Friday, April 13, 2012

Why Boko Haram scares me

Boko Haram is an extremely dangerous plague in this country – extremely dangerous. I have been wondering if Dr. Goodluck Jonathan knew that Boko Haram was not just a religious problem. At the surface, it looks like it, because they have been bombing churches and so on. But it also comes with a serious political and geo-political consequence. I don’t pray it ever happens that the South would start responding with reprisal attacks. Then Nigeria would have had it.
Niyi Osundare
I have never seen a country that has won a religious war, because religion is so passionate and so irrational. So you can’t win it by rational argumentation or by reasoned reconciliation or whatever. No, it is really a fight to the finish. That is what bothers me here. 
And this takes me back to the way I felt after that election last year. Mr. Buhari took the North, Mr. Jonathan took the South, and there was some kind of line, which was like a diaphragm, a horizontal line, dividing the country into almost two equal parts . When I looked at that map, what I saw was the Sudan. And I tell you, this is frightening.
This was how Sudan began. Gafar el-Nimeiry and others did all they did when John Garang was there. They did all they could to suppress him. And all kinds of rebel groups sprang up until eventually, July last year, a new country was born and Sudan was divided into two: the North-South, Muslim- Christain dichotomy. It is extremely dangerious for this country.
Does Dr. Jonathan still remember the election that brought him to power? Does he realise how rickety the structure of the country over which he presides is? He has cajoled his security people, he has threatened them, he has done all kinds of things – go get the Boko Haram. But they cannot get them because they are so grassroots. You don’t know them when you see them. Now a state of emergency was declared recently; exactly two days later, Adamawa was bombed. An arrested Boko Haram leader walked away under the very watch of a top-ranking police officer. Talk of defiance and ridicule of Jonathan’s security arrangement!
Boko Haram scares me, I must tell you, because of its social and political dimensions. I am also looking at it from the point of view of the under-privileged.
When people talk about poverty in this country, we think that poverty is something you see in the South and that the people in the North, they are not so poor, after all they have produced more heads of state than any other part of the country. That is a lie. The poor places in the North are far, far poorer than the poor places in the South.
There are so many poor children in the North that do not go to school – the Almajiris and so on. They are not receiving the right kind of education. They get into the hands of extremist clerics who sell all kinds of ideas to them, and indoctrinate them at a very young age. By the time they are in their teenage years, their minds are already formed. This is the group of people that form the core of Boko Haram.
Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekarau
So what we are seeing in Boko Haram, will be a good study for a sociologist, a political scientist and a psychologist. I don’t see it just as a religious issue. It is a multi-dimensional kind of issue. If these young men had enough to eat, were put in good schools, and they were well educated, they had hope; if they lived in a just and egalitarian country, it is not likely they would sell themselves so easily to the kind of fatalism that is causing the kind of mayhem that Boko Haram is unleashing on the people of this country.
There is a certain kind of anger in the way they are carrying out their bombings. This really bothers me. It is a fire that will be extremely difficult to put out. And with the so many fires that Jonathan has set for himself in this country, he might not even have time to face Boko Haram squarely. How do you talk about national unity in the present situation? I would like Jonathan to see the connection between this escalation in Boko Haram activities and the flawed election that brought him to power last year.

Excerpts from Osundare's interview with The News magazine

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