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Contra Boko Haram!

It may come as no surprise to any Nigerian following the political winds that the country has been seized by increasing panic and fear over the general security of lives and property ever since Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was declared the winner in this year’s election. At first, people were content to dismiss the mass killings in the North as a temporary but fixable orgy of violence designed to let off collective steam over the North’s failure to produce the president. But it is becoming increasingly clear now that what was once thought to be a momentary but manageable spike in violence in many parts of the North has indeed metamorphosed into a full-blown and persistent scourge of terrorism.

Yes, Nigeria is now a hotbed of terrorism; marinate on that for a minute.

There appears to be many groups that could at a moment’s notice visit unspeakable cruelty to the minority in the north. By minority, I mean Christians, Southerners or perhaps members of the National Youth Service Corps that hail from southern states. Of the lot, one has managed to come to the fore by the sheer ‘success’ of their frontal assault on not just the minorities in the North, but also visible symbols of state or federal administrative power. This group is known as Boko Haram.

First of all, it would be necessary at this point to remind non-Nigerians about the tenuous nature of Nigeria’s constitution. Nigeria is roughly divided along religious lines into 2—the predominantly Christian South and the predominantly Muslim North. This does not to suggest however that there are no Muslims in the South or Christians in the North; indeed as the case may be, there is a healthy 10% of Nigerians who are adherents of indigenous pagan religions. To effectively govern a country like Nigeria, it made a lot of sense that the highest law of the land, the Nigerian Constitution, should in fact be secular in nature and tone; pandering neither to Christian or Muslim sensibilities, but nonetheless cognizant of the fact that people might on occasion allow cases to be settled in customary, less secular, or even religious courts.

As the case may be, the North decided that it was not going to recognize the secular Nigerian constitution as the final arbiter on matters of justice. As if to give weight to that general sentiment, as far back as the first term of President Olusegun Obasanjo, 13 core Northern states in the Nigerian Federation unilaterally chose Sharia law as the preeminent law in these states. Such bold and reckless decision by these Northern states should have been grounds for concerted Federal action, if for nothing else, to demonstrate how seriously the Obasanjo administration takes any affront to the [fictional] unity of the federation. Suffice it to say that the Obasanjo administration did nothing to rein in these excesses with catastrophic consequences to the religious and cultural minorities in Northern Sharia states.

What followed was a season of anomie as people genuinely wrestled with Sharia’s prescribed punitive measures for crimes like petty theft and adultery. The world watched in horror as the predominantly Christian south railed at Sharia’s requirement of amputations for petty theft and stoning for adultery. This only consolidated the xenophobic attitudes of many extremist Northerners who chose to see the outrage as a direct attack on Islam and their religious identity. This gave rise to many resistance groups like Boko Haram, who swore to remove or kill the pesky Christians and Southerners and vestiges of Western education and civilization from core Northern states. That struggle, to sanitize the North as it were, and rid it of the non-Muslims opposed to the dictates of the Quran, goes on to this day. It is against this backdrop that one has to now weigh the escalating terrorist activity of Boko Haram at this time. One thing is undeniable though: they have managed to grab not only the attention of the present occupant of Aso Rock but former occupants as well. As a matter of fact, people who were formerly complacent about the ugly menace of terrorism are beginning to wake up to the fact that Boko Haram really means its sinister business.

So, we are no longer just talking of routine massacres of innocent North-bound southern travelers who are waylaid, ordered off their luxurious buses, robbed at gun or machete point and then eventually slaughtered or set ablaze. No, our homegrown terrorists are now going after big game. If you were unmoved when ordinary civilians were butchered for no crime other than they were minorities, – if you maintained your peace when patriotic NYSC corpers in many parts of the North were beheaded and mutilated during the past election, – perhaps you would sit up and whistle now that Boko Haram has proven that they could recruit more foot soldiers from places like Chad, Somalia, Niger and Sudan to commit even more daring atrocities. In recent times, they’ve threatened politicians and murdered some (as a matter of fact the current Vice President Sambo is on their target list), they have targeted the IG of police and came close to killing him when they detonated a crude bomb at the Abuja Police Headquarters. Boko Haram has put great fear into youth corpers when they bombed an NYSC Orientation camp in Maiduguri. The feeling of insecurity in Borno state was so pervasive that the University of Maiduguri, Borno’s state university, was forced to close and dismiss students indefinitely—presumably until the Nigerian state finds a way to arrest this terrorism issue.  They have also attacked and bombed Businesses and Banks with crippling effect to the local communities.

The time has come for all peace-loving Nigerians to wake up and smell the coffee and denounce Boko Haram and all her sister terrorist outfits. If Nigerians do not want the country to become another Pakistan or Afghanistan, paralyzed and ruled by discrepant extremist guerilla groups, the time for concerted and brave action is now.

I do not want to place all blame squarely at the door of the various security agencies in the country like the very incompetent Nigerian Police Force simply because one needs no crystal ball to see that they are simply ill-equipped to handle this menace. Many policemen do not have the requisite training nor the motivation required for the task of uprooting terrorists. In like manner, I do not want to simply blame President Jonathan for not taking a bold and decisive action earlier. He is still settling into his job and at any rate, the task of providing local security should be under the purview of state governors and local police. But we cannot afford to be lethargic now because Nigerians are paying the price of administrative ineptitude with a senseless and a needless loss of innocent lives.

We are talking about a well-funded terrorist network in Boko Haram. I am not normally in favor of governments turning their country’s military loose upon the local population, but Nigeria presents a unique case. The Nigerian military is perhaps the only organized force with the adequate firepower and training required to stake out Boko Haram hideouts and defeat them in any ensuing firefight. It is precisely because the local police and other security personnel have shown themselves severely overmatched by Boko Haram that I welcome any future move to send soldiers into any suspected Boko Haram enclaves to tackle this incipient menace fully and frontally.

Down with Boko Haram and all their diabolical, murderous accomplices! The sooner this is nipped in the bud, the better for everyone. It is regrettable to read or listen to commentary which amount to nothing more that cuddling and pacifying brazen killers. If Nigerians perceive that to get the attention of the president and others straddling the corridors of power, all one need do is become part of a heartless murderous extremist group, I’ll predict that we shall see rival, ethnic-based, armed bandits spring up in other geopolitical zones to compete for government attention and largess. I do not need to point out that what will ensue is a furious race to the bottom; a horrific dance of death played out in a ghastly theater of innocent blood.

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Posted on July 13, 2011, in Nigerian Affairs and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. “From today our identity is southern and African, not Arabic and Muslim,” read a hand-painted sign that one man carried as he walked through the crowds”

    This is an excerpt from your article on South Sudan and I wonder how long Southern and Northern Nigeria would continue to co-habitat despite the gulf in ideological differences. I can remember your argument the last time we had an academic debate on it, which in summary postulates that even if we break up, the different tribal rivalry in the newly constituted entity would still be a cause for concern. while that in itself is opened to several varied reasoning, the genetic DNA composition in attitude and value we place on issues such as education, right to life, e.t.c go a long way to suggest the marriage of convenience by the colonial masters need revisiting.

    To the outside world, we are Nigerians doing a VERY good job in our quest for recognition as a terrorist nation. To even go into the nitty gritty of Boko Haram’s demand is an aberration, not to talk of democratically elected state governors apologizing to the errant group. People may jump to say this is not the first time a sect is causing chaos and confusion in the state called Nigeria, and militant group such as BAKASSI boys, MASSOB, MASOP, ODUA PEOPLES CONGRESS (OPC) and to a large extent the BIAFRA movement comes to mind. suffix to say that they might have gone an extra mile in carrying out their so called “Fight for Justice”, however their demands surrounded protection of neighbourhood security – (due to menace of robbery, stealing, maiming and wanton destruction of property by hoodlums), resource control and advocating better living condition not just for themselves but ordinary masses.

    This fight they fought sometimes peacefully, sometimes intellectually and sometimes sadly with violence.

    Godfather, you said “the time has come for peace loving Nigerian to wake up and smell the coffee and DENOUNCE Boko Haram”. Dont we know they are a bad group,…..we do, dont we know that some of our so called “leaders” formed the group for subservient reasons……we do and dont we know peace loving Nigerians have been denouncing their cowardly act ever since they emerge over 3 years ago…..Yes we know.

    Lets count our losses and go our separate ways, let the Yoruba man who believes in free education and white collar job tow that path, let our Igbo brethren who believe in the ethics of hard work in business, importing and exporting tow that line, and let the Northerners who believe life can be comfortable as an almajiris tow that line. Funny that as I typed ”almajiri” on google search engine, after the word itself, its the phrase “almajiri northern Nigeria that followed.

    I hope that the realization would dawn on every one that the more we stay in a relationship where a group believe it is their right to govern while violence is their preserve and civic duty when not accorded such rights, the more we descend into a failed state. If they want to strict Islamic rule, what about the sharia law that was imposed during the Obasanjo regime? If they are true muslims, why cant the number one Islamic figure in Nigeria – the sultan of Sokoto call them to order?

    We watch as the drama unfolds……..but hope it would not be too late!

  2. The news reaching me now is that Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing of a UN building in Abuja that killed no less than 20 people and injured many. The bodies are piling up, when will action be taken?

    • Think outside the box for a minute. This has got nothing to do with terrorism.I know my opinion goes against conventional “blah blah” , but I think it is the battle for the soul of the North. Its between the core north(Islamic conservatives) and the progressive North(Middle Belt). The core North headed by the Sardauna of Sokoto have always acted as though they were better than the progressive north.Not surprisingly, their haughty behavior over the years has finally made them unpopular with the middle belt. Southern Nigeria needs to stay out of this.I predict that the progressive north will win. They will eventually choose country over religion. Mark my words!!!

      Action?….really?..lol

      • 1) There is only one North in Nigeria–and the leaders of the northern arm of the Nigerian experiment are more united than any other geopolitical zone. However, it does not mean that there are not schools of thought that may differ significantly from some ‘Northern agenda”. There is no battle for the soul of the North. The North is far more united than anywhere else in Nigeria.

        2) What you call the progressive north is actually different. It is the Middle belt region. It may have Christian and Muslim representation in their states, but anyone following the politics of the middle belt can see that there is a serious battle for the soul and the affairs of the Middle Belt region. The Christians in the Middle Belt clearly would not want to be subservient or even party to any overriding Northern agenda. The Muslims in the middle belt are in a precarious position where they find that to advance and be represented, they have to toe the line that the North has set. The sad thing is that many southern Nigerians lump everyone north of the Niger-Benue confluence as the North, and so have not paid particular attention to how different from the North the Middle Belt region truly is.

        3) The indiscriminate and ugly killing and bombing that we are witnessing in these times should be squarely blamed for what it is–it is TERRORISM. Simple and short. Spare me the sophistry that wants to bury Nigeria’s rising terrorist profile. The sooner people realize that we have a terrorism problem the quicker they’ll be to seek for solutions.

        4) You can say that the terrorists may have support from high places, and I’ll grant you that point. Indeed, that seems to be the case. But let us not seek to minimize the issue by claiming this has nothing to do with terrorism. Wait till you lose a member of your family to the bombings and suicide attacks from Boko Haram, and then come and tell me to disregard the monster of terrorism.

        5) My call for action against Nigeria’s homegrown terrorists should not be misunderstood as saying that southern Nigerians should start waging war against Northerners. It seems that this was your understanding of my post hence the admonition for Southern Nigerians to stay out of this. Nigeria still has a very strong central government. As a matter of fact, it is often the case that to get some traction on any matter of nationwide significance, you have to be backed by the federal government. Therefore, concerted and national solutions are needed to tackle this menace because as we can see, this situation is quickly spinning out of control.

  3. ——“There is only one North in Nigeria–and the leaders of the northern arm of the Nigerian experiment are more united than any other geopolitical zone”(Godfather- re)

    You can not continue to support your claim of a “northern experiment” based on the poor alliance of other tribes of the country.Its not suffice enough. Lets not get carried away here. .I will continue to maintain that there is a noticeable revolution going on in the fabric of the progressive north(includes both mu slims and Christians- middle belt) over region of the Old Sokoto Caliphate, the almost tight control of the woven power of the North created by the Caliphate under Othman Dan Fodio and Borno Empire is gradually slipping away. Only those with eyes and feelings can see and sense the crumbling’s and rumblings walls of the Caliphate.

    —–“The Muslims in the middle belt are in a precarious position where they find that to advance and be represented, they have to toe the line that the North has setThe sad thing is that many southern Nigerians lump everyone north of the Niger-Benue confluence as the North, and so have not paid particular attention……”..(Godfather-re)

    That was a flippant response. I am not confused.I refuse to be lumped with some southern Nigerians who see the North as “one” and blindly believe in the so-called “northern agenda” Anyways, your comment explains my point exactly. They are sick and tired of “toeing the line”.I do know that there is difference between the middle belt and the core north which in turn brings the so-called “Northern agenda” into question…..

    ——-The indiscriminate and ugly killing and bombing that we are witnessing in these times should be squarely blamed for what it is–it is TERRORISM. Simple and short. Spare me the sophistry that wants to bury Nigeria’s rising terrorist profile. The sooner people realize that we have a terrorism problem the quicker they’ll be to seek for solutions.(Godfather- Re)

    I partially agree with you on this one .However, there is nothing sophisticated about my postulate that there is probably more to these than just terrorism….

    But let us not seek to minimize the issue by claiming this has nothing to do with terrorism. Wait till you lose a member of your family to the bombings and suicide attacks from Boko Haram, and then come and tell me to disregard the monster of terrorism.(Godfather-Re)

    I’ll have to agree with you on this one. mr gf, lets leave family out of this. I have northern(Hausa/fulani) relatives.

    —-My call for action against Nigeria’s homegrown terrorists should not be misunderstood as saying that southern Nigerians should start waging war against Northerners. It seems that this was your understanding of my post hence the admonition for Southern Nigerians to stay out of this.(Godfather-re)

    Absolutely not. I didn’t interpret it that way. You are mistaken.

    I hope my response is succinct enough for you to decipher…….

  4. Since it appears that your disagreement with me lies only in the first point, I’ll address that issue alone then.

    Reading your first response to my comment about the suicide bomb attack on the UN that left as many as 16 people dead, it was crystal clear to anyone that you didn’t THINK this was a terrorist action. Your words are still up there mate! You claimed you were thinking out of the box when you said it had nothing to do with terrorism. Then you chose to reduce this demented terrorist activity as some internal struggle between the North and the Middle Belt. Of course you knew that you were bucking conventional wisdom with that submission, but you made it all the same, didn’t you?

    Well, now it seems as if you have realized that this was indeed a terrorist act, but of course you think that there is more to the picture. If you had said it like that, I would have agreed with you. Terrorists or anyone involved in some form of armed conflict have their deep subterranean reasons that animates them for the struggle. That is a no-brainer. Like I said earlier, Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for this attack. Now, whether they were really responsible is unclear at this time, but I am sure that will come to light soon. If it was not Boko Haram, then it could be any number of extremist, terror-inclined groups in the North who imagine that they could draw attention to themselves or their demands by this brutal and senseless terrorist act. That is where we are at the moment. With time, if the government takes this issue seriously, we may get to know the shady and powerful figures who may be propping up these terrorist groups. As of now, the best we can do is speculate as to who the shady characters behind these bombings are.

    So, you are perfectly free to focus your laser on the Sardauna of Sokoto, or the Caliphate. That is your prerogative. I’ll wait till I see some conclusive evidence for that. The reason is because these terrorists could be sponsored by local politicians, or national politicians, or even by outside forces. It is also possible there is no real united top-down structure and all we have are amorphous and scattered thugs who just want to make a statement because they have gotten access to destructive weapons. Their aims could be to destabilize their communities, or to destabilize the federal government, or perhaps even to just frighten off southerners in the North. Let’s wait till we get some real intelligence on this matter rather than base everything on the wild speculations that some progressive Muslims are fighting some conservative Muslims. If anything, a sizable proportion of the casualties in these mindless orgies of violence that has been sweeping the north since April have been southerners. Indeed, if there is to be violence in the north of any kind, it is more likely that it would involve Muslims fighting Christians and not even Muslims fighting each other.

    The North’s cohesion especially on matters of religion is stronger than anything you can find anywhere in Nigeria. I don’t see any evidence of this Islamic revolution that you are referring to. Like I said, I think that you are mistaking the occasional skirmishes between Christian communities in the Middle Belt and their Muslim neighbors as some evidence that there is some progressive north rebelling against their conservative northern brethren. I haven’t seen any evidence of this anywhere, and until I see that, I am not going to indulge fanciful conspiracy theories.

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