A Letter to Boko Haram: What Would Dan Fodio Do? By Malcolm Fabiyi, PhD

Malcom Fabiyi
By Malcolm Fabiyi, PhD

Recently, your group declared that it would no longer dialogue with the Federal Government. You have publicly stated that Boko Haram has two fundamental objectives. The first is to Islamize Nigeria, expel Christians from Northern Nigeria and re-establish the legacy of Shehu Dan Fodio. The second is to bring an end to the practice and propagation of western education in Nigeria. With such hardline positions, it is difficult to see what the basis for any negotiations would be. Dialogue presumes there is the capacity to find middle ground, and the possibility that the two sides to a conflict have certain common positions on which they can agree.

The Nigerian constitution guarantees the rights of all Nigerians to choose their faith and to worship as they please. Educational access is also protected under the Nigerian constitution. Because your demands violate the constitutional rights of other Nigerians, no representative of the Nigerian government is constitutionally empowered to negotiate on any of the issues you have identified as being fundamental to your cause. It is therefore unlikely that any serious government will enter into negotiations regarding amnesty for your members without requiring that the demands that you have made which are not aligned with the constitution are dropped.

It has also been implied that the model for the negotiations between your group and the government is the Niger Delta Militants amnesty program that was initiated by late President Umaru Yaradua.  It is unclear whether that is in fact an appropriate model.  No objective Nigerian can argue with the facts that the petroleum induced environmental degradation of the Niger Delta, and the lack of economic opportunities in a region from which most of Nigeria’s resources are derived is an assault to decency and fairness. Few will also argue with the fact that successive governments had systematically ignored the Niger Delta. MEND’s stated objective was ensuring fairness for the Niger Delta in the use and allocation of revenues derived from oil and gas resources sourced from the region. Redressing these wrongs was well within the powers of the Nigerian government to implement. In fact, it can be argued that the failure of government to address these issues earlier was in violation of both the spirit and letter of the Nigerian constitution.

No one doubts that Northern Nigeria is in crisis. However, where well-meaning Nigerians will likely differ is in deciding where the blame for the North’s predicament should lie. To blame southerners, Christians, or western education for the woes of the North is to misplace the source of responsibility for our predicament. The North has been blessed with the privilege of leading this nation for much of its history. What did our leaders do when they were in office? Apart from the brief period of growth and progress in Northern Nigeria under the leadership of the Sardauna (Ahmadu Bello) and Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa, what have northern leaders done to uplift the Northern masses? What improvements to the lives of the Ja’maa and the Talakawa have occurred under the rule of Northern leaders since 1966? What improvements to the lives of their citizens are Northern political leaders implementing today?
As a Nigerian and a Northerner who is aware of the legacy of Shehu Dan Fodio, and as a father whose son is named for the Shehu, your insinuation that your struggle is linked with the restoration of the legacy of Shehu Dan Fodio is offensive. If you are truly concerned about the Shehu’s legacy, you should look first at what has become of that legacy in the North. It might interest you to know that Shehu Dan Fodio was a firm believer in education, even in the type that you derisively refer to as western education. Ibraheem Sulaiman, author of “A Revolution in History”, an authoritative treatise on the life and times of Shehu Dan Fodio tells us that “the Shehu utilized the sciences (ulum) in his efforts to transform society; the science of tawhid, the science of hadith, the science of tafsir, the science of fiqh, as well as the sciences of medicine, astronomy and mathematics.”  It is our good fortune that this work is readily available for inquisitive minds to review (http://nmfuk.org/danfodio/IbrahimSulaimansBook.pdf). It might also interest you to know that the love for the sciences and mathematics was not restricted to the Shehu alone. Hugh Clapperton, the first European to document the conditions in Northern Nigerian after the Shehu’s Jihad, recorded finding the Shehu’s son, Sultan Mohammed reading a copy of the classical mathematical text by Euclid during a visit to the Sultan in 1827. Whatever your agenda is, it is clear that by opposing “western education” you seek to destroy, not enhance, the legacy of Shehu Dan Fodio.

What exactly do you even mean by western education? Do you not realize that you belittle the contributions that Africa and Arabia made to science by using such a term? Do you not see that by calling a body of knowledge to which all races, peoples and civilizations have made a contribution by the name “western education” belittles the role of Africa and Islam in the development of modern science? Mathematics is the language of science. Are you aware that Algebra, the most fundamental of the branches of mathematics is derived from the Arabic word Al-Jabr, coined by the Persian Mathematician Muhammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī who published the earliest known comprehensive treatise on the subject in 820 AD. Are you aware of the Rhind Papyrus, an ancient Egyptian (African) mathematical text containing groundbreaking mathematical concepts dated to about 2000 BC, clearly demonstrating the African origins of modern mathematics? Do you know that Euclid, the father of modern geometry actually lived and studied in Egypt?  Do you know that the number system that underlies all of modern science is called the Arabic numeral system – not the German, French, or English numeral system?

Some inconsistencies in your position on education need to be addressed. Your discussion with journalists was carried out by mobile phone, a technology developed by “western education.”  You use improvised explosive devices that incorporate timer mechanisms developed by western education. These explosives derive their destructive power from violent chemical reactions and exothermic processes that have been tamed only through a deep knowledge of chemistry and physics. The cars that you load your bombs in are powered by an internal combustion engine developed from thermodynamic principles which we understand only because of “western education.” The rifles that you carry, the camera that you use to record your messages, the computers on which you type and process your messages, the internet that allows you to reach the entire world with your views, the printers that publish your positions, the compact disks and thumb drives that you use in sending your messages – all these are products of the western education that you claim to despise.

Dr Datti Ahmed, who is mediating with the government on your behalf, is a medical doctor, trained in the foremost western traditions. I am hopeful that you have had occasion to ask him what he truly thinks about western education. I am also hopeful that he and the other northern leaders you say you have respect for have been upfront with you about what they really think about western education. Ask our political, religious and business leaders in the North like Dr Datti Ahmed, Adamu Ciroma, General Buhari, Nasir El Rufai, Alhaji Umaru Muttalab, Nuhu Ribadu, Aliko Dangote, Sultan Abubakar, and Sanusi  Lamido where their own children are.  If we should find that their own children are in the west – at Cambridge, Oxford, Harvard, Stanford, Manchester, LSE - gaining the most that they can from western education, we must question their silence at this critical period of Northern and National existential crisis. We must ask them to state publicly and clearly what their views are about western education, and what they believe its role should be in society.

There is another irony to consider. While you are calling for an end to “western education,” purporting to do so in the name of Islam, Muslim nations all over the world are tightening their embrace of education. Do you know how many Nigerian academics – Christian and Muslim – have been poached by institutions such as King Fahd University in Saudi Arabia to teach “western education” to their citizens? Are you aware of the radical social and economic transformations that are occurring in predominantly Islamic nations like Malaysia, Qatar, Iran, Pakistan, and Turkey, powered by western education? In an age where Iran is at conflict with the rest of the world because of its deepening pursuit of Nuclear capabilities, where Pakistan has built a Nuclear bomb, where Malaysia and Indonesia are becoming technological and commercial powerhouses, you are calling for an end to the pursuit of science and progress in Nigeria.

Let us now go back to the issue of amnesty and negotiations. The negotiations with MEND yielded two things. Firstly, the government increased its commitment to the Niger Delta, creating a ministry for the region and a special projects parastatal focused on infrastructural development. Secondly, the militants negotiated personal development programs for themselves, and many have been enrolled into training programs where they are developing the necessary skills to serve as engineers, drillers, divers, sailors and support personnel in the oil and gas industry. If your negotiations move forward with the government, what developmental programs will you demand for the North and for yourselves? What will the fate of your 500,000 members be when your guns finally go silent? What useful careers or jobs can be created for them if they do not have any western education?

Finally, to claim that Boko Haram seeks to re-establish the legacy of Shehu Dan Fodio by disrupting society, maiming and killing innocents and calling for the cessation of the pursuit of knowledge is to dishonor the legacy of the Shehu. The Shehu’s true legacy was about leadership by example and selfless service. The Shehu decried all materialism, he hated corruption and hypocrisy, he refused the crown after his victories, preferring worship and the pursuit of knowledge to the pomp and pageantry of office. Shehu Dan Fodio’s Jihad was a campaign against corruption and selfishness by leaders. If indeed you seek to restore the Shehu’s legacy and to engage in the revolutionary principle of Tajdid, then your focus should be on those leaders who have led the North to ruin, those who amass wealth, steal from the people, build palatial homes, and concentrate solely on the acquisition of worldly possessions, while their own people suffer. The real villains are those leaders who destroy schools, fail to fund hospitals, and do to the children of the North what they would not do to their own children. The true enemies of the North are those leaders who hypocritically maintain a complicit silence when western education is denounced yet send their own children to the best western schools that money can pay for. There is no difference between the oppression that these leaders impose on the North today and what the Habe Kings were doing to the Ja’maa in the days of Shehu Dan Fodio.

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"Aliyu Babayo" is your

"Aliyu Babayo" is your comment just a joke or part of the grand delusion of BH




you are the one that is confused and you seriously need help.

Thumbs up doc. Well

Thumbs up doc. Well researched & articulated. It's rather unfortunate though, that your people cannot read, let alone understand. Some persons will never see anything beyond the sentiments & paucity of knowledge that is their mind. For someone to mention an attempt by you to portray the north in bad light & so on, is rather pathetic. This is the problem, even the 'educated' ones who are learned enough to post comments on this page are ignorant & worse still are in that terrible human state where any further acquisition of knowledge with a subsequent attitudinal change is impossible. Tell me, how much more the vast majority of the kind. However, our problems are well known to us, no change can come from dwelling further on them. What we need are solutions. Perhaps rewriting your article in a most simplified form & in a language that your people - our brothers from the other end - can comprehend, & making it available to them all will be a good starting point

Boko Haram is not Haram to Boko.

Dr. Fabiyi, I think there is some fundamental error on your position in this article. From my readings of the group and its public statements, the group does not claim it is against western education. For example, its legal name is "Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati wal-Jihad" meaning "People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet's Teachings and Jihad". The shortened form and the easier nomenclature by the generality of the populace and western journalists has been Boko Haram. I believe for them what is Haram is perhaps the western, Anglo-Saxon law and political regime. Not just its educational system. Whatever the case, the group reminds me of the Taliban in Afghanistan. A hypocritical group of confused religionists who maim others in the name of religion. The decision to engage them in negotiations is neither here nor there. Goodluck Jonathan does not appear to have a clear policy. He's just muddling through.

Islam stopped contributing to knowledge in the 12th Century

It is true, historically that Islam made great contributions to knowledge in the areas of algebra, algorithms, chemistry etc,Islam ceased to contribute to knowledge from the 12th Century.The philosophy originating from the works of the famous Islamic scholar-Imam Hamid al-Ghazali which declared that Mahtematics was the work of the Devil finally redefined Islamic world-view and stunted the growth of Islam's contribution to civilization and modernity. Ever since, Islams world-view did not progress any further beyond the Middle Ages. All the talk about Islam,as a religion, promoting education other than islamic, is mere propaganda.How many Muslims are winners of the Nobel Prize? Only two, one middle eastern muslim. The other is a Pakistani muslim. Lets not be too economical with the truth. Islam abhors western education. This explains why fundamentalist muslims are in arms against such Islamic countries that embrace modernity such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Egypt, UAE etc...


i must commend this great written piece by Malcom Fabiyi.i have always looked forward to seeing a detailed analysis of this prblem.thank goodness i found one! converting the whole rebublic into an islamic community is absolutley immposible.the wants of this group are completly out of plce.opposition to western education will only convert the republic to the same level of insanity and ignorance they experience. but one thing that baffles me is the inability of the goverment of Nigeria to stop this problem. Gone are the days when people were afraid to kill themselves not to talk of hurting others. the bottom line is that we need God to come to our rescue.I also undersatnd the plight of notherners that dont support this supid act. lets please keep the discourse of this problem as"bokoharm"and not "notherners"

Excellent, very informative!

Excellent! It will be really nice and informative, if this piece can be printed in all languages in Nigeria, especially the Hausa language, so that the people in the North, especially the teeming uneducated masses can open their eyes and see that Boko Haram is nothing but a gang of “infidels” with distorted minds and who have nothing beneficial for them – except more poverty and misery. Again, thanks for the article, Professor Fabiyi.

What a piece!

What a piece of write-up. This deserves mass production and distribution. What I also think is that these Boko Haram, or whatever name they go by, are just using these stated reasons as cover-up. They have not really said the truth concerning why they are terrorising the country in the name of religion and fight for peace.

Re-letter to Boko haram

You only succeeded in portraying north in the bad light. You seem not to see anything good coming from the north.But one thing is clear, we believe jonathan is boko haram financier that is why he is always eager and happy to discuss the issue.Soon God will unmask the people behind boko haram. May the truth prevail.

A Letter To Boko Haram

Thanks a lot Malcolm Fabiyi PhD for this write-up. It is well researched and well delivered. I cannot but agree with all your analysis. You may however need to pardon my Boko Haram brothers for their ignorance. Ignorance like we use to say is a disease; and this disease can be found in a great number in the north than any other region. Who is to be blamed for this? Our northern leaders and elites. Sardauna and Tafawa Balewa did their best during time. But what happened after them is what you are seeing today. Once again thank you. Please continue with the good work.


If they have ears,let them hear.The case of misdirected aggression by the Boko-haram is peharps the most disturbing aspect of this unfortunate development in our country,the northern leaders are the guilty ones but innocent women and children are blown up mercilesslly.These elite from the north chose to cowardly divert attention by blaming poverty,13% derivative,unemployment etc as if these factors are peculiar to the north alone.The feudal families in the north assisted by a kleptomaniac and extremely corrupt oligachy who selfishly lorded it on the northern folk used sharia and madrasa education to cover thier eyes while enjoying the best of western lifestyle and stealing the country blind.
The objectives of the Boko-haram are unattainable,that is why most Nigerians believe that it is politically engineered to make the country ungovernable and forcefully extort money from the government hence the illogical equation with MEND by some northerners who propergate amnesty.

Why afraid of Sharia?

If the Nigerian constitution had provide every Nigerians with full right to practice his/her religion, why should non Muslims always saying there will be no sharia? despite the fact that sharia involves only Muslims, i will now call on to all non Muslims in Nigeria that, let them practice their own religion and fully allow Muslims to practice their own sharia as well, as it has no concern with non Muslims, i repeat sharia has no concern with non Muslims, it affect Muslims alone, so stop panicking your self and remove any jealousy from your heart and that the only way we can live in peace and harmony. stop wagging tongues, all crisis in Nigeria were caused by you non Muslims, just because of the sharia initiated in Zamfara and other states in northern Nigeria.


Excellent write-up, it's a shame your people can not read. But please mellow down on the fake fabricated history of the north. We in the south of fed up with these lying crab. House-back riding and goat herding is no longer seen as civilization. Which is best defined as An advanced state of intellectual, cultural, and material development in human society, marked by progress in the arts and sciences, the extensive use of record-keeping, including writing, and the appearance of complex political and social institutions.

So where does horse-back riding figure in here?? The Hausa/Fulani man has to begin to see himself as what others see him as, a failure or disappointment?? before he can begin to change his ways or improve himself. That is, if he can achieve that on his own!!!!

I write in the misplaced hope, the one of you out there can read and talk to your brothers, Boko Haram or otherwise.

I really do not understand

I really do not understand this amnesty thing that the North seems to be championing for Boko haram. How many does the fulanis want to enjoy amnesty in 9ja with the resources of the niger delta people? It was because of the amnesty scheme introduced for religious sects in the North, that the FGN established NORMADIC EDUCATION with our oil money for the Fulanis. Years after spending billions of Naira for the project, the fulanis want another amnesty program again? Its time the SS stop paying for the expensive life style of the elites from the 3 old regions with our oil revenue. Bolzano is a town in Italy which wants to secede from Italy because according to them, they cannot afford to use their resources which is coffee and fresh water to pay for the rotten life style of Itlians in Rome. Why should we use ours in the ND, to buy arms to fight boko haram? By next year, government would be spending over 2 trillion naira to fight BH-its a waste-national confab now!

Simpler English expression

It seems from the blogs on this site that the near-literate boko haram members too read from this site. Therefore a simpler written English would have sufficed this excellent piece for their maximum understanding- possibly assimilation.


Pls my guy can u tell me the

Pls my guy can u tell me the illiteracy rate in the southern part of the country? Nd what do u understand by the word illiteracy?

Who Are The Boko Harams?

"Western Education is Prohibited" which word is this in Human History? Qurianic education is an education depends where you take your degree. Even during the time of our Prophet(SAW) He recognised education and respect education. Where this buffoons got Boko HAram? Prophet Muhammed did not hate christianity or chritians because some jews are still part of Saudi Arabia till today and nobody drives them out. They have been there before muhammad was born. We can even say they are part of Saudi Arabia history.Also, there was relationships between them and Prophet Muhammed.Boko Harams Should tell us why this suddened change of believes.
Because, I learn that most of them are highly educated with various degrees especially from UNIMAID.They should publicly burn these certificates. Abi ta lenpe aja lobo fun? Ema f'eko tana fun wa mo o!

The Best so far

I hear by nominate this wonderful writer (mr fabiyi) as the best write of the year...I will personally translate this to hausa,mass produce it and share out...the struggle to liberate the north is a collective one...congrats fabiyi

DR Malcom, you grew up in the

DR Malcom, you grew up in the north and to be precise Kaduna.i believe this piece you wrote about boko haram i don't think you got it right, cause people are getting the real picture about what is really happening i.e an awareness the whole boko haram shit is a political stuff controlled by some individuals with a motive which only GOD knows why. And secondly, no one in his right thinking mind wants to islamise the country, so you people who are not in the country have a misconception about the issue. So please you know how you grew up here and i believe you still had those fond memories of our beloved kaduna and capital school do feel anybody can take away western education from the north if i may ask you and being a beneficiary of one the best school in north.

A well researched article

A well researched article that in my opinion should be translated to Hausa and be the editorial of all papers dotting the vast North. You really vindicated those that anoint you with PhD. I hope Rueben Abati (Permanent Head Damage) can go thru this piece and see how he rubbished his prestigious degree for money. Once again, a good reading for a monday morning


The truth is better, but you have just said the truth, may God bless you for speaking the truth.

The Best so far

I hear by nominate this wonderful writer (mr fabiyi) as the best write of the year...I will personally translate this to hausa,mass produce it and share out...the struggle to liberate the north is a collective one...congrats fabiyi

Re:Letter to Boko haram

What an objective piece? I suggest the Writer/Government should device a medium to spread this writeup in papers across Nigeria for general readings by the public. It may go a long way in sensitisation and enhancing understanding.

Great Piece

This is so far the most objective analysis of BH menace written by a non muslim i have read in recent times.The BH is a confused group as far as i am concerned,not only sheik fodio encouraged pursuit of education but the prophet of islam was reported to have encouraged people to go to as far as china to seek for education,it must be borne in mind that at that time china was purely a non muslim country.Another area where i feel BH is completely disillusioned is their inability to differentiate between science and technology and english language,as the writer rightly pointed out,what BH is fighting is a contribution made not by the west alone but by islam as an organized religion that incorporates all aspects of human endeavor. where i feel the writer's stance need to be modified is;negotiation with the group, you dont expect negotiation to begin with a compromise,is in the process of negotiation that you find shifts on hard stance which lead to middle grounds.


Doc. Am glad to tell u that u ve' done a great job but u ve' to know that d average Talakawas in the North don't recognise Boko Haram. Also the Clerics in the North ve' done a great job in criticising Boko Haram & even conducting Debate with them but that is before they stated their killings and explosions. Since then no scholar dare talk to them except for some few.

Not a gud thought

Samson ur style of writting isn't encouraging adjust pls.

We the core Hausas are

We the core Hausas are destined to rule Nigeria come 2015 we shall have an Housa as governor in Delta, Bayelsa, River and indeed Plateau states.
Oh boy na true this Malcolm dey talk oh!!

you earned your PhD

You are an unbiased researcher. Your piece is simply a research material. Thanks for your boldness and intellectual bravado

Common fake Dr. You are not

Common fake Dr. You are not getting it right.All these propagandas you engage yourself in will only lead to your destruction.You were contracted to smear the Northern Citizes,especially the Muslim North with rotten eggs as your head is.
Unless you have never been to the North of Nigeria, or even associated with any of its citizenes, the Muslims in the north are and have never thought to act the way you were trying to portary.Your cheap blackmail will get you to nowhere.The earlier you stop the better.