ICC Note: 2015 is a year marked already by significant challenges for the Nigerian government and its new president Muhammadu Buhari. Issues that face persecuted Christians rank among the most difficult factors contributing to the country’s fragility. Boko Haram continues to attack, with increased assaults since Buhari’s inauguration, and more than 200 of the Chibok girls remain missing more than one year after their kidnapping in April 2014. Christians collectively breathed a little easier when Buhari’s election resulted in less violence against them than in 2011 when hundreds of churches were burned and thousands were killed in post-election violence. However, Nigeria faces massive challenges and perhaps the most vulnerable population affected by the ongoing issues is the persecuted Church.
NIGERIA: A COUNTRY IS TESTED — BUT PEACE PREVAILS
6/20/15 Nigeria (FP) – 2014 was not without its challenges for Nigeria as the Boko Haram insurgency in the country’s Northeast continued to escalate. The group killed about 2,000 people during the first six months of 2014 — almost as many as during the previous four years combined — and sparked global outrage with its April kidnapping of more than 250 Chibok schoolgirls. Low oil prices put pressure on budgets for a government that relies on oil exports for about 70 percent of its income. The country’s elites grew increasingly factionalized, as it became clear that the opposition All Progressives Congress party posed a real threat to President Goodluck Jonathan’s hold on power. Overall, the country’s score jumped from 99.7 the year before to 102.5, pushing Nigeria into the “High Alert” category. And yet, when it came time to face a crucial test — this April’s elections, and the threat of post-election violence — remarkably, Nigeria passed with flying colors.
In the buildup to the vote, many had expected the largely Muslim North to revolt had Jonathan won another term, and for violence to flare in the Christian South had challenger Muhammadu Buhari emerged victorious. But the country’s leaders, recognizing the potential for bloodshed, took steps to lower tensions before they boiled over: they held forums across the country on the dangers of election violence; Jonathan and Buhari signed a pact promising to respect the outcome, and when it became clear he was going to lose, Jonathan called his challenger to congratulate him — a political move that observers called “unprecedented.”
That Nigeria was able to navigate its election through to a safe and successful outcome reveals the limited predictive power of even time-tested markers of state fragility. With the odds seemingly against them, Nigeria’s leadership exercised restraint, and Nigerian civil society put in place the tools and mechanisms to help calm election violence before it started.