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Price of Insecurity: Bombing Northern Nigeria Back into Stone Age and Licking the Wounds

--Cutting-Edge Analytics--


By: Franklin Otorofani Published June 1st, 2012
 

For sometime now, northern Nigeria, the bastion of feudalism, has been caught in a paroxysm of violence orchestrated by Islamic religious fundamentalist sect that goes by the name Boko Haram.

While this seemingly implacable deadly insurgency predated the Jonathan administration, in point of fact, dating back to the late Yar'Adua administration that was responsible for the killing of its leader, it has since been transformed into a veritable rebel group not only wreaking utter mayhem in the north, but audaciously seeking to dislodge the federal government from power and institute in its place Sharia based Islamic theocracy, much like currently exists in countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia. It is needless to add that there is no African nation now or in history that has operated a theocratic state, and there will be none hereafter that will come to that pass in the future, either. This is because theocracy is the very antithesis of fundamental freedoms of religion and association. And only those seeking religious bondage for whatever reasons would submit themselves to a theocratic state of whatever kind or nomenclature— Islamic, Christian, Hindu, Budhist, or otherwise. No one has the right to impose his/her religion on another anymore than anyone has the right to impose his/her language on another. Bottom-line.

Africa is still suffering from the imposition of Christianity on the continent by colonialists whose offspring have now turned their backs on Christianity itself in the western world leaving Africans clinging to its tattered core values in complete disarray. The Christianity they were sold on is not the one that is being shoved down their throats today that has rented the Anglican Church, for example. Having been systematically hollowed out, Christianity now means different thing to different people—an empty vessel into which any perverted groups could throw in whatever cultural thrash catches their fancy. There is no question in my mind, therefore, that with the violence that has been associated with both Islam and Christianity, both of which are foreign transplants imposed on the continent of Africa; and with the sorry state of Christianity in the world that is now condoning sexual perversion and egregious immorality that are alien to African cultural traditions, a time will come, hopefully not too long from now, when the peoples of Africa, sick and tired of it all, will rise up and do away with these religious transplants and go back to their roots to reclaim their pristine values and traditions.

But we must deal with the present and take on whatever it throws at us as people and a nation. And here we are today in 21st century Nigeria having to deal with some religious throw backs and social misfits masquerading as saints killing and maiming at will innocent fellow citizens in the name of a foreign religion that was violently imposed on their ancestors by Jihadists from Saudi Arabia. It seems to me, however, that someone has completely forgotten to tell Boko Haram and its murderous gangs that the terms of Nigerian nationality had been laid down way back some 52 years ago in 1960, which were duly negotiated, signed, sealed, and delivered by duly elected, revered--almost godlike, representatives of then existing three regions, namely; northern, western and eastern regions in the persons of Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, and Chief Obafemi Awolowo, of blessed memories. And this was duly and enthusiastically endorsed by the peoples of the regions, respectively, that Boko Haram leader himself is not even qualified to wash their sandals let alone challenge their collective decisions. No one has the right to take apart what he/she has no hand in creating in the first place. And that is Nigeria. 

The 1960 Independence as well as the 1963 Republican constitutions, which codified those terms, clearly, unambiguously, and unquestionably, provided for a secular as opposed to sectarian state or theocracy. And if Christian colonialists who had all the powers did not impose Christian theocracy in Nigeria, what right has Boko Haram to do even think about it, for crying out loud? It is an intolerable affront on Nigerians by a band of nihilists and anarchists to seek to impose a theocracy on Nigeria through violence. Now, subsequent constitutions birthed by Nigerian military leaders, namely, Generals Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha and all military constitutions maintained this secular constitutional set up, knowing as the founding fathers knew, that a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, and multi-cultural nation like Nigeria requires nothing less and nothing more than secular statehood to survive and thrive. With this arrangement Christians cannot and will not be allowed to convert the nation into the Vatican City. And same holds true for Muslims, Hindus, Animists, Budhists, and what have you in the religious world.

With that being the case therefore, only elements bent on destabilizing a particular government in power or otherwise interested in the disintegration of the nation would seek to put a knife on the constitutional fabric of the nation and rip it apart. Which raises the inevitable question: Is the north interested in the disintegration of the Nigerian state? Put another way, has the north lost faith in the Nigerian union?  If the answer is yes, it is time for it to come out and say so in clear terms, and its reason for that. If the answer is in the affirmative, is it because it has been out of power for less than two years after Yar'Adua's demise? And, if the answer is in the affirmative, is the north interested in the unity of the nation only when it is in control of the levers of power at the federal level? In other words, is the north's commitment to the so-called “Nigerian Project” conditional on its control of the federal government and would readily withdraw its commitment if and when it loses the control of the federal government at any point in time to another ethnic nationality in the Nigerian ethno-political configuration?

And if that is the governing philosophy of the north toward the Nigerian union, should other ethnic nationalities follow suit and do likewise? Should the Yoruba, Igbo, Ijaw, for instance, or other ethnic nationality in the Nigerian state have taken to militant insurgency for allegedly being denied the presidency even if the claim was true? Specifically, should the Yorubas have taken to war against the nation when Chief Obafemi Awolowo contested presidential elections and lost to northerners, not once, not twice, not thrice, but half a dozen times, including but not limited the one that was resolved against him on twelve two thirds Supreme Court verdict in 1979? Should the Yoruba ethnic nationality have gone to war with Nigeria for being denied the presidency when its son, Chief MKO Abiola contested and won an election on June 12, 1993 that was mindlessly and callously annulled by a Nigerian general of northern extraction who goes by the name IBB? And for that matter, should the Igbo nationality go to war with Nigeria for being denied the presidency each time its son, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, one of Africa’s greatest sons, contested and lost, not once, not twice, not thrice, but half a dozen times to a northerner? Didn’t all of these feel cheated out of power on each and every occasion? But did that give them the right to level war against the fatherland or preach violence as Muhammadu Buhari seems to be doing at the moment? At what point would the north rise above the level of resort to self-help to resolve political issues affecting the entire nation? True political violence was not invented in north but it has taken it to a whole new level as seeking to improve on the performance of the wild, wild, west of yester-years.

A sectional presidential candidate who only campaigned in Sharia states and lost his petition all the way to the Supreme Court is now claiming that he had been robbed of the presidency! And he has proceeded to lay the groundwork for political violence ahead of the 2015 presidential election; already predicting his failure ahead of time and justifying the violence he would unleash on the nation, come 2015. If accepting defeat is an impossible task for Nigerian politicians they should quit the stage and should not seek to destroy the future of the youths when they have had theirs to the fullest living off the largesse the nation had bestowed on them or rather bestowed on themselves while in office. And if they are not willing to accept their defeats but must promote and practice violence, Nigerian youths should be smart enough to rise up and say no to their destructive antics because the future belongs, not to these expired political gladiators but the youths of Nigeria who should take their future in their own hands by resisting anarchists. How could any sane man call on his political supporters to resort to violence for losing an election? Politicians who have no faith in the judicial process have no business approaching the judiciary with electoral petitions. Indeed they have no business in contesting elections in the first place. The judicature is part and parcel, in fact, one of the most critical organs of democracy and those who have no faith in the judiciary need not show up for elections in the first place.

There are no provisions for self-help in the resolution of electoral disputes. Violence has never and will never give victory to any failed politicians. And the Nigerian presidency is not going to be handed to anyone on the cheap on account of how many people he or she succeeded in murdering in the streets or how many innocent Youth Corp members he/she butchered during and after elections. All democrats have the constitutional means to challenge election results and failure to prove one’s case in court is no reason to visit mayhem on the nation. A case would stand or fall by its own judicial weight. It is about time the Nigerian government made the laws of the land to work in Nigeria the way they should be and were designed to be. No one should be allowed to get away with political murder including those who instigate violence no matter their positions in society. The heavens will not fall. If late Chief Obafemi Awolowo could be jailed on charges of treasonable felony and sedition, why in the world is the federal government allowing people like Buhari to get away with threats to the unity and stability of the nation? 

It is one thing to live off the largesse of politics and quite another to cling to them as if they were a birthright.  The north can do better than living of the largesse of politics that benefits only a handful. There is virtually no middle class in the north because it has depended on politics and politics alone to survive. It is shameful, indeed scandalous, for a region thrice the size of a country like Ghana, blessed with vast arable land and huge solid mineral deposits, would depend solely on federal government to survive as a region, and would shamelessly resort to insurgency when it loses federal power to another ethnic group. The north should carry out far reaching soul searching, put its house in order and redeem her soul that has suffered terrible corruption. A region that is capable of being the bread basket not just of Nigeria but of whole of Africa has no business crying because it failed to make the presidency.  There are no better farmers in the world than the farmers in northern Nigeria. Yes, the north could feed the world, and therefore has no business clinging to political power to survive. It is past time for the north it to review its parasitic disposition which can easily and readily be blamed on its infinitely parasitic political class.

This writer has come to the conclusion, therefore, that nothing is intrinsically wrong with Nigeria as a nation, but something definitely is wrong with so-called Nigerian leaders—those who have benefitted the most from the union seeking to destroy it, all because they failed to achieve their personal political ambitions. It’s like the Biblical maternal imposter, who wanted a disputed child that didn’t belong to her destroyed rather than having the rightful mother have it. Those who want Nigeria destroyed are those who have the least stake in it and have contributed the least to its development and survival. Anyone who has fought for and labored hard to build Nigeria would not flippantly and callously call for or otherwise encourage its destruction and/or destabilization purely on account of mere failure to achieve personal or even group/ethnic political ambition.

This is the intriguing part that many are still grappling with. How is it that communities and peoples that had been living in peace for centuries as in Plateau state, for example, have suddenly turned against one another like animals in the wild? How is that Islamic fundamentalists have suddenly metamorphosed into rebel group? Nigeria is not the only nation in West Africa with large Moslem populations? In fact, Nigeria is bordered by several Muslim nations. Yet we don’t hear of the destructive activities of Islamic fundamentalists in those nations. How come Nigeria has become the haven of Islamic fundamentalists to the total exclusion of other nations with large Muslims populations? Are foreign countries behind these religious uprisings in the north? Is someone too uncomfortable with the sheer size and resources of the country and would want it splintered like the late Libyan leader, Muammar Gadaffi once gaffed about before his eventual demise? Ever heard of suicide bombings in Nigeria even in the thick of the Iraqi and Afghanistan wars? These are questions begging for urgent answers.

It is these questions that the National Security Adviser, General Owoye Aziza, was attempting to answer albeit rather awkwardly when he blamed the Boko Haram menace on the PDP's zoning arrangement that had produced the Jonathan presidency. Not being a politician, the general was unable to articulate his views in a politically correct manner. He was clumsy and ineffectual, almost to the point of political sacrilege. But all he was saying in essence is that there are elements in the north that are ethnically vehemently opposed to south/southern presidency in Nigeria that had seemingly denied the north the presidency after Yar'Adua's death, since the PDP constitution had apparently “zoned” the post to the north. Those are weighty political matters that a National Security Advisor is best advised to steer away from, not being versed in constitutional and political considerations that go with such matters. The question of the merits or demerits of the PDP zoning or lack thereof does not fall within the purview of his portfolio. And dabbling into purely political matters negates the office of the National Security Adviser.  He has got security question to deal and he should deal with it and get it over with. Looking for excuses in the political arena for failure is not an option. He should just quit the office. That is the most honorable thing to do in the circumstances rather than speculating on the causes of terrorism.

Going by the antics of the likes of Adamu Ciroma, there is no question that the north felt aggrieved that it lost power to the South/South in the 2011 presidential elections and rightly or wrongly felt cheated out of power. The problem though is that unlike IBB, Buhari and Abacha that shot their ways into power, Jonathan did not execute a coup to get to Aso Rock. Rather he was put in there by the Nigerian people, including, take this, tens of millions Muslims from the Islamic north. Jonathan defeated hands down Muslim candidates in the persons of Nuhu Ribadu and General Muhammadu Buhari in the very heart of the Islamic north, including the so-called Sharia states. If, therefore, a Jonathan presidency is acceptable enough to the overwhelming majority of Muslims in the heart of the Muslim north and the rest of Nigeria, it borders on sheer arrogance and presumptuousness for any religious sect to question the democratic choice of his own people as to launch a murderous insurgency campaign against them.

Yes, it is more an insurgency against them and less an insurgency against the federal government. How many federal government functionaries have died in the insurgency compared to the ordinary northerners, including devout Muslims that have met their death in the hands of Boko Haram? Whatever the federal government has lost in terms of police stations and other properties burnt down can easily be replaced. Yes, Boko Haram has managed to pull off some news hugging terrorist attacks here and there and yonder. But does it seriously believe that given a thousand more years it is capable of defeating the federal government in the end even if a lame strapped to a wheelchair was the head?

By its very nature insurgency, however spectacular, resilient and successful it might be is always living on borrowed time. Government's reaction might be weak, tentative, and even timid at the beginning, but it would always get stronger, bolder, proactive and more effective and successful with time. And that's why A-Qeda has been reduced to a shadow of its former self with its leadership decapitated and its infrastructure decimated by governments determined to rein it in. Provided the determination is there and there is no reason to believe otherwise on the part of the Nigerian government, Boko Haram's days are necessarily numbered and will sooner rather than later become history. Even now its wings are being systematically clipped one wing at a time until it is totally de-winged and decapitated. All terrorists groups are destined for that fate and Boko Haram will not be an exception, whether it ETA in Spain, IRA in Britain or Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka. There is no insurgency anywhere on the face of the globe that is greater, better organized and more resilient than the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka that raged bloodily from 1983 to 2009. Yet it succumbed eventually to superior force of the government and its leader summarily taken out by the government in a daring commando raid similar to the one that took out Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan, and thereafter proceeded to root out terrorism from the land. There is no reason to even imagine that Nigeria will be an exception. Boko Haram and their sponsors will be doing themselves a world of good if they dropped their weapons and called it quits while they still can.

Boko Haram will have its moments of notoriety as all terrorist organization but its but for a season. There is no question that the Nigerian security apparatuses though appearing somewhat weak and ineffectual at the moment will eventually get their footing and consign Boko Haram to the dustbin of history in the fullness of time because a part cannot be greater than its whole to which it belongs. It is true that before that happens a lot of harm would have been done and much of which is irreversible, involving as it does precious lives of innocents Nigerians. But compared to civil strife in other lands Boko Haram is still child's play. For instance, in the past three years drug wars have claimed no less than 50,000 Mexican lives in Mexico including entire towns sacked. City Mayors and high ranking government functionaries have been murdered in cold blood. Scores of dead bodies and mass graves are being found on regular basis in Mexico even as I send this to the press for publication. The Mexican security forces are simply helpless and have quite frankly called it quits it would appear, being so terribly overwhelmed. And that is a country bordering United States to the south. Even with US help, Mexico is engulfed in unremitting large scale violence that dwarfs Boko Haram a thousand times over.

Of course that is not to say Boko Haram is tolerable by any stretch of imagination, but to put matters in some perspective. There is no indication that Boko Haram will be allowed to best the Mexican drug wars both in sheer scale and sophistication. That said there are ample reasons to be worried about the economic repercussions for the northern Nigeria in particular and Nigeria in general. It is a natural law that violence drives away investments including those already on the ground. A while ago I read a sobering report about Northerners bemoaning the fact that the north has lost out economically due to the menace of Boko Haram. “Kano is gone!” And Jos is gone, too. The only two economically vibrant cities in the north are now ghosts of their former selves. Though seeming fighting against southerners, the real victims of Boko Haram is the north and northerners, rather than south and southerners.

Yes, it is true that southerners have been killed and many of them have relocated from the north to the south. But when we take a headcount of the dead there is hardly any question that the north has by far borne the brunt of the Boko Haram insurgency. If Boko Haram is killing anything or anybody it is killing the north and northerners. And in so doing setting the north back another decade or two, if not more. Destruction is not a mark of genius or power. It is the easiest thing in the world to do. So no one should take pride in destruction and beat his chest about his power of destruction. Any fool can destroy; even the lame. To build is the real genius. And it will take the north half a century to undo the damage done by Boko Haram in the north. 

A region that is already backward economically and educationally is being further set back several decades and northerners are watching as though they were enjoying a sitcom. But suffice to state that if the north is comfortable with that all good and well. It can continue to provide succor and nourishment to Boko Haram to operate unhindered until it runs its course. But if, on the other hand, the north is uncomfortable with the present reality as I suspect it is, then it behooves the region as whole to rise up, map out strategies to expose and deal with the menace once and for all the way Bakassi boys dealt with armed robbers in Onitsha in Anambra state. Boko Haram members are not ghosts. They live amongst the people who are shielding them from justice. But justice they must get in the fullness of time if there is government in Nigeria.

The north would be shooting itself in the foot and doing itself in if it thought that somehow it could give Boko Haram a free reign in order to embarrass the Jonathan administration. Embarrassing a democratically elected government that its own people voted for en-mass in an election judged to be fairly and reasonably free and fair, is bad political judgment that makes absolutely no sense at all. It is like cutting one's nose to spite one's face. And if Boko Haram is allowed by the north to continue to “embarrass” the Jonathan administration for political reasons, by the time all is said and done there may be no “north” worth's its name left for northerners but a veritable wasteland good only for cattle grazing. And let me make this clear that Boko Haram does not have the capacity to transcend the north. All other regions or geo-political zones in the nation are battle ready to deal with it should it rear its ugly head outside of its Sharia enclave. No one region in the country has the monopoly of violence as has been amply demonstrated by OPC, MOSSAB and the Niger Delta militants representing other geo-political regions respectively.

In conclusion, the north has to make up its mind whether it wants to remain in Nigeria or wants to file for divorce. If she is still interested in the union then she is duty bound to make the marriage work as best she can and come to the realization that it will not always be in power in modern day Nigeria and that power will and must be shared amongst the ethnic nationalities that make up the union. And that means working with the Jonathan administration to put Boko Haram behind us for good. No good will come to the north while Boko Haram reigns, sacks northern emirs and seize their thrones with ease. Hatred for Jonathan will not compensate the north for the huge economic and human destruction that will haunt the north decades after President Jonathan might have left the stage and retired to his Otuoke village in Bayelsa state.

For the north to stand akimbo without even uttering a word of condemnation against the terrorists, and instead cheering while Boko Haram bombs it back into Stone Age in the name of spiting President Jonathan is akin to one burning down his own house to spite a hated neighbor. And that, to me, is the very definition of insanity!

 

Franklin Otorofani is an attorney and public affairs analyst.

Contact: mudiagaone@yahoo.com


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