Denrele Animasaun, from London
The best thing to give to your enemy is forgiveness; to an opponent, tolerance; to a friend, your heart; to your child, a good example; to a father, deference; to your mother, conduct that will make her proud of you; to yourself, respect; to all men, charity – Francis Maitland Balfour
The Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram has posted a video on YouTube claiming responsibility for the bombing last week at This Day offices in Abuja and in Kaduna. This latest terror claimed seven lives and blighted many more. They go on to threaten further attacks against media organisations for committing crimes against Islam.
So what exactly does Boko Haram want? We were told that they wanted to establish Islamic Law in Nigeria. The militant Islamist group – Boko Haram – has caused havoc through a wave of bombings.
It appears that they are fighting to overthrow the government and create an Islamic state. Its followers are said to be influenced by the Koranic phrase which says: “Anyone who is not governed by what Allah has revealed is among the transgressors”.
Initially, Boko Haram’s capabilities were limited to drive-by shootings and improvised explosives. But the last few months have changed that. Against this background, the charismatic Muslim cleric, Mohammed Yusuf, formed Boko Haram in Maiduguri in 2002. He set up a religious complex, which included a mosque and an Islamic school.
But Boko Haram was not only interested in education, its political goal was to create an Islamic state and the school became a recruiting ground for jihadists to fight the state.
Many Muslim families still refuse to send their children to government-run “Western schools”, in the North a problem compounded by the ruling elite which does not see education as a priority.
Boko Haram promotes a version of Islam which makes it “haram”, or forbidden, for Muslims to take part in any political or social activity associated with Western society. Or so it seems.
Let me state categorically that no cause justifies terrorism, death and misery – not poverty, not politics. The country has been held to ransom by this group so much that they have planted fear in the minds of so many. So they want to impose sharia law but someone has failed to tell this group that Nigeria is a democracy and constitutionally the people are free to worship in any way that they want.
Residents in the north-eastern city of Maiduguri, where the militants have their headquarters, are living in constant fear and others are moving their family out from a home and a place they have known all their lives.
Boko Haram regards the Nigerian state as being run by non-believers, even when the country had a Muslim president. Thousands of people have died over the past few years in Islamist-led communal attacks. Separatist aspirations have been growing; prompting reminders of the bitter civil war over the breakaway Biafran republic in the late 1960s.The imposition of Islamic law in several northern states has insured divisions and caused thousands of Christians to flee but is Boko Haram an Islamic organisation?
They are devastating Muslims and Christians alike. In Maiduguri they have killed more Muslims and more in Kano. In Abuja, they stamped their brand of terror on the UN premises; in Bayero University in Zaria, they left many dead people and they left more injured in their wake in Kaduna; Jos was their stomping ground.
There are more Muslims amongst the dead and the maimed, how then can they claim to be fighting for a Muslim state? But the militants’ activities have grown in confidence and scale, spreading to other states in the region.
Southerners living in the North have been the targets of deadly attacks and thousands have fled their homes.
What is clear is that they have planted chaos, insecurity, tragedy, loss of home, loss of income,livelihood, misplaced families and they have devastated the young, old, the poor and ordinary Nigerians both Muslims, Christians and others.
People now live under strict curfew from 7pm to 6am.There is an air of uncertainty and insecurity and the terror is palpable. It Is felt across the waters, every time we watch the news and they are bombing , we call our respective relatives to ensure that they are safe and well.
Residents are living in constant fear and people are fearful where the next attack will be. Business is crippled. Where there is no safety or security, people will go elsewhere with their business rather than stay where their lives are threatened. There is a knock on effect as the labourers who load the trucks, the merchants, the truck drivers and many others have been “surviving by the grace of God”.
Since then, gun-toting soldiers have set up countless checkpoints and taken up positions outside churches, police stations and other high-profile locations that have previously been Boko Haram’s targets. Schools are empty and church goers have had to wrestle with their faith and decide to stay home for fear of being victims of Boko Haram.
But this once thriving regional trading hub is now almost empty – brought to a virtual standstill. Despite reassurance that they are on top of things this government has not reassured the people as the bombing continues unabated.
President Goodluck Jonathan’s declared policy of “carrot and stick” is supposed to reach out to the militants, while improving security. It does not seem that the Government is in control of the situation. There are no community programmes to prepare the people in case of bombardment.
There is no contingency plan in place for the emergency services in time of crisis. You can say there is enough experience for the local government to prepare for such incidents and for the Government to use national services in its power to prevent the city from collapsing to its knees.
The threat will disappear only if the Nigerian government manages to reduce the region’s chronic poverty and builds an education system which gains the support of local Muslims. The grinding poverty is a breeding ground for disaffected youths, they have nothing to lose and such group will prey on the young and the vulnerable .
It seems there are sleeping cells who are ready and waiting to replace their dead comrades. The government needs to do more and do better. All the grand standing is all talk and no action. Every death is one death too many. We as Nigerians will only begin to act when we value every life. Until we stand shoulder to shoulder as Nigerians just like we did months ago during the fuel subsidy episode. Terror cannot win not now, not ever.