Friday, 06 January 2012 03:27

In Nigeria, Boko Haram Is Not The Problem: A Different View

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In this article http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/02/opinion/in-nigeria-boko-haram-is-not-the-problem.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all that appeared in New York Times Op-Ed page it was said that Jean Herskovits the author has been writing about Nigeria since the 1970s. If so, it follows that after about four decades the author must know some truths about the country. But that logic appears to be false judging by what the author wrote in the article. This very article has actually served as counterproductive if before now the writer had written any credible reports on the country. This one sounds as a badly put together work of a public relations officer for Nigeria’s Islamic North. At least the author should not have written this particularly at this time when all the evidences on the ground starkly contradict every position of the writer in the article. The article stopped short of saying that the Christmas Day Madalla Church bombing by the Islamic fundamentalists, Boko Haram was actually carried out by Christians against themselves. Amazing but not amusing.

For all who have been following events in Nigeria in the past few years they do not need to read any closer to reach the conclusion that the author is acting like a paid piper for the Islamic North of Nigeria. The aim of the article as the author stated is to influence policy makers in the United States to stop supporting the Christian South against the Muslim North of Nigeria. Of course these policy makers are not living in a different planet as the writer seems to assume. It is also true that these policy makers are intelligent and reputable men and women who make informed decisions based on facts rather than fiction.

The truth and facts about Nigeria which is very evident to the whole world is that starting from the country’s independence in 1960 it quickly became impoverished by its leaders and rendered dysfunctional through corruption, political mismanagement, but most of all by very deep and irreconcilable cultural/religious schism. Starting from independence it must be noted that it is the people from the Muslim North and West of Nigeria who have controlled the country’s political power and natural resources. So one wonders how Herskovits can justify her acclaimed reason on why poverty is more evident in the Muslim North than anywhere else in the country. A Christian President from the South has only emerged less than two years now as against the fact that in the past fifty years the Muslim North and West had controlled all the important leadership positions in Nigeria.

With the vast wealth coming from oil and gas exploration in the South (the Niger Delta Region) of Nigeria which is majorly unaccounted for, it becomes easy to guess that a substantial portion of it would be used by those raping the people of the Niger Delta silly to do some PR job. How much would it take for such a piece to get published in the New York Times Op-Ed page? Billions of dollars get pilfered annually by the cabals of the so-called leaders of Nigeria from the Muslim North and West and what stops them from using some part of it to pay off some unconscionable individuals around the world to do some public relations for them. You call that image laundering or . . .? Unfortunately for both the paymasters and the journalists-for-cash the time seems to be up for game playing. No discerning reader will buy into any laundered truths about Nigeria anymore. The world is gradually but surely awakening to the actual problem with Nigeria. The people within the enclave who bear the pain know better than anyone else anywhere.

According to Jean Herskovits poverty and social deprivation suddenly become Nigeria’s problem just because a different leader who is a Christian emerged from the South. For the past forty something years the people from the North and West of Nigeria took advantage of the defeat of Biafra of the Southeast in the genocidal war of the 1960s and ruled the Nigerian state with impunity and scandalous profligacy. In the process they ran the country into the ground and reduced selective places (the Southeast/South, South where the wealth comes from) to penury and completely devoid of infrastructures and other forms of modern amenities and people like Jean Herskovits sang their praises and approved their every step of the way. While the gross display of impudent ineptitude lasted and the Muslim North/West foolishly neglected to develop their people’s human resources; poverty and unemployment or youth anger were never mentioned by anyone as Nigeria’s problem until a Christian President was elected.

The author of the article even went as far as saying that the United States should not be seen as supporting the Christian President against the Islamic North and West of Nigeria. Yes indeed, she should also tell the United States to go ahead and actively sponsor the Islamic fundamentalists, Boko Haram of the North of Nigeria and pay for their suicide bombs and other weapons. In so doing the US would not be seen as supporting the Christians and the President against the Muslims of Nigeria who happen to love the Americans so much, said Ms. Herskovits. To Herskovits the United States will need to do this to prevent jeopardizing US interests and maintain the “coveted friendship” in the region since the radical Islamists would strike US targets if they showed bias toward the Christian South of Nigeria.

Should the US fall for such reasoning then what stops anyone from falsely assuming that the US must have somehow been responsible in 1986 during Ibrahim Babangida’s regime for Nigeria becoming a full-fledged member of the Organization of Islamic Conference, OIC a body whose membership is exclusively reserved for Muslim countries. Babangida was a Northern Muslim head of Nigeria. In the same breath one can also claim that the United States must have been responsible in advising the 12 Northern states out of the 36 in Nigeria to adopt the Islamic sharia legal system in contravention of some sections of the so-called Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution. As ridiculous and senseless as the assertions may sound but they may not be more absurd than all the baseless claims and alarms of Jean Herskovits in her article. Jean Herskovits further argues that in August 2011 the US commander of the African Command Gen. Carter F. Ham spoke about Boko Haram as having affiliation with al Qaida and in the same month United Nations Headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city was attacked by a suicide bomber which killed 24 people and the Boko Haram group claimed responsibility.

The question here for Ms. Herskovits is why Boko Haram should strike UN’s interest and not US’s interest in response to Gen Ham’s statement? Going by all the facts it has been established that the brains behind the Boko Haram movement are very knowledgeable and sophisticated individuals and groups who should know the difference between the investments of the United Nations and those of the United States of America. It may be necessary to remind the reader here that from all the evidences and contrary to Jean Herskovits’ assertions, the people behind the attacks are well informed and educated in best of schools anyone can think of. In all honesty, the street urchins and the “unemployed” are mere foot soldiers of the actual planners and financial sponsors of the Nigerian Islamic jihad network of Boko Haram. But Herskovits in her zeal to distort the truth and support her claims, is insisting that the messengers are in fact the authors of the message because they are unhappy with their poverty stricken condition.

Jean Herskovits should have tried harder. The field men who strike at the targets are poor and indigent quite alright as stated by Herskovits and, should not have been able to afford to buy the bombs and other sophisticated weapons they use to strike at Christian churches, social and business places. It should be recalled that on one or two occasions when it was reported that Boko Haram robbed banks, the people behind the mask were only using that as smokescreen and to enrich the articles of people like Jean Herskovits. The sponsors of the Boko Haram project understand these things and know what they are doing. Furthermore, let’s for a minute pretend and accept that the street urchins and criminals (the Nigerian Islamic jihadists) are actually as claimed; reacting to the corruption and mismanagement in Nigeria. Now the riddle would be, since they are so poor, how do they manage to raise the N10,000,000, the equivalent of about $100,000 which is said to be paid to the families of each successful suicide bomber. If the so-called angry youths had this kind of money to spend can they still be considered as poor?

The article also claims that Nigeria’s situation is “a complex reality”. But we may have to remind the writer that there is nothing obscure or complex about Nigeria’s reality except for those who are insensitive to the pain and sufferings of the people entrapped in the unfortunate contraption, Nigeria. These mischievous people are bent on continuing to discolor the facts and truth about Nigeria. These people are callously bent on maintaining the status quo of a deadly and falsely united one-Nigeria at the expense of the unending spilling of the blood of innocent children, women and men by the Nigerian Islamic jihadists. The only observable complexity of the Nigerian situation is in fact the deception and distortion of truth by such articles by Jean Herskovits which is a brazen smack on truth and decency and very dishonorable.

For the dark and sadistic “fun” of it we will also have to remind Jean Herskovits and others like her to write in their next articles defending their reasons on why American courts should free the Christmas Day of 2009 Muslim Underwear Bomber from Nigeria who is currently on trial in Detroit, United States. After all, by so doing as Herskovits would argue, the US will not be seen as siding with Christians against Muslims. It should even be better still if they can write to say that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab the Underwear Bomber millionaire and son of one of Nigeria’s best known ruling and richest families from the North of the country is not a Muslim terrorist but a poor and deprived Northern Nigerian angry youth who is out to press for social justice and for Nigeria’s Christian President Goodluck Jonathan’s neglect of the Muslim North. Herskovits claims that poverty and lack of infrastructures are more prominent in the North; the question is why is this situation being noticed just now and not before the Southern Christian, Jonathan became the President?

In the recent time there have been some reports that some people who are said to be Christians but dressed up as Muslims have tried to set churches or mosques on fire. From all indications these stories are never confirmed, and some people have come to argue that it is a part of the PR game plan of the sponsors of the Boko Haram project. In the same token it would of course not surprise anyone on the day that writers like Ms. Herskovits would put out articles saying that the Nigerian Underwear Bomber was indeed a Christian disguising as a Muslim to bomb a Christian airplane on a Christmas Day over the American airspace. Yes, why not, money journalism can do all things.

Jean Herskovits’ article says that Goodluck Jonathan in one of his public addresses after one of the series of the endemic Islamic bombings said; “The issue of bombing is one of the burdens we must live with.” The writer quarreled with this statement as a sign of the President’s leadership failure. But we may need to tell her here that the reason why Mr. Jonathan made that statement is not farfetched. The President made the statement because of people like Jean Herskovits who distort truths for reasons best known to them. Jonathan also made the statement because he knows that the people who are behind the Boko Haram operations are very powerful and prominent leaders of the North and West of Nigeria. He knows that they are the retired and serving military generals, politicians, businessmen and religious leaders of those two regions. He knows that the sultan who heads the Sokoto Islamic caliphate as well as the rest of the emirs and imams of the Islamic North/West of Nigeria are confirmed staunch supporters of the Boko Haram movement. Jonathan knows that the Boko Haram sponsors have over the years stockpiled very sophisticated weapons such as rocket launchers from Iran across the regions and in the neighboring countries. He knows that they have standing private armies around the North of Nigeria and in the surrounding countries. Jonathan also knows that the people behind Boko Haram are among those that have access to him at all times and it would be difficult for him to tell them to their faces that they are the ones who actually threw the stones from behind the house and came in the front door to ask who threw it. On the whole, the President made the statement in order to buy himself time because he may never have a choice but to serve as Nigeria’s Gorbachev of the defunct Soviet Union.

Oh yes, in the end, we must come back and agree with Jean Herskovits that Boko Haram is not the problem of Nigeria. Nigeria’s problem is its structure. Yes, Nigeria must be restructured, that is the problem. Nigeria’s greatest problem is its diversity. So, restructure Nigeria by dividing it along the obviously existing cultural/religious divides. That is the solution. Still agreeing with Ms. Herskovits; Nigeria’s problem is indeed not Boko Haram. Nigeria’s problem is culture/religious-clash resulting from a badly structured state, a bad marriage of the most incompatible peoples. And with that being the case Sudan and South Sudan paradigm points us in the direction that Nigeria must go, the only right direction. The pointer reads; that Nigeria’s problem will be solved on the day that we choose to apply the same principle of referendum and Self Determination for and by the divergent nations entrapped in the ill-fated Nigerian union. Sudan and South Sudan experience is just too fresh in the memory to be forgotten or ignored. To me and other sincere and honest people around the world, the two Sudans’ example is the script from which the policy makers in the United States and the rest of the world should be reading from as they consider Nigeria’s structural problem. If they follow strictly the recommendations in the script, then we would have solved Nigeria’s problem once and for all time.

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Osita Ebiem

Osita, is a Biafranist who believes that: human beings can achieve great things, attain excellence and, have an infinite capacity to improve, when they are honest, sincere and determined.