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In which John discusses Nigeria, its complicated history, and how that history has shaped the region from which the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram emerged. Also discussed is the history of Boko Haram itself and its recent atrocities.

And here is your standard reminder that educational videos are allowed to be over 4 minutes long.

Some links for further reading:

A basic overview of Boko Haram from the bbc:
A timeline of Boko Haram's attacks:
A detailed introduction to Boko Haram:
A good overview of how Islam came to sub-saharan Africa:
More info on the 1967-1970 Nigerian Civil War:

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Good morning, Hank. It's Tuesday. I want to talk today about Boko Haram which was formed in Nigeria in 2002, but I want to begin in the year 1100-ish.   So Hank, we have this idea that Islam spread primarily through conquest, but in fact, in many places, including Sub-Saharan Africa, Islam spread primarily by trade. So back in the year 1100-ish, leaders in what is now Northern Nigeria started to convert to Islam. They were trading with North African Berbers and by the 18th century, most of the people in what is now Northern Nigeria and also what is now Southwestern Nigeria were Muslims. But those Sub-Saharan African empires never spread to the rest of Southern Nigeria so those people were not Muslims. Instead, in the 19th century, when a bunch of European missionaries showed up, many of those people in the rest of Southern Nigeria became Christians. What is now Nigeria was colonized by the British for much of the 20th century, but Northern Nigeria was controlled by what's known as indirect rule. Like the local emirs were allowed to run everything as long as they pledged allegiance to the British and also, paid them a portion of their money. Now, as far as colonization goes, that seems like a pretty good deal, but also meant there was much less western-style education in Northern Nigeria than in Southern Nigeria which was much more directly ruled by the British. So the south ended up with most of the doctors and the lawyers and the bureaucrats. Also, all of the oil is in the south.   I should pause here to say that this is of course over simplifying. There are hundreds of languages spoken in Nigeria and hundreds of different ethnic groups. There are many Christians living in predominantly Muslim communities; many Muslims living in predominantly Christian communities. So it's definitely not as simple as a divide between North and South, but there is a big gap there.   Ok Hank, so one of the many catastrophes of colonization is that it created borders that were convenient to Europeans, but not necessarily to the people who, like, lived in the actual places. So in 1960, Nigeria gains independence which is awesome except it's never actually been, like, a unified political entity.    Hank, there's this famous moment in James Joyce's novel, "Ulysses" where Leopold Bloom is asked what a nation is, and Bloom answers, "A nation is the same people living in the same place - or also living in different places." But 1960, Nigeria was more like different people living in the same place which led to a bunch of coups and then, eventually, to a 1967 civil war. Parts of Southern Nigeria seceded and became the Republic of Biafra. And the rest of Nigeria was like, "Wait, no. We should be one Nigeria. Also, all the oil is in your new country." There was a huge civil war for two and a half years. More than a million people died, but in the end, Nigeria won, and the Republic of Biafra ceased to exist, and the country was reunited.   So Nigeria today is a really interesting country. It's split almost evenly between Christians and Muslims. It has one of the fastest growing economies in the world and very little national debt. It's the largest economy in Africa and the 20th largest in the world. Their film industry generates 10 billion dollars in sales a year. But it's also the last nation in Africa that still has polio, which is found only in the north, and life expectancy in Nigeria is 52. That's lower than it is in Somalia which doesn't even have a government. In much of Northern Nigeria, fewer than half of kids even go to elementary school. Female literacy is over 50% and while the country's overall economy grows over 8% a year, in the north, absolute poverty is actually increasing.   Hank, it's easy enough to say that religion is the problem here, right? Except there are a lot of Muslims living in the southwest of Nigeria where female literacy is over 90% and the economy is growing really well. The problem is partly resource allegation. Like, Nigeria's export economy is just a smidge dependent upon petroleum which is found almost exclusively in the south. But there's also all these legacies of colonialism and indirect rule which means less effective federal governance in everything from education to the armed forces.    So this was the Northern Nigeria that saw Boko Haram emerge in 2002, a region disproportionately impoverished, uneducated, and poorly governed. The words Boko Haram literally mean "western education is forbidden". The group was founded by a guy named Mohammed Yusuf who himself had a western-style education and spoke English. Although he believed that the earth is flat and that rain is not caused by evaporation, so maybe it wasn't such a great education. In 2002, he began recruiting unemployed young people into his movement, railing against official corruption, which is rampant, and also advocating for the creation of Islamic state. But Boko Haram didn't actually become a military organization until Yusuf was arrested and then shortly thereafter, executed in 2009. Over a thousand people were killed in the riots that followed Mohammed Yusuf's execution, and after that, Boko Haram became increasingly militant and crazy.   I mean, this is an organization that claims they want to restore like righteousness and justice to Nigeria, but they fund themselves like primarily through drug trafficking and bank robbery. In 2011, Boko Haram was behind Nigeria's first ever suicide bombing. On Christmas of that year, they killed 41 people via bombings and shootings in churches. In 2012, they killed at least 792 people. And in 2013, they murdered nine women who were distributing polio vaccines. Polio vaccines! They also murdered 54 mostly Muslim college students while they were sleeping in their dorms. And then, in 2014, Boko Haram got worldwide attention when they kidnapped 276 girls from inside of classrooms. The attacks since then have only gotten worse. On January 3rd of this year, they seized the town of Baga, burned it to the ground, murdered as many as 2000 people. And now, Boko Haram controls the northeastern corner of Nigeria where they've instituted a version of sharia law so extreme that not only has the likes of it never been seen in Sub-Saharan Africa, but it's, like, too extreme for al-Qaeda. They regularly massacre people who won't fight for them, and they've begun attacks in Niger and Chad and Cameroon.   Boko Haram still has an army between 7,000-10,000 people, and it's difficult to understand what those people are thinking, at least what the leaders are thinking. I mean, they conscript a lot of people; they have a lot of child soldiers; they force preteen girls to be suicide bombers. And it's hard to understand that evil. Then again, I don't know if I need to understand it, but I do need to know about it. I mean, not knowing about this stuff is really problematic, Hank, because one of the great tragedies of Boko Haram is that they have been allowed to grow for the last ten years because the Nigerian government and the world community haven't done a good enough job of noticing how terrible they are. So I think it's really important to learn about Boko Haram and not let their atrocities go unnoticed, but I also think it's important to understand that literally 99.9% of Nigerians do not support Boko Haram. And Hank, it's also important to remember that just a few days ago, two Muslim volunteers in a northern town sacrificed their lives to keep a Boko Haram suicide bomber from entering a city market where she would have killed hundreds of people.   Hank, I'll see you on Friday.