Yes, our eyes are trained on the soap opera of the fuel subsidy protests and the re-invigoration of Nigerian civil society, but we should all be very worried about the North. Here’s why.
1 – Before fuel subsidy protests, we were facing an emboldened Boko Haram striking seemingly at will at a mosque around New Years’ Day and a church on Christmas day (you can read on this here), and a Nigerian government that has shown that it has no answer to their brutality. Arrests were made on the Christmas bombings, but thanks to focus on the fuel subsidy issue, many Nigerians did not notice that persecution and investigation of the Christmas Day attacks have stalled.
The worst thing that can happen to the situation in the north is for Nigerian media to look away in favor of another story. With the fuel subsidy taking over media coverage and the presidency’s continued ineffectiveness in security issues, the situation in the north will continue to worsen.
2 – The State of Emergency has done absolutely nothing to improve the situation of the northern states most impacted by Boko Haram attacks. There have consistently been attacks since the closing of borders and heightened surveillance in the state, and the Boko Haram has been so bold as to release a video justifying their attacks on their most recent killings of Christians (perhaps they will release another justifying their killings on Muslims). With their ultimatum for southerners to leave the north, the islamist sect has declared itself owner of the north and determiner of who stays and who does not while the government looks on impotently. Following the group’s ultimatum for Christians to leave the north, they since killed 12 in Adamawa on the 7th of January, 8 in Yobe, and that's just to name a few of the atrocities carried out by Boko Haram in January.
3 – If the situation worsens we will start to see reprisal killings of a higher and higher scale. During the fuel subsidy protests in Benin, there has been the burning of a mosque and citizens have reported killings of Hausas in the Sabo area of Benin on twitter. Following the bombing of an Islamic school in Sapele, Delta State, Many southern regional groups like the Igbo Massob and the Yoruba Oodua People's Congress, and the south-south Niger-Delta Youth for Radical Change have called for northerners to leave the south-east. Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) vow to defend Nigerian Christians from Boko Haram (without elaborating on how) certainly does not help with the petering away of trust that Nigerian society, as any other forward-moving society, is built on. In addition to worsening economic climes and intra-national security, the last thing Nigeria needs is wide-spread ethnic tension and reprisal killings.
It is not clear that there is anyone that GEJ even must listen to on the issue of fuel subsidy. He will get no pressure from his political party; Nigerians vote personalities, not parties, into power for gubernatorial or presidential elections, so PDP could still win another election regardless of how unpopular Jonathan becomes in his final term as president. It makes sense, then, that GEJ would rather the Nigerian populace focus on the fuel subsidy protests than on the rapidly deteriorating security situation: one problem he has the power to control, and the other he so patently does not.
The situation cannot stay a stalemate for long; the senate president has been asked by his members to tell the president to revert the pump price to N65.00, but there is as yet no official word from the President. With the protests and strike entering its fourth day, one wonders how long the protesters can conceivably hold on, how long the labour can hold its ground and maintain support, and how much pain the presidency is willing to allow be inflicted upon the citizenry.