Topic: Nigeria’s growing sectarianism: who stands to gain the most from the current situation?
Broadcast: 21st September 2010
Presenter: Henry Bonsu
AP: Nicholas Asamoah
1- Rolake Akinola Sub-Saharan Africa Analyst
2- Mohammed Umar Writer and Analyst
Description: There have been religious clashes several times in Nigeria and recently growing sectarianism in the country. Reasons for this have been blamed on poor governance and extreme poverty. But is this the only reason why this is happening or perhaps outside interests are to account for this? Nigeria is Africa’s most populous nation and vital location for western interests. Some have suggested breaking the country into two, perhaps in order to have more control on its affairs. Brief: The army is conducting joint patrols with the police in Nigeria’s northern city of Maiduguri after a wave of killings blamed on the Islamist sect, Boko Haram. The police have also banned riding motorcycles at night as several of the shootings were carried out by people on motorbikes. Twelve people, including seven policemen, have died in the past month. Clashes between Boko Haram and the police in July 2009 left hundreds dead. Most of those who died were supporters of the sect, which is also known locally as the Taliban and wants to see Islamic law imposed across Nigeria. It is opposed to Western education and accuses Nigeria’s government of being corrupted by Western ideas. The sect’s leader, Mohammed Yusuf, was among those killed, apparently after he was handed over alive to the police.
Tensions in Nigeria’s predominantly Muslim north have continued to rise after the radical sect Boko Haram attacked the city of Maiduguri in Borno state, and several targets in the state of Bauchi. In Maiduguri, security is on high alert after the group killed over a dozen people including members of the security forces. Their raid on Bauchi prison freed several inmates, resulting in many deaths.
SOUNDBITE (English) Danlami Yar’Adua, Bauchi state police commissioner: “They already released as many as 121 inmates including their members. Their members were 105 remaindered there (indistinct word).”
These recent events highlight Nigeria’s complex social divisions and its failure to address the root causes. Some critics have blamed the growing sectarian culture on socio-economic problems and endemic corruption. But it’s also claimed this corruption is fuelled by western control of the country’s natural resources, in which multinationals have bribed officials to influence policies in their favour, and vast wealth has flown out of the areas they operate in. But is this the reason for the ongoing tensions and the growing gap between rich and poor? Africa Today investigates the truth behind Nigeria’s growing sectarianism and asks who stands to gain the most from the current situation?
Although present in one form or another for generations, present-day sectarianism really took root in Nigeria after independence in 1960. Most groups were borne out of religious differences. More recently, economic hardship and underdevelopment have encouraged the formation of sects, particularly in Northern Nigeria, where the majority of the country’s Muslims live. Boko Haram, also known as the Nigerian Taliban, opposes western ideology and development, and accuses the Nigerian government of being corrupted by foreign ideas. The group was formed in Maiduguri, Borno State, in 2002 by a charismatic leader Mohammed Yusuf who was killed in controversial circumstances last year by police after being arrested by the army. Clashes between the group and security forces have claimed over a thousand lives since 2009. The latter have been accused of failing to act on warnings until violence has broken out, leading to fears that one day these underlying tensions could threaten the very existence of the state itself.