Read Boko Haram Online

Authors: Mike Smith

Boko Haram

is a foreign correspondent for AFP news agency. He was AFP bureau chief for part of West Africa from 2010 to 2013 and has extensively covered the Boko Haram insurgency.
‘There is certainly an urgent need for a comprehensive yet accessible account of Boko Haram about which much is written but yet little understood. The author is eminently well qualified, especially from his connection with AFP, who have been at the forefront of reportage on the situation of northern Nigeria, to tackle this subject. The book should find a ready readership among the policy and diplomatic community as well as academics and interested lay readers.'
– Richard Reid, Professor of the History of Africa, SOAS, University of London
‘I enjoyed [this book] very much – it's a good read. It's [...] the best account I have read and offers a real sense of place – and crisis. Mike Smith's book will be widely read and cited.'
– Murray Last, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology, University College London
Boko Haram
Inside Nigeria's Unholy War

Mike Smith

Published in 2015 by I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd
Distributed worldwide by I.B.Tauris & Co Ltd
Registered office: 6 Salem Road, London W2 4BU
Copyright © 2015 Mike Smith
All rights reserved. Except for brief quotations in a review, this book, or any part thereof, may not be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.
Every attempt has been made to gain permission for the use of the images in this book. Any omissions will be rectified in future editions.
References to websites were correct at the time of writing.
ISBN: 9781784530747
eISBN: 9780857735775
A full CIP record for this book is available from the British Library
A full CIP record is available from the Library of Congress
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: available
When my companions passed, and my aims went awry
I was left behind among the remainder, the liars
Who say that which they do not do, and follow their own desires.
Abdullah Ibn Muhammad, brother of Usman Dan Fodio, from the
Tazyin Al-Waraqat
It is never easy to keep secrets in Nigeria; it is just that secrets, when divulged, are tied up in many distractions.
Wole Soyinka, from
You Must Set Forth at Dawn
This book would not have been possible without an enormous amount of help from many others. My colleagues at AFP's Lagos bureau deserve special recognition for their tireless efforts in covering a story that has only seemed to grow more horrifying by the day, and my knowledge of Nigeria and the forces underlying the insurgency was endlessly enriched by working alongside them.
Aminu Abubakar, AFP's northern Nigeria correspondent, has broken so many stories that I long ago lost count. His intelligence and insight have helped the rest of the world understand the terrible violence that has shaken his home region. He and I spent countless days and nights over bad phone lines trying to make sense out of the latest attack, and despite it all, he still managed to be the nicest guy you'll ever meet. I'm also proud to have worked with Nigerian journalists and AFP staffers Ade Obisesan, Tunde Agoi, Ola Awoniyi and photographer Pius Utomi Ekpei, along with the rest of the Lagos bureau, including our irreplaceable driver and all-around guide Hassan Jimoh, Patrick Chikwendu, Johnson Moses, Timothy Jamani, Dauda Ishola, Bola Meseda and Isaac Momoh.
Our coverage also would not have been possible without the talented non-Nigerian journalists I worked with in the bureau, including Susan Njanji, Sophie Mongalvy, Ben Simon and Cecile de Comarmond. I owe particular thanks to Sophie for reading through an earlier draft of this book and providing important feedback. I was also honoured to work alongside numerous colleagues from other news outlets, including Jon Gambrell, Sunday Alamba,
Lekan Oyekanmi, Christian Purefoy, Tom Burgis, Nick Tattersall, Joe Brock, Tim Cocks, Julie Vandal and Will Ross.
Wise Nigerians willing to share their thoughts on issues facing their country provided me with the kind of perspective any foreign correspondent needs to do his or her job properly. They include Chidi Odinkalu, an anti-corruption activist who is now the head of Nigeria's National Human Rights Commission; Clement Nwankwo, whose PLAC non-governmental organisation keeps an eye on Nigeria's corrupt politics; Kyari Mohammed of Modibbo Adama University of Technology, who has provided astute analysis of Boko Haram; and Catholic Archbishop Matthew Kukah, who has for years served as an important voice of reason in Nigeria. I am also grateful to Murray Last for sharing his insight as well as for his important book,
The Sokoto Caliphate
I.B.Tauris provided me with support for this project, and I am especially grateful to Lester Crook, who commissioned the book and provided invaluable input, and Joanna Godfrey, who guided it towards publication. I would also like to express my gratitude to the Centre of African Studies at SOAS, University of London, for allowing me to work from its excellent library for the purposes of this project.
Finally, and most importantly, I want to also thank my family, especially my parents, who have supported my travels and my work while hoping that it would some day lead me back home.
While my name is on the cover, this book has in many ways been a team effort. Any and all errors, however, are completely my own.
A Note on Sources and the ‘Boko Haram' Label
Much of the information in this book is the result of my more than three years in Nigeria between 2010 and 2013, when I was based in Lagos as bureau chief for part of West Africa for Agence France-Presse news agency. I have cited instances where I have relied on reporting from colleagues or on the work of academics. My reporting on the insurgency has included four trips to Maiduguri and a number of other visits to various parts of northern Nigeria, including Kano, Sokoto, Kaduna and Zaria.
I have decided to use the term ‘Boko Haram' throughout the text rather than the full name of the group (Jama'atu Ahlus Sunnah Lid Da'awati Wal Jihad, or People Committed to the Prophet's Teachings for Propagation and Jihad). I have done this because the world knows the group as Boko Haram, and Nigerians, including the security forces, continue to refer to it as such. In addition, as a result of the shadowy nature of the insurgency, several different groups or cells may in fact be operating beyond Abubakar Shekau's faction. Boko Haram serves as a catch-all phrase encompassing the entire insurgency.
The description of what happened on the day of the UN attack in
Chapter 1
is mainly based on my phone interviews with UN staffers Geoffrey Njoku and Soji Adeniyi as well as a personal account written by Vinod Alkari that was distributed to his colleagues internally. He agreed to allow me to quote from it, and I have in some cases corrected minor typos or grammatical errors that would otherwise distract the reader. I also spoke in detail with
Alkari by phone. A separate, anonymous source who has seen the video surveillance footage of the attack described to me details from it, and I have also visited the site to see the layout.
I have included a select bibliography, but it is worth pointing out several books that were especially helpful. For my research for
Chapter 1
, the late Mervyn Hiskett's books on Islam in West Africa and the life of Usman Dan Fodio were invaluable. Murray Last's history of the Sokoto Caliphate also provided me with great insight on the period, and Toyin Falola and Matthew Heaton's
A History of Nigeria
served as a useful overview along with Michael Crowder's
The Story of Nigeria
. For the section on the British conquest of northern Nigeria, I relied heavily on Frederick Lugard's papers, archived at the Bodleian Library of Commonwealth and African Studies at Oxford, as well as his annual reports.
I have drawn from a wide range of sources to piece together Mohammed Yusuf's rise, as specified in the endnotes, but I am particularly grateful to an academic who has carried out an extensive analysis of the Boko Haram leader's recorded sermons and speeches. The academic, to whom I spoke by phone, has asked to remain anonymous out of fears for his own safety, and I agreed to abide by his wishes.
For translations of Boko Haram videos and statements from Hausa to English, I often relied on Aminu Abubakar, AFP's correspondent in northern Nigeria who in most cases was the first journalist for an international news agency to obtain them. Aminu translated many of the videos on deadline as we worked together to prepare stories on them for our news agency and I have stuck for the most part with those original translations. Professor Abubakar Aliyu Liman of Ahmadu Bello University in Nigeria worked on two translations at my request and specifically for this book: Yusuf's interrogation before his death and his ‘tafsir' quoted in
Chapter 2
The vital work by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Nigeria's National Human Rights Commission led by civil
society activist Chidi Odinkalu, among others, documenting alleged abuses committed by the security forces has also served as an important source, as reflected in the endnotes.
As specified in the epilogue and prologue, I interviewed Wellington Asiayei in person both in the hospital in Kano after the 2012 attacks there as well as in Warri in 2013. I also spoke by phone with Wellington in addition to speaking with his wife, his brother, his son and his doctors in Kano, India and Warri.
I repeatedly requested interviews with Nigerian government and military officials to allow them to respond to allegations and criticisms. Requests made specifically in connection with this book were not granted; however, I did carry out interviews with officials as part of my work for AFP in Nigeria. I have included details from those interviews, such as the military's denials of abuses, and relied on public statements from officials when necessary.
A timeline of key events in northern Nigerian history and the Boko Haram insurgency
  • - 

    Kanem-Bornu Empire becomes officially Muslim under Mai

  • - 

    Kano becomes first state in Hausaland to have a Muslim

  • - 1804

    Usman Dan Fodio and followers of his Muslim reformist
    movement migrate to Gudu, marking the start of a jihad in Hausaland that would lead
    to the creation of the Sokoto Caliphate across much of what is today northern
    Nigeria and beyond.

  • - 1903

    A military assault on Kano begins the final conquest of
    northern Nigeria and the Sokoto Caliphate for the British.

  • - 1914

    Northern and southern Nigeria are amalgamated by the British
    into a single entity, creating the outlines of the nation that exists today.

  • - 1956

    Nigeria strikes oil in commercial quantities in the Niger
    Delta in the south.

  • - 1960

    Nigeria gains independence from Britain.

  • - 1967

    Civil war begins after the south-east declares itself an
    independent Republic of Biafra.

  • - 1970

    Civil war ends with the defeat of the Biafrans. Nigeria
    remains one nation, but deep divisions persist.

  • - 1980

    Deadly riots break out in Kano involving members of a radical
    Islamist movement known as Maitatsine.

  • - 1999

    Northern politicians push to institute sharia law for
    criminal cases. Some 12 northern states later adopt some form of sharia criminal
    law, though it is selectively enforced.

  • - 2003

    The beginnings of Boko Haram begin to take shape when
    followers of radical cleric Mohammed Yusuf retreat to a remote area of Yobe state
    and clash with authorities.

  • - 2009

    Boko Haram under Mohammed Yusuf launches an uprising in
    north-eastern Nigeria after a clash with authorities in Maiduguri. Around 800 people
    are killed in five days of violence. Yusuf is shot dead by police after being

  • - 2010

    Boko Haram re-emerges after more than a year in hiding with a
    series of assassinations and a prison raid under the leadership of YusufGs deputy,
    Abubakar Shekau.

  • - 2011

    Boko Haram claims responsibility for a suicide car bomb
    attack on United Nations headquarters in Abuja that killed 23 people.

  • - 2012

    A series of coordinated assaults and bomb attacks leave at
    least 185 people dead in Kano, NigeriaGs second-largest city. Shekau claims

  • - 2013

    Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan declares an emergency in
    three north-eastern states after Boko Haram seizes territory in remote areas of the

  • - 2014

    Boko Haram attackers raid the north-eastern town of Chibok
    and kidnap 276 girls from their dormitory, sparking global outrage.

Other books

Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry
Three Weddings And A Kiss by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, Catherine Anderson, Loretta Chase
Sweet Land Stories by E. L. Doctorow
A Love for All Seasons by Bettye Griffin
Upon A Pale Horse by Russell Blake
Sweet Unrest by Maxwell, Lisa
The Mannequin House by R. N. Morris
East of Ealing by Robert Rankin
Age of Ambition by Evan Osnos
Dragon Call by Emily Ryan-Davis