As the presidential and gubernatorial elections approach in Nigeria, the rift in the country is becoming evident. Nigeria has been a country of magnificent paradox. On the one hand, it exports petroleum worth $45b (being the world’s 6th largest oil exporter) and on the other, around 70% of its population languishes in perpetual poverty. Oil contributes about 90% of the export earnings of Nigeria and 80% of government revenue, and unlike the oil rich sheikhdoms of West Asia, this wealth hasn’t translated into anything tangible for the Nigerians. Endless strife between the Christians and Muslims has not only ratcheted up tensions, but has also reduced any semblance of democracy to a chimera for the 130m Nigerians. Despite incumbent president Olusegun Obasanjo’s concerted efforts, neither the might of the military nor the clout of resurgent oil mafia has waned. Oil dealers in the region have reportedly adopted with impunity practices like murders and kidnapping in order to generate wealth for a select few. The barrels of ‘Black Gold’ in Nigeria have led to nothing but a serious crisis. The recently constituted Economic and Financial Crime Commission noted that in 2005 alone, oil revenues worth $14b were stolen in Nigeria.
Also, ironically, none of the 30 political parties that are contesting the forthcoming elections, have raised their voice against the simmering tension between the ethnic groups of Yoruba, Igbo and Hausa. Not only that, the simmering anger of 22m residents of the volatile Niger delta has similarly been ignored.
The elections in Nigeria have much in store for the country, as also for the rest of Africa. The issues have not only ranged from military interference to ethnic dissention, but finally to the future of democracy in the region. Oil might have translated into wealth for a select few, but it definitely has not solved the problems that have ranged against the citizens in the country.