Andrew Walker’s latest book looks at the decrepit modern history of Nigeria, one of Africa’s most misunderstood nations despite the size of its population and economy.
Starting with the Sokoto Caliphate led by Usman dan Fodio, whose rise followed the 1809 Fulani War, we are guided through the many Islamic insurgencies that emerged over the last 200 years. The most high-profile manifestation of the Islamist endemic is Boko Haram, meaning ‘Western education is forbidden’ – a ‘full fettered terrorist outfit’ responsible for horrific atrocities in Nigeria.
Walker, a freelance journalist who has specialised in Nigeria since 2006, entwines outlandish anecdotes to narrate recent political turmoil, including the five-year term of Goodluck Jonathan and Boko Haram’s kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls in Chibok that caused international outrage under the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. These anecdotes inject a humanizing quality to the text that undermines the authority of objective historical narratives, and render the complexities of Nigeria’s current socio-political and cultural crisis palpable to global readership. What could have easily been a rigid chronology of Nigeria’s Islamist history is transformed into a crystaliised, yet multifaceted description of a country debilitated by a centuries-long identity crisis.