The British Empire Library

'Eat the Heart of the Infidel' The Harrowing of Nigeria and the Rise of Boko Haram

by Andrew Walker

Review by John Smith (Northern Nigeria, 1951-70)
The story of 'Boko Haram', the still active Islamist insurrection that has resulted in thousands of deaths and great disruption in Nigeria this century, is of general interest in the current international climate and of very specific interest to all who served in Northern Nigeria. There have been several books but Andrew Walker's stands out as easily the most accessible to the general reader and the most understanding to those who know the area and the people. Walker is a journalist who has spent the last ten years in Northern Nigeria working for the Daily Trust alongside Nigerian colleagues and has backed up his direct personal experience with wide reading and research. He writes with sympathy and affection, getting as close as an expatriate can to appreciating how Nigeria works.

He wisely sets the rise and progress of 'Boko Haram' within its historical context, the first part of his account devoted to the rise of Usman dan Fodiyo and his 'jihad', the fall of the Kanem empire, Lugard's necessity for indirect rule and the education policies of Hans Vischer. He explains the tensions that existed throughout colonial times and into independence between traditional Islamic teaching and western education, and introduces us to the more recent reformist movements and to the greater influence of Saudi Arabia in these more mobile and digital times.

Walker's account of 'Boko Haram' is as accurate as can be found and he carefully explains the problems of reporting in Nigeria, the fragility of the infrastructure and the complexity of the politics and the corruption underlying government action and inaction, so that the reader appreciates that what is 'normal' in Nigeria may be very different from what might be claimed or expected.

He deals clearly with the question of how far 'Boko Haram' is connected with other Islamist movements such as Al-Queda and ISIS and uniquely he covers all the many rumours and theories that have done the rounds and confused the issue. His account comes up to the assumption of office by President Buhari in July 2015 but makes it clear that solutions remain difficult and remote.

British Empire Book
Andrew Walker
C Hurst & Co (Publishers) Ltd


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