Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Is poverty really behind Boko Haram, Ansaru terrorism?

Former US president, Bill Clinton, recently challenged the Nigerian government to tackle poverty as a way to end rising terrorism in the country. It was an advice that received global media coverage because of the personality involved.
Clinton's reasons for insisting on tackling poverty as a way to end Islamic terrorism in Nigeria is well understood.  My discomfort with it is that it keys into a popular refrain by some of the northern Nigerian elites have the capacity to help the government address address the problem but who rather have chosen make excuses rather than lend helping hand to the government.  People like Central Bank of Nigeria governor, Lamido Sanusi and former FCT minister Nasir el-Rufai.  These elites have rather chosen to be sympathetic that to a group that have made widows out of Nigerian women, rendered fatherless many children and permanently maimed many innocent Nigerians.
The danger with half-truths is that they have a way of shifting focus from the real issues.  It is interesting that President Jonathan did not buy into that cheap populist excuse for the atrocities of Boko Haram.  “Boko Haram is not as a result of misrule; definitely not,” an agitated President Jonathan said during an interview. “And sometimes people feel like it is a result of poverty; definitely not. Boko Haram is a local terror group.”
I have repeatedly argued in this blog that to point to poverty as the reason for the growing terror in Nigeria and much of West Africa, is to beg the issue.  Poverty 'may be' a reason, but it is not the reason for Boko Haram or its new dangerous offspring - Ansaru.
An article by Fortune tellings shares interesting perspective:
A study looked at the biographies of 285 suicide bombers as published in local journals, from 1987-2002. And this found that those who carried out suicide attacks were, on the whole, richer (fewer than 15 percent under the poverty line, compared to almost 35 percent for the population as a whole) and more educated (95 percent with high school or higher) than the rest of the population (almost half of whom went no further than middle school).
In a 2003 study in the Journal of Economic Perspectives, Alan Krueger and Jitka Maleckova reported the results of a post-9/11 survey of Palestinians. Asked whether there were "any circumstances under which you would justify the use of terrorism to achieve political goals," the higher-status respondents (merchant, farmer or professional) were more likely to agree (43.3 percent) than those lower down the ladder (laborer, craftsman or employee) (34.6 percent). The higher-status respondents were also more likely to support armed attacks against Israeli targets (86.7 percent to 80.8 percent). The same dynamic existed when education was taken into account.
Here is another thought from Simon Kolawole, former editor of ThisDay, positing similar argument. As he argued:
Terrorism, by nature, is driven by a religious, political or ideological mindset. The stated goal of Boko Haram is to establish an Islamic republic where Sharia will be the governing law. The first thing to note, therefore, is that terrorism is not accidental or spontaneous. It is pre-planned. It is organised. There is a central principle driving it. If people say they want to establish Islamic rule, that is a clear goal. Ideology drives their activities. They are not bombing for the sake of bombing – they are promoting an objective through the use of violence. 
Read Kolawole in full here:

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