Therefore the onslaught on ending the insurgency must first and foremost be built on the state meeting its part of the social contract as that is the bases of building genuine patriotism, and government actions must be seen to respond to the needs and aspirations of the people, and the guarantee of the political and economic expressions of the people. It must be an action message rooted and expressed in the change that happens in the daily lives of the people that effectively counters the information machinery of the insurgents.
The phrase, “It’s not in our character to blow ourselves up” has come to characterise Nigerians’ response to the tragedy of fellow citizens who are wrecking havoc by blowing themselves up as part of the Boko Haram terrorism. Nigerians exhibit and revel in a conformist attitude and hardly believe that we can rock the boat against ourselves, but the insurgency in the North-East is beginning to question and erode the belief and narrative that we cannot rock the boat or better still blow ourselves up.
Our brothers and sisters have become ultimate weapons in a war that they hardly can define the bases for their involvement in or their fatal suicidal actions which do not only take their own lives but those of their fellow human beings. There is no doubt that some of these people carry out their actions under coercion and others in a vague understanding of an extreme idea that they have been made to believe they are its most active defenders.
“It is my lot to die young, I shall not see our victory, I shall not live one day, one hour in the bright season of our triumphs, but I believe that with my death I shall do all that it is my duty to do, and no one in the world can demand more of me.” These were the thoughts of Ignaty Grinevitsky the night before his accomplice detonated a bomb at a very close range at the feet of Tsar Alexander II on March 11th, 1881 and killed the Emperor and himself. Ignaty Grinevitsky a member of the People’s Will Left-Wing terrorist group in Russia at the height of the opposition to the Tsars monarchy in the 18th century became one of the most famous suicide bombers. (www. https://aoav.org.uk/2013/a-short-history-of-suicide-bombings/)
While this article does not intend to trace the history of suicide bombing, this early account and context employed demonstrates its use on the back of strong convictions on an ideal that its adherents have been made to believe has a superior purpose to what is available, and so dying to establish that Eldorado is a small price to pay in the bigger picture or the grand design. History is replete with such fatalistic organising that often thrive where the contradiction of the dominant social order are easily discerning in the lives of the people. Often the dominant social order undermines the ability of its people to live a life of dignity, and once people begin to lose their dignity the tendency of seeking outlet for confronting that which deny them their humanity becomes almost an obsession. It is at this point the vulnerability of recruitment into extreme groups becomes real.
The above is one of the defining characters of the brutal boko haram insurgency, riding on the back of the failure of the state to meet its obligation of ensuring that people live in dignity, and this failure has been in the works over a long period of time and in this period, radicalisation of thoughts and ideas gained ground as an alternative, which finds expression in a belief system.
The state and religion have come a long way in an intertwined relationship in the history of the country. The dominant religions in the country are faiths that upholds the virtue of hope and a belief in the hands of an almighty to shape and determine the destiny of its believers, materially and otherwise, and the failure of the state has succeeded largely through the manipulation of religion riding on the deeply engrained religious nature of its people.
These religions have also gone to town with the idea that authority is divine and therefore those who are in position of authority are there on the nod of the Gods and therefore can do no harm, and their failures will be dealt with also by a Supreme Being. Basically it’s a doctrine of non-confrontation of the state. We are even asked to pray for leaders that we all know are stealing us blind and deepening our misery and are celebrated with the front row seats when we congregate.
While the state on one hand has not been able to galvanise any form of patriotism with its attendant failure to keep its own part of the social contract, the other form of organising the religious groupings have also carried out over the years through their messages of non-confrontation of the state and tacit approval of justice without equity have left a void upon which a Boko Haram can drive its ideological underpinnings deeply rooted in the message that the state and religion have connived or conspired to undermine the ability of the people to determine their destiny politically, economically or otherwise through legitimate means. Therefore, the birth of this brutal confrontation with the state and the people that it perceives as stooges of the state.
It’s a war firmly woven on these ideas and engrained in the minds of adherents and combatants who, like the young Ignaty Grinevitsky are placing their destiny in their own hands to shape the society they want to see, whatever the price including blowing themselves up.
The actions of these human mediums of destruction seem to have redefined hitherto held religious and cultural beliefs that we are in-capable of causing harm to our fellow brothers and sisters on the bases of our religious orientation of letting sleeping dogs lie even in the face of gross injustice, the sad part is that we have failed to accept these new reality and build multi-pronged approaches in dealing with this fundamental issue. This is not about propaganda but actions that are geared towards a genuine shift in the mindset of the people on their conception of the state and the place of religion in their lives.
Therefore the onslaught on ending the insurgency must first and foremost be built on the state meeting its part of the social contract as that is the bases of building genuine patriotism, and government actions must be seen to respond to the needs and aspirations of the people, and the guarantee of the political and economic expressions of the people. It must be an action message rooted and expressed in the change that happens in the daily lives of the people that effectively counters the information machinery of the insurgents. The people must believe in the system, otherwise we have a collective of fertile minds waiting for any idea that gives a semblance of a way of life and expression.
On the other hand, the religious institution must balance the aspirations of its adherents. Our faith cannot exist in isolation of the ills of society. Religion has a responsibility to ensure that the earth which we presently inhabit provides us the means to live a life of dignity and one way of ensuring that is being its conscience. If religion exists as a body that epitomises ‘for the good of all’ then it must confront other social forces that want to undermine this doctrine and that includes confronting the state when the need arises.
The pulpit can no longer turn a blind eye to the contradictions that have come to characterise our journey to genuine nationhood except otherwise we want to build a new culture of blowing ourselves up.
Kenneth Okoineme writes from Abuja, Nigeria.