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Insight: Why Nigeria’s Restive Oil Region Will Only Accept Jonathan

Nigeria President Goodluck Jonathan gestures, during an election campaign rally, at Tafawa Balewa Square in Lagos, Nigeria, Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015. The president launches his bid for re-election at a time when Africa’s biggest oil producer is more divided than ever, amid a growing Islamic uprising in the northeast and slumping oil prices and the naira currency biting into people’s pockets. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)
Nigeria President Goodluck Jonathan gestures, during an election campaign rally, at Tafawa Balewa Square in Lagos, Nigeria, Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

Tim Cocks, REUTERS

 
OTUOKE, Nigeria (Reuters)—The most impressive building in Otuoke, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan’s home town in the oil producing Niger Delta, is the multi-storey mansion complex he has built for himself and close family while in office.

A few hundred meters away, the street where he grew up is a jumble of rusting iron-roofed shacks. Down a dirt side alley, Happiness Ebi smokes fish on a charcoal barbecue, a staple in this swampy southern region.

“We haven’t really seen much benefit since our brother became president, except the university,” she says, referring to the shiny Federal University Otuoke, completed in 2011, that has about 1,000 students and nearly a third more staff.

“But there’s no light, no water here. We’re disappointed.”

Yet she will vote for him again in a presidential election set for March 28. “Of course,” she says, “He’s our brother.”

Her answer reveals why the delta, historically one of Nigeria’s most marginalized regions although its oil provides three quarters of government revenue, could erupt again if Jonathan leaves office.

 

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