Much has been written about the atrocities of Boko Haram and the chain
of events that led to the rising of the group in Northern Nigeria. Indeed, the
testimony of the Christian Association of Nigeria’s President, Revd. Oritsajafor at the US Congress early in July
2012 had on display the different theories that have been propounded about Boko
Harem and its agents. Some ring true, others fall flat. But in order to
understand Boko Haram and respond correctly to its rise, there is a need for
policy makers and citizens to understand its origin, mission and purpose. Not
what is obvious, but what is real.
On one hand is a deep set believe (prevalent in the South), that Boko
Haram is a purely Islamist (political Islam) response to Christians that live
among them (in the North). They point to countless killings since independence
to date, as a proof of this trend. When taken further, the rise of this
atrocious form of “Islamist” (in their words) is on the rise as a political
response to the 2010 ascension of a Christian Southerner and his subsequent
election in 2011 – midway through the term of a Muslim Northerner that died. It
was this view that was propounded by the venerable leader of the Christian
Association of Nigeria before the US Congress.
The obvious problem of course with this theory is that the rise of Boko
Haram preceded the ascension of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan to the Presidency. Boko Haram
was founded in 2002, during the rise of
political Sharia when northern governors exploited the phenomenon in the core
north for their own electoral benefit and was allowed to get away with it by
the incompetent Olusegun Obasanjo administration.
If anything, History shows that it was during the administration of the late
President Musa Y’Aradua that security agencies killed the sect leader –Mohammed Yusuf: in July 2009 (almost a year before GEJ became president). Up to 100 Boko Haram members were killed
recorded violence by the sect was in July 2009 when it attacked police stations in Maiduguri and then in January 2010,
one full month before GEJ began to approach political ascendancy, when it killed
four people in Borno State.
On the other hand, the oft mentioned causative link between poverty,
high illiteracy rate and despondency of the core northern youth and the rise of
Boko Haram is not sufficient explanation for the rise of the group, especially
given the clear targeting of Christian religious places by the group and the
inflammatory statements that emerge from their leadership after such attacks.
This is the official US Government position, that Boko Haram is a product of
political and economic abandonment of the north by Nigeria’s leaders over the
years, and was propounded by Ambassador Bill Carson during his full swing
before the congressional committee.
Both theories may be wrong and correct at the same time, and here is
Since the rise of Boko Haram, few arrests that have been made have
linked the organization to foreign fighters who seem to have mastery of Arabic,
sophisticated training and some good dose of rhetoric. The style and method of
Boko Haram is very close to what global terror networks have displayed in Iraq,
Pakistan and Kenya in the past. Indeed, if this does not give you pause, the
world’s terror network with Al Qaeda at the center have indicated their interest in Nigeria about the
same time as Boko Haram rose out of the North. This was also about the same
time a young Nigerian was selected by the now dead enfant
terrible of the
Middle East to bomb American planes!
If this trend is not worrisome enough, just this week , two men in Abuja “were charged with
accepting thousands of dollars from the group to recruit potential terrorists
inside Nigeria and then send them to Yemen”; they were working with al-Qaida in
the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP. AQAP is regarded as the most aggressive arm of
the remnant of the terror group and leading up operations in next door Somalia
where it is implementing the obvious next strategy for these crazies. In February 2012, recently arrested officials revealed
that “while the organization initially relied on donations from members,
its links with Al-Qaeda
in the Islamic Maghreb, AQIM, opened it up to more funding from groups in Saudi
Arabia and the UK.”
But why will Al Qaeda be interested in
Nigeria? What is the connection?
Obviously, the recent successes of the
US Administration in the Middle East to deny the terror group a foothold in
that volatile region may be pointing us to answers. Since being driven out of
Afghanistan by George Bush and with his successor, President Barack H. Obama making
it clear that Pakistan was no hiding place: Al Qaeda has been looking for the
next geographical region where it can settle and project its power. Certainly,
this strategy is panning out nicely in South Yemen where government troops
have surrendered quite a large territory like Jaar and Azzan.
In fact, a PBS Frontline Documentary recently
documented “Al Qaeda
militants’ black flag flying over Yemeni towns
that appeared to be under complete control of Ansar al-Sharia”.
To lesser extent, Al
Qaeda have been less successful in Africa, especially in Somalia where it is
under intense pressure from all sides as that nation is bolstered by Western
Powers to buck the trend. Regardless of their struggle in Africa, Al Qaeda’s
tattered army is not one to give up easily. The availability of small arms,
corrupt governments and agitated population makes West Africa a perfect target
for the bunch and with a very strong analytical minded strategic team guiding
them- Nigeria seem like a dream come true for Al Qaeda.
Nigeria with her rich history of prevalent
inter-ethnic suspicion, religious violence and extremism in the north and
poor/illiterate population coupled with rising youth unemployment,
dissatisfaction and clueless local and national leadership is a gift that may
just continue giving to the terror network.
Think about it, which other place on earth will a people exist in forceful co-existence
and the leaders insist they have no right to debate the basis of such
existence? Where on earth, will the nominal leaders of one society continue to
insist that obvious solutions need not be implemented but sacrifice on the
altar of self aggrandizement, greed and selfishness while passing the buck to
the next generation? Well, welcome to Nigeria.
To make its territorial ambition real though, Al Qaeda may already be
one step ahead of our clueless leadership in determining that Northern Nigeria
not the entire country will be the foothold that they require. Essentially,
this strategy underpins their resolve to cut off the North from the rest of the
country. While some may hail this outcome, the country should beware for what we
wish for; ask Pakistan how many drones and children of theirs are lost due to
the war knocking on their next door neighbor?
To achieve its goals of gaining a permanent foothold to the North of
Abuja/Zaria, Al Qaeda will focus on divisive tactics including targeting places
of worship (now a Church and Mosque have been attacked), while discrediting
core Northern leaders’ and denying them the ability to stuff the genie of
insecurity back in the bottle. The hyena unleashed may not be curtailed any
time soon, as Al Qaeda seem to have embarked on the next phase of this attack
by targeting political leaders in whom the electorate have invested some
legitimacy and may react virulently to their death. It was a Senator few weeks
ago, watch as that target list moves up all the way.
Cruel as it may come across, Boko Haram as agent of the world global
terror network is bent on seeing the core North cut off quickly from the rest
of Nigeria to have a launch pad territory to itself, and a lot of southern
politicians better be prepared to be collateral damage on the way up to this
Map of Two Nigerias?
We may very well be looking at the slow motion of the balkanization of
Nigeria, as predicted in 2015 by the Central Intelligence Agency. The results will not be palatable to all
involved, I just hope our leaders (especially those clueless ones in Abuja) are
reading and thinking.
True federalism, devolution of powers and genuine unity founded on
respect for minority and opposition rights in a true democratic fashion remains
the only a panacea against a full blown balkanization come 2015 or beyond.
What other event is happening in 2015 again?