January 6, 2012

Islamic Militancy: Can Goodluck Save the union?

Assuming that you can even refer to Nigeria, in its current state, as a union. Since 1914 when the nation now called Nigeria was amalgamated by the British colonists for administrative convenience, the country has often faced threats to its unity or federation of different ethnic nationalities. Islamic Militancy is perhaps the biggest threat so far to this union since the 30-month Nigeria-Biafra civil war 42-years ago. Is President �s administration able to save the union once more? The South-South (where President Jonathan is from) played a huge role  43years ago in causing the blockade and eventual collapse of the Biafra rebellion. Today President Jonathan, a south-south indigene of mixed Ijaw and Igbo (Biafra) extraction is again thrust into the same position with a fair chance to keep the country in one piece.


Can he Save the union?

What is the chance that President Jonathan can succeed once more? One of two things will play a huge part in his failure or success. The first consideration is if the North actually wants a separation. Boko haram seemed to be saying yes in the loudest manner. But they also could be saying �we want the power to rule all these infidels, subjugate them.� If they could find oil in appreciable quantities in the Chad basin,perhaps it would be easier to say �we don�t want you and we don�t want your oil�. Boko haram is still not representative of the majority of Northern people both the Muslim and Christians. Boko haram is far on the extreme left for mainstream Muslim (Hausa/Fulani) North. Their strong hold is mainly in the North-East. Another consideration that could either be a good thing or a very bad helper to militancy is President Jonathan himself. Jonathan leadership style is arguably very relaxed, slow and dangerously out of touch with the Nigerian people. His ability to give leadership in an emergency without elaborate consultations, meetings and his uninspiring delivery is something that has aided militants, boko haram and up to now. How can a President whose words should possibly translate into state policy, say that boko haram is �a temporary� setback. And that in today�s world when Islamic extremism is a growing worldwide problem even in mainland US and across the Moslem world. In declaring a state of emergency in parts of the North the President finally woke to the realisation that boko haram is not a micky mouse menace. With its growing links to Al Qaeda in Maghreb and Afghanistan a possible complication of the fight with Boko haram could result if the organisation succeeds in characterising its struggle as a fight between the Northern Moslems and the Southern along ethnic lines rather than on religious grounds. An Igbo (Christian) vs. Boko haram (Moslem) conflict is a sure dangerous mix that could lead to civil war. But a Christian vs. Moslem conflict is a clear failure. There are as much indigenous Northern Christians as there are indigenous Southern Moslems (though they are more numbers of Moslems in the south-west than in the South-east and south-south combined). This is where President Jonathan�s slow-to-action methods and ability to consult widely may help to keep boko haram isolated from the majority of Muslims in the North. Already the President has had meetings with Northern Muslim leaders, and his Federal Executive (includes Moslem). The Moslem Public Affairs Council (MPAC) based in Abuja has also issued statements condemning militancy.

The battle between the Christian and Muslim North is not a recent struggle. There are traces of this conflict in the overthrow of Yakubu Gowon (a Christian Northerner from Plateau state). The assassination of Murtala Mohammed (a Kano born Muslim Northerner) by Buka Dimka in a coup that sought to re-instate ousted Gowon also runs along those lines. Boko haram also appears to be a struggle, thinly veiled, of the North-East for political relevance. This part of the country, with its share of national unemployment (national unemployment is at 25% for 2011. source: NBS) has never produced a national President or Head of State in any form. The North-West, lead by Zamfara state was quick in adopting and implementing Sharia. The implementation of sharia in the East, especially in Borno, Yobe, Bauchi  and in other areas of the north is what boko haram is struggling to deepen. Boko haram can thus be seen as a product of possible regional leadership failure. President Jonathan can succeed only if he sees clearly these undertones, involves the rest of the North in making decisions on actions to take against the militants and if the military and security forces can act professionally in quickly arresting and prosecuting deviants. Failure of decisive action was a factor in leading the country to the Biafra civil war. That is something to learn from.

You cannot under-estimate boko haram especially after the St Theresa Church bombing. With the declaration of a state of emergency and closing of our borders with Chad, Niger and Cameroon and the expiration of the unilateral 3days ceasefire (ultimatum by Boko haram for all Christians to leave the North) they are still able to carry out attacks. Boko haram is dangerous and our security agencies are probably ill prepared to contain it. Recent bombing of a house in Damaturu and shooting of people in front of a hospital boko haram is making a statement. Whether the military and intelligence network is able to contain the threats or not during this emergency period or not, one thing is for sure, boko haram (Islamic militancy) is another national problem that will stay with us for a long time. It here is the fact; we are not heading for civil war anytime soon. Nigeria as a nation is very much more complicated than Christian/Muslim, Igbo/Hausa-Fulani or even Yoruba/Igbo/Hausa-Fulani. Remember we have lived together for so many years. Whether we realise it or not our veins run into a curious inter-twists that will be very painful to extricate. Boko haram is an enemy of state. Not only against Christians but against Muslims as in the same mould as Al-Qaeda, the Spanish ETA, America Osama bin laden, British IRA, South African AWB, Niger Delta militants etc. Every country has got its own extremists. That is why we are humans. We are never completed satisfied with any status.

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