Most people who desire happiness and life of bliss in Africa have over the years chosen Nigeria as a tourist destination. The serene but bubbling atmosphere of Lagos, the commercial capital, gives a natural sense of alertness and the feel of life with multitude passing you by every minute heads positioned North moving in a fast pace that suggest they are jog-walking.
Then the hill top of the ancient city of Abeokuta in Ogun state (a border state to Lagos) where the historic mountain called ‘Olumo’ rock lies, the Ikogosi warm spring in Ekiti state beneath which the mystery of the cold and hot water of Mother Nature meets, the Argungu river in Kebbi state which holds a muddy surface but houses some of the biggest beast of the river, the welcoming and hospitable sense of freshness of the Obudu Cattle ranch in Calabar, Cross River, the melodious rhythm of the Vuvuzela flowing with the windy atmosphere of the North, and Borno State, the adjoined home of hospitality with a mother nature landscape posing with open arms waiting to feel the subtle embrace of her child.
But all these are gone now, the joy and fun they have taken away from us. The calm and peaceful country of Nigeria formerly ranked the second happiest country in the world, the notable home of peace to many have suddenly become a den of bitterness and grief.
Nigeria is now a nation mapped in fear, a country so large but yet so weak. Agony, pain and frustration have suddenly taken over the beautiful smiling face which was once our signature note for hospitality. Countrymen and women living in absolute fear, minds buried in high alertness and mistrust for each other, everyone is a suspect. No one can tell, no one can predict when and where the next bomb explosion will take place. So many have been thrown into perpetual insanity as a result of the continuous traumatization propelled by unending massacre of friends and family. The race to dodge stray bullet, the swift move to escape RPGs, the jump against machetes and cutlass. These and many more are the reoccurring decimal in the day to day lives of men, women, boys and girls, old and young Nigerians in the Northern part of the country.
Boko Haram, a small group of young men who were just members of a community pressure group, never attended defense academy in Sandhurst or Zaria have suddenly metamorphosied into our Achilles heels.
So, how on earth did we get here? What changed? What happened? What did we do? What did we not do?
Understanding the advent of terrorism in Nigeria is understanding Nigeria itself, beneath the pretence of happiness and joy lies a country soaked in disunity, mistrust and hatred for one another. The South have never trusted the North, Muslims have never loved Christians. Just a group of individuals without any social, cultural and economic connection forced to live together and the fact that we made it this far together is nothing short of miracle.
While I share the widely acknowledged opinion that the Nigeria President, Goodluck Jonathan is weak and clueless on ways to tackle or atleast minimize the activities of the insurgents, I totally believe that the tales made by opposition politicians on the President’s direct link to sponsoring this Frankenstein is fallacious, callous, hateful and mere cheap political propaganda. I understand that the opposition as the name sound is to checkmate government activities and excesses with the motive of exposing and discrediting them to winning political sympathy and love of the electorate, however, it is totally inhuman to divert such skill on issues such as human lives not to talk of lives and properties of country men and women.
Till date the leading opposition group is yet to give recommendations to ending the activities of the sect but have in some ways directed its Governors in the three prone states (Borno, Yobe, Adamawa) to play the hostility card against government activities through making unguarded statements and pointing accusing fingers to the central government on issues directly within their constituency with a view of heating up the polity.
Many have advocated for a level-10 full scale combat in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa. This is logical and achievable but not in a country such as Nigeria ruled by a Southern president. Ordering air and land bombardment with high class sophisticated equipment on these three Northern states will only flame up the already mounting regional division within the country. Northern leaders will not take this gesture lightly as they will demand to know why same decision was not meant out to the militant in the Niger Delta. Postures to this was the call by the Northern leaders for the suspension of the State of Emergency rule in the region and clamour for the soldiers to leave the streets while they continue to push for amnesty, the same treatment the Southern militants got. In other words, the Northern leaders see the terrorist activities as a means to liberate the region from poverty and corner its own share of the national cake through amnesty and not really focused on ending terrorism.
Unfortunately President Jonathan with his bunch of yes-men are not helping the situation. If there is one area President Jonathan has failed, it is his nonchalant, `i dont give a damn’ attitude towards the pains and grief of affected Nigerians. His continuous political campaigns across the country when his house is supposedly on fire creates an image of a heartless, ruthless and wicked individual who is less concerned about the safety and security of Nigerians. This singular act is unforgivable and should never be over looked.
The activities of Boko Haram in operation, strategy, weaponry and implementation over the years have pointed clearly that the group is under the guidance of a superior power beyond the shores of Nigeria.
Al-Qaeda, the most deadly terrorist organization in the world has been linked to directly sponsoring the activities of Boko Haram. A report by wikileak exposed the connection between these two groups and reported a link to United States. Al-Qaeda before the September 11 attack was regarded as a US asset organization, infact Osama Bin Laden was said to have lived in Sudan for a very long time. But how does Sudan, Osama, US fits into the equation of Boko Haram?
The answer to that puzzle was provided by Ambassador Bola Dada who served as a Nigerian diplomat in Sudan when the relationship between Osama and United States was still cordial. In an interview he granted Punch, a local newspaper, the diplomat revealed how on several occasion the then Governor of Zamfara state, Alhaji Sanni Yerima paid the Al-Qaeda camp visits and even sponsor young men from the Northern region to train in the camp. The simple logic then is that since United States was as at that time still controlling Al-Qaeda then Boko Haram must have been a pet project of Langley.
The answer is simple. Africa was becoming the investment destination of choice, the likes of China and other countries in Asia are raking in billions of dollars yearly through trade and Nigeria, the giant of Africa divinely blessed with abundant natural resources was in control of its own democratic government with little or no influence. The truth is that there is a mad scramble for control of African countries by the super powers to sustain their downtrodden economy. In the list of Africa oil producing countries Nigeria is the only nation yet to be under control. Algeria, the second largest oil producing country with similar situation as Nigeria had its supposed revolution cut short when the government in power threw in the towel and agreed to be a puppet to France in other to remain in power, Angola the third largest is under the control of USA, so is Libya, Sudan and Egypt. It is just like the slave trade all over again!
Why the North?
Looking at Nigeria geographical formation and development, the Northern part of the country seems backward, a large population of mostly youth, uneducated and living in abject poverty. While the central government should be blamed for this inequality majority of the problems in the North were caused by Northern elites. Due to the traditional system of government still much in place and the misinterpretation of western education as a competitor against Islamic knowledge, it was impossible for Northern masses to demand full accountability from their leaders as the doctrines of democracy; the rules of Democratic process together with social responsibilities and civil rights are not emphatic in the holy books. They see the state government as a privilege and Governors as sort of demigods who should not be questioned but rather praised. Therefore to create an impactful terror group the religious, regional and ethnic factors must be tailored around a group that seems to represent the traditional ideology of the North, portray a radical understanding of Islam and is capable of winning the sentiment of average northern youth. A pointer to this was the welcoming gesture Boko Haram received from Northerners at the beginning of their campaign before they started turning the trigger to helpless individuals. In fact Boko Haram was seen as a liberation movement against Southerners in the North and due to the rate of poverty and the class difference that exist between the Northern masses and their elites, it was easy to get manpower provided cash incentives was available. So majority of the youth who joined Boko Haram believed they are killing two birds with a stone; fighting Jihad for Allah and at the same time having income to make ends meets.
What does US stand to gain?
Like the colonial era, the main cause of colonization is for economy power. United States is engulfed in fiscal deficit with high rising debt to China but Africa and especially Nigeria has more than enough wealth and majorly untapped resources with immense riches in the hands of the rulers that lack knowledge of how to spend it. This what United States needs. The mission is simple; create a terror force that will force the government to its knees, ignite the tension in the country with cruel activities against humanity. Like the Arab spring prototype, render the government inactive therefore creating room for civil unrest and mass protests, this will continue till the election period which result will favour the government and against what is believed to be the will of the people. Then after months of uprising the United States comes in to negotiate a new democratic election, one that will enable them put a puppet in place.
Curbing Boko Haram is not going to be a tea party; the wake of insurgency in Nigeria has been a source of profit to lots of individuals and elements within and outside the Nigeria public service. The Governors of the affected states have tapped into the rave by becoming relatively inactive. While budgets are periodically been passed and funds released those funds have not translated to physical projects, in layman terms; corruption is encouraged. Before the advent of Boko Haram security occupies a lesser priority on the budget list but within the last three years the security budget has risen up to 25% of total budget allocation. This means more money to the potbelly security chiefs and more attention to the armed forces; now tell me who will pass over that? Insurgency has also created an ample market for arms dealers within and outside Nigeria, with increase in demand for Armored Personnel Carriers (APC), RPGs, Anti-aircraft missiles not to talk of tonnes of AK47 rifles. Will these warlords suddenly let go of this new found sector?
Who then do we turn to for help? The Nigeria military is compromised. Our men in camouflage have simply joined the beast with reports of military men arrested offering training and support to Boko haram. Should we turn to the west again, where aids and assistances are never given out freely on a platter of gold?
Nigeria is in turmoil and those who can save it are Nigerians and African countries. While the government must work out frame work to minimize poverty and unemployment especially in the North, the African Union (AU) must as a matter of urgency move both economic and military power to help Nigeria. China and other countries of the world benefitting from this government should offer unconditioned assistance.
Finally, President Jonathan at this perilous time requires the trust and support of the people; unfortunately he is not a man that merits such. The president is far from the people he leads. You can’t support corrupt officials, cook up defence for crooks, grant pardon to convicted godfathers, lie to the people and expect public opinion to rally round you. The first element of public office is trust and when you lose that then there is really nothing to lead for.
Adekoya Boladale is a political scientist and scholar on good governance, a social commentator and consultant on political and intra governmental affairs. He is the Convener, Advocacy for Better Leadership (ABEL), Nigeria. Kindly give him feedback via firstname.lastname@example.org., and follow him on twitter @adekoyabee