John Campbell

Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

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Mitigating Radicalism in Northern Nigeria

by John Campbell
August 28, 2013

Youths play Eton fives game in a court in Nigeria's northern city of Kano September 6, 2011. (Akintunde Akinleye/Courtesy Reuters)


The Africa Center for Strategic Studies, a part of the National Defense University in Washington, DC, has published a security brief by Michael O. Sodipo on jihadist radicalism in Northern Nigeria. The brief proposes practical suggestions as to how to respond to radicalization.

Less than eight pages in length, it provides a superb overview, both for a general but also a more specialized audience. To illustrate his main points, Sodipo peppers his narrative with fascinating insights–and facts. For example, by 2011, Nigeria was tied at sixth, out of 158, with Somalia on the Global Terrorism Index. Or, in the months following 9/11, seven out of ten boys born at a hospital in Kano (Nigeria’s second largest city and the largest in the North) were named Osama.

His general discussion emphasizes the role of, inter alia, fear, poverty, youth (unemployment and more general marginalization), and terrorism. He deftly reviews the history of jihadist radicalism in the country since 1802, with comments on aspects often overlooked, such as the influence of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and his role in the establishment of an Islamic government in Iran in 1979. His coverage of these themes in only four pages of clear prose is a model of compression.

What to do about radicalism? Sodipo describes a local, Kano initiative, the Peace Club, a project of the Peace Initiative Network (PIN), of which he is a founder and coordinator. This consists of strategies to bring together youth from a variety of communities. But, Sodipo points out that any such initiative cannot on its own solve the radicalization of northern Nigeria. He then precedes with a useful–and short–survey of de-radicalization programs elsewhere, especially Saudi Arabia, Singapore, and Indonesia, with a focus on what has worked.

His conclusion is sound: countering radicalism requires a spectrum of initiatives. He points out that the key is that they be rooted in local realities, and need not require the treasury of Saudi Arabia. However, I would note that they do require political will and focus from the Nigerian government, and the elites that run it. Thus far, that political will has not been much in evidence.

Post a Comment 2 Comments

  • Posted by Chike

    Nigeria’s elite aren’t dumb, some of them attended the best higher institutions in the world. They understand the problems of Northern Nigeria & their solutions better than any academic anywhere in the world.

    So why don’t they solve these problems? Simply it is not in their interests to and there must be some perfectly logical reason why they prefer things to be the way they are.

    It is better for us to attempt to understand what motivates Nigeria’s rulers than for us to make recommendations that they will never adopt.

    If we understand their motivations, we can counter them and deal with the basic issues. If we don’t we’ll just produces large realms of paper (which is basically what we’ve been doing since the Willink Report of the fifties).

  • Posted by Temitope Olodo

    Whilst I agree that a de-radicalisation programme is needed to stop the growth of Islamic radicalisation and violent extremism; it is equally important to highlight that such a program will only work if there are specific related projects on the grounds to identify hotspots areas, map out the security details and develop a referral protocol…

    The UK Prevent Strand is a classic example of counter terrorism methodology to adopt.

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