The Boko Haram Uprising and Islamic Revivalism in Nigeria

Abimbola Adesoji


From the 1980 Maitatsine uprising to the 2009 Boko Haram uprising, Nigeria was bedevilled by ethno-religious conflicts with devastating human and material losses. But the Boko Haram uprising of July 2009 was significant in that it not only set a precedent, but also reinforced the attempts by Islamic conservative elements at imposing a variant of Islamic religious ideology on a secular state. Whereas the religious sensitivity of Nigerians provided fertile ground for the breeding of the Boko Haram sect, the sect’s blossoming was also aided by the prevailing economic dislocation in Nigerian society, the advent of party politics (and the associated desperation of politicians for political power), and the ambivalence of some vocal Islamic leaders, who, though they did not actively embark on insurrection, either did nothing to stop it from fomenting, or only feebly condemned it. These internal factors coupled with growing Islamic fundamentalism around the world make a highly volatile Nigerian society prone to violence, as evidenced by the Boko Haram uprising. Given the approach of the Nigerian state to religious conflict, this violence may remain a recurring problem. This paper documents and analyses the Boko Haram uprising, as well as its links with the promotion of Islamic revivalism and the challenges it poses to the secularity of the Nigerian state.

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