Nigeria saga keeps going and going and going. It appears Nigeria take one step forward and two steps backward. Insecurity in Nigeria has been there for years. Few years ago, Niger Delta region of Nigeria was engulfed in militant activities. The violence started because indigenous population of the region felt that they are not getting their fair share of the oil revenue which emanates from their region. It was a legitimate grievance. The terrible aspect of their grievance is that somewhere along the way, their legitimate grievance morphed into criminal activities. Kidnapping of oil workers and citizens for ransome became the order of the day. The so called leaders of these groups embarked in wholesale acquisition of all kinds of weapons which militarized the entire region.
The craziness went on for few years till the citizens of Niger Delta wised up by recognizing that the so called patriots or saviors are criminals and subsequently turned against them. Late president Yar dua escalated military operation in the region via Joint Task Force. By the time the enhanced operation started, the militants and the people of the region have realized the futility of the prevalent militant actions which lead to their surrender and subsequent integration into the society. Election of President Good Luck Jonathan helped in this effort. Niger Delta militant activity is practically over.
While the Niger Delta guerilla activities was going strong , common criminals especially armed robbers were roaming around the land terrorizing and staging daring attacks on banks and other financial institutions.
Today, Nigeria is again faced with the biggest threat since Nigerian civil war when the Eastern Region seceded from Nigeria and renamed the eastern region Biafra, ditched Nigerian currency and printed their own currency. The end result is that about one million people lost their life in the war. The inhabitants of defunct Biafra started from square one because their currency became worthless after the war.
Now comes another militant organization called Boko Haram. Mohammad Yusuf, a radical cleric created Boko Haram in 2002 in Maiduguri, the capital of the northeastern state of Borno. The groups initial aim is to establish a fully Islamic state in Nigeria including the implementation of Sharia Courts across Nigeria even though half of the Nigerian population are Christians. Paul Lubeck, a university of California professor studying Muslim societies in Africa, stated that “ Yusuf was a trained Salafist( a school of thought often associated with jihad), and was strongly influenced by Ibn Taymiyyyah, a fourteenth century legal scholar who preached Islamic fundamentalism and is considered a major theorist for radical groups in the Middle East”.
Boko Haram when loosely translated means “Western education is sin” but the sect calls itself Jama’atul Alhul Sunnah Lidda’wati wal jihad meaning “people committed to the progression of the prophet’s teachings and Jihad” Common believe is that Yusuf rejected all things western but Lubeck argues that “Yusuf , who embraced technology , believed western education should be mediated through Islamic scholarship such as rejecting the theory of evolution and western-style banking”
Boko Haram members refused to follow several state laws especially their refusal in 2009 to follow motor-bike helmet law which requires all motorcycle owners to wear helmet while riding their bike. Their refusal lead to heavy-handed police tactics that set off an armed uprising in the northern state of Bauchi and spread into the states of Borno, Yobe and Kano. The army response was a brutal suppression of the sect which left more than eight hundred people dead. Most of the dead are sect members. The head of the sect, Yusuf was captured alife but was mysterious killed, investigation and prosecution of his killers is still going on. Also, his father in-law was killed. Human rights advocates considered the sect leader killing to be extra-judicial killings because he was not given a chance to defend himself in the court of law. The manner in which Yusuf was killed was wrong and deserved universal condemnation.
Today, Boko Haram have now morphed into defenders of Muslims. They are on the offensive, killing other Muslims who do not agree with their teachings. They are also robbing banks, setting and detonating bombs around churches and killing Christians who have done nothing to them. They are killing military personnel whenever they can. Foreign muslim fundamentalist have taught them how to build bombs and they have no qualms about using it to kill and maim defenseless people. Bomb building and detonation of such explosives on defenseless civilians is alien to Nigerians and our culture. Suicide bombing is a new phenomena in Nigeria.
In their latest devastating bomb massacre of defenseless citizens at the church in Madalla, Niger state, on Christmas day, one victim and some relatives of the victims were wailing and some said, “ Hear me out, I want to go back to Biafra” meaning he or she does not want to be part of present day Nigeria if this will be the future of Nigeria. The victim and their families who made that statement spoke for a lot of Igbos.
The Christmas day bombing sparked intense outrage and fear because whatever it is Boko Haram are fighting for have morphed into religious and sectarian dimension which can consume Nigeria as we know it. On Sunday, January 1, 2012, spokesman for Boko Haram issued ultimatum to Christians in the northern part of the country to leave within three days and threathened to confront troops after the president declared a state of emergency in some local governments in four states.
Has the Boko Haram sect thought through the consequence of their action. Are they aware that their action could lead to the breakup of Nigeria into several countries. Do they think the Christians or southerners will fold their hand in this modern era and take their endless blows. Christians in the south may get to a certain point and decide that enough is enough, and may decide to split from Nigeria which will not be difficult to accomplish in this modern era. The world can no longer tolerate mass killings in-order to preserve any country. Sudan is a typical example. The bloodletting that went on during Nigerian civil war cannot be tolerated today by the international community in-order to preserve any country’s unity. Head of the any government who engages in massive bloodletting to preserve unity of a fragmented country will be in Hague facing charges of genocide.
Boko Haram need to ask themselves if the north can survive economically without the oil export from the south which constitutes over 90 percent of our foreign exchange. Have they thought about the economic consequence that will ensue if all southerners leave the north and vice versa. They north will have to buy oil from the International market. Presence of northerners in the south and southerners in the north is what keeps Nigeria going because each region specializes in certain sector of the economy. The Southerners and Northerners make investment in the area they resides and pay taxes which are used to provide goods and services.
Boko Haram need to think through what they are doing because the their action will result in a lose lose for them and the people they purport to protect and Nigeria in general or what may remain of it. Their action may lead to re-arming of various militants groups in Niger Delta such as the MEND, Movement of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MOSSOB) in Igboland, and Odua People’s congress (OPC) in the west and other groups which may lead to disintegration of Nigeria. Various tragedies that have befallen Nigeria since independence have shown that no region have monopoly on violence. I have been a strong advocate of united Nigeria, but recent activities of Boko Haram seem like the last straw that will break the camel back, meaning that the current situation is serious enough that it might make Southerners reassess their believe in one united Nigeria. The current destruction and carnage and senseless loss of life will be unsustainable in the long run for Nigeria.