The Boko Haram Intifada: Looking For A Tomorrow In Yesterday – By Dr. Socrates Ebo


At the demise of communist bloc in the late 80s and early 90s, two socio-political thinkers rose to theorize on the emerging world order and the shape of the age to come. The first was Francis Fukuyama who predicted the end of ideology and the end of history. For Fukuyama, the history in question is not a chronological sequence of events as such but a dialectical process of development of ideology. Francis Fukuyama declared that the dialectical development of ideology has ended in the triumph of liberal democracy. There is no further ideological development that can supplant liberal democracy; hence the continued triumph of liberal democracy on a worldwide scale. His thesis is evident in the triumph of liberal democracy over communism and its continuous triumph over fundamentalism of all sorts.

Another social thinker, Samuel Huntington in his own thesis declared a clash of civilizations. For Huntington, ‘the conflicts of the future would take place along the fault lines of civilizations. That is, along the boundaries of conflicting civilizations’. The nations whose peoples come from conflicting civilizations, he called ‘torn nations’. Nigeria is unarguably a torn nation.

Now, there is nothing entirely new about the Boko Haram intifada. Violence as a means of acquiring dominion is not new. Violence as a means of spreading an ideology is not new. Alexander the Great established dominion over the known world of his day through violence. Roman emperors established dominion over the known world of their era through violence. Imperialist West subdued much of the Third World through violence. Adolf Hitler rose to spread his ideology and dominion through violence. Osama bin Laden equally tried and failed. What is new is that times have changed. The historical fact is that humanity is gravitating towards the ideology of freedom – liberal democracy, an ideology that gives the finest expression to the human thymos – the will to self-expression; the desire for recognition.

What does Boko Haram want?

To impose its ideology on every Nigerian. To impose its dominion all over Nigeria. The ideology of Boko Haram is an ideas closed totalitarian theocracy that is based on an anachronist fundamentalism that is opposed to anything liberal. The dominion that Boko Haram seeks is neither based on elective principles nor any social contract but on sheer megalothymic fiat backed by the barrel of Ak 47 and the devastation of IEDs. The underlying thymotic dynamic is the megalomania of a megalothymia that seeks to impose its presumed superiority over the entire populace.

But Boko Haram is a bit too late. That mode being has expired in today’s rapidly globalizing world. The death of ideology had been announced since the early 90s. Effectively, Boko Haram is looking for a future in the dead past; a tomorrow in yesterday. The contradictions inherent in the Boko Haram system will ultimately bring it down. First, in the war of ideology, Boko Haram is bound to lose the contest to the forces of globalization, especially the facebook and twitter. The freedom and liberty that are associated to liberal democracy are such that whoever has experienced them would not want to submit himself to a restricting ideology. These values are disseminated worldwide through the forces of globalization. Wherever there is an internet enabled mobile phone, there is the influence of the values of liberal democracy. It is preposterous to imagine that literate northern youths who are internet savvy and suave on the social networks will give up this cosmopolitan experience for narrow minded fundamentalism. On the ideological plane, Boko Haram would have to be really ingenious. Even IN its primary constituency, the Islamic north, Boko Haram would have to invent a saleable ideology if it is going to have a widespread base. Mainstream Islam is viewed as a religion of peace. Besides, modern world frowns at those who kill for religious reasons. Boko Haram is faced with the uphill task of selling a violent ideology to a world that has attained the apogee of the development of ideology in liberal democracy . On the theological plane, Boko Haram would have hard time explaining to Islamic scholars how terrorism could be a tool of Islam. Theirs is an ideology that is neither saleable socially, politically nor theologically. Suffice it to say that by the principles of historical dialectics, Boko Haram would ultimately lose the ideological warfare. Their futuristic failure is based on three factors: technology, community and doctrine. Boko Haram lacks the hi-tech satellite technology to transmit its values worldwide. It is competing for acceptance in the Nigerian community; a society already imbued with the principles of liberal democracy and the greediest tendencies of crass capitalism. The contradictions inherent in the doctrinal foundation of Boko Haram make coherence impossible in thought and act alike.

Will Boko Haram win the political war? I doubt. The intifada would have been more successful in the medieval era or the pre-globalization era. But the dynamics of the times have changed. The political models before Boko Haram are the Taliban Aghan model and the Somali model. In the case of Afghanistan, there was a war of liberation from an external aggressor – the USSR. The Taliban led the rest of Afghanistan the to dislodge the Soviet Union from Afghanistan. They fought harder; they died more. With the American firepower and diplomatic support, they were able to drive the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan. For the Taliban, it was a war of liberation; not a war of religion or ideology. For the US, it was a war of ideology; the Cold War being fought on Afghan soil. The Taliban were mere pawns to that end. America was more than willing to look the other way and let the Taliban run their show until 9/11. That cannot be said to be the case in Nigeria. First, Nigeria is not at war. It will be hard for Boko Haram to put on the messianic toga on which the Taliban rode to power. Secondly, it was not the Taliban’s religious fervor that drove away the Soviet Union. It was the American firepower. In today’s world, it is not possible for a group of agitators to overthrow a government without international support. It is all the more unlikely when the ideology of the group poses imminent danger to the prevailing global order. That rules out the possibility of a Taliban style victory in Boko Haram’s Nigeria.

Political victory for Boko Haram on the Somali model is a recipe for disaster. It requires a severely weakened central government made up of a homogenous people. The dearth of a central government in Nigeria would in turn spring up a myriad of armed struggles that would eventually degenerate to a Hobbesian war of all against all as was the case in the darkest days of Somalia. If at all such a weakening of the central government is possible in Nigeria, it would not result in the triumph of the Boko Haram ideology but the balkanization of Nigeria. Nigeria not being a homogenous state would simply disintegrate along ethnic nationalities. Nigeria as a nation was created by Western economic interest in 1914; kept from disintegrating by Western economic interest in 1967-70 and bound together till date by many factors but not excluding the oil factor. Should the uninterrupted flow oil be disrupted by the activities of Boko Haram, I’m afraid, Western economic interest might find expression in an unanticipated manner. Somalia was allowed to sink that low in the first place because it had next to nothing to sell to the West. Such a scenario is unlikely in Nigeria. The inroads of a sister ideology in Mali is a function of excess weaponry that fell into Tuareg hands as a fallout of the downing of Moamar Gadhafi and a function of a semi-successful coup d’état in the south. Although the Tuaregs and th Al Qaeda are well armed, their arsenal is not unlimited. The Somali situation is not possible in Nigeria as there is neither a Gadhafi factor anymore nor is a coup possible in Nigeria anymore. The diversity of the Nigerian people and the population makes it a certain impossibility for a sect to overrun the country.

The greatest undoing of Boko Haram would be alienation from the host community. As the killings are getting more widespread and indiscriminate, the host communities would grow weary of Boko Haram. They will resist them and inform on them and deny them of the pool of recruitment. That would be requiem Boko Haram. The way forward for Boko Haram is to embrace the dialogue offer from the Federal Government, and like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, form a political party. That is the only way the Boko Haram could smell power. Fantasizing on the idea of gunning down a liberal democracy with AK47 is an expired dream. The events in Mali ought to be a crystal clear signpost. As it is now, any politician that is even remotely linked to Boko Haram is politically doomed as it would be easier for the camel to pass through the eye of the needle than he to win an election anywhere in Nigeria. Nigerians are wearied of violence; and are looking for a decisive opportunity to say so. The intifada is a journey to the past with the hope of reaching the future. It is a quest for a tomorrow in yesterday.

Dr. Socrates Ebo.





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