When people think of religious conflict in Nigeria, they often think of Boko Haram as an Islamist movement in the style of al-Qaeda, conducting a reign of terror across the north of the country. Or they think of the riots that swept the Middle Belt during the Miss World contest in 2002. They may even think of the militancy that is disrupting the flow of oil in the Niger Delta. What is often lacking is an understanding of the context of all of these phenomena: a culture saturated with religiosity, a deeply divided and conflicted national identity, and huge grievances over the inequitable distribution of the country's natural wealth. Such a context creates conditions ripe for revivalists, some of whom wish to reform the state by violent means.
1Nigeria’s population is roughly evenly divided between Islam in the north, and Christianity in the south. Political power has previously been divided between these halves, but this system is breaking down.
2Much unrest is centred on an equitable division of wealth, with dissatisfaction over the corruption of the elites. Many Islamic revivalist movements in the north are focused on justice for the poor.
3Though such militant groups as Boko Haram or Ansaru would identify themselves as Sunni, if pushed to adopt an internationally recognised label, they are largely divided from one another on tribal lines.