The Boko Haram is predominant in the North-Eastern part of the country, with their activities previously being confined to the Northern region only. However, failure in stemming the terror reign early has succeeded in emboldening the group to eventually spread its tentacles to almost every part of the country.
With the main ideology propelling its operations being “Western education is forbidden’’, this group is fighting a war against every proponent and propagation of Western education. It has become the most dangerous insurgent group with unimagined sophisticated arms and resources in their disposal. Foot soldiers are utilized in its brazen operations mainly in a guerrilla war style and they have preoccupied themselves with unrelentingly attacks on educational institutions, churches, mosques, government and private facilities, etc. This group presumably belongs to a larger organized terrorist group/ network funding their terror campaign. And it has become so apparent with recent occurrences that they may have succeeded in infiltrating the Nigerian government, thereby making the counter attacks nearly an exercise in futility as admitted by the president , Dr. Goodluck Jonathan.
The carnage has escalated in recent times with thousands of lives being lost daily and properties damaged leading to monumental economic losses. Given the scale of operation, it defies belief that mere aversion to Western education could lead to such destruction akin to genocide on a daily basis. Peasants, as well as elites, are being wiped out daily. The reasons for the bitterness behind the offensive may go well beyond the original motive and may have more to do with the level of development in the country vis á vis accessibility to good and free education, provision of employment and basic amenities to the populace, among other factors. These may in turn be traceable to a lack of good governance on the part of the current regime in place and corruption which is rife in the country.
A cursory view of developed nations where things are done right, and where the level of corruption has been minimal, would bring out the fact that the activities of terror groups are near minimal or non-existent. Countries where the citizens’ voices count and where there are good welfare systems in place with access to education and amenities are not often besotted by the level of problems being battled with by developing countries such as Nigeria.
A worthy point to note is that Nigeria is a rich nation blessed with numerous natural resources, enough to cater to the needs of her people. However, these resources have failed to trickle down to the people and there has continued to be a wide abyss between the poor and the wealthy in the land.
The incessant attacks, culminating in the abduction of over 200 school girls in April, has succeeded in placing Nigeria in global spotlight. This has generated global outrage and intervention from countries such as the United States, France, and China, among others.
Although some schools of thought believed that accepting external intervention could only debase the Nigerian pride, it is the hopes of the common people in Nigeria that the international intervention would succeed in putting an end to the terror reign in the country. In this regard, all hands are expectedly on deck, internally and externally, to support and complement the efforts of the Nigerian government in curbing the activities of these extremists.
Effects of Insurgency on the Nigerian People
The thriving insurgency has not been without its own effects on the people and the economy of Nigeria.The Nigerian economy reportedly suffered a reduction in foreign direct investment from US$6.1 billion in 2010 due to the fear of insurgents, according to the World Investment Report of UNCTAD. Also, the Nigerian tourism sector worth about N80 billion naira annually has lost more than half of its value due to fear of terrorist attacks. The domestic air transport industry has also been hard hit by flight cancellations of destinations in the North, inevitably leading to loss of revenue.
Foreign investors have previously assisted with job creations and creation of employment but with the level of insurgent activities in the country, there has understandably been a drop in foreign investments.
In addition to the aforementioned, the persistent terror attacks in the country have heightened tension in the country and there is general insecurity and delusion of peace. There is palpable insecurity in the country with citizens even in the South western part of the country living in fear of public parks and malls. Ordinary citizens can hardly sleep with their eyes closed anymore and normal social and economic life is unlikely to return soon to the country, particularly the Northern states.
What can be done?
Given that the terrorists have their origin and base in the Northern part of the country, national spotlight should be beamed strategically on the region. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, northern Nigeria consists of 19 states, out of a total 36, and it has been plagued by a host of problems like ethnic, sectarian and religious conflicts, violent crimes, etc. The region is also alleged to be the poorest zone in Nigeria. This says a lot about the people and their struggles for survival and could also account partly for the discontent in the region.
The Boko Haram could have been capitalizing on the evident discontent pervading the zone to unleash terror on the people. They have taken the fight beyond the government and Western education to the doorstep of the average Nigerian people, innocently struggling to make livings out of the scarce resources available to them.
Efforts should be made to take the Northern youth off the streets and productively engage them into society. The young children being exploited in alms begging should be able to live normal lives as opposed to recruitment into this terror organization. Events have shown that this group of the Northern populace are being recruited mostly into the insurgents’ deadly armies, trained and hoodwinked by religion to become hardened foot soldiers without compassion.
Nigeria, although belaboured by her many problems, still possesses ample potential to combat them and build a viable economy. Needless to say that ending terrorism in the present times alone will not guarantee long term peace, national security and prosperity. While strategies are being explored to put a final stop to the reign of terror with the assistance of the international community, there should be significant efforts to improve the standard of living of the average Nigerian. Education should be accessible to the masses, poverty eradicated, employment provided for the youth, trade options for the uneducated, marginalization reduced, and security challenges in the country resolved. Win the Nigerian people over by providing their basic needs in forms of amenities as highlighted above and essentially make good governance a priority. Insurgency is indeed a grievous crime, a violation of our collective human rights and a serious threat to our existence, security, peace and development. This must be handled with the gravity it deserves by the Nigerian government, with the help of the international community.
Several nationals and non-nationals have been wiped off the surface of the earth since the birth of these insurgent groups. The fact that no insurgent group operate independently without external network groups makes this a global war. For there to be an end to insurgency and the restoration of peace to the Nigerian people, this is a war that must be fought seriously by the Nigerian people with the active input of the larger international community.
Written by Abiola Olaleye