Nigeria’s federal system and politics are deeply flawed, contributing to rising violence that threatens to destabilise one of Africa’s leading countries. Failing to encourage genuine power sharing, they have sparked dangerous rivalries between the centre and the 36 states over revenue from the country’s oil and other natural resources; promoted no-holds-barred struggles between interests groups to capture the state and its attendant wealth; and facilitated the emergence of violent ethnic militias, while politicians play on and exacerbate intercommunal tensions to cover up their corruption. The government has been quick to brand many of the symptoms, especially the rise of militancy, as simple criminality to be dealt with by more police and more troops. But unless it engages with the underlying issues of resource control, equal rights, power sharing and accountability, Nigeria will face an internal crisis of increasing proportions.