By Alex Perry.

Reviewed by Peter Collins.

The Search for Boko Haram is compelling and unsentimental in its deconstruction of a story that appears inevitable and shocking. In a world where old orders are being disrupted by technology and where personal and political boundaries are being hacked by violent extremism, Alex Perry’s account is an example of the kind of patient, unsentimental, triangulated reporting that is required to make sense of the new world disorder. Perry offers us more than a fleeting glimpse of how we can still transcend terror in the age of entropy.

Journalist Alex Perry explores the context to the Chibok kidnappings that inspired the global bringbackourgirls social media campaign. Perry looks at the flawed foundations of the Nigerian state, the toxic legacy of North-South mistrust and the decades-long power struggles and corruption within Nigeria’s ruling classes. He observes that Nigeria’s booming oil economy means that the government has no reason to be interested in its electorate; so great is the imbalance between the government’s domestic revenues and the taxation revenues on foreign corporations. Perry interviews generals, statesmen and citizens in his quest to find out who Boko Haram really are – global terrorists inspired by Al Qaida as the Nigerian government and others claim?

Perry does not think so, his research points to a much more local but no less savage agenda spawned in a perfect storm of poverty, corruption, resentment, suspicion and fundamentalism. He shows how endemic abuses of power have set Nigeria up for such an outcome, and looks at some of the work being done to try to prevent Nigeria from descending into further anarchy or becoming an irrevocably failed state. First hand accounts of and interviews with victims of the violence sweeping Nigeria and some of those working to halt it are the foundation of this attempt to get as close as possible to the truth. Whilst, as one interviewee puts it, in Nigeria all truth is relative.