After watching the attack on Thisday newspapers by Boko Haram on YouTube today it occurred to me that we are in for a long haul. If for whatever reason the present situation is not managed properly, Boko Haram would lead to the balkanization of Nigeria. In January of 2011, I remember writing that political elements were responsible for bombings in the FCT and I hoped the situation did not degenerate into one where suicide bombings would begin. It thought I was going too far thinking suicide bombings back then and I honestly never saw it happening in Nigeria. After the Police HQ bombing, I still refused to believe that the bombs were detonated by suicide bombers. To me, they were set off remotely. Nigerians don’t kill themselves was my argument. But slowly, it has dawned on me that we live in a new Nigeria. One in which improvised bombs are made and suicide bombers show off proudly on YouTube. Clearly a number of things have happened in the last two to three years. There has been a restructuring of the organization known as Boko Haram. They have acquired technology and grown in intelligence. They have operatives everywhere. It’s difficult to imagine that they would attack the police and military facilities in Kaduna without insider information.
Boko Haram is presently made up of three elements; economic, political and the Islamic fundamentalist element. Ab initio, Boko Haram started purely as a result of the deplorable economic situation in the north. Their attacks were against the state majorly because they had a grouse with the way the elite and political class had plundered their resources. So we often heard about attacks on state institutions such as the police especially after the extra judicial murder of their founder Mohammed Yusuf . As usual, government mismanaged the situation and the quick fix mentally resulted in the death of Mohammed Yusuf. This metamorphosed into a political problem. The build up to the 2011 elections escalated the situation when it looked like the “North” was losing out of the power bloc. Violence began to erupt in many parts of Northern Nigeria to create a “tense” atmosphere. Killings became sporadic and more daring. Perhaps politicians wanted to use this as a negotiating tool to get government to the negotiation table. Yet again, the problem was mismanaged and the economic cum political Boko Haram found a new manifesto in Islamic fundamentalism. These three headed hydra evil force is the present day Boko Haram and it would take only the Grace of God with sincere political will to combat it. While the “original” Boko Haram will bomb anything that represents the state such as the police and military facilities, the political elements within are happy the government is embarrassed.
The most troubling attacks to me are the ones target Christians. These attacks are fueled by the Islamic fundamentalist component of the organization. Islamic fundamentalist Jihad anywhere in the world has three agendas. The first is to kill all Americans. The second is to kill all Jews. The third is to kill all Christians and the last is to install an Islamic state and enforce strict Sharia code. The reason I say the third element is the most troubling is because this third element of Boko Haram does not negotiate. It would kill even its on members who try to talk soft. It is deadly and ruthless. They killed members of Yusuf’s family who tried to talk with government. The Jihadist arm is fully a terrorist organization. By their exposition on YouTube, they apparently have strong links with al-Qaida, Al Shabab and other terror organizations across the world. And so, they have nothing to negotiate. They want to kill all infidels. First in northern Nigeria and then move for the south. That’s why talks with government always fail because no one can meet their terms. This third arm would hide behind politics and the “original” Boko Haram and by continuing to bomb schools, police stations and even media houses. But this time around when they do, they look out for Christians. The Bayero University incident paints a sad picture. Students who were worshipping peacefully were bombed and those who thought they were escaping were sprayed to death by machine guns. Churches in the north have become soft targets all over the country. So the agenda is clear. They don’t want for resources because so many groups around the world share this agenda and they have a slush fund to finance their cause. They get their funding from within and outside the country form people and organizations that are sympathetic to them. The fundamentalist arm is in control Boko Haram. They may still stay true to their name (“western education is sin”) but what they are about now is purely Islamic fundamentalism.
Islamic fundamentalism thrives in societies where there is poverty, lack of education and break down of law and order. The signs have been there for a while now. But the Nigerian politician is concerned with just his pocket only. He concerns himself with contracts that would benefit him. He buys the best cars and tars the road to his house. If the roads in his states are too bad, he buys property in Abuja or Dubai. The North has a large portion of uneducated poor people. These two factors are necessary ingredients for disaster especially when you add religion to it.
Religion can brain-wash a young mind to bomb and kill especially when he is uneducated and poor. The virgins in “paradise” are an unnecessary incentive. He would gladly do it for free because there is no hope for him on earth. There is nothing to look forward to. He has no future. His hope and future is in paradise.
The situation now is at a breaking point. We have done poorly in managing it in the past and it seems the leadership of the country has no clue. I have been very slow to criticize President Jonathan’s government because I believe first that Nigeria is a very difficult country to govern. This is a country where good people are repressed and frustrated. You can’t get a job without bribing. You can’t get into university without cheating and when you do, you will be lucky as a girl if you haven’t slept with a lecturer who wants to oppress you. Every probe report is killed before arriving because “forces” would never allow anything to work. The present political class likes the status quo because it suits them. But still, it is also fact that Nigeria has become less safe under this President. The Nigeria he met is different from the one he is running. Violence is so naked now across the country that we have started becoming desensitized to it. The Yobe incidents were traders and their herd was burned alive reveals how callous we have become. Things that used to be strange and unheard of have come to bed with us. Thieves raping school girls, youths raping elderly women and university students posting a crime as heinous as rape on YouTube are a few examples. And what did the security agents have to say: “The victims should come out and identify who raped them”.
The NSA, Gen. Andrew Azazi showed his frustrations when he alluded that the zoning arrangement within the PDP helped to worsen the situation. A responsible party would sit down and have a rethink. But missiles were fired at him with many people demanding his sack. One person actually said he was “ungrateful”. Apparently such a person is more interested in loyalty to whoever appointed him and not to the country. A bomb goes off, and the usual rhetoric: President Goodluck condemns attacks is read out. The governor of the bombed state has his own favorite line: It is unfortunate. The SSS have theirs: We have the situation under control! And yet nothing changes. The least they can do is change what they say.
The saddest part for me is that we are slowly coming to terms with it. For heaven’s sake this terrorist are boasting on YouTube. They showed the car ram into Thisday on tape. They set up cameras. Took positions and filmed. They told the suicide bomber to go ahead that the cameras were in place. So one question I can’t answer, maybe someone can help is this: What happened to all the CCTV cameras the Goodluck administration is spending gazillion bucks on? Do those things even work? Have they even been deployed? My problem with this country is that we never think of the simple things that solve problems. We rather do things that involve contracts and money which end up in individual pockets. About 3 months ago, it was reported that a camera in the UK caught former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, over speeding. Because he crossed the speed limit he would get a ticket. If our cameras employed for counter terrorism cannot catch traffic offenders. It would not catch a terrorist. And in the event that it would, someone would settle someone. Or aren’t we in the same country where a police chief allowed a terror prime suspect walk from custody?
The way things are going especially if nothing is done, Nigeria will break and the prophecy of a failed state would come true. You may be in Lagos or Edo, feeling bad that some Christians are being incinerated while you read your paper and watch the Big Brother Show, but if his tide is not slowed down and ultimately stopped, this party would end. It is not enough to complain. Because in Nigeria, that’s all we do. We complain, and go back to our sufferings. We protest over fuel hike and complain the strike is getting too long.
A WAY FORWARD….
On the part of government, this present administration must state in very clear terms that it would not seek reelection. That’s first. Once that is established the President can fight crime and corruption easier. If you are lobbying fuel thieves to fund campaign, you won’t bring them to justice. You actually can’t. The maxim holds true: he that must seek equity must come with clean hands (or at least not so soiled ones). Secondly, we must address the issue of impunity. If the first people who have been funding the slaughtering of Christians have been caught, tried and killed by the state. It would be harder to for anyone to find it lucrative. The age long problem of lack of education and poverty in the north and other parts of the country have been reiterated over and again. The new Al-majiri model schools are a step in the right direction.
On the part of the citizens, we should create the Nigeria we want. Speak out when we see evil and be one another’s keeper. If you give a bribe to get your child in school then don’t complain when someone bribes his way out of a subsidy probe. We must determine to be change agents. It sounds hard and idealistic in present day Nigeria but the buck has to stop somewhere. This buying and selling culture we have now will mortgage the future of our children. There actually would be no future for them.
For Christians out there, five minutes of prayer daily can save a life. It was the Church’ prayer that saved Peter after James had been killed. Prayer does work and it’s better than saying “omashe”. Since it’s apparent nobody has a clue on how to solve this mess we find ourselves in, we can at least pray and ask God for wisdom for our leaders. It’s not just because we are out of options but it’s our responsibility as Christians. There is a group out there that hates you and wants you and your family dead and the earlier you realize you are “endangered”, the faster. If Boko Haram take over the North (God forbid), they are coming south. Or did you think they would stop at Benue?
Yesterday marked the anniversary of the death of President Yar’Adua. A man I am beginning to admire more after his passing. He was sincere and tried his best to fight corruption. He wasn’t exactly the strongest leader in the world but he had a heart for Nigeria. And that’s what leadership is about-heart. He portrayed this in his resolve to find lasting peace to the Niger Delta crisis and this will keep his name forever in the history books of Nigeria. President Goodluck has a chance to combat this menace head on. He can still solve the many political problems bothering on several issues like resource control, revenue allocation formula, and immunity. The economy can grow if resources are channeled properly. Corruption will reduce if he puts people in jail as the number one law enforcer. Competencies will improve if he fires incompetent ministers. There will be improved light in Nigeria if the generation and distribution is decentralized. Great leaders give power. Great leader risk being vulnerable. Great leaders put their country first. How the President responds to these situations, well, time will tell…
©2012Otaigbe Itua Ewoigbokhan