Is Nigeria Heading Towards A Civil War?

As sectarian and religious violence escalates across Nigeria there has been a growing fear that Africa’s most populous country is hurtling fast towards a civil war.

Many analysts, among of them Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka have said there are comparisons between current events and the ones before the civil war of the 1960s.

This comes on the back of widespread violence by the militant Islamic sect Boko Haram, with attacks on churches leaving dozens dead.

In the run-up to Nigeria’s 1967-70 civil war more than a million were killed  with  theIgbos, who are overwhelmingly Christian, massacred in the country’s north.

Soyinka blames a lot of the violence on politicians who preached religious hatred :

There are people in power in certain parts of the country, leaders, who quite genuinely and authoritatively hate and cannot tolerate any religion outside their own.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan gave credence to this when he said some of the Boko Haram could be found in his government:

Some of them are in the executive arm of government; some of them are in the parliamentary/legislative arm of government, while some of them are even in the judiciary. Some are also in the armed forces, the police and other security agencies.

The Boko Haram gave Christians a 3-day ultimatum which expired last Wednesday to vacate the north. Since then, violence has intensified. The fuel subsidy strike has made it difficult for people to move, while the federal government has told the Christians to stay put as they had a right to live where they wanted to. Such a statement has however not been backed by strong action to protect those under risk.

Meanwhile, a militant group in the Niger Delta has warned that it will be forced to retaliate the killing of Christians and other Southerners by Boko Haram, if the federal government failed to tackle the security challenges in parts of the country. It described the actions of the sect as one provocation too many.

Said, Ayo Oritsejafor, head of the Christian Association of Nigeria, said after a meeting of church leaders on Saturday:

Declaring state of emergency in some local governments obviously has not done any good. Definitely we are going to do what we have to do to protect ourselves. We cannot seat back and watch people being slaughtered like animals, everyday, going to the church place of worship, shooting them, this is unacceptable”

It seems that Nigeria is ripe for a civil war.