Gallup is out with a poll from Nigeria that has a few hopeful hints about the social situation there. The poll asked Nigerians for their views on the anti-West, pro-Sharia sentiment espoused by Boko Haram.
About 6 in 10 Nigerians believe greater interaction with the West is more of a benefit than a threat. In Boko Haram’s Northeast home base, nearly 7 in 10 say the same. Majorities of residents in other northern regions, which are home to many Muslims, also view such interaction positively.
That tallies with other things Via Meadia has heard about northern Nigeria: that not all — indeed, we now know, most — residents of Boko Haram’s “stronghold” reject the organization’s hateful views on the West and its culture. Much of Boko Haram’s appeal has less to do with anti-West views and more to do with Nigeria’s internally divisive issues, like corruption and the perceived tight grip on politics and oil wealth held by southern Nigerians.There is other interesting news from the poll. The country is sharply divided north-south on Sharia law.
The majority of residents in the Northeast region said in 2010 that Sharia must be one of the sources of legislation — making them among the most likely in Nigeria to say so. However, no resident in the Northeast region said Sharia must be the only source of law, while 36% said it should not be a source at all. Residents in the southern regions, where relatively few Muslims live, are the most likely to believe Sharia should not be a source of national legislation.
Since Sharia law played an important role in Nigeria under the British colonial system of indirect rule, supporting Sharia is not necessarily a mark of religious extremism there. In the northern Nigerian context, nostalgia for the peace of a calmer era plays a role. And compared to the corrupt and slow justice system of modern Nigeria, there are plenty of reasons besides religious fanaticism why people would long for a return of the faster, less expensive, more local and often much less corrupt jurisprudence of the earlier time.Saying that Sharia should be one of many sources of inspiration for legislation is a pretty non-controversial idea in a largely Muslim society; many people who say this mean nothing more than that religious values should not be ignored when legislators make law.All in all though, while the news about the lack of Boko Haram’s appeal isn’t surprising news, it is good. Now comes the struggle to keep it that way.