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SUFISM IN NORTHERN NIGERIA: A FORCE FOR COUNTER-RADICALIZATION?

Introduction.

In 2010 Nigeria will celebrate its half-centenary. The closer the country edges toward this historic date, the more its citizens are drawn to reflect on its past. Few but the most optimistic are likely to conclude that the last 50 years have been anything but difficult. Political- ly, Nigeria has endured prolonged bouts of chronic in- stability as time and again the military has intervened to install one of its own as head of state. Far from sav- ing Nigeria from the avarice and corruption of its civil- ian leaders, the military’s actions have helped strangle democracy and institutionalize electoral fraud. Eco- nomically, the rapid expansion of the oil industry has enriched a few at the expense of the many as Nigeria has been transformed into a rentier state. Socially, the country continues to be plagued by intercommunal vi- olence as ethnic and religious groups everywhere peri- odically fall upon one another with murderous intent.

In fact, it is no small wonder that Nigeria has sur- vived at all. The Biafran war of the late 1960s was but the most dramatic manifestation of the regionalist and sectarian impulses that still threaten to tear the coun- try asunder. Even today, the Federal Government (FG) continues to face numerous challenges to its author- ity. In the south-east, the Movement for the Actualiza- tion of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) is fuel- ling and channelling Igbo desires for an independent homeland. In the south-south, the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) and the Move- ment for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) are working in different ways to free this oil producing

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