ONE thing that really gets to people about the Boko Haram sect is the violence associated with its clamour for change, the way it understands change. Were it just a sect that defended its religious fervour peacefully, the opposition to its existence would have been mollified.
It is the streak of violence that has drawn parallels with the militant groups in the Niger Delta and the requests that similar measures be applied to stem the killings that have become a feature of North Eastern Nigeria in the past two years. The increased violence before the elections was wrongly judged as part of the political calculations. The violence has been sustained and daily acquires a different dimension.
Suggestions about how to contain Boko Haram’s violence have remained contentious.
However, a non governmental organisation, NGO, the Foundation for Ethnic Harmony in Nigeria, FEHN, thinks that the key to managing violence is education.
FEHN which played a major role in the training of more than 26,000 ex-militants in Obubra, Cross River State believes the programme in addition, has returned stability to the Niger Delta where oil and gas productions have resumed without the tensions usually associated with them when the militants held sway. Yet there is danger in handling these matters in isolation and that is why the introduction of non-violence training in schools is important.
“The government should introduce non-violence training in the schools to fight incidents of violence in the country. The violent culture in Nigeria is growing and it is very scary. Non-violence training should be inculcated in the curriculum of our schools. It can be a compulsory course for everybody passing through our schools,” it said
The challenge for the government is to simply be proactive. We cannot wait until violence breaks out before thinking of ways of handling it. We do not know what part of the country would be next. While it is at it, government also needs to deal with the social issues that fuel violence – poverty, illiteracy, and unemployment.
Another disturbing issue is illegal arms. From the experience of working with the former militants in Niger Delta, it was established that huge amounts of illegal arms are available to groups opposing government.
If access to illegal arms is not minimised, violence would continue. Boko Haram attacks indicate sophistication, maybe not in the types of arms availability to the group, but in the ability to improvise. Either way, it is dangerous.
The advantage that non-violence education has is that a change of the individual’s mind could mean that he would not use arms even if freely offered to him. Today’s growing army of dispirited youth would engage in violence unless governments address their plight through education and provision of resources to keep them human.