Friday 31 July 2009

Nigeria: Boko Haram - The lessons lost

Shoot first strategy

Once again, this is one of the events in which I find myself differing from the official line of propaganda that emanates from the Nigerian Government through its once respected mouthpiece Professor Dora Akunyili.

The Islamic militancy [1] that engulfed a number of Northern States in the last few days was an interesting development because rather than the usual conflict between Christians and Muslims that wastes lives unnecessarily, the “Islamic” militants decided to take on the security forces.

Going from the way the security forces have tried to bulldoze a stalemate in the Niger Delta without any underlying strategy or focus apart from gun totting with limitless ammunition supplied by the State, I expected no particular strategy in dealing with this insurgency up North.

This is clear in the way that they were able to capture and imprison the leader of these religious brigands and then carelessly allow his killing in their custody. Basically, he should not have been imprisoned where his cohorts might have tried to extricate him if we are to go by the idea that he was killed whilst trying to escape [2].

Idle minds for the devil’s workshop

Unfortunately, the critical lesson to be learnt from this episode will not be taken to heart. In the words of the Information Minister, “What is important is that he [Yusuf] has been taken out of the way, to stop him using people to cause mayhem.” She also accused him of “brainwashing” youths to cause trouble.

The group going by the name Boko Haram which means “education is prohibited” according to the Economist was desirous of imposing a Muslim Caliphate through the whole of Nigeria.

The interesting point here is how anyone has the opportunity to brainwash people and youths if the youths had be fully engaged in otherwise worthwhile activities which start with having sufficiency in terms of shelter, food and opportunity with goals that represent a possible prosperous future.

The benefactor override

Furthermore, it begs the question how people can be persuaded to the suicide pact of taking on the security forces in Nigeria and expect to win, them being a hotchpotch of brigands under the influence and sway of a seeming benefactor who had to have supplanted the government and community in providing an engaging but deathly ambition to the youths.

The concept of education being prohibited must cause serious concern because fundamentally it is a necessary element of being Nigerian. Whilst we can all be taught at certain stages of life in our lingua franca of which there are three major branches of Hausa in the North, Yoruba in the South West and Igbo in the South East, our official language of Nigerian-ness is really English and it does need to be taught.

Somehow the leaders in these communities and societies need to become laudable role-models that indicate the needs and usefulness of education along with the fact that religion and education should be able to co-exist and complement each other.

Ignorance is bliss and death

It is obvious that the Boko Haram complex had not realised and most likely because they are education-averse that the Islamo-Arabic culture gave the West its number systems and algebra. During the Dark Ages in Europe it was the courts of Suleiman the Magnificent [3] amongst others that kept the light of knowledge going until things began to turn around in the European Renaissance [4].

One thing that needs to be uprooted in the North of Nigeria is the benevolence culture that promotes feudal existence and obsequiousness. The people are not challenged to self-sufficiency and independence, the spectre of poverty hangs over the majority and the trickle-down benevolence allows for the people to be lead by their stomachs to do the bidding of unscrupulous leaders with atrocious motives.

Clear the swamp

This would be a complex and almost intractable problem, just as the Niger Delta issue because just killing the leader of a dastardly sect does not automatically give the followers a new positive direction.

It is commendable that the President moved swiftly to quell this unrest anyhow, but its purposeless drift and inadequacies in addressing the root of problems of unrest in Nigeria have been appalling.

In the life cycle of death that starts with the swamp, the mosquitoes, the malaria and possible death, these matters of unrest require that the swamp be cleared and there would be no mosquitoes – dealing just with the symptoms is patently NOT “good for Nigeria.”

With the death of the leader of Boko Haram we would never know how he started, why he persuaded, what he really wanted to achieve and whether we could learn something from the situation as garnered from him to prevent another insurgency and wanton loss of life like this.


[1] BBC NEWS | Africa | Islamist death 'good for Nigeria'

[2] Islamist attacks in Nigeria: A taste of the Taliban | The Economist

[3] Suleiman the Magnificent - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[4] Renaissance - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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