‘In essence, the Boko Haram crisis, which escalated in July 2009, has continued to grow into the Frankenstein monster it is today because some entrenched interests are busy poking the fire’
It is basically a war of attrition: “you kick us, we kick you”. This is how best to describe the current situation in the country. These days, the Boko Haram terrorists seem to have broken loose – targeting schools, isolated villages and security officials, ambushing, killing and capturing people, using weapons and tactics that have shaken the country’s defence and intelligence establishments. Already, there are fears that the terrorists may even resort to using chemical and biological weapons, especially as Governor Gabriel Suswan of Benue State recently cried out on the activities of the bandits operating in the Benue-Nasarawa states axis. With the spate of bombings and attempted bombings now rampant all over the place, we must pray fervently against some more devastating weapons falling into the hands of these terrorists. It may sound impossible or even incredible to believe but, looking back, would anybody have thought that this rag-tag hoodlums could go this far?
Although there is no definite research literature on causational factors and diverse goals that drive people to resort to carrying out terrorist acts, multiple reasons are listed, some of which seem to be more applicable than others while some others tend to go together for identification of more or less convincing causational factors. Probably the most contested justification for terrorism is given by those who see terrorists as an aggrieved group resorting to violence over poverty and economic disadvantage, to make a statement. A more important factor may be the social stratification and inequalities in the distribution of scarce resources. In simple terms, this is the poverty argument. When a group is absolutely or relatively deprived, they rebel. However, in an attempt to solve the Boko Haram menace, we need to examine, critically, the real motive why the terrorists are up in arms.
Several suggestions have come up in the past. The terrorists themselves came up with an initial propaganda that they were out to enthrone Islam and Sharia law all over the country. Some other people have argued that the Boko Haram thing is a political weapon by a section of the country to wrestle power from other parts of the country. While the religious dimension may no longer be tenable in the face of indiscriminate attacks that have consumed both Christians and Muslims alike, the political angle may subsist in view of the constant attacks on state institutions, especially the concentration of attacks on targets within the nation’s capital, Abuja. The point is that among the multitude of causes that may lead a person or a group of people to resort to terrorism, there is none that conclusively links a sole cause to the act. Ethnicity, tribalism, poverty, economic disadvantage, lack of true democracy, extraneous interests, dehumanisation and religion all have arguments confirming a possible existing link, as well as reservations against a causal relation.
We must try to find out why a group would suddenly decide to bear arms against the country. From my own findings, it is almost clear that the Boko Haram terrorists are engaged in a violent revolt against the perceived injustice of the political class and the aristocracy in that part of the country.
This is evident from the selective annihilation of notable political figures as well as the undeclared war against the aristocracy as manifested in the killings of traditional rulers and village heads. The thinking among the terrorists is that some of their people, especially those earlier mentioned, are directly or indirectly responsible for their backwardness and woes. Why is this so?
For many decades, the aristocracy in that part of the country has enjoyed certain privileges which are denied the majority of the population who have been sentenced to mere subsistent existence. While the children of the aristocrats are born into wealth, with good education within and outside the country, the rest of the population wallows in abject poverty, deprivation and want. Their children are deprived of the basic necessities of life, including access to good education as they are easily dumped in Quranic schools where they form the bulk of Almajiris or homeless youths, roaming the streets and scavenging the refuse dumps. At the end of the day, the children with aristocratic background acquire all the education that is available under the sun and come back to be lords and masters over these deprived children and their subsequent generations. It is probably this obnoxious, retrogressive and debilitating scenario that the poor, who forms the bulk of Boko Haram foot soldiers, are out to correct willy-nilly.
Another causal factor is seen in the political dimension which may have gone awry. Prior to the 2011 general elections, events in the country had pointed to the fact that a section of the country was desperate to monopolise state power. The prelude to this was the ‘internecine’ war that engulfed Aso Rock Villa in the wake of the death of former President Umaru Yar’Adua, who passed on, on May 5, 2010. The choice of a successor to Yar’Adua almost led the country to a great constitutional crisis as hawks within the corridors of power mapped out strategies on how to side-track the constitution to deny the then Vice-President, Goodluck Jonathan, the right to assume the mantle of leadership as enshrined in the country’s constitution. As a result of this, the whole country was driven into the precipice. This was later resolved by the “doctrine of necessity” enacted by the National Assembly.
This constitutional breakthrough notwithstanding, some elements in a section of the country would not be pacified. The electioneering that followed provided a good platform for these disgruntled elements to ventilate their anger and resentment for losing power so easily. It got to a stage when some of the dramatis personae openly threatened to make the nation ungovernable if any of their own did not emerge as President of Nigeria. In any case, what they were trying to say was that Jonathan should only spend the remaining one year to complete his Principal’s (Yar’Adua’s) first term of four years in office and vamoose from the scene. Constitutionally, it was wrong, and Jonathan refused to be cowed. He also had the support of quite a large spectrum of Nigerians who believe that the Presidency of Nigeria was nobody or group’s birth right. Nevertheless, the animosity persists. The results of the Presidential election in 2011 drew blood in certain parts of the country. Many lives were lost in the carnage.
Surprisingly, those perceived as brains behind the violence were never apprehended. They are still going about with their baggage of anger and another election is around the corner.
Truly, the ongoing terrorists’ war has greatly impacted negatively on our collective endeavour to build an economically strong, politically stable and militarily formidable nation that would have been the cynosure of all the nations of the world. That is why all of us, irrespective of ethnic, tribal, religious, political and other primordial differences, must play a major role in helping to put an end to this senseless carnage that is threatening to obfuscate and obliterate our country from existence. This, we can achieve by reconstructing our polity and reviving the country’s economy, apart from restoring the cultural and political relationships among all the ethnic cum tribal groups, which had been based on secular principles. This is necessary because there are reports of the involvement of ‘well-trained terrorists’, who are out to create communal discord in the country to achieve their selfish end. The methods they use and the inhuman tactics they employ are trademarks of a trained terrorist organisation bent on creating discord and disharmony in a country where Christians and Muslims have always lived in peace with mutual respect for each other.
In essence, the Boko Haram crisis, which escalated in July 2009, has continued to grow into the Frankenstein monster it is today because some entrenched interests are busy poking the fire. Our leaders should stop playing the ostrich, thinking that, suddenly, one day, the problem of Boko Haram will be over. This is not possible. Since the causative agents are a combination of factors, only a holistic approach would solve the problem. Certainly, not finger-pointing; not the heaviest military armaments!