The Caliphate of Sokoto

In Africa south of the Sahara, in contrast to other regions of Africa andAsia, Islam was not initially spread by force. Arabic warriors who conquered the north of Africa in the seventh century, also pushed across theNileValleyto the south, threatening Christian Nubia andEthiopia. Otherwise, however, theSaharaacted as a barrier and prevented warring campaigns from entering the south. It was extremely difficult to conduct armies along the caravan routes through the desert, and such a military venture would not have made much sense, because little tribute could have been extorted from the subsistence farmers in theSahelzone. The month-long, dangerous journey was profitable only for merchants. Some of them settled inTimbuktuand other West-African towns, though they did so in their own quarters cut off from the remaining population. Local rulers who sought to monopolize the trade with the caravans of the Arabs and Berber protected these small Islamic communities; indeed in the eleventh century the kings of Ghana, Mali and Kanem-Bornu converted to Islam, and from the fifteenth century onwards the rulers of the Hausa kingdoms in current-day Northern Nigeria followed suit. Of course, Islam remained a courtly religion that managed to gain a few urban followers, but had little appeal for the peasant population with their fertility cultures. It was not until 1804 when Usman dan Fodio, a Fulani preacher, called on people to wage in a holy war against infidels that Islam spread acrossNorthern Nigeria.

Many Muslims still view the jihad as a model of religious revival, but even in the nineteenth century the struggle against infidels served to assert the supremacy of an ethnic group. The Fulani, to whom Usman dan Fodio belonged, were originally cattle nomads, who migrated from present-day Senegal and, from the fifteenth century onwards, penetrated Hausaland. An educated minority that had acquired great learning from its contact with Islamic culture, settled in the residences of the Hausa kings and rose to important positions. As preachers and advisors to the kings or as their secretaries and tax collectors »they gained influence and authority out of all proportion to their numbers«.[1] They resided in their own quarters on the outskirts of large towns, or established religious enclaves in the country, as did Usman dan Fodio and other scholars, who were keen to secure independence of the rulers. Among these outsiders who had made Islam their profession, the rebellion against the ›ungodly‹ Hausa kings started.

The rebellion by the warrior-scholars would have been rapidly put down had they not found support in other sections of the population. Their most important allies were the Fulani nomads who lived apart from the peasant population. As most of the Fulani pastoralists were not Muslims, they lacked the religious ethos of the jihadists, but they did suffer under the despotism of the Hausa kings, and this prompted them to heed the call for a holy war.[2] Some peasants and merchants were similarly drawn to the teachings of the jihadists, since Usman dan Fodio vigorously condemned the rulers’ corruption and tyranny: »Whomsoever they wish to kill or exile or violate his honour or devour his wealth they do so in pursuit of their lusts, without any right in the Shari’a!«[3] Kings, who followed Islam, were not allowed to take their subjects prisoner at will or enslave them. Moreover, the laws of Sharia forbade them to oppress the peasants with high tributes or to impose arbitrary taxes on the cattle breeders. By citing the word of God, the jihadists established a yardstick of criticism that had equal currency across ethnic and social borders for all sections of the population.

Their reference to Sharia was also important for another reason. Since Islamic orthodoxy forbids war against fellow Muslims, Usman dan Fodio could only proclaim a jihad, if he declared his opponents to be apostates who had turned away from the principles of Islam. Thus, social criticism combined with religious rigor. The kings were accused of tolerating ›heathen‹ cults, indeed of participating in them. Music, dance and alcohol were not banned, and women could move about freely without wearing a veil.[4] Since the Hausa kings ruled over a largely ›pagan‹ population they had indeed failed to insist on compliance with Islamic laws. But some of those who were ostracized by Usman dan Fodio, considered themselves to be pious Muslims. For instance, the official sources of the jihad acknowledge that the king of Gobir remained true to his faith even in moments of great distress. Although he was being pursued by the Fulani warriors, this did not prevent him from pausing during his flight in order to perform the prescribed prayers.[5]

Within five years the Hausa kings had been driven out, but the feu­dal social order remained. The old aristocracy was simply replaced by ›royal‹ Fulani families. One of their leaders, who turned away from the jihadists out of disappointment, wrote of this new upper class: Most of them were hypocrites, »whose purpose is the ruling of countries […] and the collecting of concubines, and fine clothes«.[6] As people often suffered more under the taxes and raids of the new rulers than they had previously, there were repeated revolts against the Fulani leaders even in the early stages of the jihad.[7] Their supremacy may have been quickly eroded owing to ethnic differences, if they had not directed the internal aggression against the ›infidels‹ outside the empire. So the armies of the Fulani and their allies did not stop at the borders of the Hausa territory, but penetrated farther eastwards towards Bauchi (the ›Land of the Slaves‹), and southwards to the Nupe and into Yoruba territory. In the course of the nineteenth century, emirates evolved in these conquered regions which depended on the leader of the faithful, the Caliph in Sokoto.

The only means of uniting the subdued peoples and holding the disparate empire together was Islam. Religion alone created a feeling of belonging that could transcend ethnic loyalties. In order to gain legitimacy the emirs had no other choice than to set up a theocratic rule. As custodians of the true faith they were intent on asserting the external manifestations of the new religion, like Ramadan, Friday prayers and other rites that were suitable for disseminating a uniform culture. In areas where they sought to establish a lasting state order, as in Hausaland or amongst the Nupe and Yoruba, the subdued population was pushed to adopt its conquerors’ faith. Yet conversion to Islam did not result in the converted seeing themselves as equals to their fellow Muslims. Rather, being a Muslim meant recognizing the emirs’ religious and political authority and accepting one’s place in a stratified social system. Islam established an enduring structure of subjugation, which secured the conquest of ›heathen‹ societies: »Praying to Allah mean[t] praying to the God of the powerful«.[8] Those Nupe, for example, who converted to Islam, were generally also prepared to serve the foreign invaders. Their ethnic loyalties changed, and they were perceived by their ›pagan‹ brothers as part of the new ruling class: »Of such men the Nupe say not ›they become Mohammedans‹ but […] ›they become Fulani‹.«[9]

Nonetheless, in most regions only a loose form of dependence prevailed. Village communities or ethnic groups had to pay the emirs tributes to avoid being ransacked by troops from the capital, but otherwise they preserved much autonomy. Despite its wars of conquest, Islam remained on the whole an urban religion.[10] Especially on the margins of the empire, where hundreds of ethnic groups lived, people attempted to evade the Fulani’s claim to power – and consequently that of Islam. In these areas, the jihad resembled a looting expedition, as the warriors were more intent on taking slaves than spreading their religion. European explorers, who crossed the border regions of the Fulani Empire in the middle of the nineteenth century, reported of constant wars and predatory attacks that depopulated entire swathes of land.[11] In contrast, the center of the caliphate was densely populated, and there were millions of slaves, most of whom worked on the plantations.[12] Considerable prosperity developed in the cities thanks to the plantations; the transport routes were relatively safe, and trade flourished. But the constant demand for cheap labor meant that the periphery of the empire remained insecure. Emirates such as Kontagora, which were surrounded by unconquered, ›heathen‹ territory, financed themselves solely through the slave trade.[13] Presumably the frequent slave hunts explained why large sections of the North were not Islamized. After all, converting to Islam could not save people from being enslaved.[14] In some border regions such as Adamawa, the Fulani even prevented the subjugated population from converting to Islam: »Until the end of the 1950s, those locals who tried to convert to Islam (and those Fulbe who  proselytized) were beaten and jailed by the Sultans«.[15] The foreign conquerors, who claimed all power for themselves, had no interest in assimilation, and therefore employed their religion in order to distinguish themselves from the ›primitive‹ indigenous population.

In an attempt to escape the raids by the slave hunters, people took refuge in the Jos Plateau, the MuriMountainsand other impassable regions that were difficult for the Fulani horsemen to navigate. Most of the areas they retreated to were in Nigeria’s Middle Belt, a vast stretch of savanna that separates the semi-arid north from the tropical, humid south. Even today hundreds of minority peoples, who have largely maintained their independence, live in this intermediate zone. However, farther north in the center of the caliphate assimilation took place. The Warji, Pa’a and other small groups that converted to Islam, gradually assumed the identity of the majority population, the Hausa. Even the politically dominant ethnic group, the Fulani, adopted the language and often also the culture of the Hausa, which is why people today mostly speak of the Hausa-Fulani. That said, the nomadic ›Bush Fulani‹, who live from cattle breeding, have retained their traditional way of life. And even many sedentary Fulani (especially in the Northeast of Nigeria, where they did not settle under the Hausa, but under diverse minority peoples) still see themselves as a distinct ethnic group with their own language and separate settlements. There are other areas in which old rivalries between Hausa and Fulani emerge, for instance in the officer corps of the army.[16] It is in any case difficult to talk of a shared Hausa-Fulani culture, as the Hausa exhibit strong local differences. Up until the era of the jihad they formed a »hotch-potch of peoples«[17], and consequently, there was only a weak sense of solidarity. It is true that the people in Kano, Katsina or Zaria spoke dialects of the same language, but their identity was shaped regionally by their affiliation with one of the kingdoms, which had been in conflict with each other for centuries.[18]

Islam was a major element in the creation of a common Hausa-Fulani identity. The shared religion made it easier for the noble Fulani families to minimize ethnic antagonisms; at the same time it did not compel them to renounce their privileges as rulers. Consequently, religion assumed a paradoxical function: It enabled the foreign conquerors to integrate into the majority society, while retaining their exclusive status. Today a few Fulani families still have the right to decide who should ascend to the throne of Sokoto. By taking  the title ›Caliph‹ the emperors aspired to be representatives of the Prophet Mohammed. After the British conquest, when they had to swear loyalty to the British king, they contented themselves with the title ›Sultan‹, but this office still had to devolve to a direct descendent of Usman dan Fodio. The same principle applied to other high offices, which had been made over to a handful of Fulani families since the early nineteenth century. Even in a town like Ilorin, where the vast majority of the population has been Yoruba, the emir has, for generations, been chosen from one of the royal Fulani dynasties. His claim to rule was based on the jihad, so it was important to preserve this religious tradition. The Fulani aristocracy had to present themselves as guardians of a pure, strict Islam and stressed their descent from Usman dan Fodio and his companions. Later descendents of the Caliph’s family even claimed to stand in a direct line to the Prophet Mohammed.[19] These remote yet distinguished origins fit in well with the fact that the Fulani, like the Tuareg, were originally lighter-skinned than other inhabitants of the Sahel zone. They often bragged that their descendents were Arabs, but it is more likely they originated from Berbers who mixed with black African peoples such as the Wolof and Serer in today’s Senegal.[20] At any rate, there were several reasons for their sense of superiority. In addition to the pride that Islam lent them, they had a code of honor based on their nomadic traditions. It imbued them with a feeling of freedom and independence not shared by the hoe cultivators around them.[21]

As proponents of a strict form of Islam, the caliphate leaders sometimes applied rigorous force in suppressing ›pagan‹ customs and cult objects.[22] But their efforts to purge society of all non-Islamic practices repeatedly failed in the face of indifference or silent resistance of large sections of the population. Despite some initial success, reform movements always ran out of steam: »The spirit is willing but the social flesh is weak.«[23] Nonetheless, towards the end of the nineteenth century, and shortly before the Caliphate were conquered by Great Britain, life in the towns was strongly influenced by Islam, and the authorities made an effort to enforce at least some Sharia laws. For instance, thieves often had a hand cut off, and draconian punishments were meted out for non-observance of ritual duties.[24] In the aristocrats’ palaces the wives, concubi­nes and occasionally the unmarried princesses were clad in Islamic garments and closely watched, but other women were not required to be veiled and enjoyed »great liberties«.[25] Particularly in rural areas and amongst the poorer urban classes, people resisted religious regimentation, so Islam was practiced at best in traditional, syncretistic forms.

However, the dependent sections of the population did not just form a apathetic, reluctant mass that frustrated the efforts of religious reformers. Dissatisfied peasants or fugitive slaves sometimes could be mobilized to support Islamic demands, if they fell under the influence of charismatic leaders. Many militant preachers and rebel leaders, including Fulani princes who had been passed over as successors to the throne, opposed the oppressive regime of the emirs and their courtiers. As many insurgencies in the second half of the nineteenth century show, Islam did not only help to consolidate political rule but also inspired resistance against it. In this respect, the Sokoto Caliphate resembled other empires in which Islam, though spread by the upper classes, captured the political imagination of the masses: »the great radical movements in the Islamic empire were all movements within Islam and not against it.«[26] Once the subjugated population had appropriated the foreign conqueror’s religion, it could turn the divine message against its original carriers. Islamic authorities found it difficult to control the political use of religion, because theological texts, rites and symbols were not administered by institutions like a church and an ordained clergy. Every believer who succeeded in gathering enough adherents could follow in the footsteps of Usman dan Fodio and declare his own jihad. This is why the caliphate, like other Muslim societies, developed »an enormous potential for mass movements and mass outbreaks«.[27] Yet the religious mobilization of the population did not give rise to institutions that could be used to domesticate state power. Neither the Caliph nor the emirs could be legally deposed.[28] Rebellion against their autocratic rule did not lead to democratic control; it simply replaced one despot with another. Religiously-inspired warlords often succeeded in driving away the Fulani aristocracy, but they could not establish more legitimate authority. Towards the end of the nineteenth century, many towns and villages, particularly at the eastern margins of the empire, had been devastated by revolts of self-appointed Mahdis.[29]

Islam as Support of the Colonial System

In 1902/03 when British troops occupied the North of Nigeria, they met with little resistance. Even in Sokoto, the center of the Fulani Empire, the population did not defend the Islamic authorities. It did not take long for the Caliph and most of the emirs to be expelled. Yet the British did not think it advisable to break the power of the ruling families, as the colonial power lacked the staff to administer the conquered territories. In the centers of the Fulani emirates, the British found a functioning administration. At least in the towns, the people were accustomed to paying taxes and obeying the authorities. Furthermore, the British met with a judicial system, which they could take over without many modifications. Muslim law was relatively easy to integrate into the colonial administration, as many of its regulations already existed in written form. So Sharia remained the recognized law in the emirates until the end of the colonial era. The only practices that were abolished were those which the new rulers viewed as inhumane, namely torture and mutilation.

Nor did the British tolerate slavery: they had, after all, justified their conquest of Sokoto by arguing that they wanted to stop the slave trade. However, once the colonial government was established it adopted a pragmatic attitude. The British banned public slave markets, and it was no longer possible to conduct large-scale slave raids. That said, excessively strict measures would have threatened the economic position of the Fulani rulers. Some of them, like the Emir of Kontagora, were quick to declare that they would defy any ban: »Can you stop a cat from mousing? I shall die with a slave in my mouth«.[30] It made more sense for the British governors to put aside moral scruples and make allowances for their allies’ interests. It was not until 1936 that a decree was passed under which all citizens of Nigeria were born free. However, slavery continued to be tolerated in modified form; at the royal courts in particular, it survived the colonial era.[31]

The alliance between the British and the Fulani aristocracy gave birth to the system of ›indirect rule‹. Though sovereignty lay with the British crown, the ›native authorities‹ remained in direct control of the population. The emirs also retained the right to distribute land, and they levied poll and animal taxes. Furthermore, with the Sultan they were the highest judicial authorities. Not only did they appoint profes­sional judges (called alkali after the Hausa word for al kadi), they also presided over court in their palaces. They were allowed to intervene at will in ongoing trials, take charge of lawsuits and even reverse rulings.[32] The colonial administration was relieved that it was necessary to intervene in the Africans’ way of life. However, the British were not the only ones who profited from this power-sharing arrangement: so did the Fulani, who could extend their sphere of influence. After all, it was only thanks to the colonial army that it became possible to pacify the ›warrior tribes‹ of the uplands and other peripheral regions. Ethnic groups who had succeeded in defending their independence during the entire nineteenth century were now subjugated to Islamic authorities at the behest of the British governor.[33] The Kataf, for instance, and a dozen related ethnic groups came under the rule of the Emir of Zaria, with the result that for decades every post in the district administration from judge to messenger was filled with Hausa and Fulani.[34]

In all those regions of the Middle Belt, which were not formally incorporated into the emirates, native administrations were established to apply local customary law, not Sharia. Councils of elders, chiefs and village heads, who worked to the satisfaction of the British district officer, were authorized to mete out justice as they saw fit, but only when it involved minor crimes or disputes. More serious cases were tried by the provincial courts, presided over by British judges. They were instructed, however, not to pass sentence according to foreign, European legal principles. English criminal law, which had been introduced in 1904, only applied to Europeans, Levantines, Indians and Africans from other colonies. Otherwise, the judges at the Magistrate Courts and the High Court (later Supreme Court) passed sentence according to the prevailing customary law. That said, the British lacked the money, staff and communication to control the ›pagan‹ regions effectively, so they often relied on administrative staff they had recruited under the Hausa and Fulani.[35] After all, it was often impossible to find chiefs or other people in authority amongst the populations in the minority areas, and even when they did encounter traditi­onal rulers, the latter were often reluctant to cooperate with colonial officials: »each petty chief [is] a passive resister, and not one with sufficient power over his people to be able to enforce my orders.«[36] For the British, it was often easier to engage ›friendly‹ Fulani as district and village heads. Communicating with them was easier, both sides held similar colonial attitudes, and it appeared that the Fulani – like the British – had been destined to rule: »We feel that the Fulani and the English races have much in common. Both have had a long experience and special aptitude for administering their own and other people’s affairs.«[37]

Until the end of the colonial era, Sharia applied in all regions subjugated to the emirate system. Even where the majority of the population was ›pagan‹, civil and criminal proceedings had to be heard by Islamic courts. In keeping with the traditions of Sharia, political and judicial power were not divided; the Sultan and some of the important emirs retained the right to pass the death sentence on their subjects. Moreover, as in the past they used their authority to fill almost all the judges‘ positions with members of allied Fulani families.[38] From the European perspective such extensive power was problematic. In order to prevent the emirs from misusing their office, the administration of justice was placed under the supervision of British judges and district officers. Death sentences were only effective if the governor confirmed them, and even in the case of longer prison sentences, the government could reverse rulings or transfer trials to other courts.[39] In addition, the colonial administration reserved the right to modify Sharia itself. Anything that was deemed »repugnant to natural justice and humanity« could be forbidden.[40] Until today many Muslims consider it presumptuous and insulting that the Europeans claimed to teach others what is humane and just. However, only rarely did the colonial regime exercise its right to overrule ›repugnant‹ sections of the Sharia. With the exception of amputations and other harsh physical punishments, the British administrators  tolerated most Islamic legal practices even when they were at odds with Euro­pean concepts of justice. For example, Sharia judges could sentence suspects to death without sufficient evidence, if male relatives of the victim swore 50 oaths against the accused.[41] The colonial government also accepted that non-Muslims suffered massive discrimination. In 1958, for example, a government commission established that some of the Fulani judges – in accordance with Sharia – did not allow non-believers to testify against Muslims.[42] Moreover, the punishment depended on the religion of the accused. When a Muslim was murdered, the killer faced the death sentence, or if agreement was reached on the payment of compensation, he had to pay the full amount of blood money. In contrast, a Muslim who murdered an infidel only received one hundred strokes of the cane and was sentenced to one year in prison. In cases of compensation, the victim’s family was entitled to only a fraction of the full amount of blood money: Christians received half, while heathens received just one fifteenth.[43]

By upholding these Sharia provisions, the colonial administration institutionalized the inferior status of non-Muslims in the emirate areas. Even in those regions of the Middle Belt that had not been made over to the emirs, it was obvious that the British treated Fulani officials in the local administration with more respect than the old-established local dignitaries. Consequently, traditional big men emulated the behavior and speech of the Fulani, or they adopted their dress and occasionally their religion.[44] The aristocracy in the centers of the Fulani Empire soon learned that it could assert its religious and political influence more quickly in alliance with the British than during the times of jihad, and it fully appreciated this preferential treatment by the colonial administration. Ahmadu Bello, the political leader of the Northern Region, noted that the British were »the instruments of destiny«, and that their conquest of Nigeria was »fulfilling the will of God«.[45] And indeed, colonialism was a blessing for the spreading of Islam, not only in Nigeria, but also in other parts of West Africa: »in half a century of European colonization Islam progressed more widely and more profoundly than in ten centuries of precolonial history.«[46]

Immediately after the conquest of the Fulani Empire, the British High Commissioner had promised that the new administration would not interfere with the Muslims’ religion.[47] The intention was to prevent the outbreak of religious unrest, such as the British had experienced several years previously during the 1884 Mahdi revolt in the Sudan. Moreover, the British had to accept the fact that their new allies, the Fulani rulers, maintained their position by virtue of their religious authority. As defensores fidei the emirs could not permit their Muslim subjects to defect from true religion.[48] Consequently the colonial administration ordered all of the emirate regions to be closed to Christian missionaries. Missions were even barred from the Sabon Gari (foreign quarters) of Sokoto or Kano, where Christian immigrants from the South settled. Church representatives vehemently protested this obstruction of their work, but the colonial ministry declared it was unwilling to make any concessions in this matter: »Whatever threatened the Muhammedan religion threatened the authority of the Emirs and so imperiled the organization of ›Indirect Rule‹.«[49] Only in 1931 were Christians allowed to preach in ›quiet places‹; and priests could visit people’s home, if they had been invited.[50] Even today many cities of the North relegate the construction of churches to outlying areas.

For decades the missions’ activities concentrated on the South, which is now largely Christian. Only in some Yoruba towns such asIlorinorIbadan, which had an Islamic influence that predated the colonial era, do Muslims make up the majority of the population. In contrast, in the southeast of the country, under the Igbo and the ethnic minorities on the coast, European missions asserted themselves. Christianity also appealed to the ›pagan‹ minorities in the North. In order to distance themselves from the advancing Hausa-Fulani culture, many of them converted to Christianity. In this manner they acquired a ›respectable‹ modern identity that made it easier for them to maintain their independence.

Since missions were accompanied by schools and hospitals, they resulted in the emergence of a Western lifestyle in the country’s South and in parts of the Middle Belt. In contrast, the Islamic North remained protected from the influences of Western modernity, and this explains in part why the regions around Sokoto, Katsina and Bauchi are still among the poorest and least developed regions in Africa. Towards the end of the colonial era, only 185,000 children in Northern Nigeriaattended primary school; in the South however the number stood at 2,300,000.[51] Reservations about the European education system persist in postcolonial Nigeria, because the highest authorities such as the Sultan of Sokoto warn parents about its corrupting influence: »Western education destroys our culture.«[52] The majority of the people in the North is still illiterate because parents refuse to send their children to school or because they prefer Koran schools, where the pupils memorize holy verses, but do not learn to read and write.[53]

The stark contrasts between North and South were produced, in part, by the policy of the colonial power. Its system of indirect rule reinforced differences not only between regions, but also between ethnic groups that lived in proximity. In Kanoand other cities of the North, the administration created foreign quarters for traders and administrative officials from the South, who had settled in Northern Nigeriain large numbers after the construction of the railway. Admittedly, the practice of ethnic and religious segregation predated the colonial era. The old town of Kanohad been reserved for the Hausa and Fulani, with other ethnic groups being forced to settle outside the city walls: The Ara­bs were in Durimin Turawa, the Tuareg in Agadasawa, and there were also special quarters for non-Muslims.[54] Laws restricted the contact among these groups, for instance, the Sharia forbade non-Muslims to marry Muslim women. This ban was upheld under British rule.[55]

The decision to administer Nigeriaby a system of indirect rule was a pragmatic one. However, the fact that in doing so the British favored the Fulani aristocracy was motivated by personal preferences. The Fulani’s courtly culture and their religion seemed to the conquerors from Victorian England to be evidence of a noble civilization. Members of the colonial oligarchy such as Lady Lugard also noted with appreciation the lighter skin color of the Fulani and their almost Eu­ropean features: »the high nose, thin lips and deep set eye, the Aristocratic thin hand […]; the ruling classes in the North are deserving in every way of the name of cultivated Gentlemen; […] there are races which are born to conquer and others to persist in conquest«.[56] British officials who served in Nigeria, applied to be posted to the residential towns of the emirs where living conditions were more pleasant and their own work conferred greater prestige.[57] Moreover, in their dealings with the Fulani aristocracy they could be sure that their prejudices against the »uncivilised pagan tribes«[58] were shared. The Emir of Zaria, for example, responded to the call for autonomy by those peoples, whom his ancestors had seen as a pool of slaves: He could not see how »people who ate dogs and whose women wore little but a bunch of leaves should be led to believe that they could administer themselves.«[59] Lugard made similarly derogatory comments on the tribes, which were difficult to rule and persisted »in the lowest stage of primitive savagery«.[60] Islam, in contrast, seemed to have achieved a transition to a higher form of civilization. Some of the colonial officials considered it highly advantageous that since the start of British rule many ›pagan‹ peoples had come under the influence of Islamic authorities. Following the end of the slave hunts it was believed that the religious-political culture of the emirs would exert a positive influence, especially on those newly conquered peoples, who first had to learn to obey state authority: »Islam is the best religion for Africans«.[61] Others, however, pointed out that Islam with its proud insistence on god-given rules of conduct would ultimately hinder the transition to a modern way of life.

The fact that large numbers of the ›pagan‹ population in the South converted to Christianity, did not necessarily lend them more respectability in the eyes of the British.  Many colonial officials did not disguise their contempt for the ›semi-civilized mission boys‹, who tried to imitate the behavior of the whites.[62] While the large majority of the Muslim population was subservient and willing to cooperate, the Christian converts were often perceived as tiresome competition. They were anxious to appropriate the knowledge of the Europeans, but with the intention of taking over their privileged positions. Consequently, the mission schools were seen as breeding grounds for African natio­nalism. It was here that the modern elite which later revolted against the foreign rule of the whites, evolved.[63]

Transition to independence

As early as the 1940s it became apparent that the colonial system was becoming untenable. This meant the British administration had to begin preparing for the gradual hand-over of power to the Africans. But to which Africans? In a nation with 500 ethnic groups it would have been impossible to restore the precolonial power structures. Local princes and emirs could not expect to regain their former autonomy. In a »world of nation-states«[64] which was geared towards Western standards, there seemed to be no place for chieftainships or segmentary societies. Rather, the African colonies had to embark on the same route already taken by the former colonies inAsia andLatin America. With their arbitrarily drawn borders, which forced together a large number of ethnic and religious communities, they had apparently no other choice but to transform themselves into modern terri­torial states.

The ›native authorities‹, on whom indirect rule had been based, were poorly equipped for taking over a Western-type administration. They not only lacked the democratic legiti­macy but often the necessary expertise.[65] In particular the Islamic rulers in the North were aware that they would likely end up as the losers when the process of decolonization was completed. Executive positions in the state machinery, which would need to be filled anew following the colonial officials’ departure, could only be occupied by an ›educated‹ elite. And it looked as if European criteria alone would define ›educated‹. Young Nigerians, who had learned English in the mission schools, now held the key to success, while all forms of Islamic learning had been devalued.

The Igbo and Yoruba from the South had taken early advantage of their lead in the education sector by accepting positions in the colonial administration. Once the British withdrew, they could reckon on taking control of the state machinery. In 1960, less than two percent of the employees working in the ministries of the capital Lagosand in other federal authorities had come from the North.[66] As such, the Fulani aristocracy feared that with independence they would lose their influence. Under the British protectorate the political elite of the North had felt, by and large, fairly treated; but they could not expect to receive favorable treatment from their black brothers in the South. Ahmadu Bello, who in 1954 was elected first Prime Minister of the Northern Region, openly expressed this mistrust of the ›nationalist‹ politicians from the South: »what had we to hope from an African Administration, probably in the hands of a hostile party. The answer to our minds was, quite simply, just nothing«.[67] In the House of Representatives in Lagos, which united delegates from the North and South, there was a confrontation as early as 1953. When a representative of the Action Group presented a motion that Nigeria should be made independent within three years he was voted down by politicians from the North.[68]

Though the colonial administration did not have the power to halt the move towards independence, it was influential enough to set the course for the future. Those radical politicians, who had campaigned on anti-imperialist slogans for an independent Nigeria, were not to profit from the fruits of independence. From the British point of view, the conservative elite of the North, which had formed the Northern Peoples’ Congress (NPC) in 1951, was much better suited to maintaining stability in a time of transition.[69] In order to ensure that Hausa and Fulani politicians would inherit colonial power, the governor-general was willing to meet the NPC’s key demands. In 1954, the protectorate received a federal constitution, which established an African government with extensive powers for each region. This meant that NPC politicians could entrench their influence in the administrative centers of the North without much interference from the federal capital. Moreover, the Northern Region remained a single political unit, notwithstanding the embittered resistance of the non-Muslim minorities. Consequently, the NPC, whose primacy in the North was based on the dominance of the Muslim population, also had the opportunity to bring the minority regions of the Middle Belt under its control.

As early as 1939, the South of Nigeria had been divided into Western and Eastern provinces, while the North remained a single administrative unit even though it encompassed three-quarters ofNigeria’s territory. Likewise, in terms of total population, the Northern Region appeared to have a slight edge on the South according to the 1952-3 census. As a result, the North was granted more seats than the West and East combined, when the first independent federal parliament was elected in 1959. Any party that succeeded in bringing the Northern Region under its control was in a good position to secure power inLagos. Indeed, this was the only chance for the old elite of the Fulani to prevent its lapse into insignificance. Deprived of the means of controlling the government of independentNigeria, the entire North would have been further marginalized. After all, not only the education gap between Christians and Muslims favored the South. In terms of economic development, the Northern Region lagged hopelessly behind. Its decisive handicap, however, was that the enormous oil resources, which had been tapped as recently as the 1950s, lay far away in the Niger Delta. If the North were to profit from this wealth, its elite had to secure its political dominance.

Presenting itself as a regional party, the Northern Peoples’ Congress did not win a single seat in the West or East in the decisive elections for independence.[70] Its motto »One North: One People Irrespective of Religion, Rank or Tribe«[71] called on the people of their own region to unite against the impending hegemony of the South. However, the ethnic groups in Northern Nigeria did not see themselves as ›one people‹, nor did the NPC come close to representing all social and ethnic groups equally. Rather the party apparatus was firmly in the hands of the Fulani aristocracy. The fact that the old elite succeeded in manipulating the modern party system in its favor had to do with certain features of colonial policy. According to British plans, the transition to a democracy was conceived as a gradual process that was to start at the local level, based on the existing native authorities, which were authorized in 1946 to send delegates to a Regional House of Assembly. While the members of the first regional parliament were appointed by the emirs and other traditional authorities, in 1951 and 1956 they were elected, albeit by an indirect electoral process that favored the local notables.[72] As a result, the Fulani elite were able to consolidate their influence to the extent that after Independence, when the regional parliament was elected by direct vote, they emerged as the dominant force: 40 percent of the members elected in 1961 were members of royal families, a further 28 percent belonged to other noble families, and only two percent were descended from slaves.[73]

Representatives of the Christian minorities, who had never felt themselves part of the Fulani Empire, founded their own party, the United Middle Belt Congress. Their primary goal was to split off the Northern Region in order to gain autonomy through a region of their own. With the support of Christian politicians from the South, they forced the colonial government to set up a commission to investigate the idea. However, the commission came out against autonomy, and thus the Christian-traditionalist minorities remained under the ambit of the NPC government in the Northern Region. Prime Minister Ahmadu Bello repeatedly assured them that his government was committed to the interests of all citizens: Northerners should forget their religious differences and work for the unity of their region. »Here in Northern Nigeria … we have people of many different races, tribes and religions who are knit together by common history, common interests and common ideals. […] we have no intention of favouring one religion at the expense of another. […] Let us forget the difference in our religions and, remember […] the common brotherhood before God«.[74] Needless to say, the colonial government was not placated by such assurances. It was prepared to favor the Fulani elite when handing over power, but made this subject to conditions: against the Muslims’ resistance it insisted on granting all (male) citizens, including non-Muslims, the same voting rights.[75] And it demanded that they all forego using Sharia, at least its penal code. The leaders of the Northern Peoples’ Congress bowed to the pressure of the colonial power, and thus the parliament of the Northern Region voted to restrict the scope of the Islamic courts. FromOctober 1, 1960, their jurisdiction was limited to civil proceedings involving questions of Islamic personal law.

The jurisdiction of the Sharia courts had already been pruned on earlier occasions. In 1947, the West African Court of Appeal had annulled a judgment by the Emir of Gwandu although under existing Islamic law it was quite correct. The British judge ruled that it was not justifiable to sentence the accused to death for murder, because a secular court, using English common law which distinguished premeditated murder from homicide, would only have passed a prison sentence in this case. As illustrated by this case, the decision over life and death depended on whether a religious or secular court declared itself to be responsible. In order to avoid such unequal treatment in the future, the Sharia judges were instructed not to hand down harsher sentences than those that secular judges, finding according to English law, would do in comparable cases.[76] The intention of this decree was to standardize of the competing legal systems. The British acted in the conviction that a »medieval« law such as the Sharia was destined to give way to modern law anyway.[77] In an independent and democratic Nigeria, all citizens would enjoy the same rights. A uniform body of ›modern‹ law also appeared necessary in order to foster trust among foreign investors.[78] In the negotiations with the NPC leadership, however, they could not agree on a common law code, not even in the field of criminal justice. Instead of adopting the Criminal Code, derived from the British legal system and installed as the sole criminal code in the two southern provinces, the Northern legislators passed their own Penal Code. It also drew heavily on the English criminal code and was thus suited for secular courts, yet it preserved a few elements of the Islamic penal system. Adultery and the consumption of alcohol remained forbidden, but only for the Muslim part of the population, and the penalties were not as strict as envisaged by Sharia.[79]

In an effort to clear the obstacles out of the path to a modern, democratic Nigeria, the colonial government endeavored to push through another reform: to reduce the influence of traditional authorities and thus sever the ties between judicial and political power. When the British governor announced in 1959 that the Sultan and the emirs would also have to bow to ministerial decrees, the persons in question were »shocked«.[80] In the system of indirect rule, they had been incorporated into the hierarchy of the colonial administration, along with all the staff members of their native administrations, meaning that they no longer lived from payments of tribute and instead received government salaries. However, they had not been prevented from filling key positions in the judiciary and administrations with their followers and family members.[81] Shortly before Independence, they were stripped of the power to appoint and discipline Islamic judges. They could still continue holding court in their palaces (a right they did not lose until 1967 under military rule), but as of 1957 their judgments could be overturned by a higher Islamic court, the newly instituted Muslim Court of Appeal.[82]

The gradual loss of power by the Islamic aristocracy came about only because the Prime Minister of the North supported this process. Ahmadu Bello, who had the title of Sardauna (crown prince), was himself of royal blood and had no interest in abolishing the institution of the emirates. He did, however, have an interest in bringing the emirs to heel. In 1963, he had criminal proceedings for embezzlement of tax revenue initiated against the proudest and least compliant of them: the Emir of Kano.[83] While the power of the traditional notables decayed, the influence of politicians from the non-aristocratic Hausa and Fulani families increased, and they were now integrated into the ruling stratum of society. Many of them had received a Western education, for example in the administrative colleges in Katsina andKaduna, where British lecturers had raised a modern Islamic elite.

The elite that had received Western training did not necessarily espouse principles of democratic rule. As long as the colonial government supervised the transition to democracy, at least the elections were largely free and fair.[84] But afterIndependence the NPC leadership showed little restraint in using the state’s monopoly on power to secure its still fragile dominance. Thanks to the federal constitution, the Premier of the Northern Region had far-reaching powers. He decided on the allocation of state resources and access to public offices; he also controlled the police and later the regional radio and TV stations. Ethnic minorities therefore found that it did not pay off for them to support opposition parties. They thus risked exclusion from development projects and other state blessings. If they openly opposed the dictates of the regional government, as did the predominantly Christian and traditionalist Tiv, then their revolt was put down by the army.

Opposition politicians who defected to the government party were rewarded with lucrative posts and public contracts. However, those who were not prepared to take the victors’ side had to live in fear of financial ruin or imprisonment. Three years after Independence, the opposition was largely inactive, and North Nigeriahad almost been turned into a one-party state.[85] The victims of the repression not only included Christian groups, but also Muslim opposition parties, especially the Northern Ele­ments Progressive Union (NEPU), a left-wing populist party which opposed the political and religious hegemony of the royal family of Sokoto, and the Bornu Youth Movement (BYM), a regional party of the Kanuri minority in Northeast Nigeria. Charges against members of NEPU and BYM were, as long as Islamic criminal law was in force, raised in the name of Sharia. This gave judges the chance of harking back to a set of very broad discretionary rights, siyasa.[86] In cases, when the violation of public order was tried, the testimony of two Muslim witnesses was enough to secure a conviction; the judges did not have to give reasons for their decision, and attorneys were not allowed to argue before Islamic courts.[87] To prevent the colonial government from intervening in political court cases, the judges were mostly content with imposing lighter punishments. Defendants were given twelve lashes, or were imprisoned for three months.[88] If they were not cowed, when released, they could be locked up for a few more months.[89] As a rule, punishments were given as soon as the sentence was passed, so no appeal was possible. In any case, appeals against the judgments would have failed, because with such minor penalties, the appellate procedures went no further than the nearest emir’s court of law. Appeal courts with European members only accepted cases in which the appellant had received a prison sentence of more than six months or a fine of more than 25 pounds.[90] Thus aside from a few exceptions, opposition politicians were only tried by Islamic judges, who had close ties to the ruling party and local authorities: »The police were in the hands of the chief, the prison was in the hands of the chief, and the court was in the hands of the chief, and the chief was an NPC member.«[91] »It is notori­ous that in the rural districts, the district heads and the Alkalis together wield virtually absolute political power over the peasantry. Collusive politi­cal intolerance on their part renders opposition party activity extremely difficult if not hazardous.«[92]

Opposition politicians in the North had formed alliances with the major parties of the South in the 1950s, because such alliances were their only hope of breaking the supremacy of the Fulani elite. However, the Northern Peoples’ Congress mobilized popular resentment against ›the people from the South‹, who had occupied important administrative posts, not only in Lagosbut also in the cities of the North. The indigenous population often had no chance against migrants from the South, who, thanks to their better education, had established themselves in all modern sectors of the administration and economy. Thus in 1954, with the approval of the British governor, the government of the Northern Region adopted a policy of positive discrimination. Applicants from the North were given preference for all positions in the regional and local administration. If there were no suitable candidates available, Europeans were allowed to retain their posts where possible, otherwise Southerners were hired on fixed-term contracts.[93] This led to the dismissal of thousands of Igbo and Yoruba. Even when they had been born or lived in the North for decades, they had no claim to equal treatment. For the policy of Northernization was meant to defend the privileges of the ›indigenous‹ population, so it classified citizens of other ethnic groups as ›strangers‹. Since then, it has become customary, in other parts of Nigeria as well, to give preferential treatment to members of ›autochthonous‹ groups: in filling administrative posts and teaching positions in schools, in granting scholarships and free education, in allocating housing and agricultural land.[94] Until today, ethnic (and religious) groups claim the political-admi­nistrative control of their ancestral lands. Therefore most Nigerians see it as legitimate that state and local governments favor the indigenous part of their population. Even the current democratic constitution does not insist that Nigerians enjoy full rights of citizenship in all parts of the country. Like the constitutions of 1979 and 1989, it acknowledges the popular notion that only those residents properly »belong« to a state whose parents or grandparents come from an »indigenous« community.[95] All the others who live there are given the status of non-indigenes.

Many Igbo and Yoruba, who lost their public positions, did not return to the South, but established themselves in their new homeland as traders and craftsmen. Their success in the private sector also caused resentment, of course, so the Prime Minister of the North promised his countrymen to dislodge the »strangers« from their economic positions:

»The Northernization policy does not only apply to Clerks, Administrative Offi­cers, Doctors and others. We do not want to go to [Lake] Chadand meet strangers (i.e., southern Nigerians) catching our fish in the water, and taking them away to leave us with nothing. We do not want to go to Sokoto and find a carpenter who is a stranger nailing our houses. I do not want to go to the Sabon-gari Kano and find strangers making the body of a lorry, or to go to the market and see butchers who are not Northerners.«[96]

It was not only the Hausa-Fulani who benefited from the Northernization Policy, but to an even greater extent, so did the Christians from the Middle Belt. Thanks to their education in the mission schools, they often had the formal qualification to occupy positions becoming vacant. For many of them it looked, as though it were more advantageous to bank on the solidarity of the North than to ally with the South on the basis of a common religion.[97]

When Nigeriabecame independent, relations between the North and the South of the country were already extremely tense. Thus one could have expected that the parties of the South would join forces to form the central government with opposition groups from the North. Yet this option failed because of the rivalry between the two dominant ethnic groups in the South. Although the Igbo suffered the most under the NPC’s Northernization campaign, they considered the Yoruba their real competitors, who had established themselves with similar success in the colonial administration. In a joint government with the Yoruba, they would have to share civil service posts, while a coalition with the backward North had the potential to bring a significant portion of the state apparatus under their control. However, the Igbo leaders underestimated the NPC’s assertiveness. As the dominant power in the first independent government, the NPC ministers lowered the entry qualifications for Northerners applying for jobs in the civil service. Their own followers were given positions over others and were promoted more quickly. In addition, they resorted to emergency laws and military action to silence their political adversaries. In 1963 in the southwest of Nigeria, they had the political leader of the Yoruba, Awolowo, thrown into prison for high treason, and they transferred the premiership of the Western Region to his rival Akintola, who proved far more cooperative with the rulers from the North.[98] Shortly afterwards, the political repression turned on their own coalition partner from Igboland. At the end of the first legislative period it became apparent that the NPC leaders were not prepared to surrender power. They intimidated their opponents so blatantly that in many electoral districts no opposition candidates stepped forward at all.[99] In addition, they used yet another instrument to cement their control: religion.

Hegemony of the North

Violence alone was not enough to create a cohesive North Nigeria. The policy of Northernization therefore aimed at propagating a joint culture for the many heterogeneous peoples. Civil servants were expected to speak Hausa, and anyone wishing to make a career fell under pressure to convert to Islam: »Advancement or even retention within the civil service was seen as a matter of embracing orthodoxy«.[100] As the only means to eclipse ethnic differences, the dominant religious culture was meant to be visible everywhere. The regional government decreed that public buildings be erected in an Islamic style.[101] With state money and donations from Arab countries, the Premier of the Northern Region launched a conversion campaign among the inhabitants of the Middle Belt, first among the ›pagans‹ and later among Christians too.[102] In the process, he relied on local chiefs and village heads who were answerable to his administration. For example, the chief of Kuta declared that the inhabitants of his town had collectively decided to adopt Islam. In order to sever the links to their traditional faith once and for all, he had the old »idols« burned.[103] The Prime Minister personally attended the conversion ceremony, at which 1,357 inhabitants of Kuta embraced Islam. As with other mass conversions, the occasion was organized as a public festival at which the new converts received small gifts or honorary titles from the Premier’s hand. In 1964, Ahmadu Bello boasted before the Muslim World League that in only five months he had converted 60,000 infidels. His efforts in North Nigeria – so he assured his audience – were but the first step to spread Islam in other regions as well: »I hope when we clean Nigeria we will go further afield in Africa.«[104] Following his successes in the Northern Region, the decision was taken at the end of 1965 to extend the campaign to the South.[105]

The Prime Minister’s Islamization campaign was not just informed by political considerations but also by personal ambition. As a direct descendant of Usman dan Fodio, he had attempted in vain to assume the throne of Sokoto in 1938. Having seen his ambitions dashed, he used the office of Prime Minister to continue the religious project of his famous ancestor: »the work of salvation for all the people which he so nobly undertook has now been handed to me. I dedicate myself totally to its completion.«[106] In public addresses, the Premier often used the imagery of the jihad and emphasized the continuity between the NPC-government and the old Caliphate.[107] However, his references to the nineteenth century merely planted fears of renewed »colonialism«[108] by the Hausa-Fulani. The state-driven Islamization did not forge closer bonds between the Muslim elite and the ethnic minorities, but rather increased mutual distrust. When in early 1966 the news broke that Ahmadu Bello had been killed during a military coup, impromptu celebrations were held in the minority regions. Many of the Muslims who had only converted at the behest of the government buried their religious paraphernalia and reverted to their old faiths.[109] Yet it was not only in the Middle Belt that the coup was welcomed as liberation. The NPC government had become so hated throughout the country that the Premier’s fall was even greeted in Muslim cities.

A notably large number of Igbo officers were among the organizers of the coup, swiftly kindling speculation that the army’s intervention was actually an Igbo coup. In particular the North had cause for concern because among the immigrants from the South who lived in the cities’ Christian ghettos, the coup was hailed as a victory for the Igbo. Posters that appeared on the streets in Kanoshowed an Igbo soldier sitting atop the fallen Prime Minister.[110] The new president could easily have dispelled the population’s fears. In order to get the minorities inNorth Nigeria on his side, all he needed to do was to declare parts of the Middle Belt or the Kanuri region as provinces in their own right. But General Ironsi took the opposite approach. OnMay 24, 1966, he dissolved the federal constitution and created a centralized administration. Every observer immediately knew that this would give the Igbo the opportunity to regain their former positions in the regional administration of the North. Thus only a few days after the announcement of the decree, Igbo were massacred inNorthern Nigeria, and two months later General Ironsi was ousted by a counter-coup.

The two coups in 1966 marked the beginning of a series of military governments. Only once, during the SecondRepublic(1979-1983), did civil politicians have the chance to form a democratically elected government. Otherwise, the army directed Nigeria’s fortunes until the end of the century, and the army was, since colonial days, under the sway of ethnic groups of the North. About three-quarters of the soldiers had been recruited from the North, most of them from the Middle Belt.[111] When the military seized power in 1966, the future of the country depended on which side the minorities from the Middle Belt supported. Under the rule of the Northern Peoples’ Congress the minorities had never been permitted to rule themselves, but an Igbo-led central government seemed just as unwilling to compromise. The fact that in such a setting the officers of the Middle Belt resolved to ally with the Muslim North and overthrow the Christian President can be explained mainly by pragmatic considerations. During secret negotiations, the leaders of the North had promised to accept a new federal constitution that would grant the minorities far-reaching autonomy.[112]

In May 1967, under General Gowon as the new head of state, twelve states were in fact founded, but the transition to a federal system did not prevent the ethno-religious conflicts from escalating. General Ojukwu and other Igbo leaders opted for secession and declared the Republicof Biafra, because they could not trust their opponents in the federal government: In September 1966 the state radio in Kaduna, the administrative capital of the North, had falsely reported that numerous Hausa had been murdered in Igboland. The response in the cities of the North was an Igbo witch hunt.[113] Tens of thousands were killed and more than a million fled back to their home country. Since General Gowon’s government was either incapable or unwilling to protect the Igbo, secession seemed to be their best option.

The Biafran war of secession (1967-1970) ended with the defeat of the Igbo, enabling the North to expand its domination. The victorious generals remained allies of the Hausa-Fulani leaders, meaning that the influence of Christian politicians decreased. Citing the multi-ethnic ›federal character‹ of the country, the rulers from the North introduced quota regulations to entrench their power. Whenever positions were to be filled in the public administration, in state-run enterprises or in the oil industry, applicants from North Nigeriaclaimed preferential treatment. Officially speaking, the quota arithmetic was designed to even out ethnic and regional imbalances. However, instead of inculcating a »sense of belonging» and »national unity», it did the opposite, generating mistrust and resentment.[114] In the field of education, for instance, the definition of quotas had severe consequences. In order to promote students from the primarily Muslim states, the authorities paid their scholarships and favored them in gaining entrance to the universities, while applicants from the South who had performed far better in the entrance exams were often refused admission, even to universities in their home region. From the viewpoint of these unsuccessful applicants, it seemed as if study slots and exam certificates had turned into the booty that rival ethnic groups fought over. The ‚people from the North’ were not content with occupying key positions in the army: they used their political dominance to gain control of all walks of public life.

The creation of quotas for employment and educational opportunities would have been more acceptable if the state had endeavored to be fairer in other areas. In order to curb the influence of the churches, Christian missionary schools and hospitals were nationalized. At the same time, the government supported pilgrimages to Meccaby establishing a National Pilgrimage Board that organized the trips and subsidized the participants’ travel expenses. The scale of the subsidies was later cut back, owing to the Treasury’s depleted coffers. However, around 1980, when as many as 100,000 pilgrims were being supported each year, Nigeriaboasted that it was sending more people to the holy sites than any other country in the world.[115] Additional money from the government flowed into building mosques and into paying Imams’ salaries, into Islamic radio and TV programs. The government newspaper New Nigerian, financed with tax money, felt itself destined to champion Islamic interests, or in the words of its editor in chief: »we [will] continue to fight for the introduc­tion of Sharia, the application of quota system or federal character in all spheres of national life.«[116]

Under General Murtala Mohammed, who came to power in 1975 in yet another coup, a major decision was taken. Instead of the old capital city of Lagos, located on the south coast in Yorubaland, a completely new metropolis was to be established further north. The planners envisaged the future center of the country having an Islamic face, with major town gates in the Arabic style.[117] The town gates were never built and instead, with money from government and donations from the Gulf States, a ›national mosque‹ arose in the heart of Abuja. In contrast, no land was initially allocated for the building of churches which were to be erected by private funds in downtown Abuja.[118] The state did not set out to preserve its neutrality but presented itself, especially inNorthern Nigeria, as an Islamic power. The Christian minorities could never rely on the authorities being above party interest, while Islamic activists felt encouraged in their efforts. When in the 1980s religious conflicts escalated and thousands were killed inKano, Kafanchan and other cities of the North, many Muslim zealots acted in the conviction that, in the last resort, they could rely on the support of the government.

Instead of strengthening the elements of a shared ›national‹ culture, political and spiritual leaders appealed to the solidarity of their co-religionists. Abubakar Gumi, who was religious adviser to several presidents, admonished the faithful to be aware that the conflict lines would in future run between the religious communities: »It will not be South against North but it will be Islam against Christianity. […] Once you are a muslim, you cannot accept to choose a non-muslim to be your leader«.[119] Representatives of Islamic orthodoxy thus strengthened the trend among ethno-religious communities to set themselves off from one another. For example, the Muslim inhabitants of Ilorin set out to block the incursion of non-Muslims by declaring their old town an alcohol-free zone. Female Muslim students at Queen Amina College in Kaduna called for a separate building to ensure they did not have to share a roof with Christian students.[120] In another college in the North, students demanded their own drinking water, insisting that they would be polluted if they used the same water containers as the Christians.[121]

The intensification of religious conflicts coincided with the transition to Nigeria’s SecondRepublic. Sharia emerged as the most controversial issue at the constitutional conference in 1977 and 1978 that deliberated on the institutional structure for the future democracy. The call to give Islamic law greater importance came from Hausa-Fulani politicians, namely those who had formed the National Party of Nigeria (NPN), a kind of successor to the NPC. In the South, the NPN put on a moderate face as it set out to win Christian politicians over to its cause; while in the North the party leader and later President Shehu Shagari (who comes from a royal Fulani family) called on the electorate not to cast their vote for the infidels.[122] These warnings against infidels were directed not only at Christians, but were intended to discredit those Muslim politicians who had joined left-wing populist parties. During the NPN election campaign, these ›progressive‹ Muslims were depicted as heretics who had allied with politicians from the South in order to establish a godless secular state. One pernicious myth circulating was that Waziri Ibrahim, one of the leaders of the oppositional UPN, had had a church built in the Southeast.[123]

The focus on Sharia also served to paper over internal differences in the Muslim camp. During the 1970s, rival Muslim organizations had clashed violently on several occasions. These intra-Islamic hostilities had been fuelled, among others things, by the military’s policies. Their press censorship and prohibition on political parties shifted the site of political debate to the mosques and churches.[124] The disputes among religious groups thus reflected ethnic and regional tensions: Sokoto, old heart of the Fulani Empire, was traditionally dominated by the Qadiriyya, whereas the rival brotherhood, the Tijaniyya, had gained the upper hand in Kano. When the Emir of Kano switched allegiance to the Tijaniyya, he did so deliberately in order to gain his independence from Sokoto.[125] In the prayers of the Tijaniyya, resentment of the Sultan’s claim to power was voiced openly: »O Lord, destroy the Amir of Hausa […]/ Destroy his house and hasten the one/ who will announce his death.«[126] As early as 1956, there had been deaths in religious clashes, when followers of the Tijaniyya had tried to prevent their opponents from performing evening prayers.[127] Since then there have been repeated reports of incidents in which the rival groups tried to force each other out of the mosques.

The most traumatic religious conflict occurred in December 1980; however, it was not triggered by the traditional brotherhoods, but by an obscure preacher by the name of Maitatsine, a migrant from Cameroon. He had gained many disciples in the poor districts of Kanowhen castigating the depravity of the unbelievers. His criticism was leveled not so much at the Christian minorities and more at hypocritical Islamic dignitaries who pretended to be guardians of the faith while steeped in Western luxury. Along with the bigotry of the ruling elites, he denounced Western consumer goods that his impoverished listeners could not afford anyway: elegant dresses, watches and cars. He is even said to have forbidden his followers from attending schools and reading books (with the exception of the Ko­ran). Despite his inflammatory speeches against the decadence of the rich, Maitatsine nonetheless cultivated relationships with parts of the establishment. Some of his confidants had even received invitations to the governor’s residence, where they prayed with Governor Rimi.[128] It only came to a confrontation with the state authorities when members of the sect tried to take over the Friday Mosque in the city center. The police who were called to the scene proved incapable of keeping the attackers back. Protected by amulets and magic sand that they used to shield themselves against bullets from the police guns, Maitatsine’s supporters resisted for days, until army units were finally sent into the city. When the tanks retreated, 4,177 people were dead, according to official statistics.[129] Hundreds of Maitatsine supporters were arrested, but were granted an amnesty by President Shagari as early as 1982. Soon afterwards the group reformed, and further protests flared up in other regions of Northern Nigeria. In October 1982, 3,350 people died in street fights in Maiduguri, and one and a half years later in Yola, between 700 and 1000 were killed.[130]

To unite Nigeria’s Muslims, in 1978 Abubakar Gumi, the country’s most prominent Islamic scholar, acting with Saudi Arabian support, founded IZALA, the ›Society for the eradication of [un-Islamic] innovations, and the establishment of the Sunna‹. Religious unanimity can only be achieved – according to the doctrine, inspired by Wahabi’ism – if Muslims base their faith on the immutable word of God. Calling for a purification of Islam, Gumi opposed the mysticism and the belief in miracles of the Sufi brotherhoods, especially the Tijaniyya. Whoever adopted the prayer posture and the recitations of this group made himself an unbeliever, someone whom anyone was allowed to kill.[131] IZALA members were forbidden from eating the meat of animals that had been slaughtered by Tijaniyya members.[132] Further, IZALA reformers resisted the idea that ›heretics‹ were allowed to lead righteous Muslims in public prayers. So they sought to drive the Tijaniyya out of their traditional mosques, with violence if necessary.

The IZALA’s efforts to enforce a correct interpretation of Islam failed to overcome the rifts among Muslims. The controversies over sacred rites and symbols have been shaped by a centuries-old tradition of religious disputes, which no authority can solve. The only way to achieve unity was to return to the fundamentals, the divine laws that no one could contest. As the Sharia gives very clear, unequivocal commandments, it seemed the best instrument to bridge the gap between believers: »We […] limit our struggle to […] the full implemen­tation of the Sharia, because it is only through the Sharia that Muslims can be united; they can never unite on theological issues«.[133] In a state which is home to roughly as many Christians as Muslims, divine law could not be implemented single-handedly. In the debates over the future constitution, Islamic delegates initially demanded just a modest innovation: a Sharia court of appeal on the federal level. The vehemence displayed in the fight for such a court seems strange, at first glance, for Islamic traditions made no provision for a right of appeal. It was first created in Northern Nigeria by the colonial rulers.[134] Nevertheless, it is understandable that Muslims called for a Federal Sharia Court of Appeal. It was to be limited to settling family and inheritance disputes, i.e. cases that had already been dealt with by Sharia courts in most parts of the North. There had been a Sharia Court of Appeal in the capital of the Northern Region until 1967, as the top appellate body for all local Sharia courts. Its judgments had been final and binding for all Sharia courts in the country. Yet when the Northern Region was divided into six and later into ten states, this court ceased to exist. The state governments established their own Sharia Courts of Appeal, but there was no longer a supreme Islamic court that could have guaranteed a standard interpretation of Sharia.[135] When judgments by the State Sharia Courts of Appeal were challenged, the matter went, in a last instance, to the secular Supreme Court. Thus the Islamic judicial system was not autonomous, not even in the limited domain of civil law. With the help of the Supreme Court, which stood guard over the federal constitution, non-Muslims were able to influence how Sharia judges dispensed justice: »that […] means […] putting the fate of Muslims in the hands of pagans, atheists and Christians«.[136]

The Christian delegates at the constitutional conference were not prepared to accommodate the Muslims’ wishes; they feared that the introduction of a Federal Sharia Court of Appeal would not permanently settle the conflict between the religious communities. What was to stop Muslims making further demands in the name of religion? Concessions would only clear the way for a »creeping Islamization«.[137] Christian fears were heightened by the demand by Hausa-Fulani politicians to introduce Sharia courts in all parts of the country. Opposition to this spread towards the South was voiced even by some Muslim delegates at the constitutional conference, particularly by Yoruba Muslims from Southwest Nigeria. Their reluctance to ally with their fellow believers from the North was primarily motivated by ethnic loyalties. Among the Yoruba there are as many Christians as Muslims, and the line separating them runs through the middle of many families.[138] If Sharia supporters were to insist that Muslims are governed by their own religious rules, they would see bitter family disputes in matters of divorce and inheritance. According to Islamic law, non-Muslims have no right to inherit from a Muslim, and vice versa; thus making close familial cooperation problematic.[139] It is for this reason that many Yoruba Muslims did not want to advocate the introduction of Sharia courts: The juxtaposition of rival judicial systems would only lead to »disunity«. »what good can that do if there is one court for Muslims and one for Christians«?[140] In the precolonial period, when Muslims formed a small minority, there were no Sharia courts in the Yoruba kingdoms.[141] The colonial administration did not want to change that and even today, in independent Nigeria, democratically-elected Yoruba governors have always refused to establish religious courts. A secular compromise seems to offer the best protection of Yoruba interests. This is consistent with the opinion of many Yoruba Muslims that Sharia is a »northern thing«: »it is not Nigerian law, it is Arabic law«.[142]

Critics also raised fundamental objections to Sharia courts of law. As soon as the government paid judges who only apply the laws of one religion, that religion would receive preferential treatment. Therefore, Christian delegates at the constitutional conference called for a strict separation of state and religion. And this call was supported by the major churches: »laws of any religion […] should be a matter for personal conviction, and the admini­stration of such religious laws should remain within the responsibilities of various religious groups«.[143] They maintained that it was not the responsibility of the government to build churches and mosques or to finance pilgrimages. Thus it should be stated in the constitution of the Second Republic that no state authority may use tax money to promote any religion.[144]

The suggestion that Nigeriabe defined as a secular state was not to be realized. Yet the attempt to establish a Federal Sharia Court of Appeal also failed. As the wrangling parties could not agree, the military leadership had to intervene. The constitutional assembly was denied the right to discuss the status of Sharia, and General Obasanjo decreed a compromise that satisfied none of the parties: The word ›secular‹ that had been used in the first draft of the constitution was deleted. It was replaced by an ambiguous phrase which set limitations on the religious activities of the state, but only vaguely defined them: »The Government of the Federation or of a State shall not adopt any religion as State Religion.«[145] The month-long debates had only made it clear that no constitution could be drawn up that would be acceptable to both Christians and Muslims. When the constitution came under renewed discussion during the transition to the Third Republic, ten years later, the negotiations again threatened to founder on the Sharia question. This time around too, the Armed Forces Ruling Council had to end the discussions and force a compromise on the squabbling parties: no concessions were made to the Sharia advocates who called for an Islamic court of appeal at the federal level, but the Christian politicians’ wish to define Nigeria as a secular republic also fell on deaf ears. The constitution of 1989 simply adopted the regulations of 1978, and this unsatisfactory compromise was, at the generals’ command, also inserted into the constitution of the Fourth Republic.[146] Despite this unresolved dispute, Christian politicians and intellectuals have maintained, right into the current debate on the constitutionality of Sharia, that Nigeria is a secular state: »the constitutional prohibition of the establishment of a state religion does import the secularity of the state in the fullest sense of the term.«[147] Against this arbitrary interpretation, Muslim jurists have rightly pointed out that a constitution which provides for state-financed Sharia courts cannot be secular.[148] Secular principles were only adopted in a diluted form.

According to Islamic scholars and politicians, a secular state would not be neutral towards the different religions; rather, it would seal the dominance of a foreign civilization. While Islamic culture is to be pushed into the private sphere, it is taken for granted that European influences have penetrated all spheres of life. It is not the Islamic calendar that is used in public life, but the Gregorian calendar. It is not Friday that is a public holiday, but Sunday. State hospitals do not display a red crescent, but a red cross.[149] Islamic scholars called for a break from these relics of the colonial era. Judges should not wear robes which originated from »monks and Christian choirs».[150] The military should not lay wreaths at remembrance ceremonies, as this is a Christian custom.[151] Moreover, they insisted that the national anthem, with its »Christian melody«, be replaced.[152] Some of these practices have actually been changed in recent years. In Zamfara State, Sunday is now a business day, and on Fridays public life comes to a standstill.[153] In addition, during the other weekdays all businesses, including the Christian ones, have to remain closed during the five daily prayers.[154] This state-enforced revalidation of religious traditions allows Muslims to assert their cultural hegemony. Many activists consider this a key function of Sharia. They are not so much interested in strictly Islamizing all domains of life, but in »increas[ing] the symbolic presence of Islam in the state«.[155] In religiously and ethnically divided societies, it becomes important to occupy public space in order to institutionalize one’s supremacy: »groups […] derive ›prestige and self-respect‹ from the harmony ›between their norms and those which achieve dominance in the society.‹ […] Politics thus constitutes one of the important ›rituals by which status is determined.«[156]

The struggle over the religious thrust of the state was refueled in early 1986, when the news spread that Nigeriahad joined the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC). According to the statutes of the OIC, every member state is obliged to promote Islam – something that is incompatible with Nigeria’s constitutional tradition. The President was; of course; aware that Christians would not have accepted joining the OIC, so he did not bother to seek a consensus on the issue. He simply sent a secret delegation, made up solely of Muslim ministers and permanent secretaries, to the OIC conference in Morocco, which was to decide on Nigeria’s application. The Christian members of the cabinet, as well as Christian officers in the Supreme Military Council, knew nothing of the president’s plans. Nigeria’s accession to the OIC would hardly have become public, had not journalists from the Guardian read of it from a report by the French press agency.[157]

The Christian Association of Nigeria, to which almost all churches in the country belong, spoke out resolutely against membership in the OIC. But otherwise it supported General Babangida and his Transition Program that was intended to lead to a new, democratically-elected government. During the build-up of the ThirdRepublic, representatives of the churches tried to prevent religious squabbling from again taking center stage in political debate. Their de-escalation strategy can best be illustrated by looking at the presidential election in June 1993: The military government had decreed that only two political parties could register for the election, and in both Muslims were nominated as presidential candidates. Bashir Tofa, the NRC’s nominee, chose a Christian candidate for vice-president for reasons of proportionality. His rival from the SDP, Moshood Abiola, likewise found himself under pressure to name a Christian running mate. In this tense situation, with religious antagonisms threatening to hang over party politics, the Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria issued a remarkable statement: He said that it was not important for the churches whether the future president and his running mate be Muslims or Christians. What was decisive, he claimed, was whether they had the necessary expertise and moral competence for the job.[158] Moshood Abiola, a Yoruba from the Southwest, was thus free to nominate a Muslim from the North as his running mate, and with such a Muslim-Muslim ticket collected more votes, even among the Christian population, than his rival Tofa.

As soon as it became clear that Abiola was well ahead in the count, General Babangida had the election declared void. The churches could easily have tolerated the decision, as Abiola was a fierce proponent of Islamic interests. During the debate on the constitution for the ThirdRepublicno other politician from the South had so vociferously called for the dissemination of Sharia in all parts of the country.[159] Nevertheless, the spokesmen of all the major churches agreed to insist on Abiola’s claim to become president: Since the elections had been surprisingly free and fair, General Babangida had no right, they said, not to heed the will of the electorate. However, Abiola did not find nearly as much support among his Islamic allies in the North. The Sultan of Sokoto told the faithful that it had been the will of Allah to annul the election.[160] No one had any illusions why there was this fault line within the Islamic camp. Abiola was Vice-President of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, but since he was born a Yoruba in the South, he was not trusted by the power-brokers in the North. On earlier occasions, Hausa-Fulani politicians had openly stated that the North would commit »political suicide« if it gave the presidency over to a politician from the South.[161] Muslims in Yorubaland were shocked by the ›treason‹ of their co-religionists. Some even called for the Southern Muslims to quit the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs and set up a new umbrella association in the South: »[The Sultan has been] unmasked and exposed as an ethnic demagogue indecently committed to the political interest of the northern Hausa/Fulani Muslims.«[162]

The Abiola affair shows howNigeria’s churches envisaged a balance between the religious groups: In political elections and in awarding public offices, confessional ties were not to play a role. This Western secular model only functions, however, if all involved keep to the rules of the game. Any attempt to conquer political positions in order to use them for religious ends triggers a vicious circle of mistrust that forces the opposite side to likewise opt for a power play. As long as Christians have to fear that under a Muslim governor they will not have the same rights, it would be folly not to struggle to place their own applicants in the highest offices.

                [1]              Hogben, History, p. 53; I. M. Lewis, Introduction, pp. 30–31.

                [2]              Smith, Jihad, pp. 222–223; Hiskett, Sword of Truth, pp. 79–80; Osswald, Sokoto-Kalifat, pp. 11‑113, 123–125.

                [3]              Isichei, History of Nigeria, p. 203.

                [4]              Doi, Islam, pp. 35–38; Last, Sokoto Caliphate, pp. LXVIII–LXX; Falola/Adebayo, Pre-Colonial Nigeria, pp. 81–82; King, State and Ethnicity, pp. 17–19; Smith, Jihad, pp. 218–219; Christelow, Islamic Law in Africa, p. 379.

                [5]              Isichei, History of Nigeria, p. 205.

                [6]              Abdullahi, a brother of Usman dan Fodio, in Last, Sokoto Caliphate, p. 66; vgl. Hiskett, Sword of Truth, pp. 106–109, 112.

                [7]              Hiskett, Jihads, p. 148; Last, Sokoto Caliphate, pp. 34, 67–71; Osswald, Sokoto-Kalifat, pp. 112–121; Weiss, Hausaland, pp. 136–143.

                [8]              Nadel, Black Byzantium, p. 142.

                [9]              Ibid., p. 143.

                [10]            King, State and Ethnicity, p. 20.

                [11]            Weiss, Hausaland, pp. 123–173; Gleave/Prothero, Population Density, pp. 320–321; Mason, Population Density, pp. 559–561.

                [12]            At the end of the nineteenth century, slaves comprised between 25 and 50 percent of the total population, and in the center of the caliphate, around Sokoto and Gwandu, the percentage was much higher. (Lovejoy, Slave Control, p. 240; King, State and Ethnicity, p. 24). As a consequence of the jihad, the number of slaves had risen »dramatically« (Lovejoy, Slave Control, p. 240); yet slavery had been widespread long before. (Emmer, Sklave, p. 12; Iliffe, Africans, pp. 50–51, 151–152) When the first Arab travellers from North Africa crossed the Sahara, about a thousand years ago, they met slaves in many parts of the Sahel zone (cf. Levtzion/Hopkins, Corpus of Early Arabic Sources for West African History).

                [13]            Crowder, Nigeria, p. 172.

                [14]            Fisher, Slavery, pp. 18–32; King, State and Ethnicity, pp. 25–26; Last, History, p. 44.

                [15]            Gausset, Spread of Islam, p. 169. – This exclusive connection between religion and ethnicity recalls the beginnings of Islam, when Arab warriors conquered large parts of North Africa and Asia. As the ruling stratum of a new empire, they jealously preserved their separate identity and tried to keep their religion for themselves: »It was the mission of the community to bring God’s true ways into all the world; hence the rule of the Muslim community [not their creed – J.H.] should be extended over all infidels.« »Islam […] should guide those in command among men, and these should be the Arabs, to whom Islam was properly given.« (Hodgson, Islam, pp. 322, 226) In the course of the eighth and ninth century, when the foreign rulers turned into an indigenous aristocracy, they began to share their religion with others, though converts were not granted the same rights: »to be a Muslim in the full political sense, a convert had to become associated, as a client […], with one or other of the Muslim Arab tribes; as such, he and his descendants were socially inferior to the original members of the tribe, but shared its allegiances« (Ibid., p. 229).

                [16]            The magazine Tell claimed: »in the army, there are Hausa officers, and there are Fulani officers, but there are no Hausa-Fulani officers« (15 July 1996, p. 13).

                [17]            Meek, Northern Tribes, p. 27.

                [18]            King, State and Ethnicity, pp. 9–10, 25–26. – With reference to early history, it is problematic to talk of a Hausa people. »The term Hausa referred only to the mother tongue of the inhabitants of the territory: it appeared as the ethnic name for the people of this territory in the written Arabic sources only in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Until that time, these peoples were known by the names of their particular cities or kingdoms« (Ibid., p. 10). In the case of the Yoruba, Igbo and most other peoples in today’s Nigeria, their ethnic identities are even more recent: »the very ethnic category ›Yoruba‹, in its modern connotation, was the product of missionary ›invention‹.« Before the end of the nineteenth century, »the speakers of ›Yoruba‹ dialects […] knew themselves as Egba, Ijesha, or Awori, or else just by the name of their ilu, or ›town‹« (J. D. Y. Peel, Religious Encounter, pp. 278, 28, 283–286; Falola, Ethnicity, pp. 151–157).

                [19]            Bello, My Life, p. 239; Paden, Ahmadu Bello, pp. 309, 574–575.

                [20]            Salamone, Ethnic Identities, p. 47; Olorunfemi, Fulani Jihad, p. 125.

                [21]            Vereecke, Ethnic Change, pp. 94–99; Gausset, Spread of Islam, pp. 169–170, 173. – In this respect, the Fulani resembled the Arabs, Mongols and other groups of conquerors who ruled in the name of Islam, but marked their superiority by more exclusive criteria: their noble nomadic descent. (Manz, Multi-Ethnic Empires, pp. 76–90) However, only the Bush-Fulani have kept to their separate, endogamous way of life, while the sedentary Fulani have mixed so that many of them can no longer be distinguished by their physical appearance from the Hausa, Kanuri, Nupe or Bole. Nevertheless, the old racial attitudes still matter, as they classify themselves as ›black‹, ›red‹ and ›white‹ Fulani. A relative of the Emir of Gombe, Bappayo Bappah, told me that these different types are ranked as in the case of cattle: A white cow fetches a higher price, and so a ›white‹ bride is more expensive than others.

                [22]            Hiskett, Jihads, p. 143; Trimingham, Influence of Islam, p. 39.

                [23]            Gellner, Postmodernism, p. 13.

                [24]            Lugard, Northern Nigeria, p. 21; Staudinger, Haussaländer, p. 568; Christelow, Islamic Law and Judicial Practice, pp. 187–190.

                [25]            Staudinger, Haussaländer, p. 559; Callaway/Creevey, Islam, p. 31.

                [26]            Bernard Lewis, Middle East, p. 73.

                [27]            Eisenstadt, Öffentlichkeit, p. 319.

                [28]            Whitaker, Politics of Tradition, pp. 260–261.

                [29]            Clarke/Linden, Islam, S. 109–118; Low, Nigerian Emirates, pp. 166–175.

                [30]            Quoted in Crowder, Nigeria, p. 173.

                [31]            Lovejoy/Hogendorn, Slavery, p. 30; Schacht, Islam in Northern Nigeria, pp. 139–142.

                [32]            Whitaker, Politics of Tradition, pp. 269–270.

                [33]            Ballard, Pagan Administration, pp. 4–12; Perham, Native Administration, pp. 134–139; Schacht, Islam in Northern Nigeria, pp. 126–127.

                [34]            Abdul Raufu Mustapha, Minority Identities, p. 92.

                [35]            Perham, Native Administration, p. 150. – When the first British High Commissioner assumed the administration of Northern Nigeria on January 1, 1900, he had eight political or administrative officers at his disposal. (Lugard, Northern Nigeria, p. 6) Eleven years later, a total of 1000 British officials were deployed in the whole of Nigeria, and in 1938, when Nigeria’s population had reached about 30 million, the number was 2001 (Coleman, Nigeria, p. 33).

                [36]            H. L. Norton-Traill, 1911, in Ballard, Pagan Administration, pp. 5–6.

                [37]            Lt. Colonel Beddington, 1934, in Omolewa, Colonial Legacy, p. 11; cf. Turaki, Colonial Legacy, pp. 186–190.

                [38]            Schacht, Islam in Northern Nigeria, p. 126; Abun-Nasr, Islamisches Recht, pp. 203, 207–209.

                [39]            Keay/Richardson, Native Courts, pp. 21–27, 39–44; Anderson, Islamic Law, p. 175; Abubakar, Northern Provinces, p. 455; Abun-Nasr, Islamisches Recht, pp. 205, 209.

                [40]            Keay/Richardson, Native Courts, p. 22; Milner, Sentencing in Nigeria, pp. 263–264.

                [41]            Anderson, Islamic Law, p. 202.

                [42]            Willink Commission, Fears of Minorities, p. 126; Essien, Penal Code, p. 89.

                [43]            Anderson, Islamic Law, pp. 200–201, 221; Perham, Native Administration, pp. 139–140; Peters, Islamic Criminal Law, pp. 3, 11, 26.

                [44]            Crampton, Christianity, p. 53; Schacht, Islam in Northern Nigeria, p. 129.

                [45]            Quoted in Logams, Colonial Forces, p. 46.

                [46]            Froelich, Islamisation, p. 166; I. M. Lewis, Introduction, p. 82; Levtzion/Pouwels, Islamization, p. 14. – Under Belgian rule, which favored Christianity, Islam could not spread (I. M. Lewis, Introduction, p. 77).

                [47]            Lugard, Northern Nigeria, p. 24; Hamza, Lugard, pp. 121, 123.

                [48]            Kukah, Religion, p. 4.

                [49]            Statement of the Colonial Office, 1917, in Crampton, Christianity, p. 60.

                [50]            Crampton, Christianity, p. 64.

                [51]            Okeke, Hausa-Fulani Hegemony, p. 23.

                [52]            Guardian, 24 May 1994.

                [53]            Awofeso/Ritchie/Degeling, Almajiri, pp. 313–314; Schacht, Islam in Northern Nigeria, p. 130.

                [54]            Osaghae, Migrant Organizations, pp. 27–28.

                [55]            Ibid., p. 31; Nnoli, Ethnic Politics.

                [56]            Quoted in Logams, Colonial Forces, p. 48.

                [57]            Ballard, Pagan Administration, pp. 4–6.

                [58]            Lugard, in Ballard, Pagan Administration, p. 3.

                [59]            Quoted in Kukah, Religion, p. 49.

                [60]            Quoted in Ballard, Pagan Administration, p. 6.

                [61]            Perham, Native Administration, p. 142; Barnes, Evangelization, pp. 427–428; Walls, Africa, pp. 55–59.

                [62]            Barnes, Evangelization, pp. 413–427; Barnes, Christianity, pp. 282–283; Enwerem, Dangerous Awakening, pp. 28–29.

                [63]            Kastfelt, Christianity, pp. 195–196.

                [64]            Coleman, Nationalism, p. 422.

                [65]            Flint, Decolonization, p. 395.

                [66]            Loimeier, Islamische Erneuerung, p. 103.

                [67]            Bello, My Life, p. 111.

                [68]            Sklar, Political Parties, pp. 125–128.

                [69]            Diamond, Nigeria, p. 421; Kukah/Falola, Religious Militancy, pp. 50–51; Hiskett, Islam, p. 121.

                [70]            Ngou, Elections, p. 100; Paden, Ahmadu Bello, p. 159.

                [71]            Sklar, Political Parties, p. XIII.

                [72]            Ibid., p. 321; Paden, Ahmadu Bello, pp. 164–169; Coleman, Nigeria, pp. 271–281.

                [73]            Whitaker, Politics of Tradition, p. 322.

                [74]            Ahmadu Bello, in Paden, Ahmadu Bello, p. 305.

                [75]            Hiskett, Islam, pp. 121, 126.

                [76]            Abun-Nasr, Islamisches Recht, pp. 209–211; Christelow Islamic Law and Judicial Practice; pp. 193; Keay/Richardson, Native Courts, pp. 46–52.

                [77]            Hiskett, Islam, p. 116. – Until the 1960s, Western experts assumed that Islamic societies were subject to a process of secularization and would abolish Islamic law (Prof. Ruud Peters at a Sharia Conference in Bayreuth, 11 July 2003; cf. I. M. Lewis, Introduction, p. 91; Park, Nigerian Law, pp. 139–143).

                [78]            Keay/Richardson, Native Courts, p. 62.

                [79]            Essien, Penal Code, pp. 94–96.

                [80]            Paden, Ahmadu Bello, p. 170.

                [81]            Sklar, Political Parties, p. 323; Paden, Ahmadu Bello, pp. 450, 457; Schacht, Islam in Northern Nigeria, p. 126.

                [82]            Keay/Richardson, Native Courts, p. 70; Paden, Ahmadu Bello, pp. 208–209, 211; Christelow, Islamic Law and Judicial Practice, p. 195; Kukah/Falola, Religious Militancy, p. 16.

                [83]            Paden, Ahmadu Bello, pp. 440–448, 463; Whitaker, Politics of Tradition, pp. 279–282.

[84]  A former colonial officer in Nigeria, Harold Smith, alleged decades later that »the British Government interfered with the elections so as to achieve Northern domination of Nigeria« (Tell, 21 February 2005, p. 61).

                [85]            Dudley, Parties, p. 190.

                [86]            Reynolds, Time of Politics, p. 65; Anderson, Islamic Law, pp. 195, 200; Bosworth, Siyasa, p. 694.

                [87]            Sklar, Political Parties, p. 360; Reynolds, Time of Politics, pp. 70, 95.

                [88]            Reynolds, Time of Politics, pp. 73, 93. – The colonial administration had no objections to corporal punishments like lashing and flogging. In the Islamic North, haddi lashing has been widely used since precolonial times, though in a mild form. The person carrying out the punishment had to hold an object under his arm which prevented him from inflicting severe pain. (Anderson, Islamic Law, p. 197) When the British codified Sharia punishments, they made this lenient variant the only legal one, and it has remained the legal norm until today. However, a government commission doubted already in colonial times that the courts strictly adhered to this prescription (Willink Commission, Fears of Minorities, p. 130).

                [89]            Gumi, Where I Stand, pp. 100–101; Reynolds, Time of Politics, pp. 72–73, 92–93.

                [90]            Keay/Richardson, Native Courts, p. 67; Reynolds, Time of Politics, pp. 61–62, 72, 87.

                [91]            Malam Lawan Danbazau, a legal adviser for NEPU, in Reynolds, Time of Politics, p. 63.

                [92]            Sklar, Political Parties, p. 363.

                [93]            Ujo, Manipulation Strategies, p. 96.

                [94]            Bach, Indigeneity, pp. 337–342.

                [95]            FederalRepublicof Nigeria, Constitution 1999, Section 318 (1).

                [96]            House of Chiefs Debates (mimeo), 19 March 1965, p. 55, in Albert, Religious Conflicts, p. 73.

                [97]            Kukah, Religion, p. 51.

                [98]            Diamond, Class, Ethnicity, pp. 106–112.

                [99]            Post/Vickers, Structure and Conflict, pp. 170–171.

                [100]          D. J. Muffet, a British colonial officer, in Kukah/Falola, Religious Militancy, p. 108.

                [101]          Zabadi, Kaduna Mafia, p. 117.

                [102]          Paden, Ahmadu Bello, pp. 566–578; Gilliland, African Religion, pp. 150–171; Falola, Violence in Nigeria, pp. 70–73; Hiskett, Islam, pp. 119–120.

                [103]          Paden, Ahmadu Bello, pp. 567, 570, 573.

                [104]          Quoted in Paden, Ahmadu Bello, p. 541.

                [105]          Ibid., p. 569.

                [106]          Quoted in Crampton, Christianity, p. 89. – Close confidents of Ahmadu Bello reported that his conversion campaign was also meant to gain support from Arab politicians: »it was […] to convince his Muslim Arab brothers that he was really helping Islamize Nigeria. […] The Sardauna needed money, and the Arabs poured money when he was with them.« (Paden, Ahmadu Bello, p. 577) I will not dwell on the role of Saudi-Arabia, Libya and Iran in the attempt to Islamize Nigeria. For further information, see Hunwick, Africa, pp. 37–52 and Taheri, Iran and Saudi Arabia).

                [107]          Reynolds, Politics of History, p. 56–60.

                [108]          Tyoden, Middle Belt, p. 4.

                [109]          Kukah, Religion, p. 37; Gilliland, African Religion, pp. 170–171.

                [110]          Osaghae, Migrant Organizations, p. 39.

                [111]          Okeke, Hausa-Fulani Hegemony, p. 62.

                [112]          Ayu, Solution, pp. 130–132.

                [113]          Kukah, Religion, p. 200.

                [114]          Ekeh, Federal Character, pp. 32–35; Bach, Nigerian Federalism, pp. 226, 235, 240.

                [115]          Loimeier, Pilgrimage Scheme, p. 213.

                [116]          Quoted in Kukah, Religion, p. 78.

                [117]          Kukah/Falola, Religious Militancy, p. 61.

                [118]          Kukah, Religion, pp. 162–165.

                [119]          Quoted in Odey, Sharia, pp 52–53; vgl. Loimeier, Islamische Erneuerung, p. 137.

                [120]          Loimeier/Reichmuth, Bemühungen, pp. 75, 78.

                [121]          National Institute, Religious Disturbances, p. 29.

                [122]          Enwerem, Dangerous Awakening, p. 143.

                [123]          Ujo, Manipulation Strategies, p. 106.

                [124]          Falola, Violence in Nigeria, pp. 227–246.

                [125]          Stewart, Islam, p. 210; Paden, Kano, p. 69.

                [126]          Kukah, Religion, p. 45.

                [127]          Paden, Ahmadu Bello, p. 306.

                [128]          Kukah, Religion, p. 155.

                [129]          Aniagolu-Tribunal, Maitatsine Riot; Lubeck, Islamic Protest; Hock, Prophezeiung, pp. 211–219.

                [130]          Isichei, Maitatsine, pp. 194, 197, 199.

                [131]          Loimeier, Religiöse Unruhen, p. 65; Muhammad Sani Umar, Islamic Identity, p. 166; Loimeier, Islamische Erneuerung, p. 163.

                [132]          Kane, Réformisme, p. 130.

                [133]          S. U. Utere, in New Nigerian, 1986, in Byang, Sharia, p. 33.

                [134]          Abun-Nasr, Islamisches Recht, pp. 209, 221; Keay/Richardson, Native Courts, p. 26; Laitin, Sharia Debate, pp. 413–414.

                [135]          Abun-Nasr, Islamisches Recht, p. 220; Ostien, Opportunity, pp. 8, 11.

                [136]          Muslim Students Society, Press Release, p. 168.

                [137]          Suberu, Religion and Politics, p. 405.

                [138]          Laitin, Sharia Debate, p. 425.

                [139]          Anderson, Islamic Law, pp. 217, 221–223; Ransome-Kuti, Sharia, p. 1. – These rules of inheritance were intended, right from their inception in the time of the Prophet, to sever the links with non-Muslim family members so that the Islamic community could be organized »wholly independent« of its pagan environment (Hodgson, Islam, p. 176).

                [140]          Interview with a Muslim in Ijebu-Ode, in Clarke/Linden, Islam, pp. 84–85.

                [141]          Sayed Malik (Shari’ah, p. 160) mentions two exceptions: a Sharia court in Ede, another one in Iwo (cf. Doi, Islam, p. 213).

                [142]          Interview with an Imam in South Nigeria, in Clarke/Linden, Islam, p. 85.

                [143]          Memorandum of the Catholic Bishops, 1988, in Nzeh, Dialogue of Religions, pp. 137–138.

                [144]          With the transitions to Nigeria’s Third and FourthRepublic, when the constitution was revised again, the churches confirmed this position (Ngwoke, Islam, p. 30; Ilesanmi, Religious Pluralism, pp. 176–179, 191; Rasmussen, Christian-Muslim Relations, pp. 62–67).

                [145]          1979 Constitution, Section 10, in Iwobi, Sharia Controversy, p. 115; cf. Usman, Religion, p. 31.

                [146]          Iwobi, Sharia Controversy, pp. 114–120.

                [147]          B. O. Nwabueze, in Iwobi, Sharia Controversy, p. 129; Agbakoba/Obeagu, Sharia, p. 2; Nwanaju, Christian-Muslim Relations, p. 193. – The former president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Okogie, also insisted: »Nigeria is a secular nation« (The News, 10. April 2000, p. 21).

                [148]          Tabiu, Sharia, p. 8; Sada, Sharia in Nigeria, p. 6.

                [149]          Kenny, Sharia, p. 354; Falola, Violence in Nigeria, p. 90; Oloyede, Shari’ah, pp. 144–146.

                [150]          Kenny, Sharia, pp. 354–355; Falola, Violence in Nigeria, p. 90.

                [151]          Kenny, Sharia, p. 355.

                [152]          Ibrahim, Ethno-Religious Mobilisation, p. 101; Ilesanmi, Religious Pluralism, p. 184.

                [153]          Danfulani/Ludwig/Ostien, Sharia Controversy, p. 90.

                [154]          Ebeku, Human Rights, pp. 160–161.

                [155]          Alli, Commentary, p. 66. – Compromises are difficult to find, because public prayers and other rituals are intended to highlight religious differences. The faithful are called upon to distinguish themselves from infidels day by day in a highly visible manner (cf. Koran 2: 140–144).

                [156]          Horowitz, Ethnic Groups, p. 217.

                [157]          Byang, Sharia, p. 65; Falola, Violence in Nigeria, pp. 93–102; Sanneh, Piety and Power, pp. 129–132.

                [158]          The News, 14. November 1994, p. 18.

                [159]          Kukah, Religion, pp. 128, 135, 143; Suberu, Religion and Politics, p. 411.

                [160]          The Week, 17. October 1994, p. 11; Tell, 17. October 1994, p. 11; Kalu, Religious Dimension, pp. 671, 681, 683.

                [161]          Okeke, Hausa-Fulani Hegemony, p. 114; vgl. Bergstresser, Militärherrschaft, p. 79.

                [162]          The Week, 17. 10. 94, p. 12.