by Frisky Larr
Recent unconfirmed media reports claim that theUnited States of Americais leaning towards an official policy position on the wave of terror attacks perpetrated onNorthern Nigeriaby the Boko Haram group. There seems to be a movement against the listing of Boko Haram as a terrorist organization. A group that has unleashed a reign of street terror onNigerianever before experienced in the history of the country.
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 theMiddle East!
Militant Islamists fromIndonesiato the Abu Sayyaf movement of thePhilippinesundoubtedly derive their inspirations from theMiddle 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.
The 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 warned you!”
Then 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.”
Boko (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.
We 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.
The 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,Nigeriahas woken to the reality that it is fighting a limited war with a group of radicalized young minds. Self-imposed radical Islamic scholars!Nigeriahas cried out to the world for assistance – logistical and psychological. WithinNigeria, 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.
With logistical and psychological assistance from foreign countries, Nigerian intelligence was fed data confirming Boko Haram’s link with Al-Qaeda in theMaghreb. 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 inIraqby the defunct group of Abu Moussaf Al-Zakarwi.
Of 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.
As 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 quick succession.
Only 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 renderedNorthern Nigeriaalmost 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.
A 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.
Then 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 ofNigeria’s Police Headquarters inAbujain 2011 and several Churches. The intellectual Guru went a step further donating government money to Muslim victims in oneKanoblast and subsequently sought to remedy the situation by also donating a meager sum to Christian victims only after a public outcry.
For well-meaning Nigerians though, there has been no mistaking the handwriting of terrorism on the wall. The Americans saw it too.Washingtonmoved to designate Boko Haram as a terrorist group.
All of a sudden, some Nigerian political groups launched an intensive lobby in Washingtonto 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 police custody.
Nigeriaas 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.
This makes it all the more shocking thatWashingtonis reported convinced by these simplistic arguments. Ambassador Johnnie Carson, Deputy Secretary of State forAfrica, 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 fromAfghanistanthroughIraqup untilSyria.
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.
The 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 inAfrica.
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 entireNigeria. Just so much for Police brutality and economic deprivation!
Frisky Larr (M. A.) Radio/Television Journalist/Communication Scientist Govt.-accredited Translator/Interpreter of the English language