Violence in Plateau State between Muslim Fulani and Christian Birom. Is is about religion, ethnicity or the legal status of the “settler” and “indigene” dichotomy in Nigeria?
A series of articles, videos and programmes on Boko Haram outlining the group’s aims and origins. Boko Haram was founded in 2002 by Mohammed Yusuf (who was captured and killed by Nigerian security forces). Yet the group continues to attack, bomb and kill targets including churches, Nigerian police officers and soldiers, and other targets. What does Boko Haram want?
Although the group is referred to in common parlance as “Boko Haram”, it calls itself by an Arabic phrase “jama’atu ahlis sunna lidda’awati wal-jihad”, which translates to “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad”. It believes Nigeria is being ruled by non-believers (even when the country was governed my a Muslim President – Umaru Yar’Adua), and is against western education, dress and modern science.
The rise of Boko Haram:
Nigerian Churches say Boko Haram attacks are a “declaration of war”:
Two bomb blasts have been reported during Christmas service in Nigeria. The first blast was near at a Catholic church near the Nigerian capital Abuja. Reports say about 20 people were killed.
The first blast was near St Theresa’s Church in Madalla. A second explosion struck the Mountain of Fire Ministries church in the city of Jos.
Attention will inevitably be focused on Boko Haram. Were they responsible for the latest bomb blasts?
Boko Haram has killed 65 people after a suicide bombing and series of gun attacks in the town of Damaturu in Yobe State, north eastern Nigeria. Boko Haram apparently attacked several churches, mosques and a government office.
By Maggie of Sociolingo. Maggie is a sociolinguist with a PhD in education and a keen interest in African affairs.
Jan 18, 2011
In the year that many Nigerians celebrate their 50th Anniversary of Independence, it is also an opportunity to reflect on all that has happened since 1960. If you do a search on Amazon you’ll find quite a number of Nigeria books published around this anniversary.
One of these books, Oil, Politics and Violence: Nigeria’s Military Coup Culture 1966-1976, is by Max Siollun, a well respected Nigerian historian, who has a gift of making the history of this complex country clearer to non-specialists.
In his book Siollun opens up one of the most troublesome and distressing periods in Nigeria’s history and introduces us to the mindset of the Nigerian military which has so influenced the turmoil that ensued following independence. Although the book is a historical narrative, it goes beyond ‘dry’ dates and events to take the reader on a journey. The author does this by utilising recently de-classified material and old intelligence reports together with personal knowledge and in depth analysis .
I like the way this book sets the scene by presenting us with a series of maps at the beginning. Before the opening pages we are presented with a map of the major ethnic groups, although I’m not quite sure why that map was not included with the other maps in the preface as it would go better with the map of major Nigerian languages and the more general map locating Nigeria in Africa would have been better in its place, but that is just my preference. The series of historical maps in the preface cover the political development from the four regions of 1966 to the present 36 States and are worth referring back to from time to time.
It is impossible to appreciate the political complexity of Nigeria without a passing understanding of how the country came into being, its ethnic complexity and its mineral wealth and this book provides good background material in the preface and the opening chapter for those who are not so familiar with Nigeria. The writer introduces us to these issues in the opening chapters by describing the situation leading up to independence and introducing us to several strands - political and military – which culminate in the post-independence turmoil of 1966 which was a pivotal and dreadful year.
It is important to understand that like many African countries ‘Nigeria’ was an artificial construct.
The country was artificially constructed by a colonial power without the consent of its citizens. Over 250 ethnic groups were arbitrarily herded together into an unwieldy and non-consensual union by the UK. Nigeria was so ethnically, religiously and linguistically complex that even some of its leading politicians initially doubted it could constitute a real country.
The division of the huge area called Nigeria into the original 3 Regions by the British in the earlier part of the 20th century was largely pragmatic. The very large Northern Region was predominantly Muslim and dominated by the Hausa and Fulani, while the predominantly Christian south was dominated by two competing groups, the Yoruba and the Igbo. Among these main groups were 250 other ethnic groups of varying size. Most ethnic groups had little in common, and Siollun says that ‘The cultural differences between the ethnic groups made it virtually impossible for Nigerians to have any commonality of purpose’. It was within this artificially constructed maelstrom that political divides took on the identity and ideology of the these three geo-political regions. The Western Region in the south was further divided into a Mid-Western region in 1963 after rising tensions and what could almost be considered the first coup plot. The antagonism between the north and south continued after independence and was further exacerbated by the fragmentation in the more numerous south and the uneven distribution of mineral wealth.
It is as a military historian that Siollun has his strength and this shows in his masterly analysis in the chapters that introduce the military background to the coups and the detailed description and analysis of the coups themselves. In some ways, although this is devastatingly real, I was reminded of a detective novel as the protagonists are revealed and their motives and actions analysed.
It would be tempting to give you a chapter by chapter summary of how the coup culture developed, but you’ll just have to read the book to understand the depth of detail that gives a fascinating insight into the way that friends can become rivals and enemies, and to see how Siollun answers the question of ‘how an apolitical professional army with less than fifty indigenous officers at independence in 1960 became politicized and overthrew its country’s government less than six years later’.
The lessons to be learnt from the critical analysis in this book are grim but necessary reading. Siollun’s final points are that ‘most of the coups …. were carried out by the same cabal of officers, and that ‘an unpunished coup will be followed by a bloodier coup’. It is also significant that it was only after 1999 when ‘all the serving army officers who had held political office for 6 months or more were compulsorily retired’ that the events set in motion in 1966 that lead to the military coups and military rule were able to be put to rest.
I think this book will become a seminal source for Nigerian historians and will be a fascinating read for anyone interested in Nigeria and in how coups develop.
Oil, Politics and Violence: Nigeria’s Military Coup Culture (1966-1976) by Max Siollun, Algora Publishing, New York. 2009 ISBN: 9780875867083
I want to say another big thank you for a marvellous review. This time to Vera Ezimora. That’s two great book reviews this week. Last week I was thanking Anote Ajeluorou and the Guardian newspapers. Today I am thanking Vera. Her full review is below:
Book Review: Oil, Politics and Violence by Max Siollun
When I got this book, I was terrified. The two hundred and fifty-five pages, the title of the book (Oil, Politics, and Violence), and what seemed like a smaller than normal font that hugged the white pages, it all terrified me. When will I finish this book? The book wasn’t about fictional characters with dynamic personalities. It wasn’t a book with a plot full of suspense or drama. It was a book based on facts. Political facts. Nigerian political facts. Nigerian political facts on its military coups. Great. Could it get any worse?
A lot has been said recently about the death of Nigeria’s first Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. A few weeks ago, Matthew Mb u (a former Minister) alleged that Balewa was not killed by soldiers during Nigeria’s first military coup as has been alleged, but actually died of an asthma attack while under their custody. See:
Then Femi Fani-Kayode (son of “Fani Power:) posted a rebuttal of Mbu’s claims:
Things have now taken another turn with The Nation newspaper alleging that Balewa was killed up to five days after the coup. Read on:
*UPDATE – SEPTEMBER 27*
The Nation has interviewed two more witnesses. An actual participant in the coup alleges that Balewa was shot:
……and another witness claims the PM was NOT shot:
Interview with Balewa’s son
Interview with retired security office Alhaji Mohammed Gambo Jimeta
Interview with police officer that found Balewa’s body
Statement of Balewa’s ADC to the Police
Matthew Mbu apologises for his comment about Balewa’s death
Official Federal Military Government Announcement of Balewa’s death:
Discovery of Balewa’s Body:
Claims that Balewa was killed FIVE DAYS after Jan 66 Coup
The revent Balewa news took a bizarre twist when a man claiming to be the former PM’s son waskidnapped, then freed by security forces – only to be disowned by Balewa’s family who claimed no knowledge of him!
Another insightful article from the Economist asking what will become of the Niger Delta anmesty programme now that a ‘local’ man from the Delta (Goodluck Jonathan) is the President. Since the amnesty programme last year, there is little news of what became of the militants that accepted amnesty. Does the solution lie in getting international bodies like the United Nations to supervise the process?
I had the opportunity to listen to a talk by Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi. The Governor was his usual slick and charming self. After a talk on development projects and initiatives he has undertaken in his state, he took some (often hostile!) questions from the audience.
Those who want to know more of Amaechi’s views should view the documentary about militancy in the Niger Delta I posted last year. It has an interview with him by Ross Kemp: http://maxsiollun.wordpress.com/2009/06/22/pirates-in-nigeria/
I was very impressed by his oratory and analysis of the Amaechi is a very good politician. Like a good politician he knows his audience and how to say what they want to hear. He gave a very interesting talk explaining that he met a derelict and underfunded treasury and state when he took over as Rivers State Governor in 2007. He explained his government’s initiatives in prioritizing the building of new schools and hospitals and greatly improving the security situation in Rivers State.
Niger Delta Militants and Amnesty
Obviously the audience were very interested in the Governor’s comments regarding the Niger Delta. Amaechi’s stance on the issue is well known. He regards it as one of criminality. He says of the Niger Delta militants that “80% of them are criminals”. His view was that if the government cannot find a legal means of allowing people to access Nigeria’s oil wealth, then they will find an ILLEGAL one.
For this reason he opposed the amnesty declared last year by former President Yat’Adua. However he did admit that the amnesty has worked because it has permitted an increase in oil production from 700,000 barrels a day before the amnesty to 2.2 million barrels per day today. The Governor was pleased by this as it gave him more money (from derivation royalties) for his state.
The Governor said that the militants were armed by the elite for political purposes, then used their guns for militancy after escaping the control of their political pay masters. Amaechi basically thinks that many people have exploited the sympathy and publicity of the Niger Delta issue for their own money making purposes. People in his view, tag on to it and call themselves “militants” when they are in fact criminals.
“If the government does not cater for the poor, then the rich will not live comfortably”
Amaechi refused to be drawn on whether Goodluck Jonathan should run in next year’s presidential election. A firm “no comment” was his reaction.
I was impressed by the Governor’s talk. Although some parts of his talk sounded like a party political broadcast on his own behalf, he made many salient points. He said that if the government does not cater for the poor, then the rich will not live comfortably.