Can Nigeria teach the West a thing or two?

by on January 4, 2017 at 2:14 am in Current Affairs, History, Law, Political Science, Religion, Travel, Travels | Permalink

That is the topic of my latest Bloomberg column, here is one excerpt:

The reports of Boko Haram and terror killings are well known, and they reflect the interlocking and sometimes deadly combinations of regional, religious, sectarian and ethnic identities in the country, not to mention extreme inequalities of income and opportunity. Yet Nigeria has about 180 million people and is larger than Texas. The violence is the most frequently reported story in the West, but the underlying reality is far more complex and shows positive features.

For instance, the city of Lagos is in many regards a marvel of religious tolerance. Nigeria is about 50 percent Muslim and 40 percent Christian, and the area surrounding Lagos is also highly mixed in terms of religion. That may sound like a recipe for trouble, but in matters of religion Lagos is almost entirely peaceful. Religious intermarriage is common and usually not problematic, as is the case in many (not all) other parts of Nigeria as well. Many top Nigerian politicians have married outside their religion, kept two separate religions in the family and enjoyed continued political success.

Consider the scale and speed of this achievement. Lagos, with a population of about 20 million, is larger than many countries. It is the most commercially oriented part of Nigeria, and it grew so large only in the last few decades, as it attracted entrepreneurially minded people from many parts of Nigeria and other African countries. By one estimate, 85 new residents arrive every hour. That may sound chaotic, but in essence Nigeria has in a few decades created an almost entirely new, country-sized city built on the ideals and practice of religious tolerance. The current president, Muhammadu Buhari, is a Muslim who was supported in his election by many Christian leaders, on the grounds that he would fight corruption more effectively. His running mate served as a Pentecostal pastor.

There are several other points, including an assessment of on the ground safety (better than you might think), do read the whole thing.

1 Elias Hakansson January 4, 2017 at 2:39 am

My understanding of the challenges of diversity is that it only is challenging before people realize how easy it is.

2 So Much For Subtlety January 4, 2017 at 4:10 am

An interesting proposing. On the other hand we had Yugoslavia which had decades of enforced and yet successful diversity.

Perhaps you would like to explain where it all went wrong for the Yugoslavs? A bonus if you can do so without mentioning the rape of Serb girls by Muslim men with glass bottles.

3 Thomas Taylor January 4, 2017 at 4:45 am

Oh, if only the glorious ethinic cleansing had succeeded…

4 Wonks Anonymous January 4, 2017 at 10:31 am

In all honesty I think the ethnic cleansing of the Volkdeutsch from eastern europe contributed to the subsequent peace of the continent.

5 Thiago Ribeiro January 4, 2017 at 11:29 am

The German aggressors had no place in Eastern Europe. I say the Hun must be beaten. It is a shame how Brazilians are mistreated and the Fascist Japanese and Germans are praised and spoiled.

6 prior_test2 January 4, 2017 at 4:58 am

One can suppose the idea that Yugoslavian atrocities transcended mere sectarian differences (two major branches of Christianity and one of Islam) when looking at mass graves is just too subtle for you to grasp.

Here is a little bit of history concerning the Croats (you didn’t forget about them, did you? – they aren’t subtle). ‘The Ustaše (pronounced [ûstaʃe]), also known as “Ustashe”, “Ustashas”, and “Ustashi”, were members of the Ustaša – Croatian Revolutionary Movement (Croatian: Ustaša – Hrvatski revolucionarni pokret), a Croatian fascist,[2] ultranationalist and terrorist organization, active, in its original form, between 1929 and 1945. Its members murdered hundreds of thousands of Serbs, Jews, Roma (Gypsies) as well as political dissidents in Yugoslavia during World War II.[3][4][5]

The ideology of the movement was a blend of fascism, Roman Catholicism and Croatian nationalism.[3] The Ustaše supported the creation of a Greater Croatia that would span the Drina River and extend to the border of Belgrade.[6] The movement emphasized the need for a racially “pure” Croatia and promoted genocide against Serbs, Jews[7] and Romani people, and persecution of anti-fascist or dissident Croats and Bosniaks.[8]

The Ustaše were fiercely Catholic, identifying it with Croatian nationalism.[9] They declared that the Catholic and Muslim faiths were the religions of the Croatian people. They claimed the Islam of the Bosniaks was a religion which “keeps true the blood of Croats”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usta%C5%A1e

Or maybe the Serbs were being meanies when they claimed the Croats had a bad record when it came to genocide. Because when it comes to Yugoslavian atrocities through history, the Catholics are likely still well ahead of everybody else in the body count.

7 Art Deco January 4, 2017 at 8:30 am

The Yugoslav political order was authoritarian in character from 1929 to 1989. Public life was an artifact. When it was not, you see what happened. A lot of scores accumulating in those 60 years.

8 N.K Anton January 4, 2017 at 9:09 am

Yeah, the Serbs. But its nice of you to blame it on the group that also suffered a particular infamous massacre at the hands of genocidal and petty thugs.

9 JC January 4, 2017 at 2:53 am

The trouble is in the Muslim dominated North while the Christian dominated South is more tolerant. We should not jump to conclusions but let’s not ignore facts, Muslim communities must get their act together and revisit the way they are educating their people on tolerance and inter religious relations. Looks like it’s not the world only that has to learn from Nigeria but also Nigeria must learn from Nigeria itself.

10 Chris January 4, 2017 at 2:49 pm

In 1970, Persia, Afghanistan, and Syria were all examples too of Muslim tolerance. The issue for sub-Saharan Africa is that its Islam is more like a folk religion without the strong theological backing found in other parts of the Muslim world. Sometimes when an African Muslim has the interest and means to learn more about Islam, the result can be picking up some very bad habits from his mentors.

Mali was 90% Muslim. Tolerating other faiths was not even an issue. However, when local Muslims became radicalized, then started killing their own countrymen and destroyed their own Muslim cultural heritage sites (various shrines of local Sufi Saints) because they felt it encouraged people to venerate the dead instead of Allah.

There are many Islams. Most are fine, but a few are dangerous. When you look at the long term from say 1955 to now, the trend is worrying. In 1955 there was no Muslim terrorism. Now it is everywhere. Even what used to be secular republics are now Islamic Republics. We know that being a minority view does not mean they can’t win. Evil minorities can seize power in opposition to the majority and then convert the populations to their way of thinking – both the Nazis and Bolsheviks were like that. So was the Ayatollah Khomeini.

How do we know that Nigerian Muslims will continue to be the way they are now when we know that little more than a decade ago, there was no such thing as Boko Haram and now there is. Why is the “good” Islam slowly losing to the bad one? Nothing in the article addresses this. Nigeria could be fine in the several decades or it could be Lebanon in 1965.

11 stephan January 4, 2017 at 4:10 pm

I agree. We’ll see how it turns out. Islam is certainly not a tolerant religion. Islamic law mandates second class status for Jews, Christians and other non Muslims in Islamic societies.

12 So Much For Subtlety January 4, 2017 at 3:29 am

The reports of Boko Haram and terror killings are well known, and they reflect the interlocking and sometimes deadly combinations of regional, religious, sectarian and ethnic identities in the country, not to mention extreme inequalities of income and opportunity.

Yes, it is well known that Islamic violence is caused by everything except Islam. In what way does Boko Haram reflect regional or ethnic identities? Can anyone actually identify the ethnic grudges allegedly behind Boko Haram? Muslims from the North in a country historically ruled by Muslims from the North. Inequalities in income? Come on.

The fact that the Christian South of Nigeria is tolerant and so is being bred out is not really much to celebrate. How many children of mixed marriages end up Christian?

13 dearieme January 4, 2017 at 3:32 am

“How many children of mixed marriages end up Christian?” Again and again, distant echoes of Roman Catholicism.

14 So Much For Subtlety January 4, 2017 at 3:47 am

As opposed to what? The pathetic remnants of Egyptian Christianity? The slow death of a free and liberal Lebanon? The ruins that show where the Christians of Anatolia used to live?

15 Art Deco January 4, 2017 at 8:27 am

There were about 8 million Copts in Egypt until fairly recently. The Church there is organizationally vigorous in a way it hasn’t been in the U.S. since 1965, or in Ireland since 1990.

16 Wonks Anonymous January 4, 2017 at 10:41 am

Razib Khan seems to think they’re doomed:
http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2011/11/the-end-of-arab-christianity/#.WG0WSdUrKUk
I can’t recall the link now, but I know he compared them once to Shi’ites in Pakistan. There are many there who want the rid the country of them, but there are too many of them for such a purging to seem as plausible as it would be Copts.

17 Troll me January 4, 2017 at 4:18 am

Also, Christianity caused Hitler and a lack of Christianity is what caused Stalin.

18 So Much For Subtlety January 4, 2017 at 4:26 am

Did you feel like posting something random or do you actually think there is a link between what I said and what you said?

As it happens, atheism is a precondition of both Nazi and Communist ideology. Darwin shaped one. Marx the other. But I fail to see what it has to do with Nigeria.

19 Thomas Taylor January 4, 2017 at 4:54 am

Really? Luther had some interesting things to say about Jews. Also it is funny how Christian” Europe had such things as Jewish ghettos and destruction of Jewish books. But in a very loving way, I am sure. Sometimes I wonder: if “Christian” Europe hadn’t spent 2000 years treating the “Christ’s murderers” like devils, who would the Nazis have chosen to be picked on? Also, strangely enough, Rome was not only the first foreign power to sign a treaty with Hitler, including ordering the Catholic opposition to disband – but we all know Obama is the real Antichrist -, preceding Stalin’s, and the first Italian leader the Church accepted to deal with was Mussolini. But in a very Christian way, I am sure.

20 Art Deco January 4, 2017 at 8:24 am

including ordering the Catholic opposition to disband

You’re under the impression that Germany between 1933 and 1945 had organized ‘opposition’ parties? All the other political parties were disbanded.

21 Thomas Taylor January 4, 2017 at 9:44 am

Hitler didn’t get dictatorial power right after becoming Chancellor, whatever it may mean to your ego. Back then, the Communists were betting on chaos refusing to ally themselves with the Social-Democrats, and the Catholic Centre Party , under Rome’s orders, sided with Hitler while he was building his police state and, after the Concordat, ultimately voted for dissolving itself.

22 Art Deco January 4, 2017 at 11:26 am

The Nazis and the residuum of the National People’s Party held a majority in the Reichstag after 5 March 1933.

23 Thomas Taylor January 4, 2017 at 11:31 am

This majority got bigger when the Centre Party decided to support the Enabling Act.

24 Troll me January 4, 2017 at 8:33 pm

Just that you blame everything on Islam any time someone who is Muslim does something.

Maybe Christianity caused your ignorance? (In this kind of context, the “blame religion” answer might actually be on the ball – although we should be sure to distribute the blame widely across diverse groups.

So, take any diversity of groups and put them in the histoircal, political and ethnographic (distributional and interactions between them more than specifics) situation of Nigeria, I don’t see that you should necessarily expect better or worse results.

So, as for how some Boko Haram leaders got brainwashed and/or manipulated into whatever sort of insanity that led them to kidnap hundreds of young school girls, I just don’t have a clue about that. There’s maybe some retardedly twisted interpretation somewhere they can use to justify it, but assuredly, the Qur’an could not be blamed as the source of such ideas, although it may have not been quite explicit enough in tying together themes which would have banned it.

(Also, there should be no possible way for you to take offense at the statement that the Qur’an was conceived and written during a revolutionary time of war which offered many enhanced rights and freedoms relative to that status quo – I do believe that Muslims are capable of understanding the fact that the warlike aspects of some verses originated from such a context, and should not be considered as a guide to generally act in such a manner as occurred in the middle of a revolutionary period.)

25 So Much For Subtlety January 5, 2017 at 2:25 am

Muslims do things for entirely 100% Muslim reasons, firmly based on Muslim scripture and history, and you insist it is what? The Jews are to blame? I can understand why you don’t believe me when I tell you the truth but how can you – as the Whitest of White Canadian liberals – justify refusing to believe, or even listen to, some Black people when they tell you why they do what they do? Isn’t that a little arrogant of you?

I agree if you put a bunch of Muslims next to a bunch of non-Muslims you are likely to end up with violence. Not so much if you put a bunch of Hindus together with a bunch of Buddhists.

There is so much you do not have a clue about but of course both the Quran and the Sunnah defend the taking of sex slaves. Muhammed did it himself. He took two Jewish girls as sex slaves. Both were captured and their husbands murdered. So they have precedent – Islamic precedent. And of course the Quran tells Muslims they can have four wives plus whatever their “right hands” take. There is a universal agreement that refers to sex slaves. So you are, of course, wrong.

The Quran was not written during a revolutionary time of war and it did not offer any enhanced rights or freedoms. That is modern Islamic apologetics not borne out by the evidence. So why would I be offended? It is simply irrational and ahistorical.

Boko Haram would argue they too exist in a period of revolutionary war – they too are killing people who are all too tolerant just as Muhammed did. So I am pretty sure they would be on strong ground arguing the same rules ought to apply.

26 Troll me January 5, 2017 at 9:12 am

Yeah, blame the Jews.

Hey, do you remember lecturing me not to project what people from other religions think about something, while blathering on in complete ignorance about that very same religion?

Now, here you are not only presuming to know, but speaking on behalf of an entire 1.5 billion people, their full diversity excluded entirely from your thinking.

I do fear that you, and perhaps other, might even believe some of this garbage you are writing.

27 So Much For Subtlety January 5, 2017 at 6:39 pm

A group of Muslims do Islamic things for openly expressed Islamic reasons. You, a White Canadian with no knowledge of the real world at all, insist that they do not do it for Islamic reasons. Despite everything they have said. OK then, why do they do it and how do you know?

You have no idea what my level of ignorance about Islam is so your comment is irrelevant. I am not speaking on behalf of 1.5 billion Muslims. I am pointing out what Boko Haram say. A narrative you insist cannot be true and so deny. Drowning out the voice of actual Black African Muslims with that of a White Canadian liberal. You are speaking for them and doing it badly. Isn’t that, you know, a tad racist?

The only time I come close to speaking about what 1.5 billion people believe is when I point out there is a uniform consensus that when the Quran refers to “what the right hand takes” it is referring to sex slaves. And that is a statement of truth. No one denies it.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ma_malakat_aymanukum

Surah Al-Muminun (23:6) and Surah Al-Maarij (70:30) both, in identical wording, draw a distinction between spouses and “those whom one’s right hands possess” (female slaves), saying ” أَزْوَاجِهِمْ أَوْ مَا مَلَكَتْ أَيْمَانُهُمْ” (literally, “their spouses or what their right hands possess”), while clarifying that sexual intercourse with either is permissible. The purchase of female slaves for sex was lawful from the perspective of Islamic law, and this was the most common motive for the purchase of slaves throughout Islamic history.

You can continue to be stubborn and refuse to learn. Or you can accept enlightenment wherever you find it. Up to you

28 Troll me January 6, 2017 at 10:31 pm

Whatever. If you’re talking about Boko Harem, a bunch of lunatics, then please be specific. They do not represent Islam or Muslims. Other aspects of conflict in the same region, however, can be understood for a variety of reasons, not the least of which being that Sahel regions were never ruled from coastal regions until after colonialism, and this setup presumably does not sit well with them.

Nigeria is very interesting for its federal structures, however, which may provide it many avenues to deal with such issues.

29 Art Deco January 4, 2017 at 8:16 am

They’re not being bred out. The share of Muslims in the population has been estimated from census data and survey research at 47.4% (1952), 47.2% (1963), and 50,2% (2003). The increase between 1963 and 2003 can be readily explained by the decline of animism and other pagan and pantheist dispensations. They sort themselves between Christianity and Islam.

30 chuck martel January 4, 2017 at 9:17 am

“the decline of animism and other pagan and pantheist dispensations.”

So somebody’s religion is being bred out. The monotheistic superstition, in whatever form, is displacing other superstitions.

31 Wonks Anonymous January 4, 2017 at 10:43 am

Monotheism does tend to win out vs pantheism/”folk religions” over time. Although most of India is Hindu today, centuries after the arrival of the Mughals & British.

32 Thiago Ribeiro January 4, 2017 at 11:32 am

Then how come the Japanese are not Christians (or Jews or Muslims)?

33 Li Zhi January 4, 2017 at 12:16 pm

Could this be because monotheists are violently intolerant? Perhaps Terrorist Islam is the logical apex of monotheism.

34 Art Deco January 4, 2017 at 11:46 am

The sorting of animists into Christian and Muslim congregations is a continent-wide phenomenon and is not driven by differential birth rates.

35 morton January 4, 2017 at 4:11 am

Lagos doesn’t seem historically unique or instructive on the world stage. Big port cities are often driven by commerce & economic growth which tempers ethnic and religious differences.

New York City, for example, was long known as a vibrant “Melting Pot” of world cultures.
The West already knows a thing or two.

36 Troll me January 4, 2017 at 4:23 am

Fastest 10k to 10 million? I guess that doesn’t make for many historical structures when it just happened yesterday though.

37 Mine Is the Only Virtuous Political Tribe January 4, 2017 at 2:41 pm

True. Societies everywhere are full of people with ethnic, religious and/or ideological differences. Some get along and some don’t. Perhaps it’s having some common goals to work toward which heals divisions and brings people together. Yes, like your example of commerce & economic growth tempering ethnic and religious differences.

In the U.S. economic growth has slowed and inequality of economic opportunity has risen. So what we used to work on together has become less. That may be one additional reason for increased political polarization– besides the main reason. The main reason for it is, of course, that polarization wins elections and so political actors have spent decades propagandizing the population to bash and scapegoat both liberals and the political establishment.

See Vox article entitled:
The political scientist who saw Trump’s rise coming
Norm Ornstein on why the Republican Party was ripe for a takeover, what the media missed, and whether Trump could win the presidency.
by Andrew Prokop on May 6, 2016

If you educate, or if you propagandize, your population to be intolerant and hate and scapegoat some out group(s), guess what? They will do as they have been trained to do. Why is that a surprise to some people?

38 Adam Mhrez January 4, 2017 at 5:16 am

Strong prejudices against gay men and women are found in every culture I know of, past or present. And yet in many cases homosexuality “limits the competition,” so to speak. This potential gain finds little appreciation.

39 Thiago Ribeiro January 4, 2017 at 5:27 am

In fact, some Brazilian tribes used to pratice homossexualism (as related by Brazilian researcher Darcy Ribeiro), but among the population of European or African stock, it is almost unheard of.

40 Mine Is the Only Virtuous Political Tribe January 4, 2017 at 2:52 pm

Things that are unheard of, are often still done but hidden due to harsh consequences.

41 Thiago Ribeiro January 4, 2017 at 3:11 pm

Not in Brazil. The Brazilian people is the most tolerant of the world. A few days ago, a street vendor was beaten to death saving a transvestite, who had been attacked by a pair of thugs. The whole affair outrged the nation, that demanded a complete investigation. The criminals were soon captured and will be punished in a harsh, strict way.

42 msgkings January 5, 2017 at 11:38 am

“The Brazilian people is (sic) the most tolerant of (sic) the world. A few days ago, a street vendor was beaten to death saving a transvestite, who had been attacked by a pair of thugs”

LOL awesome. Such tolerant people.

43 Andrew M January 4, 2017 at 5:49 am

> kept two separate religions in the family

How does this work in practice? The children must either choose one religion, or hold a mixed bag of beliefs about each religion (e.g. both that Jesus is the son of God and that Muhammad is God’s messenger). Perhaps this is why so many young Africans are undertaking a pilgrimage to Rome, via the Mediterranean sea.

44 Urso January 5, 2017 at 1:01 pm

The only way to square this circle is for the family to become essentially unreligious, or at least superficially religious. In the US intermarried Jews are great at this. You’d think the second generation would then become athiests, but I know one mixed couple who were a lax Christian and a lax Muslim, and the son grew up to be an extremely strict Muslim.

People are complicated.

45 Tarrou January 4, 2017 at 6:43 am

So if I have this right, Lagos has achieved the sort of religious tolerance common between protestants and catholics for a hundred years, but the West should probably learn from them. Not sure if this is more pompous or stupid. Pompid? Stupous! There we go.

46 Ali Choudhury January 4, 2017 at 6:58 am

Nigeria probably has more to teach the Muslim world – although Northern Ireland could benefit from attending a class.

I am surprised by Thiago not having anything to say (yet) about Tyler’s contention that Lagos is safer than Rio.

47 Thiago Ribeiro January 4, 2017 at 7:23 am

It is not! Although I myself don’t like much Brazil’s East coast cities – I find them somewhat un-Brazilian and decadent – and dread visiting my family back on the shore, Rio de Janeiro is basically safe. I can tell you what I told a Japanese girl whow as complaining about Brazil’s supposedly ubiquitous “violence”: a foreigner is much safer in Brazil than a Chinese woman (or was it Vietnamese I said? Whatever!) was under Japanese rule.

Brazil has recently ceased to be a White-majority country and nothing happened. Protestantism is posed to become the country’s major religion in ten years and nothing happened. The Brazilian nation is the only nation never to have waged a war of aggression and her ways are ways of gentleness, and all her paths are peace.

48 Alex January 4, 2017 at 9:49 am

“all her paths are peace” – yeah. About that: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_wars_involving_Brazil

I guess Bolivia wouldn’t complain if it gets Acre back.

49 Thiago Ribeiro January 4, 2017 at 11:23 am

I said Brazil never waged a war of aggression, Brazil only defended itself against foreign aggression after all peaceful avenues of conflict resolution were closed by the sad stubbornness of the enemy.
Also, Brazil did not invade Bolivian territory, it launched a police action to pacify the region and re-establish the order and the rule of law and protect Brazilian citizens and goods. Afterwards, the Bolivian regime decided to sell Acre to Brazil, that, for the sake of helping our Bolivian brothers, paid, mile for mile, more than the USA paid for Alaska.

50 Art Deco January 4, 2017 at 8:26 am

although Northern Ireland could benefit from attending a class.

Ireland is not suffering from political violence as we speak. You been asleep the last 20 years? The death toll in Ulster over 30 years was about 3,000. As sectarian conflicts go, that’s fairly modest. See Yugoslavia.

51 Thomas January 4, 2017 at 8:15 am

Peaceful and tolerant.

Thats great news. Does that mean, that Europe could start deporting all the “refugees” from Nigeria?

Or are this tolerent place somehow the reason that thousands of nigerians are claiming to be refugees.

52 Art Deco January 4, 2017 at 8:21 am

The thesis isn’t difficult to formulate:

If you have a self-confident political class who favor their own, you can work out a modus vivendi with a considerable Muslim minority, as India has (11%) and as Israel has (20%). When you have a political class infected with leapfrogging loyalties and a contempt for their domestic working class, the most modest Muslim minority can generate a tangle of social and political pathology (see Rotherham). It’s important that your political elite not be staffed with people like the Mercatus crew, or the hag-chancellor, or Barack Obama.

53 Wonks Anonymous January 4, 2017 at 10:47 am

Israel still has problems with Palestinians in the territories, but you make a good point about Israeli Arabs. And I think Russia has had plenty of problems without such leadership.

54 Mine Is the Only Virtuous Political Tribe January 4, 2017 at 2:58 pm

“people like the Mercatus crew, or the hag-chancellor, or Barack Obama.”

Exactly what is it that you think these three have in common? And what is a hag-chancellor?

55 Tarrou January 4, 2017 at 8:53 pm

What they have in common is a devotion to an ideological ideal they place above the well-being of their own nation. If they can improve the lives of seventh-century revanchists by victimizing their own population, they will do it, and with gusto. Nothing is less important to them than the interests and cohesion of their home nations.

56 msgkings January 5, 2017 at 11:39 am

Oh lord, grow up.

57 points out the obvious January 5, 2017 at 2:41 pm

neo-liberal ideology. Angela Merkel.

58 A Black Man January 4, 2017 at 9:10 am

The religious tolerance you think you see is mostly the lack of wide scale social institutions in Africa. Without social institutions that transcend kinship, religion is always a personal matter. You may share it with family, like a meal, but it is just another ornament on the tribal tapestry. The people may not know or care about another’s religion, but they will always know and care about his tribe.

But, white men coming to Africa and confirming their bias is nothing new. I just hope you were wearing khaki shorts and pith helmet to get the full effect.

59 dan1111 January 4, 2017 at 9:49 am

That’s harsh. Tyler is merely reporting facts and observations, not claiming to understand Nigerian culture or why these things occur. Even if your explanation is correct, that sounds like a reason for tolerance rather than proof that his observations were wrong.

Also, your explanation doesn’t seem to square with the facts so well. If it is true, then why do some parts of Africa (including parts of Nigeria) distinctly lack religious tolerance? If it’s all about tribal identity, then would one expect inter-religious marriages?

60 Art Deco January 4, 2017 at 11:43 am

I think you’d find if you unpacked it that inter-confessional rivalries are a small sliver of the bloodshed which has taken place in Tropical and Southern Africa since 1960. It really is overwhelmed by other considerations.

61 Mine Is the Only Virtuous Tribe of Any Kind January 4, 2017 at 3:02 pm

I think you make a good point here, that in some societies, tribes are the primary divisions and rivalries and causes of violence– even if other differences do exist in religion, ethnicity etc.

Whether you have tribes or what you have, people may be educated, propagandized, or otherwise trained toward tolerance, or toward hatred or intolerance. Humans on the whole are rather passive even when violent– doing what they have been trained to do, and what they have developed habits of doing.

62 A Black Man January 4, 2017 at 3:20 pm

200,000 of evolving to survive the African continent is not going to yield to high brow propaganda. Violence in Africa has been relatively low as there is always room for rivals to avoid conflict. There’s a reason that big sprawling cities did not arise in Africa, but did in Mesopotamia, China and India. Cities bring people into close contact. That makes them easy prey for hungry animals and easy prey for disease. So, Africans spread out and never bothered to develop the large scale social institutions we see elsewhere.

The population boom in Africa will change things. More violence. More factionalism. More exodus out of Africa. Probably some really awful disease that wipes out millions. It’s not a pretty picture for Africa. I blame the white man.

63 A Definite Beta Guy January 4, 2017 at 9:56 am

Lagos is not in a permanent social equilibrium. Don’t draw far-reaching cultural conclusions based on single cities with an experience shorter than the Soviet Union’s existence. For all you know team Boko Haram or its derivative might pillage Lagos in 20 years, much like ISIS did to Mosul, or the Chinese Nationalists did to Shanghai.

Actually, one of my favorite scenes in any book is when the Chinese take back Shanghai in “Diamond Age.” At the beginning of the book, they are portrayed as incompetent and feeble compared to the various high-tech, nanite, Star-Trek-esque superpower cities. By the end of the book, which is only 10 years time I think, they have trampled over everything and entirely destroyed the old social disorder, despite everyone thinking them uncivilized, poorly armed barbarians. And there was an active Fifth Column in the colonies the entire time, along with very sympathetic downtrodden servants who LOVED to beat down the old colonial masters.

64 Mine Is the Only Virtuous Tribe of Any Kind January 4, 2017 at 3:07 pm

What was their secret? How did the Chinese take back Shanghai in that book?

65 Jeff R January 4, 2017 at 4:19 pm

Perhaps Tyler will invest in some Lagosian real estate while he’s there. Put his money where his mouth is, and all that jazz.

66 Anonymous January 4, 2017 at 10:05 am

Rather than Christian vs Muslim , the struggle for power often appears to be Northern Hausa vs Southern Yoruba. Both Abeola’s victory in ( the widely believed to be fair) election of 1993 resented by the North despite Abeola being a Muslim and the dissatisfaction that the North did not get its full 5 years of Presidency when Yar’Adua died ( leading to an Eastern Jonathan becoming President) seem to indicate more tribal tension than religious.
But without doubt Lagos is far more fascinating than what outsiders perceive it. Having lived there in the ’90s and visited frequently recently , its hard to think of any other city that compares in its complexity and dynamism ; may be Mumbai.

67 The Original Other Jim January 4, 2017 at 10:47 am

“A deadly combination of religious identities,” eh?

What a polite way to put it.

I suppose the American South in 1825 was a deadly combination of racial identities, too?

68 Art Deco January 4, 2017 at 11:41 am

The population is a fifty-fifty split between Muslim and non-Muslim and neither has since 1885 been subordinate to the other.

69 JWatts January 4, 2017 at 11:18 am

Interesting post Tyler.

“Yet not once did I feel threatened, and I strongly suspect that a trip to Lagos is safer than a trip to Rio de Janeiro, a major tourist destination. (In my first trip to Rio I was attacked by children with pointed sticks. In my second I found myself caught in a gunfight between drug lords). Many Lagos residents credit the advent of closed-circuit television cameras for their safety improvements.”

The contrast between Rio and Lagos is an interesting counter to conventional wisdom. And the safety improvement from CCTV seems like a good trend if it is indeed the reason for the drop in crime.

70 Thiago Ribeiro January 4, 2017 at 11:26 am

And I say it is pathetic. I have visited Rio de Janeiro many times and I have never saw any sticks, drug lords or feral children.

71 JWatts January 4, 2017 at 11:49 am

I’ve visited Chicago many times and I have never seen anybody shot. But I don’t doubt that Chicago has a terrible gun violence problem.

72 dan1111 January 4, 2017 at 12:16 pm

But here’s the thing about Chicago: it’s not in Brazil. If it were, you could be reasonably sure that it had no gun violence, even if you personally got shot.

73 Thiago Ribeiro January 4, 2017 at 1:18 pm

Violence in Brazil is illegal, circumscribed and rare. I repeat, there is no feral children roaming Brazilian metropoleis speaking softly, carrying a big stick and terrorizing American economists. Most Brazilians have never faced drug lords gunfights. Brazilians abhor violence, Brazil never fought a war of aggression.

74 JWatts January 4, 2017 at 1:50 pm

“Violence in Brazil is illegal, circumscribed and rare. ”

Oddly enough, the data says something completely different.

Well I guess either Thiago Ribeiro is wrong, or every violent crime rate index I can google is wrong.

http://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/stats/Crime/Violent-crime/Murder-rate

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Brazilian_states_by_murder_rate

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crime_in_Brazil

75 Thiago Ribeiro January 4, 2017 at 2:47 pm

Most crimes happen at the Northern border, in the East Coast cities and in the Northeastern states – the victims usually are drug gang members. Also, a good chunk of those number is São Paulo State’s police killing criminals. The typical Brazilian, not to mention the typical foreign visitor – has little contact with such – sad, for sure – realities. The economic reforms pioneered by president Temer will help because their goal is generating enoughlegal, well-paying jobs to stave off the trickle of deluded youngsters seduced by a supposedly easy and prosperous life of crime. But, even today, as I said, the typical foreigner in Brazil is much safer than a Chinese woman was under Japanese rule, which doesn’t prevent the Japanese from whinning – until the day we will decide to give them a good reason for whinning about Brazil.

76 JWatts January 4, 2017 at 3:49 pm

Brazil has one of the worst murder rates on the planet.

The best state has a murder rate of 12.8 per 100k and the average is 29.

“which doesn’t prevent the Japanese from whinning – until the day we will decide to give them a good reason for whinning about Brazil.”

Those are mighty big words to cowl a small Japanese girl.

77 Thiago Ribeiro January 4, 2017 at 4:44 pm

“Those are mighty big words to cowl a small Japanese girl.”
My grandmother was about her height and she was not always complaning. She used to sew and read and pray and cook, she was always too busy to complain. And it is not just small girls, it is also tall girls and boys and all the other Japanese. If they don’t like Brazil, what are they doing here? Maybe they should go to China, the place is pretty safe since the Japanese left and other things happened.

Again, the typical Brazilian has little contact – if any – with the violence issue. Dozens of prisoners died in a prison riot recently – people outside the prisons experienced no problems whatsoever.

78 Art Deco January 4, 2017 at 11:30 am

If the data collection by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime is true, Tropical and Southern Africa tends to be somewhat more socially tranquil than Latin America on average, West Africa in particular.

79 Alain January 4, 2017 at 11:25 am

Likely answer is that the west has little to learn from Nigeria. They are still catching up.

However, they have a large population and I am sure that there have been some, perhaps few but some, innovations in the private sector that will, over time, be adopted by the west. The search costs to find those innovations would be very large and almost certainly not worth the effort at this moment.

80 Art Deco January 4, 2017 at 11:39 am

They had a perfectly gruesome civil war during the period running from 1966 to 1970, but seem to have crafted a political order that’s not stuck on vengeance. They’ve had electoral institutions in place for not quite 1/2 the time since 1960, with the other half consisting of institutional military rule rather than rule by entrepreneurial soldier-caudillos. The suppression of the Biafran revolt aside, the place has never been a charnel house. It’s big problems have been corruption and the affiliated abuses of the regulatory state, general disorder, the resource curse, and discrete bad policies (e.g. their long run with an overvalued currency). It’ hasn’t been doing badly (on the performance curve you’d use for Tropical Africa).

81 Alain January 4, 2017 at 10:21 pm

Look they are doing ok for Africa. That doesn’t mean that they have much/anything to teach the west.

As I noted they may have some innovations, somewhere, in their moderately large economy. It is likely. But finding them would, likely, not be worth the trouble ATM.

82 chuck martel January 4, 2017 at 12:11 pm

” innovations in the private sector that will, over time, be adopted by the west.”

Is that some kind of an index of success?

83 Li Zhi January 4, 2017 at 12:28 pm

Isn’t it “amazing” that Nigeria has “positive features”!! Wow, Tyler! How astute! I’m sure if your daughters were part of the 276 school girls kidnapped, raped, murdered, and sold into the sex trade, you’d be feeling just as well inclined toward your obviously very effective government. Tyler, it’s well worth pointing out that Hitler and Stalin also had lots of “positive features” – which should and must be borne in mind, and certainly your blog is the place to do it. Saddam, and especially his sons as well. How about your next Bloomberg Column be a biography of Bill Cosby and his “positive features”?

84 Thiago Ribeiro January 4, 2017 at 3:13 pm

“How about your next Bloomberg Column be a biography of Bill Cosby and his ‘positive features’?”

He was funny, I enjoyed Leonard Part 6.

85 msgkings January 5, 2017 at 11:41 am

This is the smoking gun proof that “Thiago” is playing a trolling game from his condo in Reno.

86 Mine Is the Only Virtuous Tribe of Any Kind January 4, 2017 at 3:17 pm

There were 2996 people killed in the 9/11 attacks. That’s more than the 296 kidnapped girls. This is all a matter of looking at the whole of Nigeria and its various aspects. See all the comments up above yours here. A lot of people have pointed out various good points and flaws of Nigeria’s society and government. They, of course, have their problems as well as their good points. But overall, they are certainly not the same as Hitler’s Germany or Stalin’s Russia, with regard to violence.

87 Leke January 4, 2017 at 3:41 pm

I will never understand people who say Lagos is unsafe. In my neighborhood, i see Chinese guys playing football bare chested with locals.. Last month , we had Xmas football competition and one coach as Indian. Heck, i know at least a dozen Asian catfish farmers in Epe, a town at the other end of Lagos.
Nigeria is about the only country I know in which you could come in with a tourist visa, setup and mind your own business and nobody will disturb you

88 Troll me January 4, 2017 at 8:36 pm

“Nigeria is about the only country I know in which you could come in with a tourist visa, setup and mind your own business and nobody will disturb you”

Sounds like the kind of appeal to freedom that drew many to the USA in its earlier years. Possibly, in balance, security might have been worse in the US at that time compared to modern day Nigeria.

However, by “mind your own business”, do you suggest things like not bothering the neighbours, or staying mum about widespread corruption?

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