Boko Haram & The Culture of Militancy


With the spate of bomb blasts now becoming common place in different parts of Nigeria, I am left wondering how did we get here. Militancy is nothing new in Nigeria; we have seen them in different names and Modus Operandi; OPC, MASSOB, MEND and the latest in the line, Boko Haram. By whatever name they go by, militancy is always driven by an ideology rightly or wrongly. It seems to me that we have lived as a nation over the last 50 years pretending like all was well but in reality we are a nation of many nations. I am not in any way advocating for the break up of Nigeria but what we can no longer deny is that we need to sit round a table and discuss the basis of our unity, whether you want to call it sovereign national conference is irrelevant, what is imperative is that Nigeria is at a crossroad. The same reasons why we fought a bitter civil war are still hanging over us and I see no difference between with what is being agitated for now or back then in 1967. However, what is baffling is that the political leadership in our country still cannot see the handwriting on the wall. If we keep avoiding what has now become inevitable we will only be postponing the evil day.

On the interim, we cannot allow a small group of people to hold a whole nation to ransom with the senseless killings of innocent people who are mostly poor and has nothing to do with the failure of the state to look after its own. Human life as always has been made to remain cheap but how cheap can it get before we start taking the security of lives as the most important job of the state. You do not fight militancy with guns and bombs but with dialogue and education.

Boko Haram remains a symptom of a very deeper problem which highlights the complexities of the failing arrangement called Nigeria. Without resorting to a lecture on how the 1914 amalgamation created the entity called Nigeria, this relationship nonetheless led to the coming together of nations within nations. Whilst there is nothing wrong in this arrangement, there is something unworkable with the current arrangement that is partly responsible to the rise and rise of militant groups that pose a great threat to the survival of our country. We need to also look at how despite billions of dollars of revenue from oil, Nigeria remains a poor country. In a country where two-thirds of its citizens live on less than $1.25 per day and more than four fifths less than $2 per day, then it’s not much of a surprise when young abled bodied men carry guns and bombs on a killing rampage. They have nothing to do because society has abandoned them with limited opportunities and an unispiring education that has failed to empower them.

The time has come when as a country we need to finally accept that the current political and economic arrangement is just not working. We are made to believe that there are over 250 ethnic nationalities in the Nigerian project; it is high time those different nationalities gathered in whatever name you want to call it and discuss the basis of their unity and economic well-being. The discussions need to be frank and open with compromise where necessary. The outcome of those discussions which would no doubt be long and drawn-out, should form the basis of a new constitution.

The days of foot-dragging and pussyfooting are well and truly over if we want history to be kind to us otherwise if we fail to learn from history, we will one day become history ourselves.

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