Tag Archives: violence

Female Suicide Bombers: The New Weapon of #BokoHaram?


The above is a podcast interview about Boko Haram’s use of female suicide bombers. Boko Haram has carried out nearly a dozen suicide bombings since 2009, but its use of women as suicide bombers is a new tactic.

Contrary to popular perception, Boko Haram’s cadre includes educated people with degrees in sciences such as chemistry.

Meanwhile nearly 1,000 who fled Boko Haram in Nigeria have arrived in the uninhabited Chadian island of Choua (see images of the refugees above):


Is Nigeria’s Conflict Religious or Political?


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?





The Inside Story on Boko Haram

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 More Bomb Blasts in Abuja and Jos, Nigeria



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 Strikes Again

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.


Oil, Politics and Violence: “A Fascinating Read for Anyone Interested in Nigeria”

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

Another Great Book Review

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?

But then I convinced myself that perhaps, I needed to read such a book. Maybe I needed to learn a bit about this beloved country of mine. Maybe I did need to know just a bit about the military coup culture. That’s what I told myself. I don’t know how much of it I believed, but I managed to convince myself that believed what I told myself.  And so, the reading the began.
To say that this book is like nothing I have ever read would be a gross understatement. Everything I sought in a fiction novel – the drama, suspense, etc – were in this book, too. The only difference is that this was a true account. What was it, if not drama, when Mr. E. O. Oke shamelessly flung a chair during the Region House of Assembly meeting? And Mr. F. Ebubeduike, God bless him, followed suit by grabbing the speaker’s mace AND trying to club the speaker with it. This was in 1962 (two years after our independence). Clearly, our problems started a long time ago.
In Nigeria, it turns out that the best way our leaders could think of dealing with a coup – whether it succeeded or failed – was to plan a counter coup. Yes, and look what mighty favor it has done us. Did you know that before the British people decided to “form” Nigeria, we (the people of Nigeria) couldn’t be any more different from each other? We were a ticking time bomb, and I don’t know if we have gone off yet. Culturally and religiously, we couldn’t be more different.
From the distrust among the Igbos, Yorubas, and Hausas for one another, it is evident that the issues we have today started a long, long time ago. But I did not know this prior to reading this book. For someone who almost did not give a hoot about Nigerian politics (or the coups that preceded it), this book has had quite an effect on me. It left me with a strange feeling of nostalgia, irritation, regret, anger, and enlightenment. I’ve even secretly pictured myself running for office! Sure, I’m pissed at the things that have happened, how they happened, why the happened, and the fact that they would have been avoided. But I now know more than I did.
I’ll sum it up: Max Siollun did an excellent job of delivering the happenings of Nigeria’s infancy in my mind’s eye and in my heart’s head.  He has written the book in such a way that you cannot help but be flooded with some type of emotion, wishing and hoping that you were there because maybe, you would have made a difference. This book exposes our primitive thinking way(s). While we have evolved, started having better cell phone reception and Kentucky Fried Chicken in Lagos, we’re still just that – primitive.
Get the book. Read it. You’re going to love it.

How did Tafawa Balewa Die?

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:



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 Glowing Review! “A BREATH TAKING NARRATIVE” :-)

I want to say a heartfelt thank you to Anote Ajeluorou and the Nigerian Guardian newspaper for this outstanding review that was published in Monday’s edition of the Guardian.


Oil, Politics and Violence: Revisiting Military Adventurism into Politics

Monday, 13 September 2010 00:00 By Anote Ajeluorou Art – Arts

MAX Siollun’s new book Oil, Politics and Violence: Nigeria’s Military Coup Culture (1966 – 1976), (Algora Publishing, New York; 2009) is a historical treatise on military adventurism in Nigerian politics as the infant nation took its first tottering steps shortly after independence. That intervention was to last almost forever, and at a staggering cost to the nation and its quest for democracy.


Himself a historian, Siollun takes his readers through a breath-taking narrative of the socio-political setting of 1960 to 1966, when the tables turned. The ouster of politicians who had behaved badly from power led to the enthronement of a military that was not prepared for the enormity and subtlety of political office. What was worse, the coup, which was led by the majors in the army, was perceived to be sectional because of those killed.

Then there was a counter-coup that led to retaliatory killings of one section within the army. The Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu’s first coup had failed because of several factors. His was purely an idealistic coup to give the reign of leadership to Obafemi Awolowo, who was imprisoned at the time following the corruption of the Abubakar Balewa-led government. His colleagues in Lagos had failed to execute their own part of the coup as he had done in Kaduna leading to Major-General Johnson Aguyi-Ironsi rallying the army to squash the coup in Lagos. Aguyi-Ironsi assumes the office of head of state to stem the breakdown of law and order. But a counter-coup stops him dead in his track following some controversial decrees he promulgated, and the sectional slant to the coup. Northern soldiers go on the offensive and target Igbo soldiers. It spirals into the streets and the consequent infamous pogroms of 1966 that led to the civil war. Siollun also looks at the next nine years following the end of the war and how the military badly fared.

In providing the festering climate for the political logjam that led to the fall of the first republic, Siollun writes, “Underestimating the win-at-all-costs mentality of the Nigerian National Alliance (NNA), the UPGA unwisely decided to bycott the elections on the ground that the NNA was planning to rig it… Due to the widespread electoral malpractices, President Azikiwe refused to call Balewa to form a new government following the elections. For several days, Nigeria teetered on the edge of an abyss as the President and the Prime Minister tried to scheme each other out of power”.

Events in the Wild Wild West did not help matters with Awolowo and Ladoke Akintola locked in their own political struggles to warrant the declaration of a state of emergency in the region. And then onto the coup that was to unsettle Nigeria for most of its political life.
Siollun’s Oil, Politics and Violence: Nigeria’s Military Coup Culture is a well-researched book on Nigeria’s military experience.


The book is unique in many ways. The depth of research into the events, activities, personalities involved in the planning, execution, who did what, how and its implication is stunning.  The author meticulously accessed every record that needed to be accessed to bring to the reader a dense meal of military adventurism into the politics of the most populous black nation on earth.

“Siollun brings a measure of balance and accuracy that has eluded many a writer”

Also, Siollun brings a measure of balance and accuracy that has eluded many a writer on the touchy subject
to bear on his writing. A lot has been written on the subject but most of it with a given mindset to colour and taint the facts. Some writers on the subject have often contradicted themselves on points of facts and sequence of events or personalities involved. Siollun brings all these to bear on his writing as he harmonises them to create an authentic recreation of a critical period of Nigerian political history.

In a sense, Oil, Politics and Violence: Nigeria’s Military Coup Culture resituates the horrendous adventurism of the military and places it starkly for what it was: a political aberration that should never have been! The ills the military set out to cure sooner came to haunt them as the military soon compromised itself, and performed a lot badly than those they deposed from power.


One point in favour of Oil, Politics and Violence: Nigeria’s Military Coup Culture is its pace of narrative. Although, it’s a historical account of what most readers already know, yet it turns out a fascinating read on account of its detailed and accurate reconstruction of events. With the planning, shootouts and executions and murders on such a large scale, it tends to read like a thriller of sorts. This indeed is its strength.

Indeed, but for the horrendous killings of real life persons that accompanied the coups, and the tragic loss of lives during the civil war with the distortion of the polity, the coups as detailed by Siollun would whet the palate of lovers of thrillers with the dexterity of narrative he employs. The book is well worth a rereading for its cinematic affect!

Can Jonathan End the Niger Delta Crisis? Time for Outside Help?


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?