Sometimes in early 2012, I was in Enugu where I ran into a handsome, innocent-looking, young boy who was working in the hotel where I stayed. I asked him why he was ‘slaving’ out in the hotel instead of being at school. The boy simply looked at me, shook his head lazily and began a short but pathetic story that almost drew tears from my eyes. “I am 19 years old. My parents are from Imo State. I was born in Maiduguri, where we were all living until recently when we were forced to run down to the East to avoid being killed.” According to little Isaac, the father is a welder by profession while his mother is a petty trader. His immediate elder brother was a student at the University of Maiduguri, while he, Isaac, had just secured admission to the same university, before the Boko Haram disturbances escalated.
Isaac told me that it got to a point that “these people started going from house to house to look for Southerners, most especially Igbo, and they were just killing them. We had to hide in the forest for some days before we were finally able to run down to the East. My elder brother has dropped out of school. He is now in Lagos while I could not go to the university even though I had secured admission. That is why I am working in this hotel”, he said.
Isaac’s plight and that of his entire household is typical of the endless dislocation that indigenes of a section of the country have suffered in the last three or four years of the insurgency in the North. Many have died. Many have lost one or both parents. Many others have lost their husbands, wives, children, breadwinners and all that. It would appear that apart from the indigenes of the troubled areas who are daily being callously mowed down, those who have had to bear the brunt of the displacement are people of a particular ethnic extraction. There are many others from several parts of the country but the preponderance of the ‘refugees’, if I may call them so, are from the South-East.
‘One psychological way of winning this war on terrorism is to remove the toga of religion from the insurgents. In this case, rather than calling them Islamic fundamentalists, religious extremists, jihadists or what have you, let us simply refer to them as terrorists, which they are’
Take the recent massacre in Kano. The Sabon-Gari Park that was hit by suicide bombers is mostly patronised by Igbo traders. Most of the luxury buses you find there are owned by Igbo transport magnates based in the East. Agreed many Northerners and other tribes who were within that vicinity at that time were also cut down. Nevertheless, many of the victims were apparently Igbo traders.
The ongoing insurgency is a Northern breed of senseless brigandage that has been cleverly concealed as a religious war, whereas it is not. To ascribe religious fundamentalism to the disturbances is to insult the religion of Islam, which abhors violence or the taking of innocent lives. To the best of my knowledge, there is no religion that supports the shedding of innocent blood, not to talk of large-scale killings that have now become common occurrence in that part of the country.
So, if some group of misguided youths, miscreants and other social misfits are going about killing and destroying schools, places of worship, businesses and all that, they cannot claim to be doing so in the name of Allah or God. If the mere mention of Allah by Muslims is usually followed by “the most Merciful, the most High”, then where do these criminals get their doctrine of violence and destruction from?
One psychological way of winning this war on terrorism is to remove the toga of religion from the insurgents. In this case, rather than calling them Islamic fundamentalists, religious extremists, Jihadists or what have you, let us simply refer to them as terrorists which they are. The average man or woman in the North respects his or her religion with a passion. The average Northerner,
especially those without formal education, is being told that the terrorists are waging war against infidels or unbelievers. In that case, they can never cooperate with anybody working against those terrorists who they regard more or less as their messiahs who will free them from the perceived tyranny of the unbelievers.
So first and foremost, let us change our attitude to those who engage in this senseless destruction of lives and property. They are simply terrorists. It is also very instructive to note that there are many types of Boko Haram – the religious, the political and the criminally-minded. The religious Boko Haram seem to have taken a back seat in the insurgency. They are probably those who, from time to time, have signified their intention to negotiate with government. These ones have lost steam and may have seen the futility of their escapades.
The political Boko Haram, on the other hand, are those who hide under this façade to perpetrate political killings of opponents. The recent killing of political leaders of a particular party in Maiduguri is evidence of this. The political Boko Haram are those who want to wrestle political power either at the centre or in the states or local governments by destabilisation. With the 2015 general elections fast approaching, they could resort to political assassination of opponents.
The last but not the least here are the criminally-minded people who have invoked Boko Haram to satisfy their satanic interests. These are those who kidnap and extort money in the name of “protection fees”. The ready armies for this group are the unemployed and hungry youths all over the place. Some even incite these jobless youths because of mere business rivalry to wreak havoc on innocent people.
The recent revelation by Alhaji Attahiru Ahmad, the Emir of Anka, Zamfara State, says it all. The Emir had opposed the issue of amnesty for the hoodlums who are engaged in this unending insurgency. At a recent workshop held in Kaduna on peace building and conflict management for sustainable development organised by the National Emergency Management Agency, the Emir said: “Amnesty is for people you can identify. Where were our leaders when members of Boko Haram were going to receive training outside the country? Let us check ourselves; if there must
be justice, we must go back to the basics.”
Ahmad blamed the current security challenges on the elite and politicians. He said: “From
experience, I have come to realise that whenever you have crisis and a proper investigation
is carried out, you always find the involvement of these two classes. Within my domain, a sad experience occurred sometimes ago when an Igbo man who owned a shop was attacked and his shop burnt because his son was said to have torn a copy of the Quran. But upon investigation, I found out that a native of Anka, who was also in the same business with the Igbo man, deliberately roped in the Igbo family. He took a piece of paper with an Islamic inscription on it and tore it into pieces in front of the Igbo man’s shop and then raised the alarm, calling on all Muslim faithful to come and see a copy of the Quran torn into pieces by the son of the Igbo trader. The crowd grew angry and set the house and the shop of the Igbo man ablaze immediately. You can see that this native of Anka did this malicious act purely for personal interest and not religion. And that is how it is with the elite and the politicians”. Ahmad added: “As a traditional ruler who lives with the people, I have come to a conclusion that if the common man is left alone, there is going to be peace in the land. But any place you find crisis, just look around, you must find the involvement of these two classes – the elite and the politicians.” What more should be added? Basically nothing. Ahmad has said it all. This is food for thought!