Muslim identity and thought in Nigeria derive from the Sufi brotherhoods of Qadiriyya and Tijaniyya, primarily as a result of the historical role of the Kanem-Borno and Sokoto caliphates in the spread of Islam. The Sufi orders and the Izalatul Bidi’a wa Ikhamatis Sunnah (People Committed to the Removal of Innovations in Islam; hereafter Izala) are the two dominant contemporary Muslim foci of identity. The disdain towards and fear of boko (Western education) arose from its historically close association with the colonial state and Christian missionaries. This also suited colonial educational policy well, as the British had no intention of widespread education anyway. The aim of colonial education, particularly in northern Nigeria, was to maintain the existing status quo by imparting some literacy to the aristocratic class, to the exclusion of the commoner classes (Tukur 1979: 866). By the 1930s, colonial education had produced a limited cadre of Western-educated elite, who were conscious of their education and were yearning to play a role in society. Mainly children of the aristocratic class, the type of education they received was different from the traditional education in their various societies and this by itself was enough to mark them out as a group (Kwanashie 2002: 50). This new education enabled them to climb the social and economic ladder over and above their peers who had a different kind of education, Quranic education. This was the origin of the animosity and distrust between the traditionally educated and Western-educated elite in northern Nigeria. Though subordinate to the Europeans, these educated elite were perceived as collaborators by their Arabic-educated fellows. Thus the antagonism towards Western education continues in many northern Nigerian communities, which have defied government campaigns for school enrollment to this day.
Kyari Mohammed