February 11, 2012

Boko Haram is definitely a threat to Nigerian stability. What’s worse is that Nigeria was never quite stable in the first place. “Nigeria” is largely a national fiction patched together a century ago by Western powers that failed to weigh the area’s deep ethnic and religious divisions, ones that make Ireland seem uncomplicated by contrast.

Although Nigeria hosts dozens of tribes who speak countless dialects, its people can roughly be split along a vague north/south divide. The region comprising northern Nigeria has been predominantly Muslim for centuries and currently boasts some of the world’s highest poverty rates. Ethnically, its people are largely Hausa-Fulani and comprise about a third of the country’s population.

Southern Nigeria hosts the lush oil reserves that lube the nation’s economy. The ethnic Yorubas of southwestern Nigeria are split between Christians and Muslims, while the southeast’s Igbos are mostly Christian. None of the southern Nigerian states currently operates under sharia law.

The Igbos have previously attempted to secede. All the blood that Boko Haram has spilled so far is but a drop in the ocean compared to the Nigerian Civil War of 1967-70, which left an estimated one to three million bodies in its wake. The war was partially set off when southeastern Igbos declared themselves the independent Republic of Biafra. Although their attempt was crushed, the same ethno-religious regional hostilities have festered ever since.

Nigerian evangelist Elliot Uko warned last week that Christian Igbos will only tolerate the attacks for so long. He told an interviewer that his people “are being slaughtered like goats in the North” and that “Igbo corpses are lying in morgues in most northern cities.” He cautions that his people may finally lose their patience and “react in a way that will shock the establishment to their bones.” He says if the Igbo finally “take up arms, not even the UN can contain the explosion” and boasts that when the Igbos “remove their shirt to fight they will not put it back until blood flows.”

Christians who still live in the north’s sharia zones are reportedly fleeing into southern Nigeria and neighboring Cameroon. But despite a general appearance of turning the other cheek, Nigeria’s Christians are not entirely innocent in all this. They’ve been “revenge-bombing” mosques at least as far back as 2003 and as recently as last month. In August of last year in the high-tension city of Jos, mobs of Christians reportedly seized upon Muslims who’d gathered to pray for Eid. If these gruesome video and pictorial links are to be trusted, they also killed, roasted, and ate Muslims for the camera.

As in all human matters, it appears that no one is entirely innocent here. It’s yet another tribal struggle over land and resources.

Nigeria is a place where children are persecuted for being witches. It also engages in child trafficking. It’s where men get arrested carrying bags containing 70 infant corpses. It’s where a fundamentally primitive public erupts in mass panics about how a simple phone call can kill them. And did any of these things occur in the irredeemably backward Muslim north? No—they all happened in the presumably civilized and westernized south.

To put it politely, Nigeria is a failed nation. To put it bluntly, Nigeria is fucked.

Maybe the United States’ interests would be best served by having nothing to do with Nigeria. Let Boko Haram teach about how “Western education is sinful” to anyone who’ll bother listening.

The irony is that these days, the core message of Western education—at least how it’s taught here in the West—is also that Western Civilization’s very existence is a sin. So what’s the beef, everybody? No one seems more eager to dismantle the West than Westerners do. Boko Haram doesn’t pose nearly the threat to the West that the West itself does. Even if it took a bunch of blood-guzzling African jihadists to teach us that, we should be grateful for the lesson.



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