May 29th was Democracy Day, and I was privileged to be part of an elite group, some of the best there is to offer in peace and conflict studies, inter-faith, comparative religion and terrorism were part of this think-tank drawn from the academic, civil society, media and military. Security and Democratic participation in Nigeria was the theme.
My friends Chris Kwaja and Tar Ukoh, were the musketeers, the University of Jos was ably represented by Professor Tor, and a gallery of other participants.
At the end of the day, we discovered that part of our problem is that we do not understand the issue of Boko Haram as a terrorist group, the political class, are totally ignorant, from the contribution of a soldier-scholar, (a very rare class in the Nigeria army), it was obvious that we are protected by a naive security apparatus.
Now to the issue proper, it is not everyday that I bring out my academic side, especially not when I am dealing with market women, newspaper vendors, mechanics, and in this matter #chibok parents. So please my readers bear with me as this admonition is for those who should know, but sadly do not have an inkling.
Terrorist studies offer an important point of view to understand how insurgency and ideologies work in the general outlay of security, economics, democracy and counter-terrorism.
To understand Boko Haram there is need to go beyond light headed theories of my colleagues in the pen profession, and all the hocus locus political talk.
We need a shift from the military high command regular briefing of having killed commanders and commandos, to understanding how from grievance to terrorism and from non-terrorist threat to terrorist threat works.
We need to know that its 2014, and our leaders, not Jonathan, do not understand keywords like domestic terrorism, international terrorism, political violence, counter terrorism, indoctrination, systemic decomposition etc.
In 1920s, the American sociologist W.I. Thomas formulated the famous theorem: "If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences".
Terrorism is a course, and a cause. It is, because it affects an entire nation with a continuous fall to violence. On the other hand, it primarily is a political phenomenon, having been treated as a criminal and military matter by administrations all around the world.
I recently came across Joseba Zulaika’s paper on terrorism, a profound and rare work “Mythologies of Terror: Fantasy and self-Fulfilling Prophecy in U.S. Counter terrorism”.
Zulaika wrote: “Counter-terrorism is a prime example of what Merton labeled “the Thomas Theorem” […]. Once the situation is defined as one of inevitable terrorism and endless waiting, what could happen weights as much as what is actually the case: once a threat whose intention or possibility is unknown to us, is taken seriously, its reality requires that we must act on it. Terrorism is the catalyst for confusing various semantic levels of linguistic, ritual and military actions”
We do not know what we are doing as a nation with Boko Haram, whether we want to fight terrorism, yet not understand how it is born and how to cure the grief where it originated from. Whether to trust Americans, or allow the bloody Northerners eat their cake…or romance the Islamic conquest theory.
We are engaged in the gross debate of the "only way to prevent terrorism is avoid making people suffer: while forgetting that the fundamental elements of terrorism are two: quest for significance and terrorist ideology.
In other words deal with Boko Haram, and if the atmosphere is same in Benue or Owerri, you could have Owerri haram, of Ibadan boko.
We can try to act on ideology, supporting tolerance or demolishing the cells where ideology comes from, but we would maintain and fuel reasons to feel hate: terrorism is an asymmetric method to carry on conflict, as guerrilla as the myth called Sambisa has proven courtesy #chibok.
There's no point in thinking that it will disappear using repression. It doesn't aim to the control over territory, it only want to hurt he enemy enough to make it withdraw. So we conquered 'maitasini" so we thought and here we are boko haraming.
Chibok as a community, the parents and the girls today have suffered a social loss of significance, individual loss of significance, stigma or dishonour. In one word, grievance. It is not so difficult to understand that a humiliated community will inevitably split in those who want to improve the situation using violence, and those who want to do peacefully.
I read one of the parents of the Jos twin blast say "I regret being Nigerian..." that is her reaction to loosing an adolescent child full of dreams, just few months to graduating, delayed in school as a result of a strike that yielded nothing.
#Chibok is an example of inconceivable sufferings because of wrong policies and political choices, not by Jonathan but a group of leaders that do not understand the problem.
For example an army that does not know the ineffectiveness of this conception of counter-terrorism, which often mishandled, leads to a spiral of hate deeply entrenched in terrorism, interlinking State (counter-terrorist) and on-state (terrorist) violence, as well as violence committed by rival terrorist groups.
Violence creates pain, pain creates hate and hate creates violence. Policy makers, diplomats, police and military officers, STF, VVF and all the Fs, can’t ignore this vicious circle. It simply can't because of a main characteristic of terrorism, which is the socio-political, wants lying underneath. To win against a strong terrorist activity the only subject to be attacked is society itself. Even considering this strategy effective, what would happen to ethics, democracy, what would happen to the State?
We cannot deny knowledge of protection money paid by the elite in Borno, Yobe and other places, nor can we feign ignorance about a very compromised security apparatus, add that to a mutually suspicious citizenry.
So to defeat terrorism we could find ourselves orphans of everything we aimed to protect. Considering how still strong terrorism is, the erosive effect could be much more dangerous for democracy than violent groups. We could wake up realizing that we became the monster we intended to beat.
In conclusion, I will tell us this fable, a seer told a man that he would be imprisoned in three days, for something he was unaware of, a case he was completely innocent of...
On hearing that, he thought hard, and decided the best line of action would be to simply go home, lock himself up, with enough food and utilities and wait out the three days. On the third day, he seemed to have conquered and as he was in his compound, he had shouts of “thief, ole, onye oshi, barawo”, and a running crowd, he simply decided to peep.
The real thief who was in the lead being chased simply shouted, while pointing at the opened gate, thief, thief thief, he has run inside that house, and everyone descended on the man, he was locked up, despite all his explanation--nearing 50 days, we are still yet to #bringbackourgirls, will they be brought back—only time will tell.