By Ogaga Ifowodo
The Jama’atu Ahlissunnah Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad sect, better known as Boko Haram, has very clearly spelt out the goal of its bloody jihad: to establish Allah’s kingdom in Nigeria. As the pre-history of Nigeria informs us, however, this is an old cause dating back to Usman Dan Fodio’s jihad of 1804-1808.
But Dan Fodio, by most accounts, was moved by a genuine reformist spirit to establish a non-exploitative caliphal system of government for believers. Thus, after the fall of Gobir and the end of political resistance to his movement, he withdrew into a quiet life of study and teaching.
I am not a historian and wouldn’t put the authority of my secondary school lessons to the test, but it appears to be the case that Dan Fodio did not display an overt imperial desire.
The dream of expanding the caliphate from the Sahel Savannah to the mangrove swamps came, it seems, after his death — first fired by a proselytising zeal and then by the feverish dream of cultural hegemony that coincided with British colonial interests. This was when the resonant metaphor of dipping the Koran in the sea entered our political lexicon, but I digress.
Whatever distinctions one might make between Dan Fodio and his descendants, however, one fact remains indisputable: that the road to Boko Haram’s current bomb jihad was paved by the ominous conjuration of Nigeria as a nation out of thin air.
To the leaders of the Caliphate, and indeed to anyone not blinded by the passion and rhetoric of independence that came from the South, 1914 was a colossal “mistake”. A nation of people not previously under one faith or polity was manufactured to live in “brotherhood”.
But what was to be the nature of this hoped-for filial bond: a Muslim brotherhood, a Christian brotherhood, or a brotherhood of the more legitimate indigenous faiths? And just how would the mere constitutional assertion of secularism guarantee religious freedom against the self-appointed protectors of God with no regard for earthly authority unless formed by them, or for the sanctity of the social contract that legitimises representative government?
This unanswered question bedevilled the experiment called Nigeria right from Lord Lugard’s colonial laboratory. It subverts every effort at nationhood and citizenship. It was the real cause of the pogrom against the Igbos that culminated in the Civil War. It is the cause of the seasonal orgies of mass slaughter of Christians north of the Niger and Benue since 1980.
This post-civil war phase of the caliphal mission began with the Maitatsine riots of 1980 in Kano, followed by similar sect-led massacres in Kaduna and Maiduguri in 1982, and in Yola in 1984. The massacres of July and December 2009 in Bauchi and the non-ending bloodbaths in Jos are just a further metastasis of the political cancer constituted by this unanswered question.
The ground was churned afresh for Boko Haram’s terrorism by the virtual secessionist bid of the 12 Northern states under the veil of religious freedom, making a new season of carnage in the name of God just a matter of time.
In its statement of acceptance of responsibility for the attacks in Barkin Ladi Local Government Area of Plateau State that claimed the lives of a state legislator and a senator, Boko Haram declared that it had no other “agenda than working to establish Islamic kingdom like during the time of Prophet Mohammed”. Christians, and by implication all non-Muslims, have one choice: accept Islam, the “true” and “right” religion or “never have peace”.
Boko Haram justifies its mindless murder and maiming of fellow citizens with words they attribute to the Prophet Muhammed: “I have been commanded to fight against people so long as they do not declare that there is no god but Allah”.
No god but Allah; not “no religion but Islam”, but what does it matter to men who hide under the veil of piety to unleash their repressed primordial desire to live outside the bounds of civilized law and ethics?
The obvious glee with which Boko Haram announces bloody murder does not speak well of the kingdom they seek to build for God. Note the opening sentence of the aforesaid statement: “The Jama’atu Ahlissunnah Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad, is grateful to Almighty God and hereby makes it known to the world the success of the attacks launched on … Christians, security agencies and members of the National Assembly”.
It is the wont of extremists to never let reason get in their way, else Boko Haram might pause to wonder why it is necessary to establish by blood and tears what God can by mere wish or command. Or why a God believed to be ALMIGHTY needs human protectors.
Or why the plurality of faiths and creeds is not Allah’s all-knowing and supreme will. Surely, if God had desired one faith and manner of worship for all of humanity, he could have caused that to be? How the zealot dares where God has not thought to tread!
The mind of the zealot cannot for a second entertain doubt or even temporary limitations on knowledge. It must claim to know God’s mind so that every egomaniacal dream can be justified, be falsely announced to the world as God’s work.
Boko Haram does not doubt that its jihad will succeed. All of non-Muslim Nigeria will convert or know no peace. Nothing in history suggests this will happen and it is sheer folly to believe otherwise. But unless Boko Haram’s true mission is to break the country into two so it can at last have its Muslim caliphate, its members would be wise to halt the orgy of death and destruction and live according to the tenet of Islam as a religion of peace. For, history is the ultimate arbiter of human affairs here on earth, as opposed to paradise. And Boko Haram is on the wrong side of history.