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Boko Haram: Following in the footsteps of Nigeria’s history

By Matthew Collins - Feb 3, 2015
Boko Haram: Following in the footsteps of Nigeria’s history

Boko Haram has been under the spotlight of the media, for some time now, with the Nigerian government still finding itself entangled within the barbed-wire of Boko Haram resistance.

It appears that Boko Haram’s actions have a historical foundation, even if indirect, within Nigeria’s history. Let's take a look...

Sokoto Caliphate (1804-1903)

In the early 1800’s, Northern Nigeria would see the emergence of one of the greatest empires in West Africa, namely the Sokoto Caliphate under its Fulani founder, the Islam teacher and scholar, Usman dan Fodio.

In 1804, a jihad or “holy war”, was declared on the Hausa Kingdoms of Northern Nigeria, particularly on the Hausa city-state of Gobir under King Yunfa.

Yunfa was once a student of dan Fodio, but when he ascended to the position of king, dan Fodio was sent into exile, only to return with a declaration of war against who he perceived to be dissident Muslims, including Yunfa.

In 1808, dan Fodio’s forces took Gobir and killed Yunfa.

From that moment onwards, dan Fodio’s established caliphate would introduce strict Islamic law, namely Sharia, and would subsequently be governed by it.

The Sokoto Caliphate would continue to grow, even after dan Fodio’s death in 1815, and would eventually occupy most of present-day northern Nigeria, a large part of Niger and even part of Cameroon.

The British would later occupy the vast majority of the Sokoto Caliphate in 1903, naming the occupied land the Northern Nigerian Protectorate.

Despite the Islamic Fulani emirs still holding a fair amount of autonomy (because of the British policy of indirect rule utilising local structures in the region), the complete political authority of the Caliphate was over, and an empire had, in essence, fallen from the power it once held.

Boko Haram and a new jihad

Boko Haram wishes to overthrow the Nigerian government and install an Islamic state with Sharia law.

In the wake of the capture of Gwoza, in northeastern Nigeria, a video was released by Boko Haram, in August of 2014, in which their leader, Abubakar Shekau, stated that they were an “Islamic caliphate” and that they “have nothing to do with Nigeria”.

Could it be that Boko Haram wishes to bring back their interpretation of a past structure which once made up Northern Nigeria; to establish an ever-expanding Islamic caliphate based on the historical ideal of the Sokoto Caliphate?

Or could it simply be that the region’s Islamic history has inspired extremist interpretations of islamic coercion and expansion?


Images courtesy of: www.nairaland.com & www.bbc.com