One never finishes counting the dead in Nigeria. Each day there are new victims. Each day there are new attacks, more attacks, against churches, police stations or schools. The arc of this conflict without a name runs through a large part of the north of Nigeria: Maiduguri, Kano, Damturu, Gome; here are the cities of a devastated region where each neighborhood seems to be overrun by conflict. But what conflict?

This report, which took over one year to put together, is an attempt to examine the symptoms of sectarian violence through the milky and raw light of the North. The wave of political tension, after the presidential elections in April 2011 crystallized the frustration of a weary population, abused by ultra corrupt politicians found its release -eight hundred deaths in just a few days. But the on-going ethno-religious conflict in the Middle Belt, appears to be another front-line of a religious war, accentuated by 9/11. Here, the global has become local and each crisis heightens the ethnic response whether one is Berom, Hausa, Fulani, and Ngas, indigenous or not. More recently though, the fire has spread deeper and rougher in the North. The attacks perpetrated by the Salafist sect have claimed one thousand victims since 2009. Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad, more well known by it’s Hausa name, Boko Haram, has plunged Nigeria in to a state of terror.

Nigeria seems very foreign, yet the unfolding chaos raises one crucial contemporary question: how can people who have nothing in common cohabit inside an imposed national entity while the extreme corruption and injustice of the powerful erodes the social contract day after day and arouses anger and frustration?

Trying to explain the chaos in the North of Nigeria means hitting the wall: one runs in to simplifications and generalities, but nothing is simple in Nigeria. The resurgence of religious tension corresponded with the end of military rule in 1999. Without the dead weight of dictatorship, Nigeria split itself in two once again, this despite a heterogeneous society (more than 200 ethnic groups) unified in 1914 by Lord Lugard under English rule. A century later, « amalgamation » has never seemed more obsolete and obscure.


Text: Bénédicte Kurzen, 18 June 2012, Jos, Plateau State, Nigeria

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