh the advantages.«[103] The advantages, though not mentioned explicitly, were obvious. The religious violence served as a »brutal reminder of the risks« which Southern politicians faced if they sidelined the North.[104] Furthermore, the religious intimidation helped enforce discipline in one’s own camp. After the Hausa-Fulani elite had lost control of the federal government, it had to secure its supremacy in its home region. In the First and Second Republic, federal authorities had interfered massively in states run by opposition parties, in order to deepen internal divisions and ruin their rivals’ power base. With a Yoruba on top, Northerners had to close ranks in order to keep the federal influence at bay. With the help of Sharia they could mobilize the Muslim majority against those who collaborated too closely with the new rulers from the South.[105] Under pressure of the faithful, even PDP governors, who worked for the electoral victory of the Christian President, had to swear allegiance to Sharia. In the predominantly Muslim areas of the North, they could not distance themselves from the cause of Islam, as they risked being branded as traitors who sided with the Yoruba rulers: »Let those with whom they [Yoruba] are pleased with among us continue to serve them. […] No matter how long it takes there must be a day of reckoning.«[106]

While the Sharia campaign enforced loyalty within, it alienated Muslims in the North from other sections of the population. Nigeria’s opposition groups did not unite against the Obasanjo government and pursue common democratic interests. During his first term in office, Obasanjo had to struggle to remain on top, as influential personalities within the ruling party, including the Vice President, sought to topple him. But in his second term, he gained control over the party apparatus and consolidated his grip on power. After he had asserted his independence from all those who had brought him into office, he was free to embark on a policy of economic reforms. Critics deplored his arrogance and his dictatorial style; as a general accustomed to giving commands, he did not seem willing to listen. Yet he did not damage the interests of the North and its political elites. Despite their anxieties about the ›stubborn‹ Yoruba President, they did not fare badly under him. Since he came to office, more money has flowed into the budgets of the Northern states than before. When the prices of oil and gas began to rise in 1999, federal government revenues rocketed to more than 50 billion dollars in 2006,[107] and this additional money was distributed evenly throughout the country.[108] Under military rule, part of the oil rents was diverted to ›dedicated accounts‹, from which much has disappeared, but under Obasanjo, the money was distributed as prescribed by law: 56 percent went to the federal budget, 24 percent to the 36 states and another 20 percent to the 774 local government administrations.

The distribution of the oil and gas revenues is one of the most controversial issues in Nigerian politics, so the federal government tried to mediate between the ›oil-producing‹ ethnic groups in the Niger Delta, who had much support among their Igbo and Yoruba neighbors, and their opponents in the North. While looking for a compromise, the President took great care not to offend the interests of the North. The debate focused on the so-called ›derivation‹ formula. Since 1999, 13 percent of the oil rents have been paid directly to the states along the oil-producing south coast. The ethnic minorities in the Niger Delta wanted to increase this share to 50 percent. As the ›owners‹ of the oil fields, they also demanded resource control so that they could enter into direct negotiations with international oil companies and market their oil wealth autonomously. Politicians in the North strongly rejected such an arrangement, maintaining that ownership of the oil belonged to the Nigerian nation, and President Obasanjo supported their position. He also sided with them when debating the legal status of the oil fields off the coast. While the Ijaw, Ogoni and other minorities saw the maritime oil fields as belonging to the adjacent Niger Delta states, their opponents insisted that these deposits were situated on federal territory.[109]

The President also backed the Hausa-Fulani elite in several local conflicts. When the Yoruba majority in KwaraStatewanted to disempower the Emir of Ilorin, a Fulani, Obasanjo sided against his fellow Yoruba and protected the interests of the Fulani aristocracy.[110] In Benue State, the Christian Tiv resisted the sale of their largest industrial plant, a state-owned cement factory, to a Hausa-Fulani businessman who was suspected of having helped finance the Sharia violence in the North. However, the President confirmed the sale of the Benue Cement Company and dismissed his minister of industry, a Christian, who had sought to prevent the deal.[111] In the most severe confrontation between Muslims and Christians: a series of ethno-religious cleansings in Plateau State, Obasanjo was again anxious to calm Northern sensibilities. He did not interfere when Muslims committed massacres in Yelwa and expelled the entire Christian population. But when Christians retaliated, three months later, he sent in the army, declared a state of emergency and suspended the Christian governor.[112]

It is difficult to assess the extent to which the pressure of the Sharia campaign forced such concessions. My impression is that Obasanjo had a genuine interest in strengthening the coherence of the federation by creating a balance between North and South. At the end of his presidency, when he was strong enough to choose his successor, he did not favor a Christian from the South. Thus he demonstrated that power sharing can work. Those who had handed over government eight years before had not ruined themselves, but were given the chance to regain power. However, this chance had not been guaranteed by democratic institutions; it was the result of Obasanjo’s personal decision. Until December 15, 2006, the day before the crucial PDP convention, nobody knew whether he would pick a Northern or Southern candidate. His choice of Umaru Yar’Adua helped to de-emphasize religious, ethnic and regional divides, and thus helped to defuse the Sharia conflict. Yar’Adua was the governor of a Sharia state, but he had not fought for the introduction of full Sharia, therefore, Islamist organizations did not campaign for him. Izala members and other Sharia activists supported Buhari, hoping that he would create conditions that were favorable for the implementation of Islamic law. However, Obasanjo made sure that Buhari had no chance in the elections. The ballots were clearly rigged against him, yet the political establishment in the North did not rise to defend Buhari’s rights. Many politicians did not trust the former general; they feared him as unpredictable, rigid and fanatical, while Yar’Adua looked like a more acceptable alternative. If the President had tried to install a Southern Christian as his successor, they might have instigated riots. Yet they could live with the imposition of Yar’Adua, a Fulani aristocrat and moderate Muslim. Yar’Adua was even acceptable to the ordinary people, as he was the only governor in the North who had never been accused of corruption.[113]

Obasanjo handed the president’s office back to the North, but he did not allow Northerners to decide who became president. The crucial moment was at the PDP primaries, in December 2006, when Obsanjo presented the little-known Governor of Katsina as a ›consensus candidate‹. Other PDP governors nurtured their own presidential ambitions, but they withdrew from the race when the President threatened to sue them for corruption. If he had played by the rules and let party delegates choose the presidential candidate, the decision would not have been more transparent and democratic, either. The most promising contender had been Vice President Atiku Abubakar, »the principal architect of the election rigging in 2003«,[114] who was allied to some of the most corrupt governors. The other heavyweight had been Ibrahim Babangida, a major financier of the PDP, who would have used his fabulous wealth to buy his way up to the top. Obasanjo did not touch Babangida, Gusau and other former sponsors; they could keep their wealth, yet he did not allow them to stage a political comeback. Babangida abandoned his presidential campaign, after his eldest son was arrested and interrogated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.[115] Among the opposition, intra-party democracy was no better. When delegates of the newly formed Action Congress met in Lagos, they learnt that there was only one presidential candidate: Vice President Abubakar, who had quit the ruling PDP. Even the members of the party executive were elected unopposed.[116] The other large opposition party ANPP also took its decisions at closed door meetings, when Muhammadu Buhari convinced the other aspirants to step down in his favor. His main rival for the presidential ticket, Governor Sani of Zamfara, complained that a large part of the delegates, who wanted to vote for him at the party convention, had not been accredited.[117]

The accession of Yar’Adua helped to avert a renewed conflict between North and South. Yet the new president, who only came to office through the machinations of his predecessor, was in a weak position. He had no democratic legitimacy, and he could not count on a consensus among the elites. Within the ruling PDP, rival factions had not reached an agreement on whether power should shift to a Northern president or to a non-Yoruba from the South. Representatives of the Niger Delta argued that Northern politicians had ruled the federation for 34 years and that the Yoruba in the Southwest had had their share under Obanajo.[118] So the presidency should rotate to the oil minorities who had never produced a civilian or military head of state. Igbo leaders in the Southeast voiced a similar claim, as ›they‹ had ruled Nigeria for only six months in 1966. Democratic institutions did not help to end their marginalization, so they were ready to pursue their interests by more effective means. While the Hausa-Fulani elite played the »Sharia card«[119], their rivals in the South pushed for ethnic autonomy, resource control or secession, and they also mobilized the masses. Ethnic self-determination groups like the Ijaw National Congress, Urhobo National Assembly or Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People were in league with local elites and strengthened their bargaining power. However, the strategies of these groups differed, as a comparison of ethnic mobilization in Igboland and in the Niger Delta will show.

The agitation for secession was strongest among the Igbo, but since the Igbo form substantial ›settler‹ communities with massive investments all over Nigeria, they could not risk a violent confrontation. Their most popular liberation group, the Movement for the Actualisation of a Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), tried to avoid clashes with members of other ethnic groups. Its founder, Ralph Uwazuruike, had been a member of the PDP who had supported Obasanjo during his election campaign in 1999, but he was soon disappointed with government policy. The Yoruba president, when making federal appointments, did not give the Igbo their »due«, though they had supported him in the election with 70 percent of their votes.[120] Disillusioned with party politics, Uwazuruike predicted that the Igbo could wait for another 50 years and participate in ›democratic‹ elections, without ever ruling Nigeria.[121] His campaign for secession was not taken seriously at first. It looked like a one-man-show, but when hundreds of Igbo died during Sharia clashes in February 2000, the agitation forBiafra fell on fertile ground.

Uwazuruike has burned his Nigerian passport, but it is not clear whether he really wants to break up the federation. His strategy, so he claimed was based on Mahatma Gandhi’s principles of non-violence and passive resistance. The Igbo should gradually opt out of Nigeriaand establish their own political structures in a long process passing through 25 stages. MASSOB introduced a new currency, the Biafra Pound, it opened a Biafra House in WashingtonD.C., and it has been broadcasting news through its radio station, Voice of Biafra. Its activists hoisted the old separatist flag and patrolled the streets in the uniform of the former Biafrapolice. However they did not carry arms, like the OPC, and they did not attack ›non-indigenes‹ living in Igboland. Separatists parading as Biafrapolice were a bizarre masquerade, meant to impress politicians from other parts of Nigeria. By displaying more and more symbols of national sovereignty, they were trying to give the impression that Igboland was in fact gravitating towards secession. For Igbo nationalists, this was the only way to compel Hausa-Fulani and Yoruba politicians to pay attention to the plight of the Igbo. Ralph Uwazuruike would probably have stopped the countdown to independence, if his people had been given access to the machinery of government. Before the 2003 elections, MASSOB activists demonstrated under the slogan: »Igbo Presidency 2003 or Biafra.«[122] With one of their politicians on top, Igbo could have secured their piece of the ›national cake‹, yet their campaign for an Igbo president was not just about money. Their most pressing problem was that successive governments had failed to give them security. For those living outside Igboland, discrimination and the threat of massacres have become a regular feature of life: »anytime there is a problem in the north, they begin to kill the Igbo.«[123] When young Muslim protested the caricatures of Mohammed in a Danish newspaper, in February 2006, they vented their anger on Igbo churches and businesses. Whenever they celebrated Jerusalem Day to show solidarity with the Palestinian people, Igbo had to fear for their lives.

After the Sharia clashes in Kaduna, the five Igbo governors had warned that they could not »again tolerate any situation where Easterners are killed without any provocation.« Further attacks would compel them to reassess their faith in »the continued existence of Nigeria.«[124] But they did not have the means to put pressure on their opponents. A few kilometres to the south, in the Niger Delta, ethnic militias could blackmail the president in Abuja by blowing up pipelines and other installations belonging to oil companies. Igbo militants, in contrast, could only have destroyed their own infrastructure: government buildings and schools, power lines and bridges. Or they could have attacked targets outside Igboland, but this would have jeopardized their kith and kin in Lagos, Abuja and Kano. Other Nigerians knew that the Igbo would lose massively if Nigeria broke apart, so the campaign for Biafra was often dismissed as an empty threat: »If they think the north will suffer they are making a great mistake because they are land locked. They don’t have land for farming, they have erosion all over the place. The land is too small for them to live.«[125] Given this overpopulation, Northerners calculated that the migrants from Igboland could not risk an escalation of violence: »Igbos […] in the North […] are most vulnerable to ethnoreligious conflagrations.«[126] Militant Muslims made it quite plain that they would not hesitate out drive out the unpopular migrants: »the general belief in the North is that ›every Igbo man is a criminal‹.« »I cannot wait to see them carry back with them the only things they brought to us. These are: armed robbery, prostitution, cultism.«[127] Igbo have little bargaining power. They have been the first to be attacked and expelled when communal clashes erupted in the North, but they have always returned. As a Northern magazine put it: »You can kill them easier than send them home. […] they are essentially parasites. They only serve as middle men, buying from A to sell to B. ›So if they all go home who will buy from whom?‹«[128]

MASSOB’s strategy of non-violence has led to a dead end. The federal government did not make any concessions; instead it deployed anti-riot police and army units which killed hundreds of MASSOB members. The security forces were often used to quell unrest, and their imposing presence could often prevent further eruptions of violence. However, army atrocities like the massacre in Odi, BaylesaState, could backfire and stiffen local resistance. In the Niger Delta, violence is out of control. During clashes between Ijaw and Itsekiri militias, the oil corporation Chevron reckoned that production facilities and pipelines worth 500 million dollars were destroyed.[129] In 2006, about 20 percent of Nigeria’s oil production capacity was shut down, and in the first half of 2007, over 100 foreign workers were kidnapped.[130] The security forces cannot guard the oil installations and hundreds of kilometers of pipelines, so the militants could cause more disruptions if the federal government and the oil companies refused to compromise.

Since 1956, when oil production in the Delta started,Nigeria’s government has earned more than 400 billion dollars in oil revenues, yet most people in the oil-producing areas live in poverty, amid a decaying infrastructure. Peaceful protests did not impress the federal authorities; politicians inAbujaonly began to make concessions when militants occupied oil platforms and blew up pipelines. With the beginning of democracy in 1999, the derivation quota was raised from 3 to 13 percent, and the six Delta states have been allotted far more revenues from the federation account, but most of it has been embezzled. The crisis in the Niger Delta cannot be solved by simply pumping in more money. Liberation movements, despite considerable popular support, were not able to use the new democratic institutions to bring their governors and local government chairmen to book. Billions of dollars in additional payments have only intensified the relentless struggle for a share of the oil rents. Fighting for their oil wealth has pitted the indigenes against each other, creating bitter divisions between villages, clans and ethnic groups. Far more people have died in communal feuds than in clashes with the police and the army. The dominant actors are local gangs, called ›cults‹, which form fragile alliances with local politicians, government officials and oil companies.

The escalation of violence may force Shell and other international companies to abandon their investments in Nigeria, but their withdrawal would benefit no one. Many militants, it seems, know that their rebellion is out of control, so there are attempts to curtail the use of violence. The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), which started operations in early 2006, has condemned all commercial forms of hostage taking and sabotage. Oil installations must not be vandalized to extort a few jobs and some money from oil managers. Violence is only legitimate if it helps the Niger Delta people to negotiate a political solution, i.e. to extract concessions which improve the living conditions of all inhabitants. Yet it is unlikely that MEND and allied groups can establish a monopoly of violence and turn into reliable bargaining partners with the federal government and oil companies. As long as the living conditions in the Delta do not improve, local gangs like the Icelanders, Vultures or Ku Klux Klan cannot be stopped from extorting money. Something drastic must happen. Self-determination groups in the Delta and other areas of the South suggested organizing a (Sovereign) National Conference to restructure the federation. A new constitution should be designed that guarantees ethnic autonomy, resource control, and rotational presidency. Some militants went even further and rejected all compromises with the federal authorities. If Asari Dokubo, an Ijaw warlord, had his way, there would be only one topic on the agenda of a Sovereign National Conference: secession. In his words, »Nigeria[…] only exists in the imagination of the bandits.«[131]

Restructuring the Federation

The call for ethnic autonomy or secession had been an effective means of mobilizing the Yoruba and other Southerners against military rule. When the generals and their Hausa-Fulani allies accepted a »power shift« and »allocated the presidency to the Yoruba«,[132] interest in secession or a looser form of federation waned. With the introduction of full Sharia, however, the unity ofNigeria was again on the political agenda. The governors of all 17 Southern states met for the first time and called for a national conference in order to redesign the federal system. Since the Sharia states had rejected essential elements of the constitution, there was no more legal basis on which to regulate Muslim-Christian coexistence.Nigeria needed a new constitution which acknowledged the fact that the members of the federation were drifting apart. The introduction of an Islamic legal system demonstrated thatNigeria’s citizens no longer aspired to live under common laws, so the project of nation-building had come to an end.

The political establishment inAbujashowed little interest in drafting a constitution which decentralised power. Initiatives to restructure the political system came from regional forces, from ethnic militias and other self-determination groups, supported by intellectuals and human rights activists. After the Sharia crisis could not be settled amicably, the campaign for ›true federation‹ or confederation was backed by most politicians in the South and in the Christian parts of the Middle Belt. InSouthwest Nigeria, eminent Yoruba from all walks of life signed the Yoruba Agenda, a position paper meant as a common platform for negotiation with other ethnic groups. It contained the blueprint of a new constitution which established ›Yorubaland‹ as one of six geo-political zones within a very loose federation. Secession was not ruled out, but viewed as a last resort, in case the Yoruba could not realise self-determination within a Nigerian state.

Politicians, intellectuals and social activists from across the South agreed that the members of the federation should have more autonomy, and this autonomy was defined in ethnic, not religious terms: »What is vital is to recognise our social pluralism, to recognise that from now, Nigeriais a federation of ethnicities and nationalities, nothing else.«[133] Starting from this premise, Nigerians should design a new type of federalism which was no longer based on geographical units like the present 36 states, but took autonomous ethnic groups as its constituent units: »The Ethnic Nationalities shall be the building blocks of the Federation, with the right to self-determination.«[134] Legal experts suggested reconstituting Nigeria as a (con)federation of ethnic republics or of six geo-political zones which would be free to decide internally how to distribute power between their component ethnic (and religious) units. However, before the technicalities of a new constitution could be worked out, Nigerians would have to take a fundamental decision: How much sovereignty should be left with the central government? Self-determination groups saw three options: a federal system with greatly reduced powers at the centre, a confederal arrangement in which the individual units could nullify decisions by the central government, or a complete break-up.[135]

Ethnic elites in Southern Nigeriahad very divergent ideas about a future constitution, but they agreed to convene a National Conference where representatives of all ethnic nationalities would sit together, air their grievances and discuss how they wanted to be associated in future. Such an inter-ethnic dialogue, where all options could be presented, would give Nigerians the opportunity for a fresh start. A new social contract agreed by all groups might be the only chance to stop the descent into violence. The six constitutional conferences which Nigerians had held since 1950 had never established an acceptable legal order. The proposed National Conference should break with these traditions by using an organizational model which better reflected social realities. Those coming together to reconstitute Nigeriashould not be representatives of the Nigerian people but of ethnic nationalities. As such, they would not be elected by citizens of ethnically mixed constituencies, but would have to be nominated by their ethnic groups. Since these groups were considered autonomous, it was their internal affair to decide how they selected their spokespersons. A coalition of ethnic leaders that submitted a bill to convene a National Conference suggested that the delegates should be nominated by ethnic associations like Afenifere representing Yoruba elders, or Ohanaeze, its Igbo counterpart.[136] This model of representation marks a clear break with liberal-democratic principles of constitutionalism. Ethnic groups become the crucial rights-bearing entities. They have a will, they take decisions, and they enter into contractual relationships with each other.

Most of Nigeria’s 500 ethno-linguistic groups are too small to establish their own state; but their leaders also claimed some form of control over their territory, arguing that each nationality was »entitled to a space on the map of Nigeria.«[137] Smaller groups might be forced to join an autonomous geo-political zone or region where they would have to share power with neighbouring ethnic groups; nevertheless each of them could have its separate constitution and administration.[138] Recognizing such claims for autonomy would have severe consequences; it would lead to a »pluralist idea of citizenship[139] which divided the population into two broad categories and accorded full citizenship rights only to the ›original‹ inhabitants of a place. Indigenes living on their ancestral land would be regarded as the rightful owners with the power to decide how their territory is governed, whereas members of other ethnic groups that ›did not belong‹ to that area would be relegated to the status of settlers who had to accept the hegemony of the sons of the soil.[140]

Relationships between ethnic nationalities which enjoy much autonomy are difficult to manage. Common institutions could only work if the political actors could trust their rivals to abide by the rules, even when it is not in their immediate interest to do so. Legal principles ought to be valued in themselves, as a means of achieving justice for all. However, the ethnic and religious groups which were lumped together in the Nigerian federation have not developed common values and convictions. Their common history is short and overshadowed by traumatic events; it does not promote a feeling of unity but engenders resentment and mistrust. The collective memory of the Igbo, for instance, is shaped by the experience of discrimination, mass expulsions, and the hunger blockade imposed by federal troops during the Biafra War. Most likely,Nigeriawould have split years ago, were it not for the oil fields in the Niger Delta, from which everyone wants to profit. However, peaceful coexistence cannot be founded on purely material interests. The wish to appropriate the oil wealth which holds the North and the South together, has driven them into a brutal competition. In order to gain access to the state resources, politicians enter into all sorts of alliances, but these marriages of convenience are incalculable and determined by the intention of gaining advantages over their partners. Without a sense of mutual obligations, Nigerians will not learn to trust in joint institutions:

»Rules in African political systems are usually the result of […] opportunistic deals that have little durability because they have been entered into not to abandon the principle of self-interest, but to guard it. There is little scope in such systems for impartial justice, according to which rules are ends in themselves.«[141]

A conference of ethnic nationalities would face a difficult, if not impossible task: »to organize a cultural hodgepodge into a workable polity.«[142] In the long term it would be in everyone’s interest to stick to rules which restrain the contest for power and facilitate accommodation. However, the chance to build mutual trust sinks as soon as one section of the polity commits itself to its separate religious rules. If the will of God is decisive in political matters, it supersedes all laws and contracts which Muslims reach with infidels. Non-Muslims cannot trust such agreements; they must assume that concessions to unbelievers are only valid as long as they opportune. A major concession is that strange regulation which exempts non-Muslims from the severe hudud punishments. It is at variance with divine law, so in principle, infidels have no right to it.[143] Professor Sada, whose institute was responsible for drawing up a uniform Sharia penal code, explained: »this exemption of non-Muslims from the application of the Sharia Penal Codes is seen as a very generous concession.«[144] The question is simply what motivatedNigeria’s Muslims to be so generous. Do they have reasons that still apply when Christians are too weak to defend their liberties?

For Muslims who are interested in the spread of Islam, it cannot be desirable to make the legal position of non-Muslims more attractive than their own. The fate of infidels should not appear to be worthwhile. In a state whose constitution was truly based on Sharia, Christians would be subject to many legal restrictions.[145] As ›protected‹ citizens who have to obey Islamic authority, they would not even be in a position to negotiate their social status. They would be assigned rights and duties by the true believers whom Allah has appointed to lead society.[146]

Of course, Nigeria’s Muslims are pragmatic enough not to insist on the full application of the divine regulations: »an Islamic State […] is not attainable in Nigeria, given the present realities of the country.«[147] If it is futile to fight for a strict Islamic order, then Islamic orthodoxy allows to depart from God’s commands and to enter into extensive compromises with non-believers. But such covenants cannot form the basis of lasting peace, they are only temporary expedients: »The interruption of hostilities, […] according to strict shari’a doctrine could only be a truce, a brief interlude in the otherwise perpetual struggle to Islamize the world.«[148] Islamic organizations in Nigeria are aware that the divine order cannot be realized as long as the political power of non-Muslims remains unbroken: »Sharia […] can only be fully implemented in an Islamic state.«[149] According to the investigations by T. H. Gwarzo in Kano, all Muslim organizations, from the conservative brotherhoods to the radical ›Shiites‹, seek to establish an Islamic state. They differ mainly in their methods. The Shiite-inspired Islamic Movement and other militants want to overthrow the political order, because under present leaders, who have to make deals with their Christian partners in the South, a pure form of the Sharia is not feasible: »there can never be real sharia without shedding of blood […]. Nigeria must be made an Islamic State completely before sharia could be implemented.«[150] Against this militant posture, other organizations assume that Sharia can be implemented gradually and that it is actually an essential instrument for pushing forward the Islamization of state and society.[151]

When trying to establish Islamic law at least in a limited form, it is not advisable for Muslims to remind their antagonists that Sharia requires the submission of non-Muslims. No religious or political leader has demanded that Christians be relegated to dhimmi status. Instead Islamic dignitaries asserted that Islam does not approve of force when dealing with other faiths: »all practicing Muslims know that God has said that there is no compulsion in religion. Therefore Shari’a will not be forced on anybody. It will only be forced on the Muslims.«[152] Since the Koran forbids religious compulsion, it was argued that there was no reason for Christians to be concerned, that indeed, it was incomprehensible why they protested so vehemently, when Muslims turned to the tenets of their faith: »[It is a] historical fact that Shari’a has never had anything to do with non-Muslims.«[153] The authors of these statements know better, of course. Every year Islamic politicians and business people set out by the thousands on pilgrimages to Saudi-Arabia, where they can observe that the strict regulations apply to adherents of all religions. The scope of Islamic law can also be studied in the Sudan, where the government’s attempt to force Sharia on Christians and ›Animists‹ in the South pushed the country into civil war. The majority of those 180 amputations, which Islamic judges ordered since 1984, were performed on non-Muslims.[154] If Nigeria’s Muslims were really content with a diluted form of Sharia that exempts infidels, they would have to name the ethical principles they consider more important than the commands of God. What should otherwise prevent them from altering their opinion and following religious leaders who advocate a consistent Islamization? »a jihad is necessary until Shari’a is established as the governing law in Nigeria.«[155] As long as Muslims do not state for what reasons and according to which criteria they wish to restrict Sharia, nobody can know how far they will seek to take Islamization: »Christian Nigerians would fairly and reasonably think that Muslims are being tactical by demanding now only what they think they can get, until they are able to demand and get more later on.«[156] What gives rise to mistrust is precisely the claim that non-Muslims have nothing to fear from Sharia: »They expected Christians to be ignorant of the status of non-Muslims according to the classical treatises on an Islamic state.«[157]

When debating with Christians, Islamic politicians often quote a sentence in the Koran that promises protection to non-Muslims: »A whole verse of the Quran says there is no compulsion in Religion.«[158] What they did not mention is the context of this verse which relates to (forced) conversions and not to religious compulsion in general. »[The verse] was usually interpreted to mean that those who profess a monotheist religion and revere scriptures recognised by Islam as earlier stages of divine revelation may be permitted to practice their religions under the conditions imposed by the Islamic state and law.«[159] While polytheists and ›idol-worshippers‹ only have the choice between conversion and death, Christians and Jews are granted the right to retain their faith. Their life and property are protected, yet they have to submit to restrictions which are prescribed by Sharia. Where they live in their own communities apart from Muslims, they may administer themselves with their own judges and political authorities. But if they offend the Islamic order or if they commit violent crimes, Sharia prescribes the hudud punishments for them too.[160] Nigeria’s Christians have to reckon that the present, diluted form of Sharia is just one step on the road to Islamization, at least for politicians like Ahmed Sani, who propagate a »pure Islamic law.«[161] In an interview, Governor Sani intimated that the current regulation which exempts non-believers from severe punishments such as amputation, needs to be modified. His reasoning: the Muslims in Zamfara would not accept over the long term that a Christian thief is treated more leniently.[162] The same applies for the ban on blasphemy. When a controversy broke out over staging the Miss World competition in Nigeria, a journalist quipped that perhaps the Prophet would have chosen a wife from among one of the beauties. In response, the government of Zamfara demanded that Islamic law be applied and the Christian journalist be beheaded.[163]

The extent to which Christians become subject to Sharia depends on their ability to defend their liberty – if need be by violent means. They cannot count on the protection of Islamic authorities, because Islamic law does not grant them those civil rights they enjoy under the largely secular constitution. Their rights as Nigerian citizens are only protected, as long as they are strong enough to prevent the spread of Islamic law. A theocracy cannot be established against the resistance of 60 million Christians, so Sharia adherents have to make concessions, but from the perspective of their faith they are not bound to them. As soon as the opportunity arises to impose a purer form of Sharia, they are authorized by divine law to renege on their promises: »All debates, communiqués, resolutions, agreements, treaties which are done by Muslims with non-Muslims outside of an Islamic theocracy, are at best temporal, imperfect and non-binding before Islam. Islam reserves the absolute right of finality.«[164]

Although Islamic politicians dismissed important principles of the constitution, they were not eager to negotiate a new one. The Arewa Consultative Forum, which brings together a significant portion of Northern politicians, rejected the call for a sovereign national conference as »a coup against the North.«[165] When self-determination groups in the South made a first attempt to organize such a conference in April 2006, only a few Northerners attended, and they made it clear that they would rather defend the status quo than risk a radical restructuring.[166] Transforming Nigeria into a looser federation might be a first step towards a complete disintegration which would end the flow of oil money to the North. Moreover, Hausa-Fulani politicians reject the principle of ethnic self-determination, as they do not want to negotiate with representatives of other ethnic groups on the basis of mutual autonomy. As they have »transregional aims and interests based on both precolonial history and religious culture«,[167] they want to stifle autonomist tendencies and incorporate the minorities of the Middle Belt and the Northeast into a wider, religiously-defined North. At the headquarters of the Arewa Consultative Forum, I was told that Islamization helps to »homogenise« the population. In this context of religious politics it is disturbing that Southerners want to assert the secular elements of the Nigerian federation. The Yoruba Agenda, which reflects a wide consensus of politicians, traditional rulers and intellectuals in Yorubaland, insists that »Nigeria must remain a secular state.«[168] As the National Conference was obviously meant, among others, to contain the religious autonomy of the Muslim North, some Northern politicians complained that it »is targeted at destroying the Sharia legal system.«[169] Religious and political authorities in the Muslim North have no interest in a constitutional debate which may set limits for the implementation of divine law. The current practice of simply ignoring undesirable constitutional restraints is preferable to a legal compromise, as it gives Muslim politicians wide latitude to choose between strategies of confrontation or cooperation. Depending on the local balance of forces, they can decide pragmatically in each state, to what extent believers and non-believers shall be subjected to the dictates of Sharia. In Zamfara, they hardly considered Christian interests, while they granted liberal concessions inKaduna. And in the Christian South, where the authorities adhere to secular principles, the Muslim minority claimed the right to be treated equally, to practice their religion and build mosques without hindrance. However, the unregulated coexistence of competing legal systems is a constant source of friction.

A national conference to restructure the federation only makes sense if all participate. As it was unrealistic to expect that North and South would agree on a new constitution, the federal government advocated a pragmatic approach: keep the present constitution and discuss, if there are any modifications all parties can agree upon. In order to debate possible amendments to the constitution, the President convened a National Political Reforms Conference which started in February 2005. Representatives of the Muslim North participated because they had been assured that the conference had only a limited mandate. The continued existence of Nigeria, its presidential system and a few other given facts were not to be questioned. In addition, care was taken to exclude from among the participants the more militant and uncompromising elements of civil society. Most delegates were nominated by the President and the governors, so militia leaders, human rights campaigners and other social activists played just a minor role. The Sharia issue was largely avoided; instead the debate focused on less intractable problems like the derivation formula and rotational presidency. Two participants of the Reform Conference told me that an agreement on these topics was within reach, but the conference derailed when the President tried to manipulate the constitutional reform to create the legal basis for a third term in office.[170] In July 2005, the talks ended without solutions toNigeria’s most pressing problems. It had been the best chance to reach at least a partial settlement, butNigeria’s elites could not even agree on how to react to the greatest threat: the insurgency in the Niger Delta.

Government critics like Wole Soyinka had rejected the President’s conference project from the start. A conference had to be able to decide autonomously, without government interference, and it needed popular participation. All ethnic nationalities should be represented, supplemented by delegates from trade unions, women’s groups and professional organizations. Taking ethnic autonomy as a starting point seemed to be a solid basis for a peaceful federation: »if an ethnic group is treated justly and democratically, it does not usually contemplate secession.«[171] Niger Delta activists, for instance, suggested solving the controversy over oil resources fairly and »democratically.«[172] However, when dealing with autonomous ethnic and religious groups, democratic solutions do not work. The inhabitants of the Delta states constitute less than 20 percent of Nigeria’s population. If a referendum were held, their demand that half of the oil revenues should be remitted to the oil producing areas would be voted down. When they presented their case at Obasanjo’s National Political Reform Conference, a majority of the delegates rejected the 50 percent quota. In protest, the representatives of the Delta people staged a walk out, and when the conference ended, some Delta politicians approached Asari Dokubo, leader of the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force, with a request to resume the armed struggle.[173] Violence is an essential element in their bargaining strategy. To gain concessions, they have to convince the majority groups that it will be too costly for them to disregard the interests of the oil minorities.

Nigeria’s fractured elites are in an unenviable position. They cannot settle their conflicts through the present democratic institutions, but taking ethnic autonomy as the basis for a new constitution is not a realistic alternative. It narrows the scope for compromises and makes agreements even more difficult. If ethnic nationalities are free to decide how they want to associate with others, they cannot be expected to accept majority decisions. Why should they submit to the will of other peoples? A new social contract which stipulates rights and duties of autonomous groups could only be entered on the basis of voluntary decisions: »if Nigeriais desirable, it has to be negotiated, not imposed.«[174] Delegates of a National Conference would have to design a political order acceptable to all, but this is not achievable. Splitting the federation, as some militants have suggested, would not solve the problems either. With the dissolution of a common state, the Igbo, Yoruba and Hausa-Fulani would still face the same controversies: What is the legal status of settlers? Who will protect ethnic diasporas or communities of infidels? Who controls natural resources and trade routes? Furthermore, ethnic republics would not necessarily be more stable. Yoruba and Igbo nationalists assume that democracy, which did not work on an inter-ethnic level, stands a better chance when it is rooted in smaller, ethnically homogeneous societies, bound by common traditions and ties of moral obligations. However, the Igbo never had a strong common tradition. What is today labelled a nation was in precolonial times just an agglomeration of autonomous village groups, without any overarching religious or political institutions. Among the Yoruba, cultural unity played a greater role, yet Yoruba society is rife with sectional rivalries. Critics of ethnic nationalism predicted that an autonomous Yorubaland would be destabilized by the same centrifugal forces which have been tearing the Nigerian federation apart: »the Yoruba […] have seeming unity in a united Nigeria because, of course, they have rivals, the Igbo and particularly the Hausa-Fulani. Now without these people, the Yoruba will go back into a state that also the whitemen met them. You remember the Yoruba wars. They were involved in internecine warfare, the area was totally ungovernable.«[175]

For the minorities of the Delta states, political independence could also trigger a wave of violence. While a few militias claim to fight for a NigerDeltaRepublic, most minorities fear that such a republic would be dominated by the Ijaw, the largest ethnic group in the region. Ken Saro-Wiwa, the Ogoni leader, who was one of the first to call for a national conference, rejected the idea of a common DeltaRepublic. All ethnic groups should administer themselves, though under the auspices of a loose Nigerian federation: »The only law to be in Nigeria is: You are free to rule yourself […] nobody should take care of the other; let everyone care for himself. […] I would like to see […] one Hausa state, one Tiv state, Idoma state, Ijaw state, one Ogoni state.«[176] However, the right of ethnic nationalities to be autonomous does not necessarily lead to a peaceful and equitable coexistence. Minority leaders insist that all ethnic groups, no matter how small, must enjoy the same rights. But who shall guarantee these rights, if power is decentralized? Without protection from the federation, the small Ogoni nation might learn that 20 million Igbo living north of them would not treat them on the basis of equality. Signs of future conflicts are already on the horizon. While campaigning for Igbo secession, MASSOB members circulated maps of a future Biafra Republic which encompassed five of the six Delta states. Representatives of the minorities warned Igbo nationalists not to include any Ijaw or Ibibio villages in their Biafra project, but MASSOB leader Uwazuruike insisted, at least initially, on his annexation plan: His organization is going to liberate not only the Igbo but also the coastal people.[177]

Playing with the Biafraoption does not mean that Igbo politicians are working towards secession. Since the Igbo are major actors in a commercial network that stretches all over Nigeria, the dismemberment of the federation would be a disaster. Despite the inflammatory speeches against the ›religious fanatics‹ and ›killers‹ in the North, Ohanaeze leaders are interested in a joint future, though under conditions that have to be renegotiated. By proposing a looser form of (con)federation, they are offering their counterparts a deal that could profit both sides: The South would continue to transfer a part of the oil revenues to the impoverished North. In return, Igbo or Yoruba migrants would be granted the right to live there without religious harassment. Should violence against Christians escalate because politicians do not restrain their gangs, the South could suspend its cooperation, drain the Northern region financially and block the routes to the ports on the coast. However, the future will not be determined by a rational calculation of Igbo interests. MASSOB’s call for secession has mobilized many young men who believe they have nothing to lose. Igbo elders try to profit from the militancy of their ›boys‹, but they also feel threatened by them: »Those of us who profess one Nigeria are in danger. The youths may eliminate us.«[178]

When Islamic politicians pushed through the Sharia legislation despite all protests, they may have acted out of equally pragmatic considerations. By threatening to allow the religious conflicts to escalate, they could push the Christian President and other politicians in the South to make compromises. However, the politicians are not the only actors in the religious drama. The revival of political Islam has made it easier for ordinary Muslims to unit for a common cause. In the name of Allah, they can confront all political authority, from the Christian President to their own corrupt elite. Though the political class still has much influence on the masses, Sharia enthusiasm has strengthened religious counter-elites who feed on popular discontent.



   [1]           Olisa Agbakoba, President of the Civil Liberties Organisation, in African Guardian,2 May 1994, p. 14.

   [2]           Hyden, Democratisation, p. 55; Ottaway, Ethnic Politics, pp. 310–311.

   [3]           Ukiwo, Ethno-Religious Conflicts, p. 115; Agbu, Ethnic Militias, p. 5, 13.

   [4]           The News, 15 May 2000, p. 20. – »fewer people died in the entire period of military rule than they have now died in the first two year[s] of our democracy” (Kukah, Sharia Law, p. 23).

   [5]           The News, 31 August [7 Sept.] 1998, p. 24; Suberu, Federalism, p. 191.

   [6]           Frederick Fasehun, OPC leader, in Africa Today, February 2000, p. 28.

   [7]           The Week,19 November 2001, p. 34.

   [8]           Byman, Constructing, p. 59; Almond/Appleby/Sivan, Strong Religion, p. 195, 206.

   [9]           Tell,26 March 2001, p. 43.

[10]           Human Rights Watch, Bakassi Boys, pp. 20–23.

[11]           Tell,8 October 2001, p. 20.

[12]           The News,15 May 2000, p. 25.

[13]           Hotline,19 November 2000, p. 9.

[14]           Tell,13 December 1999, p. 19.

[15] Quoted in Adekson, Civil Society, p. 122; cf. Akinyele, Ethnic Militancy, p. 627; Human Rights Watch, O’odua People’s Congress, p. 23.

[16] Human Rights Watch, O’odua People’s Congress, pp. 14–16; Tell,13 December 1999, p. 15.

[17] Adekson, Civil Society, p. 122.

[18] Ikelegbe, State, Ethnic Militias, p. 500.

[19]           Newswatch,4 December 2000, p. 10.

[20] Vanguard, 31 March 2002, p 21; Reno, Gier, p. 297; Financial Times, 23/24 June 2001; Human Rights Watch, O’odua People’s Congress, p. 49.

[21]           The News,10 April 2000.

[22]           Ahmed Sani, in Ibrahim, National Conference, p. 202.

[23] The News, 27 March 2000, p. 13; Tell,27 December 1999, p. 10 and 30 September 2002, p. 3.

[24] Newswatch,6 November 2000, p. 23.

[25] Tell, 31 January 2000, pp. 16, 17, 19; Newswatch,6 November 2000, pp. 21, 23.

[26] The News,13 November 2000, p. 23.

[27] Tell, 7 August 2000, p. 33; Newswatch, 6. 11. 2000, p. 23. – According to Dr. Fasehun, the OPC President, Wole Soyinka was a member of OPC’s »intellectual vanguard.« (Adekson, Civil Society, p. 112)Nigeria’s professional associations and trade unions, church organizations and human rights groups are often dominated by ethnic groups or split along ethnic and religious lines. In his study »The Perverse Manifestation of Civil Society: Evidence from Nigeria« (pp. 1–2, 5, 10) Augustine Ikelegbe criticizes the naive »romanticism« of political observers who see civil society as a democratic force that defends citizens’ rights against an oppressive state: »civil society may become so parochial, divisive, divergent and disarticulative that it actually undermines democracy.« According to Ikelegbe, even human rights organizations rarely cooperate, but compete against each other for financial aid from the West.

[28] Hotline, 18 February 2001, p. 14; Newswatch,4 December 2000, p. 19.

[29] Dr. Datti Ahmed, in The News,15 May 2000, p. 25.

[30] The News,13 November 2000, p. 22.

[31] The News, 13. November 2000, pp. 22–23 and 4 December 2000, p. 19; Economist, 29 January 2000, p. 53; Human Rights Watch, O’odua People’s Congress, pp. 1, 41, 43–44.

[32]           The News,13 November 2000, p. 23.

[33]           The News,31 January 2000, pp. 18–20.

[34]           The News, 4 December 2000, p. 19; Akinyele, Ethnic Militancy, p. 627.

[35]           Tell, 6 August 2001, pp. 32, 34–35; cf. Ebo, Small Arms Proliferation, p. 19–26.

[36] The Source, 30 October 2000, p. 11; Newswatch,6 November 2000, p. 23.

[37] Newswatch, 30 October 2000, p. 22; Human Rights Watch, O’odua People’s Congress, pp. 16–18.

[38] The News,4 December 2000, p. 15.

[39] The News,15 May 2000, pp. 18, 20.

[40] Tell,20 November 2000, p. 25.

[41]           Africa Today, February 2000, p. 20.

[42]           Hotline,19 November 2000, p. 28.

[43]           Ibid., pp. 24, 17.

[44]           Hotline,4 June 2000.

[45]           Dr. Datti Ahmed, in The News,15 May 2000, p. 22.

[46]           Senator BelloMaitama Yusuf, in Newswatch,4 December 2000, p. 14.

[47]           Tell,31 July 1995, p. 12.

[48]           Anthony Okogie, Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, in Newswatch,12 November 2001, pp. 46–47.

[49] Lt.-General Gusau, the former National Security Adviser, gave an interview under the headline: »Why we brought Obasanjo to power.« (Vanguard, 12 December 2006, p. 5) But he, like Ibrahim Babandida, did not reveal the details of the deal.

[50]           The Week, 19 May 2003, p. 11; Tell, 23 December 2002, p. 24; West Africa,18 November 2002, p. 12.

[51]           Maier, This House, p. 20.

[52]           Bergstresser, Nigeria 1999, p. 149.

[53]           Hotline,4 June 2000, p. 11.

[54]           Tell,31 July 2000, pp. 31–32 and 8 April 2002, p. 30.

[55]           Rothchild, Ethnic Insecurity, pp. 330–331; Fearon, Commitment Problems, p. 118; Barry, Social Justice, pp. 37–40.

[56]           Fearon, Commitment Problems, p. 118.

[57]           Ahmadu Abubakar, in The News,13 March 2000, p. 17.

[58]           Hotline,4 June 2000, p. 21.

[59]           Newswatch,4 December 2000, pp. 12, 11.

[60] Col. Abubakar Umar, in Tell,13 November 2000, p. 27.

[61]           Financial Times,20 August 2003.

[62]           Tell, 24 July 2000, pp. 13–18; Tell,15 December 2003, p. 24.

[63]           Tell,24 July 2000, p. 18.

[64]           Newswatch, 16 January 1995, pp. 9–14; Tell,9 October 2000, p. 20.

[65]           Bach, Country, p. 74–75; Economist,29 October 2005, p. 48.

[66]           Diamond, Nigeria, pp. 440-442; Hauck, Demokratisierung, pp. 74–75.

[67]           Reno, Warlord Politics, pp. 202–203.

[68]           New Impression, March 2001, p. 11.

[69]           Economist, 15. 1. 2000,Nigeria Survey, p. 6.

[70]           Tell, 18. 12. 2000, p. 25.

[71]           Tell,18 December 2000, p. 26

[72]           Hotline,4 June 2000, p. 21.

[73]           Hotline,19 November 2000, p. 9.

[74]           Wada Nas, in Weekly Trust,23 November 2001, p. 27.

[75]           Tell,3 February 2003, pp. 34–35.

[76]           Newswatch,4 December 2000, p. 11.

[77]           Muhammadu Gambo, in Tell,15 July 1996, p. 13.

[78]           Most farms in Nigeriacover less than a hectare (Economist Intelligence Unit, Country Profile Nigeria 2005, p. 32).

[79]           Economist, 15 January 2000, Nigeria Survey, p. 5; Economist Intelligence Unit, Country Profile Nigeria 2003, p. 41

[80]           Achebe, Trouble, p. 9.

[81]           De-industrialization progressed under the democratic government (Economist Intelligence Unit, Country Profile Nigeria 2007, p. 24). The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria reported that over 1,800 firms have closed down since 1999 (Herskovits, Nigeria, p. 119).

[82]           Economist Intelligence Unit, Country Profile Nigeria 2007, p. 37.

[83]           Newswatch,25 March 2002, p. 27.

[84]           Civil Liberties Organisation, Sharia, p. 2.

[85] Newswatch,4 December 2000, p. 11.

[86]           See the case study by Malchau, Einkommensstruktur, pp. 109–110, 147–151; Horowitz, Ethnic Groups, pp. 152–154, 245–250.

[87]           The News,15 May 2000, p. 27.

[88] The News,27 March 2000, p. 12.

[89] Meagher, Bakassi Boys, p. 102.

[90]           Anthony Okogie, Catholic archbishop of Lagos, in Newswatch,6 March 2000, p. 13.

[91]           The News,27 March 2000, p. 16.

[92]           Newswatch,20 March 2000, p. 16.

[93] M. C. K. Ajuluchukwu, member of Ohanaeze’s inner circle, in Tell,31 July 2000, p. 26.

[94]           M. C. K. Ajuluchukwu, in Newswatch,10 April 2000, p. 15, 12.

[95]           Tell,2 December 2002, pp. 21, 22.

[96]           Jockers/Peters/Rohde, Wahlen, p. 91.

[97]           Bergstresser, Zweite Wahl, p. 45; Economist, Country Profile Nigeria 2005, p. 7; West Africa, 9 June 2003, p. 12.

[98] Vanguard, 18 December 2006, p. 43.

[99]           Bergstresser, Zweite Wahl, p. 45.

[100]          Peters, Islamic Criminal Law, p. 55; Tell,24 September 2001, p. 27.

[101]          Ukiwo, Ethno-Religious Conflicts, p. 123.

[102] Kogelmann, Sharia Factor, p. 272.

[103]          Mahmoud Ibrahim Attah, in Hotline,19 November 2000, p. 35.

[104]          Bach, Charia, p. 125.

[105]          National Review, Nov./Dec. 2003, p. 40.

[106]          Hotline,19 November 2000, pp. 27, 28.

[107] Economist,28 April 2007, p. 46.

[108]          The transfers from the federation account to the states rose by almost 400 percent between 1999 and 2001. This includes additional payments to the oil-producing states in the Niger Delta (Economist Intelligence Unit, Country Profile Nigeria 2003, p. 29; Bergstresser, Nigeria 2001, p. 155).

[109]          Bach, Country, pp. 72–73; Bergstresser, Nigeria 2002, p. 169; Dibua, Citizenship, pp. 20–22; Ejobowah, Who Owns the Oil?, p. 40.

[110] Another affront to Yoruba (and Igbo) interests was Obasanjo’s decision not to cancel the quota regulations which have favoured Northerners who sought admission to universities or applied for government jobs (Tell, 15 December 2003, p. 27).

[111]          Newswatch, 29 May 2000, pp. 38–40; Tell,17 December 2001, pp. 31–32.

[112] Human Rights Watch, Revenge in the Name of Religion, pp. 40–41; Civil Liberties Organisation, Danger, 385-404.

[113] Tell, 25 December 2006, p. 20.

[114] Herskovits, Nigeria, p. 122.

[115] Economist Intelligence Unit, Country Report Nigeria 2006, p. 21.

[116] This Day,5 December 2006, pp. 1, 4, and 21 December 2006, p. 1.

[117] This Day,21 December 2006, p. 19; New Nigerian,5 January 2007, p. 5.

[118] Looking at the ethnic identity of the head of state can be misleading. Obasanjo’s tenure as military ruler, 1976 to 1979, cannot count as Yoruba presidency, as he was under strong influence of Hausa-Fulani politicians.

[119] Tell,17 April 2000, p. 5.

[120] The News,17 April 2000, pp. 16, 13.

[121] Insider Weekly,20 December 2004, p. 28.

[122] The News,7 February 2005, p. 18 (photo).

[123] M. C.  K. Ajuluchuku, in: Newswatch,10 April 2000. p. 14.

[124] Newswatch, 23 October 2000, pp. 15–16.

[125]          Nuhu Kuso, former Justice Minister of NigerState, in Hotline,3 April 2000, p. 19.

[126]          Hotline, 9 April 2000, p. 36.

[127]          Hotline, 3 April 2000, pp. 17, 20.

[128]          Ibid, p. 20.

[129]          Michael Peel, Niger Delta, p. 17.

[130] Economist, 4 August 2007, p. 12; Africa Research Bulletin. Economic Series, 16 May to15 June 2007, p. 17407B.

[131]          Tell,1 August 2005, p. 49 and 18 October 2004, p. 17.

[132] Ibrahim, Dividends of Democracy, p. 3.

[133] Claude Ake, in The News, 25 November 1996, quoted in Douglas/Ola, Nourishing Democracy, p. 41.

[134] Campaign for Democracy, 1998, in Ibrahim, National Conference, p. 203; cf. Adekson, Civil Society, p. 66; Ejobowah, Who Owns the Oil?, p. 31; Sagay, Nigerian Federalism, p. 95.

[135] Ben Nwabueze, in Newswatch, 23 October 2000, p. 12; Sklar, Unity or Regionalism, p. 46.

[136] Patriots, National Conference, p. 3; Sklar, Unity or Regionalism, p. 46.

[137] Dr. Joshua Maina, Leader of the Middle Belt Movement in Gombe State, in Our Vision. A Pan Middle-Belt News Magazine, January 2002: 23.

[138] Sagay, Nigerian Federalism, p. 95.

[139] Ejobowah, Who Owns the Oil?, p. 32; Jinadu, Ethnic Conflict, p. 15; Bach, Indigeneity.

[140] Among the Yoruba, the »sovereignty of the original indigenes of the land« is so widely accepted that it was included in the Yoruba Agenda, p. 8.

[141]          Hyden, Governance, p. 191; Berman, Ethnicity, pp. 49–50.

[142]          Ilesanmi, Religious Pluralism, p. 163.

[143]          Schacht, Islamic Law, p. 132.

[144]          Sada, Commentary, p. 177.

[145]          Cahen, Dhimma, pp. 227–228; Schacht, Islamic Law, p. 131; Kohlhammer, Islam und Toleranz, pp. 598–599.

[146]          Hodgson, Islam, pp. 317, 322.

[147]          Adegbite, Muslim Leaders, p. 172.

[148]          Bernard Lewis, Middle East, p. 235; Johnson, Holy War, p. 63.

[149]          Gwarzo, Civic Associations, p. 312.

[150]          Abubakar D. Muhammad, Muslim Responses, p. 14.

[151]          Gwarzo, Civic Associations, pp. 312–313. – Murray Last (Charia, p. 147) also emphasizes that support for Sharia is not a matter of Islamic radicalism or ‘fundamentalism’: »ceux qui soutiennent l’application de la charia ne sont pas des radicaux, mais plutôt des musulmans modérés.«

[152]          Muhammadu Buhari, in Hotline, 19 March 2000, p. 12. Similarly Sheikh Ahmed Lemu, formerly Grand Kahdi of Niger State, in Vanguard, 24 March 2002, p. 20.

[153]          Hotline,19 March 2000, p. 25.

[154]          Personal communication, Prof. Sean O’Fahey,NorthwesternUniversity,Evanston,14 May 2003.

[155]          Malam Ture Muhammad, quoted by Birai, Tajdid, p. 197.

[156]          An-Na’im, Future of Shari’ah, p. 330; Danfulani, Commentary, pp. 278–279; Kenny, Commentary, p. 137.

[157]          Kenny, Sharia, p. 347.

[158]          Dr. Lateef Adegbite, in Tell, 31 July 2000, p. 30; cf. Koran 2: 256.

[159]          Bernard Lewis, Middle East, p. 57.

[160]          Cahen, Dhimma, p. 228; An-Na’im, Islamic Reformation, p. 89; Hodgson, Islam, p. 206, 317; Schacht, Islamic Law, pp. 132–133.

[161]          The Week,13 September 1999, p. 17.

[162]          Maier, This House, pp. 184–185. – The same position was taken by Prof. Sada, Director of the Institute for Islamic Legal Studies,AhmaduBelloUniversity,Zaria, at a conference inBayreuth on ›The Shari’a Debate inNorthern Nigeria‹,July 11–12, 2003.

[163]          Tell, 9 December 2002, p. 30; The News,2 December 2002, p. 70.

[164]          Turaki, Shari’a Debate, p. 28. – Discussing the validity of constitutional agreements Dr. Adegbite, the General Secretary of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, pointed out that in Sure 9: 4 the Koran acknowledges temporary agreements with non-believers, and that it urges Muslims to keep them until their term has expired: »pacts between the believers and idol worshippers (who are accursed) have to be observed to the letter provided they the idol worshippers or hypocrites continue to honour the spirit and letter of any pact.« (Adegbite, Muslim Leaders, p. 172) The decision on whether the other side is abiding by the spirit and letter of a pact is down to the Muslims. In a country likeNigeria, with its long history of sectarian violence, they will always find ample opportunity to complain about broken covenants.

[165]          Tell,6 August 2001, p. 55.

[166] Tell, 17. 4. 2006: 35.

[167] Sklar, Unity or Regionalism, p. 43.

[168] Yoruba Agenda, p. 8.

[169] The Week,21 February 2005, p. 17.

[170] Prof Nnoli,Enugu,14 January 2007; Dr. Ezeife,Abuja,22 January 2007.

[171] Douglas/Ola, Nourishing Democracy, pp. 46–47.

[172] Douglas/Ola, Defending Nature, p. 337.

[173] This is what Asarai Dokubo claimed, in Tell,26 September 2005, p. 28.

[174] Agbu, Ethnic Militias, p. 33.

[175] Colonel Abubakar Umar, in Tell, 13 November 2000, p. 25. – Before the British conquest, the Yoruba-speaking peoples had indeed experienced a century of warfare (Ajayi/Smith, Yoruba Warfare, p. 9; Peel, Religious Encounter, p. 27–46).

[176] Saro-Wiwa, Our Oil, pp. 355, 356, 357.

[177] The News, 17 April 2000, pp. 14–15; Newswatch, 29 May 2000, p. 13; The Source,30 August 2004, p. 33.

[178] Dr. Ezeife, in Tell,11 October 2004, p. 21.