Terrorist or freedom fighter?

on   /   in Voice of Reason 12:19 am   /   Comments

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.

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