A Nigerian bishop said corrupt leaders play a significant part in the violence that has killed at least 500 people in the last week.
“The mindless violence, killing and destruction in some states of Northern Nigeria, is a tragedy almost definitely instigated and fueled by people and forces who are bent on keeping Nigeria in the dark ages of corruption and fraud and are powerful enough to do so,” said Bishop Emmanuel Ade Badejo of Oyo.
Civil strife broke out across the predominantly Muslim north when the results from the April 16 presidential election showed President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from the south, had won.
Many in the north believe someone from their region should be in power because the elected Muslim president died last year before he could finish his term.
Elections for state governors were held across Nigeria on April 26 but were postponed until April 28 in Kaduna and Bauchi states, the two northern areas hardest hit by violence. An estimated 40,000 people fled those areas because of the violence and it's uncertain whether many would return in time to vote.
In commentary provided by Vatican-based Fides news, Bishop Badejo rejected the idea that the crisis is merely a clash between Christians and Muslims, calling into question the role of local politicians.
“We must no longer deceive ourselves that this is merely the work of miscreants, uneducated people and misguided elements,” he said.
“As the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Nigeria and other Nigerians have repeatedly said just before the elections, if the powerful men and the forces behind these criminal and destructive acts are not prosecuted for such acts, we give them free field to operate, kill, maim and destroy in Nigeria.”
“It is not possible to hold free fair and credible elections where bullets fly overhead and machetes and torches are carried around for the main purpose of causing death and destruction.”
The bishop of Oyo called for increased accountability for corrupt leaders who are perpetuating the country's conflict.
“We must act firmly and fast,” he said. “Politicians are not from another planet. They are among us and can be forensically monitored and investigated if necessary. At times like this, what a leader needs most is courage. And our country needs many of such leaders.”
“All those who act with violence should remember that, throughout history, those who came before them suffered the same miserable fate,” Bishop Badejo warned.