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OPINION: Boko Haram and the Chibok Schoolgirls: 4 Years On

By Prof. R. A. Ipinyomi, University of Ilorin, Nigeria

(AFRICAN EXAMINER) -V As we open our eyes four years after Boko Haram stole away some 276 female school girls in Chibok Government School overnight on April 14, 2014, we still desire to see the true motives of the captors. We want to examine the implications of violating children’s rights, in the name of politics, religion or for whatever. Seeing why a society should have a Boko Haram operating with impunity from within is not a crazy thing but why that society had been incapable to root out such insurgents is crazy. It is difficult to describe or picture the next step Nigeria government should be advised to take in a situation the government is rather too quick to claim credits and using its own designed level of insurgency as a measure of political success. Some Nigerians are visual thinkers, many are always skeptical but others simply live to profit on every opportunity. Hence we can see Boko Haram’s story vividly and picturing the story in our mind the whole time as insurgents who have no positive agenda, even for itself. The insurgents have no clearly defined targets except to steal anyone that happens to cross their path; they have no set limit and when to call it a day. They simply terrorize, kill, steal and indoctrinate the youths in the society wrongly. They have been unable to put their thinking or even actions in words or pictures, except to leave carnage of destruction in their paths while collecting big money from government in the name of negotiation. So how do we give Boko Haram a vision if those who claim to be negotiating with them are not visual thinkers?

We know that Boko Haram does not need our advice and are not asking for it. But just in case they are as confused as the rest of us on their mission and goals, because they claim to be an Islamic sect they would need wisdom and they should ask God, and it will be given to them. God is generous and would correct them for asking. God wants them to ask him for advice, and he wants them to be specific. God is also waiting for them. Meanwhile the FGN should ask itself why it has been hard to end the insurgent. What vision is government having for the entire nation and especially the North East and religious tolerance or intolerance? Those who advocate for self defense may be doing so from personal experience, where government’s presence in any of our communities has been nil. The society has been infected lately by all classes of violence and insurgencies. The youth have been traumatized because of lack of job, lack of admission into the university; they cannot simply see a future ahead for them. Their parents have low and backlog of unpaid wages, no proper shelters. The few who are venturing into business meet huddles placed on their way by state governors rolling out different taxes in their greed and hunger for more money to steal. They fail to do anything tangible with the huge money collected from Federal Account, and remain unaccountable to the FGN who is always bailing them out unconditionally. How long shall a society live with kidnappers, armed robbers, ritual killers, herdsmen killing and their animals eating away farm crops, men and women with all vices? Government’s inability is clearly displaced when it wants killing herdsmen to be compensated with lands in every local government.

By tolerating violence and violent individuals thus far we have also allowed them to change the mindset of the youth to believe that violence is profitable. If the end result has been only money, as preached by the National Assembly who asks the public to pay for even the newspapers they read, then we should all take to the street. The violence we are witnessing may have actually come to stay because it originates not from the pit of hell but from within the system we run. Our political history has colonialism and military rule. In each case it is that a set of vagabonds carrying arms to conquer innocent people on whom to lord self. So if the western world today is seemingly fighting against ISIS, ISIL, Al-Qaeda, Boko Haram and the rest of them, it is the result of their past life that may be fighting them back. History is further revealing self another phase and another level. Hence Boko Haram may have come to stay in this subregion to continue to unleash terror and violence, while training the next generation that same evil act.

As we remember April 14, 2014, when Boko Haram went to steal Chibok School girls, we would also remember how much other havoc the insurgent had been. The Boko Haram is an Islamic sect which has carved out a sprawling territory in three states of Nigeria North Eastern region. In its peak days its military dominance spread over many villages and local government areas in that zone. They were able to raise their flag and pronounced a Caliphate. The group governed the residents of dozens of villages and towns, and it benefited from the people crops, livestock, and cash it forcefully seized. The sect also had control over strategic locations, like police and military bases in that region. There is a sense that the insurgent had been somewhat degraded but nobody should underestimate what is remaining of Boko Haram. It is strongly believed that their sponsors are well placed citizens within and outside Nigeria. They capture anyone on their path but also using young boys as recruits into their fighting army and young school girls to gain further publicity. Most Nigerian Christians believe that Boko Haram came out simply to oppose anything about Jesus Christ, whereas others believe that they use religion as a cover up. Their sponsors may have some bigger undisclosed goals. They could operate as Boko Haram, Herdsmen, kidnappers, militants, and whatever other forms and weapons they choose. It is alleged that they are entrenched in every arm of government, every segment of the population and using very sophisticated technologies, the very western education they pretend not to want.

Therefore any society, like Nigeria and most other African nations that had gone through a history of feudal kingdoms, colonial rules, military dictatorships, and where democracy is forced on the society by foreign powers is bound to be violent prone. That is not to say that insurgents like kidnappings, Boko Haram, violent politicians should be expected and tolerated. Rather that they should be expected and fought against but by a class of leaders with vision and clear road maps in their heads. Some leaders are allegedly profiting from their activities wrongly. Peaceful coexistence and social development of peoples, with clearly cultural differences, should not be taken for granted. Whilst the politicians have their roles to play the roles that the civil society plays in building and strengthening democracy are also essential.  Immediately you become concerned about the development of your society as individuals or as civil society leaders, who are engaged in this effort in various ways, you are part of the civil society. The civil society consists of the entire range of organized groups and institutions that are independent of the state, voluntary, and at least to some extent self-generating and self-reliant and this includes non-governmental organizations. They help in shaping the national society, its development and system of governance. The civil society groups have respect for the law, for the rights of individuals, and for the rights of other groups to express their interests and opinions. Civil society groups may establish ties to political parties and the state, but they must retain their independence, and they do not seek political power for themselves. Hence we observe that “The Civil Society Groups” are absent in most Third World Nations and especially in Nigeria. Their absence may be due to their inability to recognize their roles or more often government deliberate crackdown on perceived opposition or alternative opinions.

What, then, should the civil society do to build and maintain democracy? The most basic roles of civil society are to limit and control the power of the state through the constitution, watch how state officials use or abuse their powers, promote political participation, can strengthen democracy  by providing new forms of interest and solidarity that cut across old forms of tribal, linguistic, religious, and other identity ties. Democracy cannot be stable if people only associate with others of the same religion or identity. Hence we observe that organizations like Boko Haram exist to put a challenge on the society, irrespective of their origins and their sponsors. They could also have been formed by unknown sources with bigger than the agenda being preached by a Boko Haram. For now it is safe to imagine the losses of Nigeria due to these insurgencies. The losses are not just in human lives, monetary, or infrastructural. Those who had formed the “Bring Back Our Girls” following the April 14, 2014 Chibok School Girls episode by now would have realized that they might have been fighting against a stone wall and perceived wrong opponents. The Nigerian governments had been itself helpless and mere scapegoats. Nevertheless, if the nation had been more united and pursuing real democracy it would have been able to stamp out any Boko Haram insurgents before their formation.

Prof. R. A. Ipinyomi


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