Title: ‘Eat the Heart of the Infidel: The Harrowing of Nigeria and the Rise of Boko Haram’
Author: Andrew Walker
Publisher: Hurst & Company, London
Year of Publication: 2016
Reviewer: Olutayo Irantiola
I accepted fate when I was posted to Maiduguri, Borno State for my mandatory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) but it feels nostalgic now when I remember that some of the notable places that I knew had been levelled or deserted. From Tasion Kano, to Gomari, to Bulunkutu, to Post Office, to Kofa Sheu, to Custom, London Ciki and other places. As a Corps member, I have discovered the lawlessness in the region which one dare not attempt in the other regions of this country. This review is in the light of the complexities of the Nigeria’s North-East mentioned in the book and the terror of this type of documentation.
There are many nations (communities) in Africa that experienced different forms of conquest before becoming colonies of Western countries. The book opened with the story of John Henry Dorogu, one of those captured around 1849 in his native community around Lake Chad. However, he became the Biblical ‘Joseph’ who found favour in the hands of Germans and he eventually found his way back to his homestead where he lived till he died. Interestingly, there would have been incidences of sacking towns for slaves before 1849. J.H Dorogu eventually became an advantage to the colonial masters as he was made an interpreter. This is akin to what happened in some coastal towns, where history of the slave trade has been preserved and it has now turned a place of tourism attraction.
Virtually all religious sects in the world started out in search of puritanism, Islam is not exempted. Based on the early contact of the North East with the Arabians, Islam reflected on their traditional way of life greatly. From the days of Othman dan Fodio, when he led the Sufi brotherhood, there had been many wars ‘Jihad’ attacks on different communities. Thereafter, many other leaders emerged like Abubakar Gumi, who started out in Sokoto before coming to settle down in Jos; he condemned the Sufi brotherhood. Muhammadu Marwa, had his own camp in Kano, a charismatic leader, harnessed religious zeal and turned the anger of the poor into a social movement that clashed against the police in 1980, 1982, 1984 and 1985.
The final uprising that the country has been battling with is the group led Mohammed Yusuf. He started out in the 1990s, he was a great orator and he was strategic in his delivery of his message through writing, the use of the mass media and preaching on market days. The sect used a welfare system to catch the attention of people and they were operating as a state within Borno state. They totally forbade Western education. Eventually, their leader was killed and they have been seeking revenge till date.
Historically, western education, which was introduced to the North around 1914, was not accepted wholeheartedly from the colonialists; schools were rejected by the Emirs and the colonialists were zealous to educate indigenes of the North to run the civil service. According to Walker, the heart-rot of the Nigerian education system is eating the heart of the society. These rots include poor funding; late disbursement of funds; specific needs of schools are not addressed; poor communication between areas of governance; nepotism and corruption in the process of hiring. Others are poor salary; teachers involved in business to augment; blatant cheating that supports the certificate culture in the country.
Another rotten areas of the society that was touched in the book include the military incursion into the leadership of the country with specific mentions of the money laundering in the days of ECOMOG; promotion of officers based on their loyalty and not on the trade of soldering; corruption; poor organization; poor human rights record; the setup of the army which favours heavy weaponry; mechanised division and armoured division. The police force was not spared, some of the identified problems include mounting checkpoints for bribes; poor payment; poor training; poor equipped officers who prefer to protect the homes and businesses of the elites rather than facing the risk of the job.
The book dealt also with electioneering in Nigeria- the various methods of rigging elections; the political food chain; political thuggery; technicalities of primary election and the lack of ideologies by political office aspirant but on their individual ambition. This he called ‘Stomach infrastructure’, as described by Gov. Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State. Everyone want to have a share of what is offered as possible during election period.
The author of the book who is an International journalist spoke about the form of journalism that is being practiced in the country when compared to the Western world. The news items are on oil business; human interest story which comprise of mysterious, strange, absurd and humourous aspects of life. According to him, ‘the articles are arcane, written in syntax full of journalese. The high level of corruption in the media was cited. Journalists are poorly paid by their employers, who are aware that they are providing their employees access to a marketplace where they can hustle among political players. This often relegated them to the role of ‘stenographers.’ The level of subjectivity in many journalistic pieces is a source of misinformation. It is really a challenge for journalists on all desks in Nigeria to be involved in investigative journalism and research that would rightly inform the society and aid her advancement.
In 2015, Professor Wole Soyinka, as part of activities to mark the Lagos Black Heritage Festival, led children into mentally seeking for ‘The Road to Sambisa’. This road is still being sought for because of the missing Chibok Girls that are being retrieved in bits. According to the book, Boko Haram has become a fully fettered terrorist outfit with the brand name Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP). The group is split over six camps across Borno State and there are camps outside Nigerian territory in Chad, Niger and Cameroon. The tripod on which discussions around Boko Haram is centred are religious; political and the military. Sadly, the group operates under conditions of a continually crisis of epistemology, where it is impossible to verify any fact and all accounts are filtered through the political objectives of the players involved. Unfortunately there are no institutions of record that anyone in a highly factitious society can fully trust.
Conclusively, a half-exposed terror is half-solved. The Nigerian military and other agencies of the state needs to come up with an effective strategy to combat this ‘snake that have been cut into two’ through the efforts of President Goodluck Jonathan and President Muhammadu Buhari’s administrations because the suicide bombing and kidnapping attacks still linger on in the nation. This handy book must be made available to all top-military officers and formations while it should be incorporated into the curriculum of all military academies and Institutes of Peace & Conflict Studies. Andrew Walker must be commended for giving us a historical book with abundance of references; his courage to face the terrorist; write about their terror; research this territory to stir the country up to action is deeply appreciated.
(c)Olutayo IRAN-TIOLA, Lagos, Nigeria