In Boko Haram attacks which have been claiming innocent lives, the issue of terrorism in Nigeria has become elevated to a passionate national discourse. Until late last decade when the Boko Haram sect announced its arrival with ruthless killings, many Nigerians had regarded terrorism as a foreign development, a burden of the West versus Arab “freedom fighters”, or internecine struggles in Britain (Ireland), Spain or Columbia.
But Boko Haram has jolted us to home reality and has placed in our hand a scourge to battle. Virtually daily, security experts discuss on newspaper pages and broadcast airwaves the terrorism problem and proffer what they believe is the quick fix to contain it.
But our suggested solutions have largely been unidirectional, focusing only on the evil acts that group terrorism spawns and timidly ignoring the more evil State terrorism that leaders perpetrate. We tend to always bypass the very important issue of the inevitable effects of the causal relationship between the two.
Some definitions of Terrorism are not unconscious of the terrorism predilections of leaders themselves. State terrorism is particularly argued. Noam Chomsky, a pioneer in academic studies on the topic, defines it as “terrorism practised by states (or governments) and their agents and allies”. The Encyclopaedia Britannica Online expands it: “Establishment terrorism, often called state or state-sponsored terrorism, is employed by governments — or more often by factions within governments — against that government’s citizens, against factions within the government, or against foreign governments or groups.”
These definitions aid in snugly situating the terrorism trend in Nigeria in a broader perspective. It was with a view to dousing state terrorism that the Greeks, ab initio, conceived the political system of democracy so that the many measures of governance will be dictated by the will of the people, rather than by the whims and caprices of the leaders. Democracy is supposed to be the government of the people for the people.
In Nigeria, however, if the truth must be told, democracy exists only in its nomenclatural form. What largely applies in stark, ramified practice is State terrorism. To be sure, the abuse is not contemporaneous; Nigeria’s leaders have always assailed the citizens with loads of injustice – State terrorism, that is – which partly, cumulatively spewed the current group terrorism acts.
It could be excused that the system of government until 1999 was military rule and the soldiers essayed no democratic pretensions, and didn’t care what group terrorism their own State terrorism could eventually breed. Unconscionable military rulers can steal at will, are not answerable to any electorate and rule by their own decrees. Whenever pockets of protest threaten their arrogance, it does them nothing to deploy troops to mow down the “bloody civilians.” To military rulers, bad governance, to wit, State terrorism, is a norm.
Such arrogance becomes aberrational in a purported democracy. The people expect to freely choose their leaders themselves and to remove them by their own (the people’s) will. They also expect their elected themselves to be answerable to them on issues of financial accountability (including issues of corrupt practices), formulate people-oriented budgets that will be honestly implemented, execute developmental projects and respect the Rule of Law.
All these democratic tenets jell together to constitute an effective handle on State terrorism, and more apposite, in building an egalitarian society, a truly developed economy and a real democracy. When leaders criminally refuse to be responsive to the democratic demands of their citizens, what they impose on the country is State terrorism. It gets worse when they force themselves on the people in elective offices rather than allow the people’s will to prevail.
In Nigeria, the tail wags the dog. In Nigeria’s democracy, the leaders don’t feel answerable to the electorate. In Nigeria, aberrational democracy has further heightened State terrorism. While we urge our leaders on to decisively cage the Boko Haram menace, they themselves have been spewing deadlier terrorism against the people who elected them.
Terrorism does not subsist in bombing and shootings alone. Bad, corrupt governance forced on the people is greater terrorism than group or sect terrorism. Bad governance consumes a lot more lives than group terrorism. It is State terrorism when leaders wickedly fail to do projects that positively impact on the living standard of the people they lead. It is terrorism when leaders spend abroad public funds treating themselves and their families for as minor an ailment as catarrh when the sane thing to do is to establish at home for everybody the same standard of healthcare facilities they run abroad to squander public money on. Leaders are terrorists when they condemn their people to die of ailments that are avoidable if they (leaders) would only do the required.
It is terrorism when leaders criminally amass hectares of land and steal public funds to own sprawling mansion estates in the Federal Capital Territory, or any part of Nigeria for that matter, while they fail to do affordable mass housing projects for their people, knowing full well that the land and funds to do such projects are patently available. It is greater terrorism by leaders, as a result of their insensitive inconsideration, to be indiscriminately demolishing the little shelters the people labour so hard to put up. After all, if the leaders were selfless, what we would have now are planned, organised, truly low-cost housing units the people can conveniently afford, rather than the slums that the people are driven to inhabit.
It is also State terrorism to have allowed electricity supply to degenerate to such an abysmally low level as to retard Nigeria to the Dark Age, when the country has for many years been a consistent earner of billions of dollars from oil and funds to provide constant power is no problem.
The same story goes for transportation, where senseless neglect of the rail network has condemned Nigerians to permanent use of roads with deathly quality. The extent of State terrorism can well be gauged by imagining the huge number of lives that had been lost in road accidents that would have been avoidable if the rail transport was functional and the roads were well built; in fire accidents and fumes arising from generating sets because of power outages; and in health challenges because of poor healthcare delivery. Surely, deaths from Boko Haram killings will pale into an insignificant number when juxtaposed with those caused over the years by the leaders’ criminal neglect of their responsibilities.
Of course, it is a brazen display of State terrorism when a leader celebrates corrupt aides around him, pardons so many corrupt looters of the public treasury, spends public funds indiscriminately in pursuit of a personal interest, subverts justice in the courts, does every criminal act in the book to capture power at the polls rather than allow the people’s will to genuinely prevail, and buy legislators’ conscience in state Houses of Assembly with a view to pitting them against their governors and seizing control of the state. The current oppressive environment of leadership inanities in Nigeria towards 2015 is State terrorism at its worst if-Nigeria-can-scatter-let-it impudence.
It may well scatter very soon, not directly through group terrorism, but through the imperious acts of State terrorism. The leaders are beating the drum loudly.
As we shout about containing Boko Haram, there is the need for the frank talk that peace can’t exist in an unjust environment that State terrorism breeds. State terrorists who cruelly deprive the people of their electoral will, who misappropriate public funds so impertinently, who abuse the Rule of Law so flagrantly and who consign the people to poverty can only be fertilising group terrorism to germinate, if not immediately, later. It is Boko Haram today; it will be another more vicious terrorist group tomorrow, unless leaders turn altruistic and allow true democracy to reign.
Allow true to democracy to reign? Nothing yet indicates that will happen in Nigeria anytime soon. Something decisive will have to give to force it. There is no deceiving ourselves that that something won’t be very, very conflagrative.
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