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Nigeria Briefing

26 May 2023

Briefing prepared for UK parliamentarians in April 2023. Click here to download the full briefing as a PDF.

Nigeria’s recently concluded elections were not only marred by violence, voter suppression and other irregularities; they are also deemed to have been among the most divisive in the nation’s history. 

Events both prior to and following the elections are exacerbating two of Nigeria’s most sensitive fault lines, with the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) playing a significant role, initially through its decision to adopt an electoral strategy that departed from the traditional convention of a mixed faith presidential ticket in a move which the majority in the Christian community both within and outside the party deemed as ‘feed[ing] into a religious exclusivism that is inconsistent with the healing balm that a major political party such as the APC – or any other party – should be deploying at this crucial stage of the country’s political development, when instability and insecurity are at such unprecedented levels.’ 

The party deepened the religious community’s feelings of unease by effectively claiming there were no northern Christian candidates sufficiently qualified for the role of vice president, mustering a collection of oddly dressed fake church leaders to endorse the Muslim-Muslim ticket on camera, who were later caught on camera changing their costumes and receiving payment for their services in a car park. Later the governor of Kaduna alienated northern Christians further by appearing to dismiss their electoral numerical value by stating: ‘but how many are they? How many?’ 

The APC’s campaign strategy was also increasingly marked by the denigration of the Igbo tribe, the ethnicity of the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, who is generally considered the true winner of the presidential election. This ethnicity-laced rhetoric became particularly vociferous once the Labour Party was seen to have a clear lead in the commercial capital, Lagos, which was previously assumed to have been the stronghold of the APC presidential candidate Bola Ahmed Tinubu. This denigration has continued since the elections, including from presidential spokespersons who project their own party’s religious exclusivity on Mr Obi, despite the Labour Party’s mixedfaith presidential ticket, and attempt to equate him with the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), a separatist movement which the Nigerian authorities declared a terrorist movement even before it took up arms. 

The former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria and deposed Emir of Kano, Muhammed Sanusi, recently observed that Nigeria is currently more divided than it was during the 1967-70 civil war: ‘We have a country that has been divided dangerously along ethnic and religious lines.’ In a further indication of the damage done by the APC strategy, former president Olusegun Obasanjo has described the elections as a ‘sickening show of shame’ and stressed the need for any incoming administration to foster national reconciliation and a common vision.

Click here to download the full briefing as a PDF.



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