Holding a Nation to Ransom

As has become customary, the murderous Islamist group, Boko Haram, attacked three churches in Kaduna state on Sunday, leaving death and destruction in its wake. Also, in what is becoming a saddening routine, youth affiliated to the Christian faith carried out reprisal attacks on nearby mosques and many innocent Muslims got caught up in the ensuing violence.

On Monday, not sated by the blood they drank on Sunday, Boko Haram launched another attack, this time on Damaturu, Yobe state. More blood flowed, more lives untimely taken.

As extreme as the news items above read, it is very factual and the final body count from the bombings, the reprisals and the Damaturu carnage is still being awaited as I write this.

While no one in Nigeria, at least anyone old enough to reason, can readily claim to be unaware of the activities of Boko Haram and the atmosphere of fear it has created across northern Nigeria, most people really can’t pinpoint why the group is hell bent on destroying the economic and social structure of a region they call home. Many have pointed to the very nature of Islamic fundamentalism, which they say allows for wanton killing and destruction as a means to an end, but the inconsistent posture of Boko Haram cancels this argument and makes it very impossible to understand what their target is. They have gone from randomly shooting police officers on the streets of Maiduguri, to bombing police station, government buildings, educational institutions, and, with increasing ferocity, churches.

At the beginning of Boko Haram’s insurgency in 2009, I was one of those who felt the sect had legitimate grounds for aggression and called for government to address the issues arising from the brutal extra judicial killings that occurred during and after the initial police crackdown on the sect in Maiduguri. Unfortunately, that call was not heeded and attempts by several people, including Olusegun Obasanjo and Shehu Sani, to open dialogue with the group was truncated by both the group’s fragmented nature and lack of sincerity on the part of government to pursue that cause of actions.

It is a given that government, both at the state and federal level, would look back to three years  ago and wish things were handled differently, but even I have to admit that with Boko Haram, nothing is certain.

Misconceptions and aggrandisements

Clearly, Boko Haram was underestimated at the beginning. I have said elsewhere that the catalyst that lent strength to the group’s bloodlust is the erroneous belief by Nigerian security forces that they can apply force to every situation. That, coupled with the largely none existent modern security facilities in the country—here I also refer to the barbaric crudeness of many security operatives—has granted Boko Haram and other faceless groups licence to perpetuate their devilish whim.

The police, known more for parading suspects to the press as criminals before they are even tried, is an organisation that is wont to aggrandise and spew misconceptions. Boko Haram, as devilish and otherworldly as they are, have bested them, massive security votes and all, and now own the north. If this is not an indictment of bad leadership, I don’t know what is. So therefore (apologies to Zebrudaya), a PDP government created the mess, PDP owns the stench.

Northern Leaders: A bunch of incompetents

Knowing the north of Nigeria as much as I do, no one can begin to convince me that the activities of Boko Haram do not have the blessing of some highly placed individuals in the northern political scheme of things. The sophistication and coordinating ability of the group is not what you get from random fanatics out for revenge. What we have is an extremely well funded and cohesive group that have at every turn, made the Nigerian police look like ill-trained boy scouts. Pointers that someone, somewhere, with the means and clout, is running things.

True, Boko Haram might have started out as one of several Islamist sects that desire stricter interpretations of the Koran that still abound in the north, but have evolved into something deadlier and fundamentally destructive.  “Who is paying for the tune that is being played?” should be a question on every Nigerian lip.

By their actions, and inactions, the northern political class has shown serious unwillingness to fight Boko Haram. We have heard big shots in the north apologising to Boko Haram for perceived wrongs. We have heard of many of them with links with the group—an off the radar court case with an erstwhile “distinguished” senator from Borno state is ongoing. We have also heard them call for the removal of security forces in the north as well as the need to dialogue with Boko Haram. However, we rarely hear them condemn the actions of the group, at least not with the same amount of venom we get from Oritsejafor and his ilk. The Sultan of Sokoto, a former military man, under whose Umbrella Nigerian Muslims are said to be, makes some form of protestation, but we all know his voice is barely a whimper when it should in all honesty be louder than a trumpet.

Northern Youths:  Power underestimated

In all these: there are millions of youths in the north who see through the fallacy of their leaders, these ones have been making their voices heard across social media, as they call for an end to the circle of violence. It is to these ones, the new age, that we can look to for salvation. In them, one sees a future of mutual understanding and cohabitation. They, not their present scared-little-mouse Mai Angwas, Emirs, sultans, and political debauchers, are the ones that may prove the turning point in all these carnage—if they decide to run the gauntlet, that is.

As it stands, with the political, religious, and security authorities unable to stop the carnage, the populace may have to shake off the fear that bombs and leaden bullets evokes in the wary mind and face down the monster. Unless we prefer to continue playing into Boko Haram’s scripts and quench our blood lust on innocent neighbours whose only sin is affiliation to the professed religion of our oppressors.

Growing up in Kaduna, I recall the ease with which northern Muslims marched against the Danish Cartoon incident, the hosting of Miss World pageant and the call for Sharia law. Bug me, but I think we all should be on the streets striking and calling for an end to this bloodbath, not killing each other while the real enemy celebrates. ENOUGH ALREADY!

Fred Chiagozie Nwonwu

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2 thoughts on “Holding a Nation to Ransom

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