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26 May 2014


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dan bradburd

Daniel Jordan Smith's "A Culture of Corruption" provides excellent, sympathetic insight into contemporary Nigeria. It is also an engaging read.




All: The Nigerian Federal Government permitted shari'a to be the primary local law code - i.e. including criminal law - in a number of states in the northwest of the country beginning 14 years ago. Some states in the north center have instituted shari'a in parts of the state but not others. The northeast is partly under shari'a. I would look for Borno State - where Boko Haram mostly operates in Nigeria - and perhaps two other states of the northeast to go full shari'a including criminal law.

West African Islam had traditionally been a loose (e.g. alcohol consumption seldom denounced) variation on Maghribian Islam and has included a great deal of syncretism with earlier practices, (as has West African Christianity). When I lived in the region many years ago, some more militant practices were starting to creep in to local Islam - e.g. not being permitted to swallow ones own spittle during the day in Ramadan nor permitting sick people to take meds - prohibitions I never heard of from Saudis, and the latter of which is explicitly permitted by the Qur'an.

Nigeria has been at the frontier of Muslim and Christian expansion in West Africa for more than a century. This is one of many reasons federalism is an absolute necessity in a Nigerian union. Corruption in Nigeria is rampant and has been forever. The military has sometimes been a force for modernization, secularization and unification but has also been reluctant to try to carry the whole load. The US has had some involvement in Nigeria, but mostly has had sense enough to stay out. While Nigeria is big and brawling and full of potential, it is also a political and religious mess. The Colonel is right: let's let the Nigerians work this out for themselves.


A partition is out of the question. Unlikely to happen. Boko Haram might go the way of the "freedom fighters" in the oil producing region. A copious amount of money, paid to the right people will ease the problem, but not eliminate it.

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