Radical Islam in the Lake Chad Basin, 1805-2009: From the Jihad to Boko Haram
In the last three centuries, Islam in Northern Nigeria in general, has gone through episodes of radicalization or violent experiences. This paper provides a historical framework for understanding the radicalization of Islam in the Lake Basin, using the 19th century Jihad, the Maitatsine riots of the 1980s, Talliban/Boko Haram movements of the 21st century as bearings. It argues that, each episode of Islamic violence in the region can best be explained using the multi-causal paradigm and that each had local and external contexts. When and how did Islamic radicalization occur in the Lake Chad region? How multi-causal were the conflicts? What were the local and international contexts? What were the results of radicalization of Islam in the region? Are there viable options against future occurrence? Answers to these and many other questions would be used to draw a conclusion and to prescribe policy options for the Nigerian state that is in very short supply of peace. Data will be drawn from mainly secondary sources including books, journal articles, internet materials, newspapers and magazines. The inter-disciplinary approach will be used. The presentation will be historical, based on time segments; it will be descriptive/narrative, critical/analytical in style and prescriptive in conclusion.
Borno Kingdom and the 19th Century Jihad
The Lake Chad region, is Nigeria’s North-east geopolitical arrangement, has been settled by mankind for long. It housed two powerful Kanuri kingdoms: Kanem and Borno in precolonial times. Traces of human occupation of the Lake Chad area go back to several centuries BC, when the area was much wetter than it is today. The desiccation of the Sahara after about 8000 BC led to southward drift of the population. Territorial and economic (competition over control of trade) ensued between rival groups in the Kanem area (between the earlier settled Chadic groups including the Kotoko and the new immigrant Kanuri).1 By 1000 AD a centralized state had been formed (from the union of different smaller feuding states) with the Seifawa2 dynasty ruled by a secluded, semi-divine king called Mai. The Magumi clan (itself the product of coalescence of the main Seifawa group and descendants of early rulers- the Arikwa and the Ummewa and the Seifawa lineage emerged dominant, providing the ruling dynasty of the Kanem Empire.3 The Kanem empire was dissolved in the wake of internal and external troubles. Subsequently a new Kanuri empire, Borno was founded led by the same Seifawa dynasty. It was in the new Borno Empire and its successor states: Borno and Yobe that Islamic radicalism or religious violence have occurred.
It is not certain when Islam was accepted in the Kanem-Borno Empire. However, the area has a rich Islamic profile. Although Mai Umme4 is recorded as the first Kanem ruler to convert to Islam in the 11th century, as the Lake Chad region was in contact with Islamic communities to the north, it is possible that Islam in Kanem predated Mai Umme. For example, Mohammed ibn Mani from Fezzan was said to have introduced Islam in Kanem. He lived in Kanem during the reigns of pre-Umme Mais like Mai Bulu, Mai Arki and Mai Kadia Hawani.5 Indeed, before the 11th century, Kanem was in contact with Islam, through the trade routes between Tripoli and the Lake Chad basin. Ibadi traders along with Shwua Arabs were probably the first to introduce Islam to the area from Fezzan in the 8th century.6
Be that as it may, Mai Umme distinguished himself for having crammed the whole Koran and studied the Risla which is the main Maliki text on fiqh (Islamic law). He built mosques. It was also during his time that Islam spread more rapidly from the ruling family to the general public. Umme’s successors like Selema, Dunama Dibalemi, and Biri and were Muslims, went on pilgrimage to Mecca, were described as scholars, and contributed to the development of Islam in Kanem and Borno. Mai Selema who ruled in the 12th century is credited with introducing Islamic offices of Imam, qadi, wazir (treasurer), and police chief into Kanem state affairs.7 13th century Mai Dunama Dibalemi was famous for his wars and for enhancing Islamic learning: he founded a madrasa (hostel) for Kanem students in Cairo.8 From the period of Mai Idris Alooma, the rulers of Borno bore the title, Caliph or amir al-mu’minn.9 Indeed, Borno, especially its capital, Ngazargamu became reputed as a center of Islamic learning and attracted pupils and scholars from Niger and Chad regions. The ulama held important political offices; spread of Koranic education attracted scholars/ulama from Spain, and the Nile valley.10
In spite its impressive Islamic history and tradition Borno Empire experienced Islamic radicalism between 1805 and 1809. This was how it happened. Between 1805, when Umar bn Abdur (1800 chief of the Fulani in Hadeija, under the Galadima) sent his brother Sambo to Sokoto for a flag and 1809, when serious hostilities eased, there occurred series of Islamic religious uprisings in Borno led by the Fulani. Four leaders emerged: three from the West and one from the South. Those in the West were Umar bn Abdur, Ardo Lerlima (Abdur’s cousin, and an administrator under, and a son in-law, to the Galadima), and Ibrahim Zaki (the only highly trained mallam among the three). Adbur and Lerlima, both had large Fulani followers. They were both cime jibibe under the Galadima. The one in the South was Goni Muktar. Abdur had scores to settle with the Galadima who was responsible for the death of his father. In about 1805, he sent his brother Sambo to Usman dan Fodiyo in Gobir to obtain a flag to start the jihad. Attacks on villages started in 1806-07 in the western vassal states of Shira, Auyo and Techena. The attacks continued following the return of Abdur’s brother with a flag from Gobir. The two brothers attacked and conquered Rinde and established Hadeija Emirate. Lerlima joined the two brothers and in 1807 Abdur and Lerlima started raids against the Machina countryside. Abdur in the attacks but his sons, Umar and Sambo Digimasa continued with the attacks. They attacked Auyo, which the Galadima’s forces could not defend. They attacked and destroyed Nguru, capital of the Western Province, killed the Galadima and many of his officials. The jihadists, then proceeded to Ngazargamu the capital. They captured Ngazargamu.11 In the south, Goni Muktar led and organized the Wurobokki intellectual community. Together with Al-Bukharin, Goni Muktar attacked Deya 1807. The attack on Deya and its capital forced the ruler and his officials to flee. The southern forces also succeeded in defeating Damaturu. The immediate reason for the attack on was the deposition of the ruler of Deya, by the end of the 18th century, by the Mai, Ahmed, for recalcitrance. The deposed ruler was good to the Fulanis, whereas, his replacement was not. Following the intensification of fighting, the local Fulani in Deya moved out of the area for safety.12 In 1808, the Southern group had captured the Gubja-Damaturu area; the western group was capturing one by one, the following former fiefs of the Galadima: Hadeija, Techena, Shira, and Auyo. As the jihadist forces advanced towards Ngazargamu, the Mai fled leaving the throne for his young son, Dunama who appealed to El-Kanemi for assistance. He accepted to help. He had a reputation as a learned Islamic scholar and teacher, a military leader with experiences in defeating Fulani uprisings in his area.13 El-Kanemi mobilized his army of Kanembu archers, reorganized the army and recaptured Ngazargamu in a battle during which Goni Muktar was killed along with several of his forces. Ngagazargamu was weakly defended as most of the Fulani forces had deserted the place for their occupation. Dunama was restored to his throne within two months of his father’s flight.14 El-Kanemi was rewarded with money, cattle and slaves.15 The success of El-Kanemi whose father was Kanembu and mother was an Arab, was attributed to the fact that the Fulani army had deserted Ngazargamu after their victory, his military superiority and according to traditions, the efficacy of his prayers and the use of a charm.16
In 1809, Ibrahim Zaki again recaptured Ngazargamu from Katagum. El-Kanemi again came to the rescue on the request of the young Mai Dunama on condition that he be given land in Ngurno. This was granted and the fief did improved his economic (tax revenue) and political profile.17 Zaki left the capital to avoid another encounter. The nobles forced Dunama to resign and in his place, his uncle, Mohammed Ngileruma was appointed; a new capital, Kafela was built. The new Mai continued to rely on El-Kanemi to deal with the Fulani rebellions that continued.18
Causes, Context, and Consequences
Abubakar has argued that the jihad in Borno was basically a Fulani minority problem that was more politically driven than religious. According to him, the jihad in Borno was not Islamic, rather, “political motive was uppermost in the Felata rebellion in Borno. Socially and politically isolated from the Kanuri and their government, the Felata quite naturally, looked forward to a time when their condition would change.”19 He adds that, already, the Mais since Ali and his successors were pious and godly, the Kanuri were generally largely Islamized. The Muslim community in Borno was not oppressed and prevented from engaging in more conversion like the one in Gobir. The fact that Borno assisted Hausa states against the jihadists was not sufficient reason for the jihad. It is true that many non-Muslims existed in Borno like the Bolewa, Ngizim and Manga, but there was no evidence that Muslims were prevented from Islamizing them.20 Cohen and Brenner, however have argue that the jihad in Borno, though was basically a Fulani minority problem was religious. Accordingly, they argue that, “the forces which opposed established authority were primarily Fulani who were driven towards rebellious activity by a combination of religious motivation and political ambition.”21 Both views, taken as a whole, are correct. The political factor was very strong indeed and constitutes the internal cause. The political factor however dates a century or more back. The Fulani had large numbers of learned Islamic scholars and contributed to state revenue through cattle tax, but were excluded from the central government. They therefore felt exploited and oppressed. This, combined with other problems in Borno encouraged rebellion. The problems included decline in military strength of the army, as by the 18th century, the army was a shadow of itself and tribute collection became difficult; there was famine due to irregular flow of the Yo river which affected irrigation farming and also flow of tribute revenue from dependencies. In these circumstances, minority groups like the Tuaregs and the cattle rearing Fulani, (in the western and southern provinces) and Shwua Arabs (in the northwest) became increasingly rebellious thus reducing state revenue from the taxes they paid.22 By 1800 both the Fulani and the Shwua Arabs had rebelled in the west and south and northwest achieving victories in some cases. Earlier on in late 1700 Borno’s vassals like Bagirmi, Wadai had rebelled, as there were prolonged conflicts with Agades over trade routes which Borno lost and again led to migrations into Kanem.23 The religious factor was built on the political. In their reply to El-Kanemi, in May 1808, Goni Muktar and Al-Bukhari claimed that Borno was a land of unbelief, a position Mohammed Bello also reiterated.24
The jihad had an external context as well. The Fulani were encouraged to rebel by the success of the Sokoto jihad starting with the victory over Gobir.25 Indeed, Borno jihad leaders drew inspiration from the jihad in Hausaland from where the leaders obtained flags. Umar bn Abdur and Goni Muktar obtained the flag to commence the jihad from dan Fodio in 1806 and 1807 respectively. Goni Muktar and his followers copied dan Fodio by performing the hijra to Gubja.26 Further credence to the external factor was the support from Sokoto. This can be found in the responses of Mohammed Bello to the letters from Mai Ahmad and El-Kanemi. Following the jihadists’ attack on Borno the Mai Ahmed wrote the jihad leaders, requesting to know the rationale behind the jihad in his territory since Borno was already an Islamic state, an himself the commander of the faithful. Mohammed Bello replied to the letter accepting the Mai’s position but urged him to join the jihadists. Cohen and Brenner claim that the reply either came too late or was not effective, as by the time of its receipt, the Mai had supported the Galadima against Lerlima who was killed.27 As the jihadists advanced towards Ngazargamu, El-Kanemi entered into correspondence with Mohammed Bello requesting for reasons behind the attack on Borno.28 Bello replied that he was not aware of the jihad in Borno neither was he aware of the state of Islam in the area but that he knew that the Mai attacked his Fulani neighbors just because they were following the footsteps of dan Fodio. This action, according to Bello tantamount to giving a helping hand to Hausa unbelievers. Bello further accused Borno of attempting to help Kano, Daura, and Katsina, and therefore justified an attack on Borno. In a subsequent letter, Bello accused Borno of unbelief, and engaging in pre-Islamic rituals.29 El-Kanemi admitted to Sokoto that Islam in Borno had its problems: mixture of good and bad Muslims, apostacy, un-Islamic practices etc. But he argued that it was better to educate the people than to wage wars against them. He accused the Sokoto authorities of pursuing the worldly kingdom and in the process got their standards of Islamic reform adulterated.30
The consequences included loss of lives and destruction to property. Key losses included the Galadima and his officials, Umar bn Abdur and Goni Muktar. Nguru was burnt down, destroyed.
Substantial territory was lost in spite of El-Kanemi’s help; political instability became a major feature of the Empire. The Mai lost control of the western provinces, which became a part of the Sokoto Caliphate; the Mai effectively controlled only the east. Fulani rebellions continued in the south; Bagirmi continued to also rebel. Fezzan continued to threaten Borno as was the expansionist policies of Wadai to the north.31 Finally, the Saifawa dynasty eventually lost control of the Empire as it was replaced by the El-Kanemi dynasty. The Mais could not contain the jihadists and continued to rely on El-Kanemi. The nobles were sad with the new Mai because of his strict application of Islamic principles in governance following which some of their privileges were removed. El-Kanemi capitalized on these and struck an agreement with the old Mai, Dunama who was restored while El-Kanemi was rewarded with fiefs at Ngurno and Ngala. These expanded his wealth base and political base, as he invited his Shuwa Arab and Kanembu friends to join him on the new land and he became an adviser to the Mai.32
Maitasine Violence in the Lake Chad Basin
Between 1980 and 1985, the most serious Islamic religious violence in Northern Nigeria occurred. It was led by Mohammed Marwa, alias Maitatsine.33 It started in Kano and spread to other parts, especially the northeast. In the Lake Chad Basin and Nigeria’s Northeastern region generally, the affected areas included Maiduguri, Bulunkutu (Borno state), Jimeta, Yola (Gongola state now Adamawa state) and Gombe (then under Bauchi state). In the Northwest, Rigasa in Kaduna state was affected.
The Lake Chad basin and the other parts of Nigeria were attacked from between 1982-1985. In 1982 some remnants of Maitasine disciples, who had been contained in Kano, went berserk in various Nigerian cities including Maiduguri and Bulunkutu, Jimeta, Yola and Rigasa. The 1982 violence started from Maiduguri where the crisis commenced on October 26th occasioned by clashes between Maiduguri Muslims and the Maitasine disciples. This was because the former rejected the teachings of the latter and the latter attacked. The riots in Rigasa followed on October 29th, while that in Bulunkutu also in Borno state started on October 30th and lasted for four days. In February 1984, Maitatsine followers struck in Jimeta, Yola, while in 1985, the sect struck and in Gombe.34 The Jimeta incident of 1984 was also blamed on the activities of the followers of Maitasine. Government was said to have been fore-warned of the existence of the violent sectarians at the outskirts of Gella but the authorities were slow to act. Following the outbreak of violence, Churches and Christians were also targeted. 700 persons were said to have been killed. 300 suspects were arrested. The leader of the rioters by name Musa Makaniki remained unrepentant at the trials as he expressed satisfaction for killing 3 Policemen.35 Gombe was attacked in 1985. The Gombe incident left 43 dead victims.36 Some of those arrested in the Gombe riots testified that they were paid various sums of money ranging from N5-N30037; while Maitasine lived he was said to have been collecting the sum of N200 daily from his students.38
As it is well-known, the Maitatsine violence in Northern Nigeria first started in Kano, where for about eleven days, 18th to 29th of December, 1980, residents (Muslims and non-Muslims alike), were attacked by followers of Marwa, alias Maitasine. Marwa came to Kano in 1945 but was jailed and for three years in 1962 and subsequently deported for his strange teachings, because some of his practices involved sorcery. He later came back 1966 and was arrested and jailed in 1973 at Makurdi; rearrested again in Kano after his release for illegal preaching also in 1973. He was arrested again in 1975.. However, he returned and like the reformers of old, Maitasine gathered for himself followers at Yan awaki quarters, in Kano. His followers non-Nigerians and Nigerians alike believed that if they were killed, they would be reborn, thus they were fearless in confronting the authorities.39 His doctrines were considered un-Islamic because for example, he taught that Mohammed was a worthless person. According to him, Mohammed was not a prophet but an ordinary Arab; that he (Maitasine) was the legitimate prophet; that Muslims should pray only two times a day.40
The teachings of Marwa were not only unacceptable; the violent tendencies in his movement were alarming. Force was used for conversion, people were kidnapped and taken to the movement’s Headquarters where female victims were raped, and or beaten or killed all in the bid to force a stricter form of Islamic practice.41 Many of his followers prayed in his name, as he was said to have substituted the name of the prophet with his in his personal copy of the Koran.42
The attention of the Governor of Kano, Abubakar Rimi of the People’s Redemption Party (PRP), was naturally attracted. In attempting to manage the crises, the governor of Kano state, then Alhaji Abubakar Rimi of the PRP had invited him and some of his followers and prayed and had lunch with them, though Maitatsine did not come. Rimi explained his strategy as one in which he wanted to arrest Maitatsine without bloodshed.43 Subsequently, he sent a fourteen-day ultimatum to the erring cleric to stop his unconventional activities and observe the principles of tolerance, freedom of worship, maintain the peace and refrain from bigotry.44 Since Maitasine failed to comply, government sent Police forces to control the movement but the Police ended up being repulsed in a confrontation the anti government forces regarded as Jihad to, according to them, enforce the practice of a stricter form of Islam in Kano. The efforts of the police were complemented or rather taken over by the Air force and the Army. The result was heavy casualty on the side of the "Jihadists" and innocent citizens.45
Causes, Contexts and Consequences
Economic, religious, and political reasons have been advanced by scholars as causes of the Maitatsine violence. Kukah, credits Lubeck with the economic interpretation wherein Lubeck attributes the violence to the crisis of industrial capitalism. Kukah.46 Jan Boer, argues that, the riots were motivated by religion: the Maitatsine people wanted to “reform Muslim worship and to cleanse Islam from its many non-Muslim accretions.47 Kukah argues that political it was due to the “limitations of the political exigencies of the time.” The political landscape was one in which the ruling PRP in Kano had three problems: 1) internal conflicts, evidenced by the division and acrimony between the governor’s faction and that of the founder and leader of the party, Aminu Kano. 2) The governor also had problems with the emir. 3) The state government also had problems with the NPN that was ruling at the center, as NPN failed to capture Kano.48 The division was costly because it meant that the party was in a weak position to deal with the situation. The political situation produced Maitatsine and his followers and only provided a scapegoat reprieve for the political saga.49 Relying on only one of the interpretations has its limitations. While the capitalism crisis interpretation fits well with the episode in Kano, it does not fit well with the episodes in Maiduguri, Bulunkutu, Jimeta, and Gombe among other areas where industrialization was weak. The political interpretation does not fit after the January in 1984 coup. The religious interpretation does not explain why the violence was limited to the north since there were Muslims all over Nigeria.All of the interpretations, when taken together add value to the causes of the conflict. But when all are taken together, they contribute to a better understanding of the conflict that was indeed multi-causal. Falola has correctly shown this to be the case by finding relevance in each explanation, as he adds that it was partly rooted in the general economic profile of Nigeria, which was in economic decline from the 1970s, worsened in the 1980s, leading to poverty.50
There were external contexts for the Maitatsine riots. First, the sect carried posters of Ayatollah Khomeinie of Iran and Muammar Ghadafi of Libya whom sect members held in high esteem as models of modern Islamic reforms.51 Second, the leader and some of the followers came from neighboring countries. Maitatsine was a Cameroonian national. Some of his followers were drawn from neighboring countries like Niger, Chad, Cameroon, Mali, and Upper Volta (Burkina Fasso), which according to the report of the Commission of inquiry, produced 162, 16, 4, 2, and 1 arrests respectively.52 But as Falola has argued, the foreign members were not many. They were only 185 in total out of about eight to twelve thousand total membership of the sect, mainly in Kano but with sizeable numbers in Bauchi, Maiduguri and Yola.53
Lives were lost; property destroyed. The figures of persons killed in Maiduguri, Bulunkutu, and other areas vary. For Maiduguri, one source puts the figure at 350 ‘Jihadists’ as well as 15 Policemen. 250 vehicles were also burnt down or damaged.54 Boer puts the figure at 400, while also adding that much property was destroyed.55 One estimate puts the figures for Bulunkutu at 500 dead, thousands of people rendered homeless and properties worth thousands of Naira destroyed according to the papers. The official figures for the dead are 40.56 Falola puts the figures at about 4000 dead, two thousand IDPs, and property worth over three million destroyed.57
The Jimeta, Yola, attacks claimed 763 people were killed and about 6000 people displaced.58 Similarly, the figures of dead victims in Rigasa Kaduna remain controversial as some sources recorded 44 including Mallam Karimu Yakubu, a Police Officer and 3 others59; another source recorded the number of the dead as 4060 while yet another source recorded 400 for the Rigasa riots.61 Whatever happened, human lives were wasted.
According to the official figures, 4177 people were killed in Kano.62 Some of those killed by the Maitasine forces were maimed, their eyes plugged, and tongues removed for ritual purposes. Thousands of people were displaced and exposed to the dangers of the harmattan cold. Property worth millions of Naira including 24 tankers and some filling stations, were destroyed as economic activities were disrupted and paralyzed.63 Jan Boer puts the figure of those killed in the Kano riots at 4200.64 Government set up a commission of inquiry comprising four members with Justice Anthony Aniogolu as Chairman, Alhaji Ustaz Yoonus Abdullahi, Theophilus Agboola, and colonel Datti as members. The Committee in its report indicted Security organizations like the Police, the Nigerian Security Organization (NSO) and the Immigrations Department for failing to tighten security especially that the borders of the state and Nigeria in general were loose. The committee considered the ultimatum given to the Maitasine group by Governor, Abubakar Rimi, to have been a rash and provocative action and so indicted him.65 This indictment of Rimi is surprising given the steps he took: he invited the group to lunch before giving an ultimatum as stated earlier. The indictment of the Police was in order given the role played by the IGP. The governor was not in a position to call in the police to restore order, as they were under control of the NPN-led Federal government, while the Governor was in the PRP. Thus when he gave the Maitatsine group a one week ultimatum to leave, the Inspector General of Police, then Sunday Adewusi sent a telegram to the effect that even if the ultimatum expired and the group did not comply, no force would be used to expel the group.66
One consequence was that it later affected Muslim-Christian relations. Thus, in 1882 the Muslim Students’ Society (MSS) marched on Sabon Gari, Kano and left in their trails, human victims (2 killed), shops and cars. An attempt to demolish a Church failed67 In 1986, Muslim rioters attacked Christians in Ilorin for passing through certain parts of the town, which they had prohibited. Eight persons were injured while one Church was burnt down.68 In a general sense, while the Maitasine affair in majority of the affected areas started as a sectarian, intra faith affair, it later degenerated into street demonstrations, others seem to have had their roots in differences in religion.
Taliban/Boko Haram Attacks 2003/2004 and 2009
History of Sect
The group is known by various names such as Taliban, (because they identify and adopt Afghan Taliban ways of life); Boko Haram (because they are against western education and culture); Al Sunna wal Jama, “Followers of the Prophet”, (because they believe in the Prophet); the Mohammed Yusuf Movement (Yusuffia) (because Yusuf Mohammed was their leader); and Muhajirin (migrants) (because they performed the hijra from Maiduguri to Kanamma).69
Of all the names, Taliban and Boko Haram are most popular. From its foundation Yusuf’s group was popularly called the Taliban because its principles and practices were similar to those of the Afghan Taliban. In 2009 its organizing slogan became Boko Haram. Basically, the group is rooted in Taliban traditions. Examples abound. Their leader, Mullah Umar Yusuf takes his first name from the Afghan Taliban leader, Omar. Their dress codes were similar to those in Afghanistan. This included the threadbare, cream-linen simple kaftans, without embroidery; girded with long pieces of rope. Trouser legs reach only down the ankle. The Koran was hanged over the shoulders in leather bags. Long beards are kept. They were against anything government and against corruption; wished to establish a puritanical government (caliphate) based on sharia law, a perfect and just society. They hoped to rid society of infidelity and immorality and; i.e. the establishment of family values based on decency. They preferred death to living as they wanted to go to paradise. Their Boko Haram catch phrase stems from the following principles: opposition to western education and western culture in general including democracy and science; they believed and argued that western education spoils ones’ belief in God.70 To a large extent, their anti-western stand makes them similar to the Maitatsine group of the 1980s. But unlike the Maitatsine that were opposed to the use of modern technology including televisions, radios, cars, motorbikes and bicycles and wrist watches,71 the Taliban/Boko Haram used modern technology.
One account claims that Mohammed Yusuf, the leader was educated in the western tradition.72 Other sources claim the contrary. Accordingly, Babrik asserts that Mohammed Yusuf, was barely educated, being from a poor family background in Jakusko in Yobe State. He came to limelight in 1995.73 Sheme supports this view with another source: Muhammed Yusuf admitted during a canonical debate with another Islamic scholar Malam Isah Aliyu Fantami, in Bauchi in 2006 that he had never attended a western type school.74 Muhammed Yusuf, was married to four wives and had 12 children.75 By Nigerian standards, he was not a poor man. His life did not reflect his teachings. Thus, despite the group’s claim to be anti-west, their leader lived lavishly and owned a Mercedez Benz car.76 Indeed he did not have only one car, but several, including jeeps. His children went to good schools, he had private attorneys, and doctors.77 By 2009, when the Boko Haram mayhem occurred, he was in his late 30s78
The exact date of the foundation of the sect is not certain. One account says it was founded in 2002.79 2003 is stated in some accounts.80 A third group of sources state that it was founded in 2004, when its 200 radicals established in Kanamma village in Yobe state on the Niger border.81
The exact date of the sect’s foundation may never be known. But what is certain is that it was founded in the early twenty first century in Maiduguri. The group later migrated (performed the hijrah as did the prophet when he left Mecca for Medina) to Kanamma, (headquarters of Yanusari GA), about 170km from Damaturu in Yobe State in 2003) where they established their headquarters on the Niger border.82
Once established, new members were recruited by various means including force, preaching, and hypnosis. They initially forced men to join them while compelling women to cook for them, as children were abducted to swell their ranks. Their preaching in the market squares and in mosques was also useful in recruiting others. Thus, they were also voluntarily joined by graduates who burnt their certificates, as well as people who resigned from gainful employment, including teachers and university lecturers. For example, a former university lecturer named Kadiru Atiku was the Sokoto leader of the sect. There were other academics who left their jobs to join the sect. Hundreds of student youth reading various courses in health and natural sciences, arts and humanities, in tertiary institutions including universities and polytechnics dropped out of school and joined them. They were also joined by tradesmen: carpenters, and drivers. Other categories of disgruntled youth also joined them. So did some youth from rich and influential families. Some of their followers were non-Nigerians from Chad, and Niger. Their aim was to wipe out existing Nigerian governments and western education because according to them, everything western is false. In their desert camp, adherents were taught in the use of guns, and desert fighting. They raised the Taliban’s black flag there.83
“Taliban” Attacks in the Lake Chad Basin 2003/2004
Their first attack on society was on December 31st 2003, when Kanama police station and public buildings in Geidam both in Yobe State were attacked and a police constable killed; police arms carried away while the building was set on fire. They then proceeded to Dapchi and Tarmuwa police stations and chased away police on duty and also carried away the arms in the stations. They occupied Kanama and Geidam areas for some days and raised the Afghan Taliban flag there until police and soldiers came and dispersed them. In the shootout with the security forces, 18 members of the sect were killed, and many others arrested and prosecuted; those found guilty were jailed. In June 2004 four of the jailed sect members were killed while attempting to escape from Damaturu prison.84 In September, 2004, 40 members of the group, dressed in red bandannas again attacked two police stations in Bama and Gwoza in Borno state (the two towns are 40 km apart) killing at least 7 people (in the two areas) including two police men in Gwoza near the Cameroon border. In the police counter attack, 27 of the sect members were killed, while 22 assault rifles and munitions were recovered from the fleeing survivors who crossed over to Cameroon and Niger Republics. As at that time, radical Islamic groups were being established in poor countries of Africa including Niger, Mali, and Mauretania.85
Boko Haram in the Lake Chad Basin
Between July 26 and 29, 2009, the Taliban group under the catch phrase Boko Haram, attacked five northern states, Bauchi, Borno, Yobe, Kano, and Katsina, starting with Bauchi.86 Like Maitatsine, the leader of the sect between 2006 and 2009 been arrested on some occasions by the police and released by the courts. His sect also clashed with the security forces on one or more occasions before 2009. In 2006, the sect leader was arrested in his Maiduguri Borno home. In April 2007, the sect attacked a police station outside Kano metropolis and killed 13 mostly police men until the army came and repelled the militants killing 25. In November of the same year the Federal Government claimed its security forces had arrested and detained many militants believed to have links with Al-Qaeda and the Nigerian Talibans in Kano, Kaduna and Yobe states.87 On November 30, 2008, Yusuf was arrested along with some of his followers by the police for inciting the public with his preaching. He was tried in Abuja where a High Court judge granted them bail in January 2009. On June 11, 2009, the police in Maidguri shot 17 of the sect members during their funeral procession.88
Preparatory to the Maiduguri attacks, the sect set up its operational headquarters at Markas along the Maiduguri railway terminus. Here they hoisted their flag with Arabic inscriptions, declaring the area sovereign.89 The prelude to the attack on Maiduguri the capital of Borno state was the event of July 24, when a locally made bomb exploded in the house of one of the sect members killing one person and injuring several others.90 But confrontation with the police and security forces came after their Bauchi clash with the police. The sect members in Maiduguri were dressed in military uniforms, were armed with RPGs, AK 47, dane guns, bows and arrows, swords, machetes, knives, petrol bombs, and catapults.91 Thus, at about midnight or 26th and early hours of 27th July, they attacked the Mobile Police senior officer’s quarters. They also attacked Damasak, Headquarters of Mobar LGA of Borno state.92 They then attacked the Maidugri prison and set free the inmates.93 The Operation Flush security forces engaged them until they retreated.94
Their large numbers and mode of operation made the security forces encounter initial difficulties in dealing with them. For example, they mounted road blocks and confronted the security for three days until reinforcement of troops was brought from Jos and Bauchi.95 Their fierce resistance made the Federal government deploy the army as directed by President Yar’Adua who gave the armed forces two days within which to quell the situation using light armored tanks, as he was leaving for Brazil. Major General Saleh Maina, GOC,3rd Armored Division, Jos was asked to lead the government action, by taking over from Col. Ben Ahanotu, as security forces were mobilized from Jos and Bauchi.96 The armed forces also met very stiff resistance and had to rearm. The 21 Armored Div. Maiduguri took delivery of 6 armored tanks airlifted by a military Hercules aircraft. Five trucks of military personnel were sent to the sect’s stronghold to destroy it.97
But the military did not find it easy to subdue them as the army, due to the stiff resistance, was forced to withdraw and re-strategize. Three additional armored tanks were received in Maiduguri after the first six. With more arms and munitions, more forces and following the desertion of the railway station terminus by residents, on the warning by the sect to residents to leave because of an impending war, it was much easier for the security forces to deal with the group, having isolated itself.98 Some of the things inside the sect’s headquarters apart arms and munitions a well-stocked clinic, food store, an office, and their mosque which served both as prayer and teaching venue.99
Two major towns in Yobe state were attacked leading to the scores of deaths.100 The two affected towns were Damaturu the state capital and Potiskum. Potiskum Divisional police Headquarters was attacked by 40 members of the sect on Monday who set free the suspects. 23 arrests were made. A police station in Damaturu was also attacked.101
The 2009 violence started in Bauchi on Sunday night (26th July), when the sect members in that state attacked the Dutsen Tanshi police station at dawn. The attacks came following restrictions placed on the practice of their religion by the authorities who were monitoring the group. The police received reports that members of the sect had migrated in large numbers from Borno to Bauchi and were urging parents to discourage their children from acquiring western education and advocating adoption of the sharia legal system nationwide. Some of the members publicly tore their secondary school certificates. The police also arrested some of its members and leaders for advocating nationwide adoption of sharia law. The police also killed about 50102 of their members, while about 176 of them were arrested in their encounter with the police. It was after the Bauchi episode that two states in the Chad Basin and Nigeria’s Northeast region, Borno and Yobe states, as well as one state in Nigeria’s northwest region (Kano) were attacked by the group.103
Yuguda claimed that the houses of the sect people destroyed in Bauchi did not contain even one copy of the Koran, so he described the sect as a bunch of lunatics.104
In Kano state, the Wudil branch of the sect had over 300 members. Members were armed with firebombs, daggers, bows and arrows, knives, locally made guns, and bomb manufacturing materials. The bomb materials included potassium nitrate, sulfur, and charcoal, among other arms. They mobilized youth from the sabon gari area of Wudil and attacked a police station in Wudil using Aljasawi’s residence mosque. The police beat back the attack on the Wudil police station, at about 4 am; killed 3 of the attackers and arrested 33105. The attackers injured two police officers.106
One of the arrested was a female JSSIII student who joined the sect on the advice of her uncle.107 Aljasawi was leader of the Wudil sect and said to have come from Plateau State 9 years ago and started as a friendly person. He later on started making trouble and attempted to change the time for the Friday prayers from the usual 2 pm to 10 am but the Local Government authorities with the help of traditional leaders prevented this change. After the event, the government demolished Aljasawi quarters with bulldozers.108
Katsina was also attacked by the sect, as a police station in Danja Local Government was attempted but the police repelled the attackers who fled leaving behind the petrol they had wanted to use to burn down the station. Some of them were later arrested. Sokoto state police took pre-emptive measures by arresting 5 persons suspected to plan an attack. One of the members was a former lecturer in the department of Islamic Studies, Katsina State University. The Katsina group had 27 members opposed to a secular state.109
The whole affair raises the question of what role government played with respect to the internal internal security in Nigeria. What did the SSS do or did not do? What did the police do or did not do? The Director of the State Security Services SSS, claimed that his organization did and sent security reports to the government about the group but that nothing was done about it.110 On the part of the police, they had arrested and arraigned the sect leader before law courts on a number of occasions but each time he was bailed.111 Following the intensification of fighting, government intervened by sending additional security forces to affected areas, while it later on set up a tribunal of inquiry. Governments of affected states like Bauchi, Borno and Yobe imposed a dusk to dawn curfew.112
Accounting for their long resistance
In Maiduguri, the clash with the security forces lasted for three days. Sect members received training in guerilla warfare and received backing from rebels in neighboring countries.113 The sect was well armed with local and sophisticated weapons as well as military uniforms. Their arms and munitions included pistols, AK 47, Rapid Propelled Grenades, RPGs, FNC magazines, 7.62 mm and 9mm live munitions, explosives, bombs and bomb making equipment, dangerous chemicals, hunting guns, bows and arrows, scimitars, etc imported into Nigeria. Some of these were those they looted from the police.114 The group had mass following and was well armed. During the riots, they moved out in droves. As noted earlier, they recruited a wide range of followers. Their targets of attack were public and religious places like police stations, prisons, government buildings, Churches and Mosques.115
The leader was very charismatic; an orator.116 He indoctrinated his followers to believe that if they died in the course of their faith, they would go to paradise. Their leader also told them that their poor condition was caused by the imposition of western education and the mismanagement of public funds by public officials. The way out according to their leader was to destroy public institutions.117
Causes, Contexts and Consequences
The groups had a clear cause: abolition of secular society and the establishment of an Islamic one. However, poverty due to unemployment partly explained the phenomenon, as some followers, though not all were the less privileged.
Externally, the group was influenced by Taliban ideology. The Afghan Taliban whose ideology and culture they adopt, are an extremist religious group in Afghanistan. It is therefore, imperative at this point to make some remarks on the Taliban and its Afghanistan origins. Contrary to the image of violence for which they are known, the Taliban are in the original context supposed to be seekers of knowledge. Indeed, the word Taliban is the plural of the Persian word, Talib, which simply means seeker (of knowledge). Thus, it may be as old as Islam is in Afghanistan, which city, Kabul was occupied by Islamic forces after a battle with the indigenous Indians there in about 635 AD. Following the establishment of Islam, different towns were committed to acquiring and sustaining Islamic knowledge and thus favorably competed with each other in this direction. After the departure of the Soviets in 1989, confusion befell Afghanistan as hundreds of warlords emerged, fighting each other and as well controlling a different section of the big cities like Kabul, Kandhar, as the country lacked effective central authority. The Taliban leaders, as they made their conquests, fought and drove out the war lords. However, Taliban rule in Afghanistan led to the imposition of extremist Islamic religious doctrines and practice. Since their overthrow by the US-Western backed forces they have been associated with the violence going on in Afghanistan- to reclaim their position as sole managers of state affairs.118 The Nigerian Taliban group and especially its leadership had rich local and international sponsors.119 The group is suspected to have links with Al-Qaeda.120
At the domestic level, followers seemed to have been hypnotized. Accordingly, it was alleged by Rabiu Musa of Potiskum interviewed by Weekly Trust, that recruits were given drinks from dabino (date palm), which made them lose their senses, as those who drank of it felt that if they died, they were martyrs. Then there was also the issue of indoctrination of recruits by the leader, whose words followers regarded as sacrosanct and eternal. There were also volunteers who offered to assist the group once the violence had started. Many of the volunteers were youths who left Damaturu for Potiskum to join the group in the bush.121 Some members of the public blamed the crisis on youth frustration and unemployment.122
The Boko Haram episode led to enormous losses of lives and property. The figures for the dead vary. Some source claim the attack on the four northern states, Bauchi, Borno, Yobe, Kano led to over 1000 deaths.123 For Maiduguri, the police said 90 sect members were killed and 8 policemen killed in Maiduguri alone.124 Among those killed in Maiduguri were two police men and one police man in Damasak, Headquarters of Mobar LGA of Borno state.125 Another source puts the figure at about 80.126 Yet another puts it at 200.127 Another source claims in the army intervention, over 500 sect members were killed including the Deputy leader of the sect including Mohammed Yusuf who was killed in police custody.128 In Yobe state the death toll was not less than 43 people in Damaturu and Potiskum, the two affected towns.129 The deaths in Potiskum included a police man and a fire service officer; while seven police officers were injured.130
Churches and Mosques were burnt. Indeed, as noted earlier, their targets of attack were public and religious places like police stations, prisons, government buildings, Churches and Mosques.131 In Maiduguri, police the quarters (including the Mobile Police Training College) and six cars and two motorcycles were set on fire. Also vandalized and burnt down were two police stations in Maiduguri: Lamisula and Gamboru.132
It created a huge refugee crisis, as thousands of people became Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Maiduguri. IDPs took refuge in religious and public facilities like mosques, churches and schools.133 Commercial activities were halted as, shops, markets, banks, schools and companies remained closed in Maiduguri.134
Three themes bind all the episodes of Islamic radicalism in the Lake Chad region discussed: religion, politics and economy. The desire to reform society along Islamic lines was a key factor. In the perception of the radicalization agents, all the problems of society were the results of deviation from Islamic art of governance. The jihadists in Borno regarded Borno as a land of un-belief or at best syncretic and oppressive. Those of the Maitatsine believed that Muslims in northern Nigeria generally were not practicing true Islam and that it was their duty to correct wrong practices. The Taliban/Boko Haram reformers also wanted adoption of sharia law nationwide. The political factor was also apparent. The Borno jihadists wanted to overthrow the Seifawa dynasty and gain their independence from the regime that kept them at the periphery. Maitatsine and Taliban/Boko Haram people wanted to establish a theocracy, not secular government. Theocracy means Islamic cleric leading society, and if they succeeded, it was their own leadership that would rule. The economy as a factor can be understood from the context of leadership-followership privileges. In the Borno of old, the Fulani regarded themselves as an oppressed lot, paying taxes to the government but deriving no clear benefits. In the Maitatsine and Taliban/Boko Haram episodes, the economic conditions of Nigeria’s ordinary citizens left so much to be desired. Unemployment, poverty, hunger, disease, etc has been the lot of the masses since the end of the oil boom. With a propensity not to control population; given the fact of environmental degradation, income inequality, the north has a substantial number of Nigeria’s poor, to whom every kind of religious ideology of liberation would appeal. All had external contexts as well. The jihad was influenced by developments in Hausaland, then a different political entity; the movements since Maitatsine drew inspiration from outside Africa: Iran (Maitatsine) and Afghanistan (Taliban/Boko Haram).
A number of issues however distinguished the movements. While the 19th century jihad in Borno was basically Fulani radicalism; the Maitatsine and Taliban/Boko Haram reformers were diverse in ethnic backgrounds but united by Islam. While the jihad and the Taliban/Boko Haram reformers were led by citizens, the Maitatsine group was by a foreigner. While some of the leaders of the Borno jihad were learned Islamic scholars, the Maitatsine and Taliban/Boko Haram lacked such a leadership. While poverty and oppression were push factors for recruitment of less privileged into the jihad and Maitatsine groups, the Taliban/Boko Haram had also educated, employed and privileged members who abandoned their positions to join. The Jihad occurred in the context of Empire states; the Maitatsine and Taliban/Boko Haram occurred in the context of democratic political set ups.
One last point: leadership and followership have roles to play in making Nigeria better. Leadership has to reduce income inequality and provide infrastructure, social services and security. Followership has to acquire education in a diverse range of areas and not limit itself to religious education. With education, followers would interpret the world differently than the one based on one-religious education.