How a spilled basket of tomatoes paralysed Nigeria

It started with a squashed tomato that led to a killing. It has since escalated into clashes that have taken at least 20 lives and a standoff between northerners and southerners that has paralysed Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation.

Last month a porter carrying a basket of tomatoes in the crowded Shasha market in Ibadan, a city in south-western Nigeria, accidentally spilled his cargo, leaving a pulpy mess. An argument with a nearby shopkeeper over the clean-up soon took an ethnic turn. The porter, who spoke Hausa (a language that identifies him as coming from Nigeria’s north), took a blow from a Yoruba man. As the porter fought back, his assailant slumped, mortally stricken.


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