It is not easy to convey the idea of the chaos prevailing in the northern part of the Federation of Nigeria. Nothing is easy in Nigeria. Religious tension flared up just as the military regime came to an end, in 1999. Once the country was freed from dictatorial rule, it split in two once again. Nigeria is an extraordinarily diverse society with more than 200 ethnic groups, and was amalgamated as one country under British colonial rule when Lord Lugard was Governor in 1914. One century later, the amalgamation appears both obsolete and insoluble.

This report began with the presidential election which triggered political tension, made immediately worse by religious conflict. When the Muslim opposition candidate Muhammadu Buhari was defeated by Goodluck Jonathan, the North lost any real political influence and is now effectively sidelined for the next three years. This proved too much for the people to bear; their sense of frustration at being used and exploited by corrupt politicians could no longer be contained, and within a few days 800 people had died. In the mainly Christian South, which has the oil reserves, the economy was thriving - it is one of the most dynamic economies in Africa. In the North, 75% of the population live on less than 150 euros a year. In the North, the economy is declining and illiteracy has reached record levels.

Widely portrayed both at home and internationally as a savage war of ideological extremists – a front-line battle in a global clash of civilizations – the country's sectarian crisis, in truth, has little to do with religion and a lot to do with desperation, ubiquitous poverty, and the increasingly flawed democracy of a failing Nigerian state. Resolution of the conflict will likely determine the future of Africa's most populous nation.