How Nigeria is romancing terrorism, By Dele Agekameh
Nigeria is now being stretched beyond its elasticity and when that happens, the possibility of breaking apart becomes real like the dawn of another day
In recent times, Nigeria has been bedeviled by all sorts of vices and problems so much that when the country is trying to solve one, another one or so many other new problems tumble in. The rapidity and speed with which these problems manifest on a daily, if not on an hourly basis, has become worrisome to the extent that it appears there is a deliberate machination by some people or a group of people to shuffle the country, Nigeria, into history. And then the whole issues of Nigeria, as we now know it, may become “Once upon a time” or in the true sense of it, something akin to the late Chinua Achebe’s most controversial book, ‘There was a country’.
I am neither a Prophet of doom nor someone who does not believe in the indissolubility of Nigeria. If you ask me, I believe in one Nigeria, a country that is so richly blessed with human and natural resources capable of making the most populous country in black Africa, the envy of the whole world. Our strength lies in our diversity as a nation. However, recent events in the country, especially the ones being stage-managed by our so-called politicians, have tended to erode my confidence in the ability of this country to further carry on as one indivisible entity for too long. In short, it is like saying that the country is now being stretched beyond its elasticity and, when that happens, the possibility of breaking apart becomes very real like the dawn of another day.
In years past, our worries were about bribery and corruption, nepotism and all that, which were the fulcrum of the January 15, 1966 coup led by Major Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu and some other middle-level officers in the Army. That coup infuriated young army officers from a section of the country who saw the mass killing of politicians by the coup makers as a ploy to eliminate notable figures from their section of the country to pave the way for domination by another section of the country as represented by the major actors in the January 1966 coup. It was this feeling of despair that eventually crystallised in the July 29, 1966 counter-coup, which invariably set the stage for the 30-month Nigeria Civil War that followed from May 1967 to January 1970.
From what is happening now, it is as if the war was only meant to settle scores between a particular ethnic cum tribal group and another in the country. This argument is more germane because those vices, that is, bribery, corruption and nepotism, are not only still prevalent in today’s Nigeria, they have been elevated to a higher pedestal as they have now become a state religion which everybody, old and young, now worships. The worshipers are no longer the “10 percenters” as Nzeogwu puts it in his coup broadcast, they have moved far ahead to a thousand percent and even more. If we aggregate the level of stealing, pilfering, forgery, and other fraudulent activities and official corruption that pervade our system today, anybody who still has some dose of patriotism flowing in his blood stream will weep for this country. It is as if the country is on a free-fall to an irretrievable perdition.
As if the monster of corruption in our body politic is not enough to asphyxiate us from existence, from 1999, particularly since the advent of the current democratic experience, the country has become vulnerable to all manner of crimes and criminalities previously unknown in this part of the world. While endemic corruption has taken over our public and private lives, those who are not opportune to hold public offices, which are now regarded as shortcuts to affluence, have devised various ingenious methods to acquire ill-gotten wealth. Perhaps, to rub salt into our festering wounds, in the last five years, a new sinister dimension has been added to the catalogue of woes confronting the country. These are the current rapacious, debilitating and devastating acts of terrorism which have now become a national cankerworm. Many a commentator on national affairs are quick to lay the blame on the extra-judicial killing of Mohammed Yusuff, the leader of the religious sect now popularly known as Boko Haram, which means “Western education is bad”, and scores of his followers in Maiduguri in July, 2009. Not much has been written about how the sect was nurtured, the leadership structure and all that.
We have been told that the late Yusuff and his band of ragtag army actually confronted the security agents in Maiduguri in 2009, leading to several deaths. Many properties were also torched, looted or outrightly vandalised. For quite some time, we have been sentimental about the casualties and damages caused by the Boko Haram uprising that has now engulfed a large section of the country. But why will a so-called religious group turn so bloody in the propagation of their so-called religious ideology? As for me, what I see is that beyond this religious shroud is a political undertone which goes beyond fighting Jonathan’s Presidency. What is going on is a well-calculated broad-based agenda to completely take over this country by violence using religion as a veil. In the last few years, I have been talking to people within and outside this country who can see beyond the narrow prism of politics and decipher what is actually going on. One thing to note is that until late last year, no notable figure in the Northern part of the country has ever raised his or her voice to condemn, in its entirety, the brigandage being unleashed on that part of the country even though the rampaging sect had completely destroyed the little they had since 2009. Even then, what the few notable figures have done so far appears too little, too late.
Today, we talk about the impoverished North. Who are those responsible for this impoverishment of the people? Of course, it is a documented fact that in the 54 years of Nigeria’s independence, elements from the northern part of the country have ruled the country for more than two-thirds of the period under review, leaving a miserable one-third of the period to the rest of the country to grapple with. Go through the records of the Federal Civil Service, you will find out that the list is top heavy with the names of people from a certain part of the country. In the few instances where others hold sway, they are more or less like figureheads as they are ensconced among these powerful people who virtually live on government and government’s patronage all their lives. That is one aspect of our national life, and this attitude is replicated in all aspects of our existence as a nation – a situation where everybody worships at the feet of a powerful few.
Nothing quite illustrates the existential anomaly in the system more than what Bola Dada, a retired diplomat, unveiled in his recent interview in a national daily where he chronicled his experiences in international affairs as a former diplomat, especially his experience in Sudan. Titled “I was chased out of Sudan when I raised the alarm about Boko Haram,” Dada said, at a point during his stay in Sudan, a former governor of a Northern State, now a senator of the Federal Republic, “was in Sudan for two weeks and underwent indoctrination.” He also said the former governor was “exposed to all the training camps of Osama Bin Laden,” who incidentally was Dada’s neighbour. According to Dada, “Osama Bin Laden also had many firms and industries which he only used as a façade because he was actually using those firms as training camps for Al-Qaeda. Among his trainees were many Nigerians from the North. They would leave Nigeria as if they were going to study but were at the training camps of Osama Bin Laden”. He said “the former governor got back to Nigeria and the following day, he declared Sharia. And from then, they were sending students for Jihadist training… As far as I am concerned, Boko Haram is an offshoot of Sharia”.