Current Institutional Affiliation
Lecturer, Department of History, Bayero University Kano

Dr. Samaila Suleiman is a lecturer in History at Bayero University, Kano. He received his PhD from the University of Cape Town in 2015. Samaila is a recipient of many prestigious fellowships — he is a two-time SSRC Next Generation Social Sciences in Africa Dissertation Fellow; Brown International Advanced Research Institutes (BIARI) Fellow at Brown University USA; Postdoctoral Fellow, African Humanities Program (AHP) of the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS); 2018 Presidential Fellow, African Studies Association/American Council of Learned Societies (ASA/ACLS); and Summer Program in Social Science Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS), Princeton, USA. He has also received a Johannesburg Workshop in Theory and Criticism (JWTC) Fellowship at the University of Witswatersrand. His research lies at the intersection of historiography, nationalism, identity politics, and conflicts.

Dr. Suleiman’s recent publications include, “Ethnic Minorities and the Dynamics of Heritage Politics in Nigeria” in Unpacking Heritage: Things don’t really exist until you give them a name (Dar es Salaam: Mkuki wa Nyota, 2018), and “The Nigerian History Machine” in Theories of History: History Read Across the Humanities (London: Blomsbury, 2018).

Award Information

African Peacebuilding Network: Individual Research Fellowships 2018
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Department of History, Bayero University Kano
The Perils of Historiography: Another Culture of Violence in Northern Nigeria

Central to the recurring inter-communal conflicts between the Hausa-Fulani Muslims and non-Muslim ethnic minorities in northern Nigeria is the production of narratives of victimhood and resistance. However, most studies of conflict in the region have only focused on social, economic, political, religious and environmental factors, ignoring salient historiographical/textual and discursive roots and processes of the phenomenon. This project interrogates how the extra-textual meaning-assigning agency of historiography is manufactured and weaponized in conflict situations. As monster-making technology, these narratives originally popularized by journalists gradually sneaked into the academia, creating a dissident community of discourse – academic authors, activists, priests and publishers who together constructed a popular cultural resentment against the Hausa-Fulani Muslims. The consumers of these narratives are constantly reminded of the historical injuries of the 19th jihad wars in Hausa land and mobilized along the most dreaded discursive idioms – "Kaduna Mafia: the Killer Squad", "northern minorities, why we fight them", "Hausa-Fulani violence", and "pastoral jihadism", which featured regularly in both academic and popular discourse. Between 1980 and 2016 more than 100 violent communal clashes – in which thousands of people including women and children lost their lives – were reported in the volatile Middle Belt areas of Jos, Benue and Southern Kaduna. To what extent do these historical discourses function as incentive to violent clashes? Located within critical work that is attuned to the salience of knowledge-conflict nexus, the project seeks to demonstrate how historical narratives, animated by rumours and conspiracy theories, acquired functional discursive properties and social meaning. Preliminary reading of the conflicts suggests deep-seated intersection between historiography, victimhood, vengeance and violence.