By John Amoda
OCHEREOME Nnanna’s Vanguard, Monday, January 28th, 2013, is devoted to President Jonathan’s explanation of the Boko Haram insurgency in his recent interview by CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. Ochereome quotes the President:
“The sect was not born out of misrule, definitely not; sometimes people feel it is a result of poverty; but no. Boko Haram is a local terror group and that is why we call on the rest of the world to help us”
Ochereome reviews the postulations of the President and his two Northern critiques, Dr. Junaidu Mohammed and Mallam Shehu Sani.
To both Dr. Junaidu Mohammed and Mallam Shehu Sani who insist on a causal relationship between poverty and armed revolts, Ochereome cites example of revolutions organised by members of the economic elite.
“Sani’s quoted statements is also fallacious. Wealthy people do sometimes engage in (political) violence Fidel Castro, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, Osama Bin Laden and even our own aborted aircraft bomber.
Farouk Abdulmutallab, to name a few come from very privileged, wealthy families but embraced violent political activities.
But this does not justify the President’s dismissal of poverty and misrule as the basic cause of Islamic terrorism in northern Nigeria, as well as the rising poverty and unemployment (also offshoots of misrule and corruption) as the trigger for violent crimes in Southern Nigeria… President Jonathan must also wake up to the pressing need for good governance as the primary cure for social upheavals in the country.
His statements at the interview suggest he is living in denial of this fact. As the sitting President, he must lead the way for good governance. Unless he does something quickly his regime will soon join those of discredited bad leaders who have bedeviled this nation since 1960”.
Ochereome agrees in substance with Dr. Junaidu Mohammed “when he challenges the President to name the cause of terror if not poverty, bad governance and misrule”.
His only point of apparent disagreement with Dr. Junaidu Mohammed is the latter’s inference that the Boko Haram is a “poor people’s movement”, and can be a poor people’s movement.
The Guardian’s and Vanguard’s front page headline of their Tuesday January 29, 2013: “Boko Haram declares ceasefire” refutes the logical and theoretical link between the so called antecedent causes and terrorism as effect.
If poverty and bad governance determine terrorism, then the Boko Haram would not unilaterally declare cease-fire but would continue until the system that cause their recourse to violence has been eliminated.
The Boko Haram declaration of cease-fire surprisingly makes no mention of their antecedent causes and is apparently willing to disarm perhaps in the hope that there would be a governance transformation that eliminates poverty and misrule.
My point is not that there are no relationships between misrule, corruption and poverty and disaffection of the exploited and oppressed but that recourse to violence is a political decision that is not determined by the facts of corruption and misrule.
Ochereome argues that much when he points out that misrule is both a Northern and a Southern Nigeria fact and as such the Boko Haram insurgency should have its southern Nigeria counterpart.
President Jonathan while not denying the fact of misrule, corruption and poverty cannot be faulted when he insist that Boko Haram is not caused by poverty and misrule but is a choice of a political group that has decided to take up arms in pursuit of a cause. Elimination of poverty and misrule can be the agenda of a reformist party.
Organising to reform the system in promotion of good governance as Ochereome advocates in his piece buttresses President Jonathan’s point that the choice of armed insurgency by the Boko Haram is a political choice that should be addressed as a decision that is not caused by the evils of bad governance.
And the President can maintain that position without being tagged with the label of an unrepentant pro-bad governance leader. Insurgency is an anti-system strategy.
It is a decision to opt out of the governance system that is aggressed against. What the insurgent Party chooses to replace the rejected system with, as it is the case of the Boko Haram is a Sharia Constitution that is anti-western, anti-secular and perhaps anti-capitalist.
There is thus no causal relationship in the case of Boko Haram between their diagnosed cause and the prescriptions to eliminate the cause.
The Sharia ideology is a new element not accounted for by the analysis of the conflict situations.
The fact that the Boko Haram have declared a cease-fire does not ipso facto make peaceful resolution of the conflicts arising from the differences between their proposed societal system and the constitutional order of Nigeria feasible or the ends they seek harmonizable with ends that the Government is established to implement and secure.
The fact that this Government will presently have to address is living with an undefeated Boko Haram who has demonstrated its capacity to wage war against Government and after 42 months of insurgency is still in a position to decide to stop its insurgency at will.
Herein lies the importance of President Jonathan’s characterisation of Boko Haram as a terrorist organisation.
The campaign that the sect has waged in the Political North is a terrorist campaign and this fact makes it difficult to infer their aims from their politics.
The Sect have attacked churches and mosques, market women and the police; they have killed politicians and attacked the United Nations: they have bombed the Headquarters of the Police and Jaji, the training headquarters of the Armed Forces.
Nothing has been off-limit in their use of violence. No ideology can be inferred from their strategy in the use of violence and no revolutionary tactic can be discerned in their conduct.
They have struck fear into all and made even the members of the National Assembly confess their insecurity. This deployment of violence is in the mold of terrorist organisations.
The Boko Haram have used terror politically in that they have achieved of the aim of terrorists- they have achieved the purpose of demonstrating that this government cannot protect its citizenry and thus set the stage for the eruption of generalised anarchy. In pursuant of this end, the Boko Haram has more than succeeded.
Terror is used to make government and governing ineffective. And Boko Haram has shown that insecurity and thus ungovernability can be politically induced in Nigeria.
This is thus the security challenge that has to be addressed by the Jonathan preisdency.