What Happen to Nigeria for the Past 30 Years

Abuse in northern Nigeria has flared up every now and then during the last Thirty years. Primarily by means of urban riots, it has pitted Muslims towards Christians and has seen confrontations involving different Islamic sects.

Even though there have been some accomplishments in conflict management within the last decade, the 2009 and 2010 troubles in Bauchi, Borno and Yobe states amongst the radical Boko Haram sect reveal that violence most likely will flare up at any moment. If the circumstance were to weaken significantly, especially on Christian-Muslim lines, it could have severe effects for national cohesion within the build up to national elections in April 2011. To deal with the risks, community-level initiatives must be reinforced, a more subtle protection response should be developed and the control over general population sources have to be improved. While some in the West panic at what they see as growing Islamic radicalism in the region, the roots of the issue are more complicated and lie in Nigeria’s history and modern day politics.

The far north, if taken to include the twelve states that reintroduced Sharia (Islamic law) for legal cases at the start of the century, is home to 53 million people. The large greater part are Muslim, there is however a substantial Christian fraction, both native to the area and the product of migration from the south of the nation. The Sokoto Caliphate, formed in 1804-1808, is a guide point for most in the region.

As West Africa’s most powerful pre-colonial state, it is a source of excellent satisfaction. But for some, its defeat by the British in 1903 and subsequent dealings with colonial and post-colonial states mean the caliphate is damaged with the corrupting affect of secular political power. The effect of colonial rule was peculiar. While policies of indirect rule allowed traditional authorities, principally the Sultan of Sokoto, to continue to expand their power, that power was also circumscribed by the British.

In the first decades of freedom, that have been marked by recurrent violent conflict between the regions for charge of state resources, the north saw the government as a way to power and control. But after the calamitous rule of northern General Sani Abacha (1993-1998), the resume democracy in 1999 was viewed as a chance for the north to look for political and ethical restoration. This resulted in reintroduction of Sharia in twelve states between 1999 and 2002, although only two have applied it seriously. Sharia caused controversy more than its compatibility with international human rights requirements and the constitution and regarding the position of Christians in those states. It also exacerbated recurrent conflicts between Muslims and Christians. But it was supported by many Muslims, and some Christians, who had lost faith in secular law enforcement government bodies, and it also induced much open and democratic discussion over the rule of law. Tensions over the issue have dropped in recent years.

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