By: Ibitola Adesuyi
Nigeria is an ethnically plural society; it is home to over 250 ethnic groups including primarily the Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba. Within these ethnic divisions, religion and location play an important role. The Hausas, who are primarily located in the North, are predominantly Muslim. On the other hand, the Igbos live in the Southwest, and are mostly Christian. In contrast to the other two, the Yorubas, who are located in the Southeast, are both Christian and Muslim. Overall, Nigeria is 50% Muslim, 40% Christian, and 10% of indigenous belief.  Since the days of colonialism, Northern Nigeria and Southern Nigeria have had stark differences in the degree to which each was receptive to western education and culture; The North, with a strong Muslim heritage, was more resistant to western influences, while the South was more influenced by Western culture. This has caused the north to lag behind the south in education, and economic development. Furthermore, it has caused power struggle issues between many groups, and political leaders from each region. The Hausas in the North want to be in power for they fear domination from the Yorubas and Igbo in the South. These ethnic fragmentations and religious divisions have led to conflicts, especially in Northern Nigeria. These divergences have taken a turn for the worse in the recent years, and the source of many of these clashes is a group called Boko Haram.
Boko Haram is a Hausa Muslim group whose name in English means “Western education is forbidden.”  The goal of this group is to establish Sharia law in Northern Nigeria. To achieve this goal, these extremists use violence as a means of expressing their ideals. Since 2002 when Boko Haram was established, the group has been the accomplices in shootings and bombings in mostly Northern Nigeria, where they are located, with mainly Christians as their targets. “Boko Haram’s trademark has been the use of gunmen on motorbikes, killing police, politicians, and anyone who criticizes the group.”  Boko Haram has also staged several attacks in different parts of northern Nigeria, showing that it is establishing a presence across the region and stimulating tension between Muslims and Christians. These attacks include: The United Nations Bombing on August 26th, 2011 where a suicide bomber drove into the United Nations compound in Abuja and killed twenty and injured sixty-eight.  Additionally, the Mubi Massacre on October 1st 2012, which took place at an off-campus site that serves three Mubi schools – Federal Polytechnic, School of Health Technology and Adamawa State University, where witness stated the Muslim militants screamed “Allahu Akbar” (God is Greater) as they shot or stabbed students.  Lastly, reaffirming the animosity towards Christians in the community was the December 25th, 2011 bombings where Boko Haram members bombed a Roman Catholic Church Mass killing thirty-five people and injuring more than fifty.  Altogether, Boko Haram bombings and shootings have claimed the lives of over two thousand Nigerians.
To restore peace, the Nigerian government has undertaken several measures to counteract the behaviors of Boko Haram extremists. The President, Goodluck Jonathan, has labeled the attacks by the extremists as a declaration of war, and has declared a state of emergency in three of Nigeria’s northern states: Borno, Yobe and Adamawa. Troops have been deployed to this area to protect Nigerian citizens. Furthermore, to end the violence, Northern leaders proposed to the Nigerian government to grant amnesty to Boko Haram leaders.  This gesture is similar to that taken in 2008 when Nigeria granted amnesty to militants in the oil-rich Niger Delta who were violently protesting the environmental degradation and abandonment of their communities. The agreement ended the conflict and restored peace in the region. The Nigerian government hoped for success a second time, but neither Boko Haram officials nor many Christians favored the proposal.
Boko Haram officials rejected the proposal by citing disingenuousness by the government and failure to follow previous peace settlements with sect members. Meanwhile, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau also declined the offer, claiming that his group had done no wrong; therefore, amnesty would not be applicable to them. Furthermore, he claims that it is Nigeria, not his group that needs to be granted amnesty. 
Many Christians are split on the state decisions on granting Boko Haram amnesty. Some believe that the proposal is merely distasteful to the oppression faced by Christians in this area, and President Goodluck Jonathan is merely doing this to gain approval from Northern leaders, upon whom his re-election for 2015 might depend.  Other Christians believe that violence should not be the answer; instead the Nigerian government should appease with Boko Haram members for peace.
Meanwhile, the international community has also responded. Currently, the United States has posted a seven million dollar bounty on Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau.
The Boko Haram Uprisings in Nigeria highlights a big issue on which Nigeria has yet to focus, it’s ethnically diverse society. These divisions within the society have been accepted over the years as natural separations created by differences in culture and beliefs. Instead of as a sword that causes stark separations between the North and the South, Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba, and Islam and Christianity. Thus this has caused several struggles to prevent one from taking over the other. There is no union of the cultures in Nigeria. Instead of simply focusing on economic growth and oil, Nigeria needs to focus on uniting its people. This would simultaneously restore peace to the region, and relieve tensions between its different ethnic groups. Resolving this issue in Nigeria is crucial and time-sensitive for these vicious, senseless, and barbaric killings could force the country into anarchy.
- Index Mundi “Nigeria Demographics 2013” Accessed June 16, 2013. http://www.indexmundi.com/nigeria/demographics_profile.html
- Farouk Chothia “Who Are Nigeria’s Boko Haram Islamists” BBC News Africa January 11, 2012. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-13809501
- Yusuf Ali and Bukola Amusan “Bomb kills 20 at Abuja UN House” The Nation August 27, 2012. http://www.thenationonlineng.net/2011/index.php/news/17432-bomb-kills-20-at-abuja-un-house.html
- “Christians Targeted in Nigeria’s University” International Christian Response October 5, 2012. http://christianresponse.org/index.php?mact=News,cntnt01,detail,0&cntnt01articleid=1167&cntnt01origid=15&cntnt01returnid=62
- “Deadly Nigeria bomb attacks condemned by world leaders” BBC News Africa December 25, 2011. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-16330093
- Sunday Oguntola “ Nigeria Declares Emergency Rule as Christians Debate Amnesty for Boko Haram Islamist” Christian Today May 14, 2013. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2013/may-web-only/nigeria-boko-haram-amnesty-state-of-emergency.html
- All Africa “Nigeria’s Boko Haram rejects Jonathan’s amnesty idea” BBC News Africa April 11, 2013. www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-22105476