Nigeria—its vast population evenly split between Muslim and Christian—is counting down to another presidential election, scheduled for February 2015. This report raises a number of questions about the relationship of religious identity and internal conflict and the consequences of a polarized election. Do religious symbols exacerbate or mitigate conflict, especially during an electoral season? What are the interfaith efforts to ameliorate or mitigate ethno-religious conflict? What are the consequences of a polarized election?

Summary

  • Nigeria is by far the largest country in the world—with a population of just over 180 million—evenly divided between Muslims and Christians.
  • The 2011 presidential election split the country along ethno-religious-regional lines. Thus, concerns for the upcoming 2015 election are widespread.
  • Muslims in Nigeria include Sufi, Izala, women’s organizations, student organizations, emirate traditions, and ordinary people, as well as Boko Haram extremists. Christians range from Catholic to mainstream Protestant to Evangelical to Pentecostal to African syncretism.
  • The candidates in the upcoming election are the same as in 2011: Muhammadu Buhari for the All Progressive Congress party (APC) and Goodluck Jonathan for the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP).
  • At the national level, the APC is running on the themes of security and anticorruption, the PDP on the theme of transformation.
  • The APC believes that it can sweep seventeen of the nineteen northern states as well as the southwest. The PDP is confident that it can win the south-south and southeast as well as parts of Middle Belt. Such a scenario could set up ethno-regional tensions in the aftermath of the election.
  • The presidential election is scheduled for February 14, 2015. State-level elections, including for governors, are set for February 28, creating a possible bandwagon effect after the presidential election for whichever party wins. Postelection court challenges follow. The inauguration is scheduled for May 29.
  • Do religious symbols exacerbate or mitigate conflict, especially during an electoral season? What are the interfaith efforts to ameliorate or mitigate ethno-religious conflict? What are the consequences of a polarized election?
  • How might recent patterns of extremist violence—with ethno-religious implications—affect this election? The question is framed in the context of broader patterns of religious identity and conflict that have plagued Nigeria’s Fourth Republic.
  • Most important will be a national election such that whoever wins, it will stand as a milestone in the quest for democratic practices rather than as a testament to a failed state.

About the Report

Focusing on the political countdown to Nigeria’s upcoming presidential elections, this report assesses the apparent ethno-regional basis of the country’s two national political parties and raises questions about the relationship of religious identity and internal conflict. The report is sponsored by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), which has a long-term commitment to peacebuilding in Africa.

About the Authors

John Paden is currently Clarence Robinson Professor of International Studies at George Mason University and earlier served in Nigeria as professor of public administration at Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria and as founding dean at Bayero University in Kano. In August 2014, he participated in the Interfaith Initiative for Peace national conference in Abuja, “The Imperative of Interfaith Understanding and Cooperation for Responsible Politics.” An international election observer to Nigeria in 1999, 2003, and 2007, he is the author of numerous publications on the country.

Related Publications

It’s Time to End ‘Business as Usual’ With Nigeria

It’s Time to End ‘Business as Usual’ With Nigeria

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

By: Oge Onubogu

Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s visit this week to Nigeria is timely, for Africa’s demographic giant is shuddering with its most dangerous instability in 50 years: insurgencies, uncontrolled criminality and constrictions of freedom of expression. Nigeria is failing to fulfill basic tasks of a nation-state, and its partners need to halt “business as usual” to open an honest dialogue about the current failings. For the United States, this means dropping some old practices in the way America engages Nigerians. U.S. engagements must center more on Nigeria’s citizenry, notably the 70 percent who are younger than 35, and with Nigeria’s 36 disparate states. 

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & GovernanceGlobal Policy

Six Alternative Ways to Measure Peace in Nigeria

Six Alternative Ways to Measure Peace in Nigeria

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

By: Yagana Bukar;  Chris Kwaja;  Aly Verjee

When measured by the death toll, Nigeria seems beset by violence. By some accounts, the COVID-19 pandemic has made experiences of violence even more common — notably, Nigeria recorded a 169% increase in abductions between 2019 and 2020. While quantifying violence is relatively straightforward, defining what peace means to ordinary Nigerians has been largely overlooked, even if such definitions may be more meaningful. By exploring more nuanced understandings of peace, how these vary between and across communities, and finding which indicators of peace are most valued, peace might be better pursued. We went in search of how people in the states of Bauchi, Kaduna, Nasarawa and Plateau define peace. Here are six of our most important findings.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & PreventionFragility & Resilience

The Current Situation in Nigeria

The Current Situation in Nigeria

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

As Africa’s most populous country, largest economy and most notable democracy, Nigeria is a bellwether for the continent. A weakening economy, rising insecurity and violent conflicts threaten progress made in its democratic development. Amid deepening distrust in government and institutions, Nigeria has significant work to do in improving national, state and local security and governance ahead of national and state elections in 2023.

Type: Fact Sheet

View All Publications