Tuesday Platform

March 19, 2013

Boko Haram and the Nigerian political elites

Boko Haram and the Nigerian political elites

File photo: Members of Boko Haram splinter group during a news conference in Maiduguri, recently where they insisted on a cease-fire. Photo: Nan.

By John Amoda
CAN the governing elites in Nigeria be divided on the intentions of the Boko Haram? The answer is yes, they are divided. But should they be divided, the answer is no- they should not be divided. Why? The Boko Haram have not hidden their intentions to transform Nigeria into a Sharia state whose state religion they have sectarianised.

And this sectarianisation is evident in their use of terror. Both the Sultan and General Danjuma are agreed on this point. Luka Binniyat summary of the General’s remarks in the Sunday Vanguard March 3, 2013 is quoted for his comprehensive description of the crisis.

“Former Minister of Defence, Gen. Theophilus Danjuma yesterday, raised the alarm that Northern Nigeria is in the ‘middle of a civil war’, following the upsurge of insurgency in the region. Danjuma, who himself fought in the Nigerian civil war, otherwise called the Biafran war, then called on Northern elites to find solution to the problem, saying attacks by faceless persons, in obvious reference to the killings by Islamist groups, notably Boko Haram and A’nsaru, had no immunity for anyone.

The former minister who spoke at the special convocation and N50 billion fund raising for Ahmadu Bello University, ABU, Zaria Phase II Development Project, held in Zaria, described the attacks as ‘highly contagious’, and have crippled social and economic activities of the region. Danjuma said our founding fathers sought to create a united and self-reliant society based on respect for the rights of others irrespective of tribe or religion.

They would certainly be appalled that, today, the nation is in total anarchy. Human life is very cheap and impunity has become the norm. In the case of the North, the danger is very real indeed. Ladies and gentlemen, we are in the middle of a civil war in Northern Nigeria.

There is no defined front in this particular war, and worse still, the enemy is faceless and unknown. There is no immunity for anyone. This war is highly contagious. Needless to say, the social and economic cost is incalculable. I regret to confess that I have not suggested solution to this problem. It is up to us the elites to get together and brainstorm to solve our many problems. I take this opportunity therefore, to appeal to the nation for unity. We must unite in order to solve our problems”.

Wars are fought by opposed enemies. General Danjuma has described the war waged by the enemy whom he described as faceless, and has called upon the elites, both North and South, but more especially the Northern elites committed to the vision of the founding fathers “to get together and brainstorm to solve our problems” of a society where “human life is very cheap and impunity has become the norm- where there is no defined front in this particular war, and there is no immunity for anyone”.

Obviously General Danjuma calls attention to the mortal threats to the Nigerian society and does not exaggerate when he says that “we are in the middle of a civil war in Northern Nigeria”. The implication of General Danjuma’s observation is that Nigeria ”is in the middle of a civil war”. Just as war in Northern Mali is war in Mali as a whole, so is war in Northern Nigeria war in Nigeria.

Like all wars this war in Nigeria polarizes as it opposes parties in conflict. Danjuma calls those warred upon by Boko Haram to unite and brainstorm to win the war. In that call for unity is to be found the problem. The Nigerian side is constituted of elites and that is what makes the Nigerian side vulnerable to sectarian insurgencies.

The Nigerian political are elites of officeholders and who have used office holding to transform themselves into elite of wealth and in spite of using incumbency for state creation ends, are yet unable to establish themselves as rulers of Nigeria.

They will be unable to unite in spite of the common danger that makes political solidarity a necessity- and the reason for this solitary existence of the constituents of the Nigerian elites is the fact that no groupings of the elite have yet taken up the task of leading the project of state creation to establish a Nigerian sovereignty.

The Nigerian political elite is constituted of individually elected officeholders and who have nothing in common but the status of wealth ownership. Common religion, common ethnicity, common regional cultures have not transformed these individualistic constituents of the political elite into a class, let alone into a ruling class.

The challenge that the Nigerian political elite faces is two-fold: War has been declared on them by religious revolutionary insurgents and have only officeholders like themselves, that is military officeholders, to wage and win the war to secure their elite status; they are in war that threatens each of them individually but they are not able to organise themselves as a class.

The political elite is internally and structurally solitary being composed of individual officeholders past and present. General Danjuma seeks to awaken them to the fact that they must act as a class to win the war but preaching has never anywhere transforms individualistic congregation of elites into a ruling class.

Groups think in class terms as they embark in constituting themselves as sovereign or in resisting campaigns to constitute them as subjects. General Danjuma is honest enough to admit that the chances of maintaining Nigeria as a secular constitutional society depend on the political elites coming together to brainstorm to solve their common problems and what they have in common is an enemy group that intends to subjugate them and reduced them into subjects.

The fact of war would not bring Nigerian political elites together; they will come together as they see the vital and urgent task of embarking on the project of establishing a sovereignty in Nigeria as the process of defeating the Jihadist Boko Haram and securing the society in Nigeria. Sovereignties are ruling class structures and the institutions that establish sovereignties are the same that secure and maintain them. There are not too many options available to Nigerian political elites:
*They can come together to brainstorm on how to apply the Root Cause Approach- that is, of how to create a sovereignty in Nigeria through state creation;
*They can spend resources on the security sector of the government to wage and win the ‘civil war’;
*They can play the ostrich and focus on electoral statemaking.

President Goodluck Jonathan has traced “why there are upheavals in Africa” to this third option. I quote Ben Agande’s Sunday Vanguard March 3, 2013 summary of the President’s address to the Ivorian National Assembly:

“Addressing the Ivorian National Assembly as part of the activities for his two-day state visit to Cote D’Ivoire, Jonathan charged the present crop of African leaders to rise up to the challenge of managing contests for political power in manner that assures greater collective security and peaceful coexistence…

We therefore risk the very institutions we are trying to build if we exclude the people who voted us into power in the governance process… ‘there are some here and elsewhere, who might think that the straight jacket of a dictatorship is the surest way to bottle up these grievances and dismantle dissent. This is wrong'”.

The President confirms in his own words the implications of turning elections into statemaking opportunities. Electoral officeholding is not coronations. Electors should not be treated as subject. This is the result of the adoption of the third option. Electoral statemaking is corruption of constitutional rule and the President’s speech itemizes the consequence of that option. Building up the defence and security forces and arming them with the best technology of modern warfare will not do it.

For this does not address the issue of the lack of sovereignty in elite dominant society. The Boko Haram sectarian revolutionists have driven home the necessity of creating a secular constitutionalist democratic state in Nigeria, to secure the society and to protect a way of life. This option is the only left.