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The Africa Confidential Blog

  • 18th February 2021

Clashes reach Nigeria's south-west

Blue Lines

Clashes between Yoruba and Fulani youths in Ibadan, one of the biggest cities in west Africa, escalated over the weekend of 13-14 February amid local reports that some 20 people had been killed and thousands driven from their homes. Seyi Makinde, governor of Oyo State in Nigeria's south-west, closed the city's main market and imposed a dawn to dusk curfew across the affected area. 

Although a comparatively trivial incident triggered the latest clashes, local officials say they have their roots in the tensions between cattle herders and settled farmers which have spread southwards from the middle belt where they had been raging before the 2019 elections. Some local militants accuse Fulani herders of taking over and destroying farmland and being linked to the growing incidence of kidnapping. 

As the clashes spread, President Muhammadu Buhari called for religious and traditional leaders 'to join hands with the government to ensure that communities are not splintered along ethnic and other primordial lines'. 

The government's security failures have become the national issue. Some think the clashes are linked to the political calendar.  Convention dictates that the ruling party's presidential candidate in the 2023 elections should be from the south. But should large parts of the region descend into chaos, there would be a pretext for breaking it.