31 Jul 2009
Outlaw Groups Cause Pain In Nigeria
Apparent calm reigns in North Eastern Nigeria barely six days after a bloody uprising by a group of Muslim extremists known as ‘Boko Haram’ or ‘Nigerian Taliban’ was quelled by the Nigeria Army. The disturbances that affected five states were coordinated from the group’s headquarters in Maiduguri, Borno State. Estimates of those who have died in the clashes so far range from 200 to 600 depending on the source. As the fighting was dying down, another controversy was brewing following the apparent extra judicial execution of Mohammed Yusuf (the group’s leader) in police custody.
Human Rights groups may be bickering with the Nigerian government over the method that Yusuf died but what concerns me much is the recurrent nature of these bouts of violence that have become a way of life in Nigeria. This is another grim reminder that Nigeria, the colossus of black Africa needs to put her house in order.
Reports seem to suggest that this latest insurgent group known as ‘Boko Haram’ (a Huasa phrase meaning ‘Western education is sin’)was formed way back in 2002 and other sources talk of 1995.
Either those in authority were sleeping when these militants were arming and organizing or they are incompetent to the level of suspected complicity. A short while ago the Nigerian government negotiated a ceasefire with some armed factions of Niger Delta Insurgents that have defied state authority for long. In a deal that smacks of capitulation by the government, the rebels apparently used arm twisting tactics to secure the release of their leader that was awaiting trial for treason. This type of deal with the Niger Delta Insurgents apparently encouraged groups like ‘Boko Haram’ to flex their own muscles.
In an interview with BBC on the 28th July 2009, the respected Information Minister of Nigeria prof Dora Akunyili said that she was never aware of the existence the group ‘Boko Haram’ until they unleashed violence on the Nigerian state this week. There is no reason to doubt what the prof was saying but her statement is an indirect indictment of the internal intelligence gathering capability of the Nigerian Security forces.
It is really inexcusable that such dangerous armed groups can be nurtured and organized for a long time without the knowledge of the authorities---more so in a country that has suffered in the past from fringe Muslim extremists groups. I was in northern Nigeria in the early eighties when a similar group that was led by Maitatsine Marwa unleashed violence that claimed the lives of some five thousand people in Kano, Kaduna, Gombe, Maiduguri and Yola. Remnants of the group were finally quelled by the combined use of the army and air force in 1984 during their last known confrontation with the authorities in Yola.
The attacks of these ‘Boko Haram’ militants on the Nigerian state bear the hallmarks of a group that seems to be well organized and they seem to prove their worth by mounting coordinated attacks in multiple states and fiercely resisting the military onslaught on their main enclave in Maiduguri.
What is happening in Nigeria goes to re-enforce the belief that most of those who aspire to lead in Africa are not ready for the job. The least that every citizen expects from a government is a guaranty of security. Unfortunately, that basic security guarantee is in short supply in Nigeria and most of Africa apparently because those lording over us are more pre-occupied with graft and plunder than nation building.
During the recent financial crisis we were told that some companies were too big and important to be allowed to go bankrupt. I am equally saying that Nigeria is too big and too strategic for Africa to be allowed to slide into anarchy. The volatility and uncertainty affecting Nigeria is a cause for concern for the rest of Africa. For the sake of this continent, those that cannot manage the complexity of Nigeria should not aspire to govern the country.
Njei Moses Timah