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.