National Geographic November 13, 2013, Part 2

The War for Nigeria, by James Verini, Photographs by Ed Kashi

As a pharmacy technician in my day job, I have worked with several of the around 6,000 Nigerian pharmacists working in the United States. So, for me, Nigeria is at least a little more than just a blob on a map to me.

For many in the United States, though, the last time Nigeria made much of an impact on popular culture was with the kidnapping of the girls from Chibok school by members of Boko Haram, a group who want to create an Islamic caliphate in northern Nigeria.  To this end, they have been, performing acts of violence against the population of northern Nigeria, targeting Christians in particular, but any Muslims that don’t support the Boko Haram agenda are targets as well.

The War for Nigeria is about the actions of Boko Haram in 2013.  We begin with the bombing of a bus station in Kano, the second-largest city in Nigeria. We then go to a local dispute between Christians and Muslims in rural Nigeria.  No one is sure where the dispute began, one villager says that it is based in the death of a cow, but the Christians in the village claim that they are being victimized by Boko Haram.

We then go into the history of Kano, which had been a caliphate before the British took over, and whose emir had been kept on as a sort of religious leader/figurehead.  There is still an emir in Kano, and while Verini doesn’t get to meet the then-current emir, Ado Bayero (who passed away in 2014 and has been succeeded by his great-nephew Mahammadu Sanusi II, who was apparently a banker before he became a religious leader), he does get to have a look around the emir’s palace.

In the process of writing this post, I stumbled across an assertion that “Boko Haram” is a reference to being opposed to western education.  And so I did some digging and found that apparently the Hausa word “boko” is a reference to “ilimin boko,” which means “fake education,” and means the western-style education brought by British colonialists.  “Haram” is an Arabic word that means that something is forbidden or a sin.  As a result, “Boko Haram” carries the meaning “western education is a sin.”

Follow the Water, by Verlyn Klinkenborg, photographs by Orsolya and Erlind Haarberg

Follow the Water is about the coast of Norway.  After reading about the harrowing lives of people in northern Nigeria, Klinkenborg’s lyrical musings on traveling up the coast of Norway was refreshing, but a little jarring as well.  Let’s hope for an era in which people will be able to write such gorgeous prose about the beauty of northern Nigeria.  I may not live to see it, but someday . . . .

Follow the Water is a beautiful article, and there’s not much to say about it that could possibly improve on it, but one point made in Follow the Water is that we have now made the to-date most accurate measurement of Norway’s coast, and the current figure is 63,000 miles.  That means that if you stretched it out, Norway’s coast would go around the equator just about two and a half times.

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