Monday, January 9, 2012

Government talks, Boko Haram acts

Scene of the Christmas Day bombing
Believe it or not, the Boko Haram elements are gaining grounds with their jihadist agenda in northern Nigeria.   Many have blamed the insurgence in Nigeria’s north on poverty and underdevelopment.  While that sounds a convincing argument, it is only a small part of much deeper problem.

 What the group is doing in the north, is nothing short of jihad and unless the government rises to assert the fact that Nigeria is a secular state and must remain so, the situation might get out of hand.  Jihad is an objective clearly outlined in the original name of the group – ‘Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati wal-Jihad’ which translates ‘People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet's Teachings and Jihad’.

The Dictionary of Islam as quoted by Wikipedia, defines jihad as: "A religious war with those who are unbelievers in the mission of Muhammad ... enjoined especially for the purpose of advancing Islam and repelling evil from Muslims."  Some analysts have described the series of attacks by Boko Haram as ‘social protests’; I would prefer to call it a jihadi pogrom.

The insurgence in the north is political, economic and religious.  The economic reasons for the ‘war’ on Christians and southerners in the north, has been well espoused by many economic analysts.   I think the activities of Boko Haram is political because there are some political heavyweights in the region who feel delineated from the present scheme of things and who are therefore sponsoring the group to undermine the system.  It is religious because it thrives on religious indoctrination and dogma.

If you doubt that it is not just the economic factor alone that is at work in the fundamentalist manifestations we now see, consider the case of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the underwear bomber.  He is apparently from one of Nigeria’s wealthiest families and attended some of the best schools at home and abroad.  More than economic consideration (if any), it was religious indoctrination that drove his action.

One fact is obvious – poverty is a grim reality in most parts of northern Nigeria.  But in many respects, poverty is also prevalent in other parts of the country.  Besides, does poverty justify the killing of your fellow human being?  Coating the massacre of Christians and southerners in the north under the guise of poverty is only begging the question.  Poverty should not take humanity away from us.

Not less than 30 southerners have been killed in different parts of north, with over 50 others severally wounded since two days ago when the ultimatum given to Christians and southerners to vacate the region expired.  Only yesterday in Mubi, Adamawa state, over 20 Igbos traders were brutally murdered where they had gathered for a meeting.  An eyewitness said, while “everyone scampered for safety, the gunmen chanted ‘God is great, God is great’ while shooting at us”.

The latest attacks have been as vicious as the Christmas Day church bombing in Suleja. They are but the latest episode in what some media persist in characterizing as ‘social protest’, but which is in fact a systematic attempt by Islamic fundamentalists to murder and ethnically cleanse the Christian community in the north.

I think they have succeeded so far because while the government has been busy talking, they have been busy acting.  I have suffered personal loss from the bombings of Boko Haram in the last one month; loss that cannot in any way be replaced.  The attack on a church in Suleja on Christmas Day remains a dagger through my heart because of some siblings whose lives, families and dreams have been decimated in a most cruel way.

The more the government dilly-dallies over the situation in the north, the stronger the centrifugal forces wanting to tear us apart become.  One question that we must not fail to answer at the time is – Is Nigeria really one indivisible nation as the rulers in Abuja readily tell us?  I am not convinced; not with what is happening now in the northern part of the country.

How can we be one people when some people have acquired the licence to kill others and the state looks helpless? Like Ken Ugbechie, former editor of The Post Express and a renowned colleague asked recently in an article “Do I have a part in a country where my cousins and uncles are hacked to death in the north and all I get is a mocking ‘my men are on top of the situation’ mantra from those paid to protect their lives and property?

It started with some vagrants throwing bombs and killing others. We did nothing. The vile men graduated from throwing bombs in Borno State alone to doing same in Bauchi, Yobe, Abuja and elsewhere. Again, we did nothing, only a half-hearted condemnation of the act. Then they became emboldened by our collective helplessness and much more by the gross ineptitude of our national security that they even took their bomb-throwing pastime to the headquarters of national security, the head office of the Nigeria police.

They know we are powerless. They are right. Any optimism that the bombing of the police headquarters would compel the police to be more decisive was doused by the attitude of the top echelon of the Nigeria police. Till this day, they are yet to find the sponsors of Boko Haram, a group of vile men who almost killed the Inspector-General of Police.

Because national security apparatchik did nothing, the bombers stepped up their game, this time the United Nations building. Even this did not get Nero out of the palace; he simply continued to fiddle while the empire burns. All they tell us is that they know the bombers and those behind them. They do? The police say they know those behind Boko Haram, the SSS says they have evidence to prove they know the bombers; even the presidency never ceases to entertain us with the same ‘we know the bombers and their sponsors’ rhetoric.

Nigeria is on a brink, on the edge of a dangerous cliff. Let’s not pretend about it. And it is not about the rage over petrol subsidy. That in itself is a red-herring, a subterfuge, a needless distraction. There is a deadlier cancer eating up the nation. It is deadlier than the street rage and bonfires over fuel subsidy. It is the war declared on Christians by some Muslims to the delight of their promoters and sponsors. How can we justify the bombing of St Theresa Catholic Church on Christmas Day and the resultant death of over 40 people?

How do we explain to our children that there is no religious war when some armed men would head straight to a Church service and pump bullets into the heads and trunks of unarmed people worshipping their God. The shooting to death of worshippers at a Deeper Life Church in Gombe, a Christ Apostolic Church in Yola, and the mindless killing via the bullet of some Igbo sons at a town hall meeting in Adamawa State (unarmed people who were mourning the death of one of their own) do not convince me we are still one.

I have just evacuated a family member of mine doing her national service in Jigawa from her place of primary assignment.  She is due to round off her service next month, but with the spate of killings taking place since the expiration of Boko Haram’s 3-day ultimatum, I am not sure of her security.  In a system where the security services have consistently failed to protect lives and property, the best thing to do is to be as pro-active as one can possibly be.

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