An insurgency in Nigeria by the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram has left thousands dead, shaken Africa's biggest country and worried the world. Yet it remains a mysterious - almost unknowable - organisation. rough exhaustive on-the-ground reporting, Mike Smith takes readers inside the conflict and provides the first in-depth account of the violence and unrest. He traces Boko Haram from its beginnings as a small Islamist sect in Nigeria's remote north-east, led by a baby-faced but charismatic preacher, to its transformation into a hydra-headed entity, deploying suicide bombers and abducting schoolgirls. Much of the book is told through the eyes of Nigerians who have found themselves caught between frightening insurgents and security forces accused of horrifying brutality. It includes the voices of a forgotten police officer left paralysed by an attack, women whose husbands have been murdered and a sword-wielding vigilante using charms to fend of insurgent bullets. It journeys through the sleaze and corruption that has robbed Africa's biggest oil producer of its potential, making it such fertile ground for extremism.Along the way it questions whether there can be any end to the violence and the ways in which this might be achieved.
Interspersed with history, this book delves into the roots of this unholy war being waged by a virtually unknown organisation, which is set to shape the destiny of Africa's biggest economy and most populous state - and perhaps affect the future of Africa.
Mike Smith is a foreign correspondent for AFP news agency and was bureau chief in Western Africa from 2010 to 2013, based in Nigeria. He has extensively covered the Boko Haram insurgency.
'Perceptive and fair-minded... eminently readable... Smith’s achievement is to demonstrate how Boko Haram arose from the particular conditions of northern Nigeria, where brutal security forces, a corrupt and predatory state, and a long tradition of Islamist radicalism all combine to create a perfect breeding ground for terrorism.'
David Blair, The Telegraph
‘The best bits of [Boko Haram] are focused reportage such as the moving tale of Wellington Asiayei... what shines through is [Smith's] measured anger, shared by many Nigerians, about a country battered by empire builders, the curse of oil, the military and a devastating 1967-70 civil war.’
Michael Peel, Financial Times
‘brilliant... the first comprehensive book to be written about Boko Haram and offers an excellent anatomy of the group, its emergence, its activities and the havoc it has wrought on the lives of Nigerians… Smith’s attention to detail is excellent and he creates a vivid and accurate description of current and historical events… This book should to be compulsory reading for anyone interested in Nigerian affairs and particularly for those who want to have a good grasp of one of Africa’s most brutal insurgencies.’
Abdullahi Tasiu Abubakar, African Arguments
‘There is certainly an urgent need for a comprehensive yet accessible account of Boko Haram about which much is written but yet little understood. The author is eminently well qualified, especially from his connection with AFP, who have been at the forefront of reportage on the situation of Northern Nigeria, to tackle this subject. The book should find a ready readership among the policy and diplomatic community as well as academics and interested lay readers.'
Richard Reid, Professor of the History of Africa, SOAS, University of London
‘I enjoyed [this book] very much – its a good read. It’s much the best account I have read, and offers a real sense of place – and crisis. Mike Smith’s book will be widely read and cited.’
Murray Last, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology, University College London
'Mike Smith has written an unsparing study of both Boko Haram's cruelty and the failure of the Nigerian state to defeat the movement. In this timely book he tells a demoralising but necessary story, of the violence and negligence that is rapidly undermining the stability of sub-Saharan Africa's most important country'.
Barnaby Phillips, author of Another Man's War: The Story of A Burma Boy in Britain's Forgotten African Army
Publisher: I.B.Tauris & Co Ltd.Hardback
Publication Date: 28 Feb 2015
Number of Pages: 320
Illustrations: 16 bw integrated, 1 map