Boko Haram was founded in 2002 by Mohammed Yusuf, a Muslim cleric and Wahhabi theologian who created a school promoting radical Islamic principles (United States Institute of Peace, 2012). The derivation of Boko Haram translated means “Western education is a sin” (Owolade, 2014).
Under Yusuf’s leadership, Boko Haram furthered its radical agenda with a bloody campaign of violence against rural communities. (Ndege & Essa, 2013). After Yusuf died in police custody in 2009, Abubakar Shekau rose to power and continued to spread the sect’s extremist philosophies. (Dorrell, 2014).
Violence increased after the 2010 election of President Goodluck Jonathan, a Southern Christian (Owolade, 2014). The Boko Haram sect waged war against the presiding political leadership and sought to create a “pure Islamic state ruled by strict shari’a law” (United States Institute of Peace, 2012).
In the early 1800s, a jihad, demanding Islamic principles and opposing political oppression by Hausa rulers, was joined by both Hausa Muslims and Fulani soldiers. Following the success of the jihad, the Fulani and Hausa replaced the ruling dynasty and the “emirate system” was created. The assimilation of culture and tradition proved to be influential in shaping the Islamic identity of Hausaland during the colonial period and continuing to present day in Northern Nigeria (Turaki, 1993).
During the late 19th century, both the British and the French sought to extend their empires to Hausaland. By the early 20th century, the British controlled Nigeria and divided the state into northern and southern Nigeria; a short while later, both protectorates were combined to form the Protectorate of Nigeria (Bah, 2005). The southern region was eventually occupied by Christian missionaries at the behest of the British and remains predominately Christian today (Chidi, 2003).
Since Nigerian independence in 1960, clashes between the northerners and southerners have persisted. The ongoing tension between the predominately Muslim North and the predominately Christian South has fostered a growth in extremist sects like Boko Haram that have adopted radical ideologies rejecting Western culture and education. Boko Haram’s attacks against Christian institutions and local Nigerian authorities has garnered international attention and the sect is acknowledged to be an international terrorist threat (BBC News, 2014) with alleged if tenuous links to IS.
Dismantling BH is an International Imperative
In the wake of the recent large scale kidnappings, the Nigerian government has been forced to take action against Boko Haram. It is unclear as to the progress, if any, the security forces have made in apprehending members of Boko Haram. Most independent communication sources have been disconnected but authorities report that they are succeeding in their fight against the extremist sect (Ndege & Essa, 2013).
Presently, securing the release or achieving the rescue of large numbers of innocent kidnapped children and reducing future extremist violence lies solely within the current Nigerian government’s remit as they have resisted external offers of help, save for sending (allegedly) 1500 military personnel abroad for counter-insurgency and anti-terrorist training. The need to dismantle Boko Haram and impose severe opposition to their terrorist agenda is an international imperative which is currently not being facilitated by the Nigerian incumbent Goodluck Jonathan.
Bah, A. (2005) Breakdown and Reconstitution, Democracy, the Nation-State, and Ethnicity in Nigeria. Lanham: Lexington Books.
BBC News. (2014) Nigeria: Boko Haram now major threat says Wole Soyinka. [Online] Available from: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-27264748 [Accessed 27 June 2014].
BBC News (2014) More Nigerian girls abducted by suspected militants. [Online] Available from: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-27289924 [Accessed 27 June 2014].
Chidi, I. (2003) Nigeria’s Religious and Cultural Conflict. [Online] Available from: http://web.stanford.edu/class/e297a/Nigeria's%20Religious%20and%20Cultural%20Conflict.doc [Accessed 27 June 2014].
Ndege, Y. and Essa, A. (2013) The rise of Nigeria’s Boko Haram: An in-depth look at the shadowy group as violence continues to wrack the West African country's northeast. [Online] Available from: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/africa/2013/09/201397155225146644.html [Accessed 27 June 2014].
Dorrell, O. (2014) Boko Haram: Facts, History, Leaders, And Origins Of The Terrorist Group. [Online] Available from: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/09/boko-haram-facts-history_n_5295563.html [Accessed 27 June 2014].
Ochonu, M. (2008) Colonialism within Colonialism: The Hausa-Caliphate Imaginary and the British Colonial Administration of the Nigerian Middle Belt. [Online] Available from: http://asq.africa.ufl.edu/ochonu_fall08/ [Accessed 27 June 2014].
Owolade, F. (2014) Boko Haram: How a Militant Islamist Group Emerged in Nigeria. [Online] Available from: http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/4232/boko-haram-nigeria#_ftn14 [Accessed 27 June 2014].
Tertsakian, C. (2004) Political Shari’a? Human Rights Watch 16(9A), 9.
Turaki, Y. (1993) The British Colonial Legacy in Northern Nigeria: A Social Ethical Analysis of the Colonial and Post-Colonial Society and Politics in Nigeria. Nigeria: Challenge Press.
United States Institute of Peace (2012) “Special Report: What is Boko Haram?” United States Institute of Peace, Washington, D.C. [Online] Available from http://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/SR308.pdf [Accessed 27 June 2014].