This columnist has written at least six articles dedicated to “Boko Haram”-“The Evolution of Boko Haram” Parts 1 and 2 on February 1 and 8, 2012; “Johnnie Carson, the US and Boko Haram” on April 18, 2012; “The Malian Jihad” on January 23, 2013; “The Politics of Boko Haram” on April 10, 2013; and “Amnesty and Emergency” on May 22 2013 and other articles treating the issue in part and on social media. Through all these, my position hasn’t changed-the phenomenon has religious, political, economic, social, military and global dimensions and appeasement is unlikely to resolve the crises.
Boko Haram (BH) is motivated by extremist religious ideology and seeks to overawe Nigeria’s secular constitution in favour of an Islamic Caliphate governed under fundamentalist Sharia. Socio-economic conditions in the North generally and North-East in particular facilitate religious demagoguery-poverty, unemployment, illiteracy and ignorance, decades of tolerance for sectarian politics combined with hegemonic aspirations and an inclination to deploy violence for political ends, and a large, “un-parented” and uneducated youth population bereft of skills and employability whose only social conditioning has been through a bankrupt “Almajiri” system. National politics since 1999, particularly since the demise of late President Yar’adua and the regionalized 2011 presidential contest encouraged a climate suitable for transmutation of what was until 2011 a localized band of religious miscreants with links to regional politicians into a national terrorist organization with the objective of destroying an unwanted presidency. Given these facts, the debate over whether Boko Haram is religious, political or otherwise is silly, nonsensical and pointless! The group is explicitly religious, has patently political objectives, exploits abject socio-economic conditions and weak governance, and is able to leverage a politico-religious narrative of marginalization of faith and region!
The US and Western nations have been in denial regarding BH and made utterly faulty and escapist diagnosis and prescriptions for resolving the matter-Johnnie Carson wanted Nigeria to appoint more “Northerners” to “important” positions (unaware (?) that except for the presidency (which they had until then disproportionately dominated), Northern Muslims occupied many of the most important positions in the land-Vice-President, ruling party chair, Chief Justice, Representatives Speaker, CBN Governor, Ministers of Defense, FCT, Foreign Affairs and Education, NSA, Inspector General, Attorney General, Head of Service, Court of Appeal President etc.) and to create a Ministry of Northern Affairs; Hillary Clinton refused to designate Boko Haram a Foreign Terrorist Organisation (FTO) on the faulty logic that doing so would alienate the North (curious given official Northern position that the group represented neither Islam nor the North); and Obama and Cameron tried their best to pretend not to notice BH even when it bombed the UN office in Abuja, Churches, newspaper houses and markets!
Till date we retain several wrong assumptions about Boko Haram-that most of the terrorists are infiltrators from neighbouring countries-Niger, Chad, Cameroun, Mali, even Somalia etc.-but the more empirical observation may in fact be that Nigeria is now the epicenter of a West and Central African terrorist network that may in future destabilize other countries. I will not be surprised to find for instance, that the inspiration, funding and logistics for the failed Jihads in Mali and Central African Republic may have partly or substantially emanated from Nigeria. No one doubts that BH has now linked up with Al Qaeda and Somalia’s Al Shabab! Another error has been discussing “Boko Haram”, “Ansarul” (the Malian-related, more internationally-focused brand of Boko Haram) and “Fulani Herdsmen” (the domestic terrorism franchise for the Middle-Belt of Nigeria) as though they were separate groups! Recent evidence confirms as I have always suspected that all are one and the same! Two other facts are evident-the Nigerian state will be wise to investigate the linkages to Sudan in Nigerian terrorism. The media expose by a retired ambassador, Bola Dada and the recent escape of Nyanya bombing suspect, Aminu Sadiq Ogwuche to that country suggests that Sudan plays a significant role in nurturing Nigeria’s Islamic fundamentalists!!! More troubling is the likelihood that elements in the armed forces and security services may be involved in sabotaging operational strategies and information in the war against BH! Nigerian soldiers evidently believe so, going by the mutiny against the now withdrawn GOC in Maiduguri, Major General Ahmadu Mohammed!!!
The internationalization of the “war” against BH in the aftermath of the Chibok school girls’ abduction and involvement of US, France (which thankfully achieved a breakthrough in regional cooperation incorporating Nigeria, Cameroun, Chad, Benin and Niger), Britain, China and Israel may be useful in addressing the problem. On the other hand, the development may signal the weakening of the Nigerian state and its possible decline!
The critical question Nigeria and the international community avoids confronting is “who provides the funding and logistics for Boko Haram, Fulani Herdsmen and other terrorists groups operating in Nigeria?” Does anyone really believe that “Imam Shekau” is the “leader” of the group that has been tormenting our nation for the past three years? (I am inclined to the DSS position that Shekau is a “title” and “identity”, just like “Abu Qaqa” and is really a dispensable image rather than substantive leader) How does Shekau, who operates in the border regions of the North-East record and upload his videos and transmit them to AFP? How do the Hilux vans, rocket launchers and arms and ammunition deployed by Boko Haram get to Shekau and his men? We know where the foot soldiers of Boko Haram are, but who are the brains and wallets of Boko Haram, and where are they?
While we ponder these questions, Nigeria’s President Jonathan confirms that Boko Haram has now killed twelve thousand innocent citizens!!!