A few weeks ago I sat in a taxi in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital. “I think I’ve driven you before,” the driver said. How long ago, I asked. Two years, he confidently replied. And then a claim that stunned me: “I’ve still got your number saved.”
Indeed he did. My name was saved as “TOLU TRANSCORP” — Transcorp being the city’s sole Hilton hotel, the center of Abuja’s social life, and the place where, two years ago, this driver took me. I had no such recollection, but his evidence sufficed.
For me, that story perfectly illustrates Abuja’s sedate, small-town charm; such a random reunion would have been much less likely in frenzied Lagos, home to 18 million, more than three times the population of Abuja.… Seguir leyendo »
Forty-six years ago this month, Nigeria’s civil war came to an end with the surrender of the secessionist Republic of Biafra. The two and a half years of fighting took some two million lives, but when the bitter conflict ended the triumphant Nigerian government proclaimed, “No Victor, No Vanquished.” Nevertheless, the discontent of the ethnic Igbo people of southeast Nigeria lingers on.
In 1999, a group known as the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra emerged, seeking through protests and political agitation to re-establish an independent nation. In recent years it has been overshadowed by another group, the Indigenous People of Biafra, which also calls for independence, by violence if necessary.… Seguir leyendo »
With the world’s attention focused on the Islamic State attacks in Paris that killed 130 people on Nov. 13, there was a flurry of debate about how much more media coverage France had received than Beirut, where, a day earlier, suicide bombers sent by the jihadist group killed 43 people. In Nigeria, we expect most terrorist attacks to go unnoticed by the world.
Considering the global attention paid to the Islamic State, you would not guess that Boko Haram is actually the world’s deadliest terrorist organization, according to the Global Terrorism Index. While the Islamic State operates in an oil-rich region and directly threatens the West, Boko Haram’s brutality remains largely confined to remote, sparsely populated parts of Nigeria.… Seguir leyendo »
Visiting the White House has become a rite of passage for newly elected Nigerian presidents. Olusegun Obasanjo was hosted by Bill Clinton in October 1999, five months after he was sworn in as Nigeria’s first civilian president in 16 years. His successor, Umaru Yar’Adua, was a guest of George W. Bush in December 2007 after he assumed office. Goodluck Jonathan visited President Obama days after his May 2011 inauguration.
Now it is the turn of Muhammadu Buhari, who in March became the first opposition Nigerian candidate to defeat a sitting president. On July 20, Mr. Buhari, who first ruled Nigeria as a military general when Ronald Reagan was president, will meet with Mr.… Seguir leyendo »
In 2006 I worked as an intern for a pharmacist at a state-run hospital in Asaba, a town on the banks of the Niger River, which loosely divides southern Nigeria into east and west. The cases we attended to usually involved pregnancies, tropical illnesses, and an alarming number of domestic assaults. Then one day we received a flood of men and boys with machete wounds to their heads and limbs. They were migrants from northern Nigeria who had come south, as many do, to work as traders and laborers in Onitsha, the sprawling market town across the river from Asaba.
They were mostly Muslims, victims of a wave of sectarian violence that swept Nigeria after a Danish newspaper published cartoons deemed insulting to the Prophet Muhammad.… Seguir leyendo »
Here in Nigeria’s commercial hub, it is tempting to regard Boko Haram, the Islamist terrorist group that for more than five years has waged war in the country’s far northeast, as a distant tragedy. We are, of course, aware of the fallout: the thousands of deaths, the hundreds of thousands of displaced persons, the destroyed infrastructure — schools, churches, mosques, homes, police stations — that will take years, and millions of dollars, to rebuild. But in southern Nigeria, it is easy to feel removed from the crisis.
The reality, though, is that the insurgency’s impact ripples out across the country. A visit last year to a popular fabric market in Abeokuta, a city 100 kilometers north of Lagos, brought this home to me.… Seguir leyendo »
On Monday, news broke that about 200 girls had been kidnapped from their school in Chibok, in the northeastern state of Borno — a region at the center of Nigeria’s five-year terrorist insurgency.
The very next day, the Nigerian military announced that all but nine of the girls had been rescued.
This turned out to be untrue. The school’s principal and the girls’ parents complained that the girls were still missing.
In August last year, a military spokesman announced the death of Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, at the hands of the military. But like the news of the release of the schoolgirls, it proved to be fiction.… Seguir leyendo »
The choice of mobile as the medium for CNN’s Africa-wide survey of Mandela-related opinion shows how much has changed across the continent in the two decades between Mandela’s presidency, and his death.
Imagine attempting to do a phone survey in 1994, when a country like Nigeria — Africa’s most populous — had fewer than half-a-million landlines for its more than 100 million people, and mobile phones were mostly unheard of. (At this time of course land-lines were a staple across the developed world.)
The dire state of technology was of course a reflection of wider — political — dysfunction. While multi-party democracy was taking root in South Africa, only about five of Africa’s 54 countries were not being ruled by dictators, most of whom did little more than loot the treasury and kill everyone perceived to be an enemy.… Seguir leyendo »