A monumental amount of naivety is being displayed by those heralding the election of Muhammadu Buhari as a new democratic dawn for Nigeria. I certainly hope that Jonathan’s concession does lead to a peaceful transition. But analyses which ignore the tribal factor are worthless. What has happened since 2011 is simply that the Yoruba have changed sides and swung behind Buhari. They did so largely because of his Yoruba running mate, married to a granddaughter of Awolowo. Awolowo is relevant because the map of the results looks just like the disposition of forces at the start of the Biafran war, with the Yoruba/Northern alliance back in existence.
I confess I am relieved that Buhari won, as the Muslim north would simply not accept a fourth consecutive southern Christian presidency, a potential situation which arose due to the death of Yar Adua. I feared very substantial violence following a Jonathan victory. Nigeria is spared that, and this tumultuous, sprawling and totally illogical colonial creation will be able to hang together a while longer. A northern Muslim President is better placed to crack down on Boko Haram, though given the abysmal condition and discipline of Nigeria’s armed forces I remain dubious about how effective this will be.
What will not change is the abysmal poverty, inequality, pollution and corruption. Buhari claims to be a reformed character, but his previous military dictatorship was characterised by massive corruption and human rights abuse, some of which – like his imprisonment of Fela Kuti – was hard to explain. Fela was only released by Buhari’s overthrow.
As ever, I shall watch events in Nigeria with great interest. I have fond memories of the countryside around Buhari’s home town of Katsina. But naive reactions like those of the Robert Kennedy Centre for Human Rights which sees this as a “watershed moment” for Africa will, I predict, only lead to great disappointment.