Sunday, 2 March 2014
Boko Haram: A Way Out By Ken Mani
Those attributing the Boko Haram phenomenon to politics and economics are ignorant; they don’t know what they are talking about. There is nothing political about Boko Haram whose sole mission is the use of violent means to Islamize Nigeria. It is fueled by frustrations that Nigeria's illegal membership of the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) has not produced the desired result after many years. Adding to this frustration is the fact that the Sharia crusade of the Northern Muslim Hausa-Fulani States failed to record the anticipated success. The only political dimension to Boko Haram is the thinking that if Nigeria is completely Islamized, power will always reside with the Northern Muslim Hausa-Fulani. And so, the chances of an "infidel" like Jonathan coming to power when Nigeria is under Islamic rule would never exist.
Boko Haram is not a recent phenomenon in Northern Nigeria; it has always been there, vigorously pursuing the Islamization of Nigeria. The only new development is that they have upped the level of violence deployed to achieve their objectives. Their motivation for raising the level of violence is not related to domestic economic and political matters; rather, it is motivated by the recent and on-going escalation of world-wide Islamic terrorism. To buttress these facts, I would like to recount a personal experience.
In 1980 I gained admission into Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria. I arrived Zaria on a Saturday morning and met a friend who was already in his second year. My friend and I had gone to Zaria to continue our education after spending some time at the then College of Science and Technology, Port Harcourt. My friend received me warmly.
After a quick bath, I went with him to the dining hall for breakfast. And after breakfast, I suggested that we go to the student buttery for a drink before I would retire to rest from my long rail trip from Port Harcourt. To my surprise, my friend told me that we couldn’t do so. He said that the kind of freedom we enjoyed at the College of Science and Technology in Port Harcourt was not available on the Kongo Campus of ABU because the Centre for Islamic Legal Studies was located there. He suggested that we go instead to Samaru or Sabon Gari for a drink, if we must.
I could not believe what he was saying to me. I wondered if Ahmadu Bello University was not a Federal Government institution meant to accommodate all Nigerians irrespective of their belief and lifestyle. If it was, how come we were forced to live by the rules made by the so called Center for Islamic Legal Studies, which was nothing more than a department in the faculty of law? If they wanted total control of their environment, why didn’t they build a wholly owned Islamic Center outside the University? That experience made it clear to me early on that Islam is intolerant, does not respect the legitimate rights of others, and has no sense of accommodation and justice. It was very clear to me that Ahmadu Bello University had been completely Islamized despite the fact that it was a Federal Government University. I later discovered that everything in the Northern Muslim Hausa-Fulani States of the North was Islamized or was on its way to being Islamized, contrary to the provisions of the Nigerian constitution. Any attempt to resist, or insist on constitutionally guaranteed rights, or step outside the lines drawn by the Islamists was always met with violence and death. We found ourselves helpless, particularly as the Federal Government agencies turned a blind eye to whatever the Islamists did to us. It is this unconstitutional Islamization of the Northern Muslim Hausa-Fulani states which has been going on for a long time in complete violation of the Nigerian constitution and which, regrettably, had been ignored by the Federal Government and the other constituent states of Nigeria, that has metamorphosed into the phenomenon now known as Boko Haram.
The Northern Muslim Hausa-Fulani are the proud and arrogant sponsors of Boko Haram. Military onslaught against Boko Haram must be seen as a temporary measure to buy time, slow down things and minimize the destructions and deaths occasioned by their attacks. The real solution to Boko Haram lies in a complete political renegotiation of the Nigeria Project. The Muslim Hausa-Fulani will not accept anything less than a completely Islamized northern region. The renegotiation of the Nigeria Project will have to focus, among other things, on how the Islamized Northern Muslim Hausa-Fulani states will relate to the rest of Nigeria within a mutually agreed constitutional framework. We must begin this long but now obviously necessary journey to a peaceful resolution now. The National Assembly with the support of the Presidency must convene a special session, just as they did on the fuel subsidy crisis, to signal the start of talks. It is my view that once genuine, and not divisive, talks centered specifically on Boko Haram are started at the National Assembly, we will witness a huge decline in their attacks.
PS. WARNING : Boko Haram will persist even unto unimaginably disastrous consequences unless our National Assembly kick start genuine talks without further delay. Time has almost run out and the Northern leaders that have been managing the Boko Haram pressure up till now are becoming irrelevant to the movement. Even though some persons might disagree with the strategies that the Northern leaders had deployed all along to contain the Boko Haram pressure, the truth is that they have done all they can. What do I mean by Boko Haram pressure? Boko Haram pressure is the tension that exists between the Nigerian Constitution and Islam. It was pressure from Boko Haram that led Babangida to illegally enlist Nigeria into the OIC. The OIC charter specifically insists that the Presidency and key top government positions of member countries must be occupied by Muslims. Regrettably, this has not always been the case in Nigeria due mainly to the provisions of the Nigerian constitution. It was also Boko Haram pressure that forced Northern governors to embark on the Sharia crusade, but not much success was achieved to the disappointment of the Islamists. The minimal success that the Sharia crusade achieved can be traced to the operation of provisions of the Nigerian constitution. These failures, disappointments and related events worldwide led to the thinking that violence and terrorism might succeed where other efforts have failed.
With the advent of Boko Haram, a new leadership is now emerging from the Northern Muslim Hausa-Fulani states. If this new leadership is left unchecked, it will eventually force the violent overthrow of the present leadership of the Muslim north with very serious consequences for the entire country. I repeat, the only way out of this violent scenario and to ensure that the new emerging leadership does not cause Nigeria even more terrible consequences is for the National Assembly to declare a special session for genuine talks that will lead to a renegotiated and mutually agreed constitutional framework acceptable to all the contending forces and interest groups in the country. Given the issues and likely outcomes of such talks, it is my considered opinion that only a National Assembly special session, and not any containment strategies by the Presidency, represents the best platform for genuine dialogue.