The Next Pakistan

Is it Nigeria? Understanding the causes and consequences of the African nation's troubles.

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Only a few days after government forces reasserted control in Nigeria, where hundreds died in a week-long conflict, several writers have stepped forward to explore what happened, why, and what it means for the region and the world.

Next Pakistan  Nigeria could be another Pakistan, according to the New Yorker's Steve Coll, who is blogging his trip there. Coll compared the two, going into detail on the strikingly similar colonial histories and present-day "political violence, religious conflict, and separatist movements." He argued that Nigeria is actually worse off since the Pakistani people and military establishment are united against India. Nigeria has no such common enemy. Indeed, Coll is ultimately more pessimistic about Nigeria than Pakistan. "If Pakistan could eventually make peace with India and hold onto its sense of self, it might have a chance to prosper and normalize," he wrote. "It is hard to see these days how Nigeria will find its way toward a similar path to national success."

Religious War  Citing religious violence across Nigeria, Martin Robbins of The Guardian cautioned that religion-based culture war is threatening to tear apart Nigerian society, putting other countries at risk. "It's easy to dismiss these distant events, but we hold some responsibility for them," he wrote. "And the consequences of this religious extremism spread far beyond West Africa." Robbins condemned extremist Christian violence, which has resulted in brutal "witch hunts," but showed more concern regarding Islamic extremists. "Anti-western sentiment in the predominantly Muslim northern regions of Nigeria may seem distant, but it has had dire consequences for the continent."

Not a Terrorist Center  Newsweek's Scott Johnson analyzed the "radical Islamic sect" that's been attacking police and government offices, launching "a bloodbath in which over 700 have been killed so far." Johnson argued that, terrible though this is, it doesn't indicate the "emergence of a regional Islamist front" that would make Nigeria a new center of international terrorism. "There's no strong anti-American sentiment in Nigeria," he wrote. "The death-to-the-Westerners mantra just has no constituency there." Foreign Policy's Jean Herskovitz agreed. "Nigeria's problem isn't Islamist fundamentalism," she wrote. "It's the country's corrupt and self-serving government."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.