FaithWorld

Nigerian elections seal major power shift to largely Christian south

April 29, 2011


(Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan casts his ballot in his home village of Otuoke, Bayelsa state April 16, 2011/Joseph Penney)

A decisive election victory by President Goodluck Jonathan in Nigeria has shifted power firmly to the largely Christian south from the Muslim north and could reopen political fissures in Africa’s top energy supplier.

Violence swept northern cities, leaving hundreds of people dead and many homeless after Jonathan’s crushing victory over his northern opponent Muhammadu Buhari, a former military ruler.

“Jonathan’s landslide, though on the surface it appears like a resounding pan-Nigeria mandate, has brought back with a vengeance all the religious and sectional cleavage, not to mention ethnic bitterness,” Olakunle Abimbola of The Nation newspaper wrote in a column.

Many people see the riots as a reaction by the north to being cut adrift from power and say Jonathan will have to tread gingerly to avoid fuelling resentment in the vast impoverished area. So far the president has said his victory is for all Nigerians and his aides have refrained from being triumphalist.

Although Buhari won in almost all Nigeria’s northern states, Jonathan also picked up millions of votes and his northern backers — particularly in the elite — have high expectations.

After independence from Britain in 1960, the understanding among Nigerians for many years was that the less advanced north held political power, while the south, where Christianity and Western-style ideas have long held sway, controlled the economy.

But that implicit north-south deal was always on shaky ground.

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