Author Helon Habila Discusses Political Climate in Nigeria

By Katherine Buck ‘20 | October 23, 2018

Helon Habila Speaking at Saint Anselm College

On Wednesday, Oct. 17 the Bean Foundation and the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, as well as New Hampshire Humanities, in partnership with the National Endowment for Humanities, welcomed Helon Habila to speak in front of students, teachers, and the surrounding community on religion, politics, and the literary landscape in contemporary Nigeria. Habila is an award-winning novelist, journalist, poet, and professor at George Mason University, who has written non-fiction novels such as The Chiok Girls: The Boko Haram Kidnappings and Islamist Militancy in Nigeria and Oil on Water. He came to Saint Anselm College to discuss the current political climate in Nigeria, and to share how the most recent generation of Nigerian writers have obtained a space in the global literary spotlight. Specifically, Habila offered an insider perspective on Nigerian culture and politics, particularly on Boko Haram’s kidnappings.

From the beginning of his discussion, Habila had the attention of the room, speaking clearly and confidently on his research. Habila began his presentation on the specifics of Nigerian religion. He declared the northern part of Nigeria is predominately Muslim while the south is predominately Christian, leading to complications within the country. Once Habila explained this, he continued his presentation on Boko Haram, a terrorist group in Northern Nigeria, founded by Mohammed Yusuf and set up to attack other Muslims who do not share their strict religious views.

In his most recent work, The Chiok Girls: The Boko Haram Kidnappings and Islamist Militancy in Nigeria, Habila recounts and brings more awareness to the abduction of schoolgirls. Boko Haram kidnapped 276 schoolgirls from a school located in Chibok and bussed them into the Sambisa Forest. The motive behind the kidnappings was to discourage women from getting an education. During the kidnappings Boko Haram destroyed many school buildings to discourage these girls and others alike from attending school. Habila also spoke on his opportunity to visit Chibok and speak with some of 57 girls who have since escaped Boko Haram.

He touched on how Chibok had recently suffered three suicide bombers and was an overall “depressing place.” Habila’s works are able to shed light on religious extremism, nationalism, and political violence.