These unprecedented vicious acts, which introduced the hitherto
unknown element of suicide bombing into the general psyche of the
Nigerian Muslim community, has become an omnipresent plague
exacerbating a prevailing sense of general insecurity in the country.
It is an act that has catapulted the Nigerian Muslim community
overnight, to a level of parity with the dominant Jihadist version of
political Islamist movements in the Middle East!
Militant Islamists from Indonesia to the Abu Sayyaf movement of the
Philippines undoubtedly derive their inspirations from the Middle East
– the spiritual seat and birthplace of the Prophet Mohammed. In their
activities spreading death and bloodshed, they have never been left in
doubt by western governments on how they are viewed and rated. No
world leader minces words explaining that assaults on people who go
about their daily lives in accustomed routine expecting nothing
unusual, cannot qualify for anything else but terrorism.
Christians wake up on a Sunday morning in northern Nigeria. They dress
themselves up and proceed with a sense of piety. They move to the only
place they expect to find some abstract respite and escape from the
pressures of the entire working week. They proceed to the Church
hoping to drown their worries generated by daily occurrences in
prayers and nurture spiritual hopes for the unforeseeable future
through songs of praise. They arrive at the altar feeling at their
best in physical composure and emotional unison with the calling of
their God most high. The same God that Muslims believe in! Then
something happens. A loud deafening sound is heard in the midst of all
the prayers, singing and dancing. Consciousness darkens out all of a
sudden! Some come around minutes after grieving in severe pains after
losing several body parts. They are told the number of deaths before
they realize that the numbers are not mere numbers. They include their
own children, father, mother, relatives, neighbors and friends. They
try to figure out what has happened. They try to understand who would
wish them dead. Then they are told they had been attacked by Boko
Haram for no offence they can imagine.
search for an answer to the questions raised by these deadly attacks
has always produced conflicting answers. The prelude was clear.
Northern Nigerians lost out in a power game that it had long
controlled unperturbed. It did not disguise its anger over the
monumental loss. Prominent sons of the land threatened that a
political leader who takes over the helms of affairs and deny the
region what it perceived as its legitimate right to the Presidency
following the unexpected death of a Northern President, would inherit
a land that will stay ungovernable. When the results were declared,
bloodshed began in the form of social unrest killing several young
university graduates stationed in the region for obligatory national
service. Prominent sons of the North sounded a loud tone with their
conspicuous silence. Silence that sounded like: “there you go! We
slowly Boko Haram began its own reign of bloodshed. First, it was
declared as vengeance on the killing of their leader in Police Custody
in 2009. That was the year in which the group rose to nationwide
prominence. They attacked government buildings and police stations
without warning. No one knew what informed these attacks but the media
reported the meaning of the name of the organization: “Boko Haram.”
(perhaps an Hausa word) was said to stand for Western Education. Haram
– a known Arabic word – means “Abomination”. Western Education was
therefore a forbidden act that broke all the taboos of the values they
understood and their value was religion.
then understood that they were fighting a battle against the
westernization of their religious values. Law enforcement waded in and
tracked down their leader. In a bid to underscore the fundamental
political ideology of secularism driving the multi-ethnic and
multi-religious Nigeria, the young man was to be prosecuted. In a
manner that superficially compares to the outright
execution of an unarmed Osama Bin Laden however, the Nigerian Police
took the laws into its hands. The young man was summarily executed in
custody. Calm followed for a year or two.
tempestuous presidential elections of 2011 came and went. The threats
made are now history. The immediate aftermath of those elections in
which scores of innocent lives were killed is no longer news. But what
informed the resurgence of attacks by Boko Haram against government
buildings, Churches, Bars, Police stations, etc. after the 2011
presidential elections and all the threats by northern politicians
still makes headline news.
Today, Nigeria has woken to the reality that it is fighting a limited
war with a group of radicalized young minds. Self-imposed radical
Islamic scholars! Nigeria has cried out to the world for assistance –
logistical and psychological. Within Nigeria, there is a consensus on
the nature of the battle being fought with the combined efforts of law
enforcement and limited military logistics. Unfortunately however the
world is still groping in the dark trying to find a definitive status
to qualify the violence.
logistical and psychological assistance from foreign countries,
Nigerian intelligence was fed data confirming Boko Haram’s link with
Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb. After all, the sophistication in their modus
operandi could not be lost on any observer. Hardware weaponry and
improvised explosive devises were amazingly similar to the ones used
in Iraq by the defunct group of Abu Moussaf Al-Zakarwi.
course there were criminal gangs who also raided banks time and again
and stacked away millions in hard currency. This explained a part of
their source of funding. No honest observer could however deny having
suspected that politicians – Northern politicians – played a prominent
role in preparing this violent onslaught while admonitions were
vehemently being dispersed during the elections of 2009.
time went on though, these suspicions gained concrete credibility.
Having gained foreign logistical support, the Nigerian security forces
were now able to record isolated successes in making high-profile
arrests. The first prominent politician in the person of Senator
Muhammed Ali Ndume was pinned down in the aftermath of the confessions
of a murderous top-notcher. One after the other, more high-profile
leaders of the group were caught in the net of law enforcement in
then did prominent politicians – Northern politicians – suddenly begin
to speak out. Before then though, their conspicuous silence had spoken
volumes. One could not help suspecting that the dragnet was closing in
slowly on suspected politicians up north who have at best, hitherto
enjoyed and rejoiced over the new security challenges that rendered
Northern Nigeria almost ungovernable. None other than the President
had cried out openly in frustration that agents of this group were
spread through strategic organs of governance in the country including
his own cabinet.
visibly lame duck President offered an involuntary proof of his
incapacitation by failing to name and shame to say the least of
prosecuting (at least) those agents of Boko Haram in his cabinet. The
nation had long expected him to wield the axe on those voluble men and
the men behind them, who issued tangible threats in the run-up to the
Presidential elections. The President failed across the board.
Prominent Northern politicians began to speak out, some of them – not
unsurprisingly – calling for immediate negotiations. Meanwhile calls
for splitting the nation along the religious line once suggested by
Muammar Ghadaffi were getting louder. One could not help sensing the
fear amongst the Northern elites that they were about to lose
everything that they thought they stood to gain while launching the
bloody battle. Very few courageous ones voiced outright condemnation
of the killing of innocent souls.
the Guru of northern intellectualism – the Governor of Nigeria’s
Central Bank Sanusi Lamido Sanusi – joined the fold. He added his
voice to the controversy and declared economic deprivation,
unemployment and marginalization as the underlying cause of the
carnages on Christmas day, Easter Sunday, United Nations building etc.
perpetrated by Boko Haram. Others blamed police brutality in the
killing of Boko Haram's leader in 2009 as the cause of the reign of
terror which included the bombing of Nigeria’s Police Headquarters in
Abuja in 2011 and several Churches. The intellectual Guru went a step
further donating government money to Muslim victims in one Kano blast
and subsequently sought to remedy the situation by also donating a
meager sum to Christian victims only after a public outcry.
well-meaning Nigerians though, there has been no mistaking the
handwriting of terrorism on the wall. The Americans saw it too.
Washington moved to designate Boko Haram as a terrorist group.
of a sudden, some Nigerian political groups launched an intensive
lobby in Washington to sell the idea that Boko Haram was not a
terrorist group. In a shocking and most amazing development, Sanusi
Lamido Sanusi’s arguments found their way into Washington. The poor
young killer boys are marginalized and economically deprived! They are
pitiably frustrated in the face of police brutality! Their innocent
young leader who could not harm a fly was murdered in cold blood in
Nigeria as a country ruled by northern Muslim leaders for a large part
of its years since independence, has failed to toe the path of
development across the board. No single region was spared. The north
was not singled out for economic deprivation.
makes it all the more shocking that Washington is reported convinced
by these simplistic arguments. Ambassador Johnnie Carson, Deputy
Secretary of State for Africa, is reported to be leading this drive
for a policy position. He is reportedly most convinced with the
submission that the killing of hundreds if not thousands of innocent
Nigerians by Boko Haram is the result of economic deprivation suffered
by frustrated youngsters. It does not matter that no single church
frustrated them. It does not matter that economic frustration will
always be found in the biography of almost every terror foot-soldier
from Afghanistan through Iraq up until Syria.
Ambassador Carson seems to have bought into the idea that police
brutality is one point to consider in the reaction of Boko Haram. I do
not know if anyone would blame the American special squad for excess
brutality in the killing of Osama Bin Laden who was not armed.
crucial question then remains “who on earth is misleading the
Americans?” Nigerians have their suspicion and they center on northern
politicians. There are names suspected too! But more importantly, will
the Americans be so naïve, stupid or collusive to buy into such shabby
and unmistakably self-serving arguments in the interest of obvious
forces? There is also no shortage of suspicions of American motives in
managing political matters in Africa.
To further darken the murky waters of political confusion however Boko
Haram has declared in a recent statement that its mission is the total
Islamization of entire Nigeria. Just so much for Police brutality and
Frisky Larr is author of the book “Nigeria’s Journalistic
Militantism” probing into the poor role of Journalism in Nigeria!