I have nothing against the Islamic faith. As a matter of fact some of my most loyal friends are practising Muslims. There are many Muslims in my family and my maternal great grandmother was an illustrious Fulani woman from the Muslim core North.
I do however believe that there is a world of difference between a true Muslim and an Islamist. The former is a humble worshipper of God who seeks to peacefully and piously live his life in accordance with the dictates of his faith and in true harmony with his neighbour. He is tolerant, reasonable, rational and God-fearing. The latter is the opposite. He is an Islamic fundamentalist and an extremist who seeks to impose his will and his own understanding and interpretation of Islam on others by compulsion, intimidation, violence and terror.
The overwhelming majority of Muslims in Nigeria today fall into the former category but there is a small and growing minority that sadly fall into the latter. That group constitute those that we describe today as Boko Haram and they have been waging a relentless and brutal war of terror against the Nigerian state and people for the last few years. They are indeed the enemy within. The question is what should our collective response be to these men of violence and blood. That, together with the a cursory analysis of how we got into this mess and the way out of it is the topic of this essay.
In my view the solution to the Boko Haram problem is simple. They must be utterly crushed by the Nigerian state and certainly not negotiated with. This is because in any serious society there can never be dialogue, compromise or any form of negotiation with terrorists whilst they are still carrying arms and waging war against the state and the people. Worst still there can be no compromise with those that seek to forcefully establish a 17th century Islamic fundamentalist caliphate in our country and those that seek to impose their strange and outdated values on each and everyone of us. Worst still there is no doubt in my mind that Boko Haram is part of the world-wide Al Qaeda-sponsored ”global jihad” and if we give them one inch they will definitely take a mile.
We cannot afford to have peace with them on any terms or peace with them at the cost of our hard-earned civil liberties, liberal and cherished values, plural and multi-cultural society and modern way of life. There must come a time when we as a people can boldly say ”enough is enough” and when we draw the line in the sand. And if Boko Haram crosses that line they must be confronted by the full force of the Nigerian Armed Forces who must be ready, willing and able to unleash hell on them regardless of the collateral damage and immense infrastructural destruction that this will cause in various parts of our country.
President Olusegun Obasanjo did this decisively and with ruthless efficiency in the town of Odi in the Niger Delta area a number of years ago with remarkable success. By the time the Nigerian Armed Forces finished shelling Odi from the land, the sea and the air there was not one building left standing there except for, interestingly, the local bank. The casualties in terms of human life were extremely high but the point was made and the objective achieved. From that point on the Niger Delta militants stopped killing policemen and soldiers right up until the time that Obasanjo left power. Why can the same solution not be applied to the Boko Haram problem by the Jonathan administration today? What is the fear? Why should the same treatment not be meted out to any city or community in our country that grants the footsoldiers of Boko Haram covert support, safe haven, sanctuary or shelter? This is all the more important because they are not true Muslims or believers in God. Rather they are a cancer that must be identified, isolated and cut out of our body politic before they spread their terrible disease of hate, extremism, violence and intolerance throughout the federation and the reprisals begin. That is what a strong, focused, resolute and purposeful government ought to do.
Sadly we have not seen any such thing from our government. Instead what we have witnessed from them are a series of feeble and pathetic pleas for dialogue with the enemy and the shameful display of weakness, incompetence and insensitivity when faced with their terror. To make matters worse the National Chairman of the President’s own ruling PDP, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, recently declared that Boko Haram was ”fighting for justice”. What a thing to say by an elder statesman who I not only have tremendous respect for but who I have always regarded as a father. I really do wonder what type of ”justice” he is referring to when churches are now being blown up virtually every Sunday morning all over the north and when thousands of defenceless Christians are being slaughtered on a daily basis. Is that what the Chairman calls ”fighting for justice’?’ Are these the people that are denying Boko Haram their justice and that are denying them their rights? Are they the ones that killed their leader, Mohammed Yusuf, a few years ago?
Boko Haram started by targeting government institutions and security agencies with extreme and deadly violence but now they have graduated to killing the followers of Christ and they have made known their intention to wipe out Christianity in Northern Nigeria and to stop Christians from peacefully worshipping their God. Is that the ”just cause” that they are fighting for?
We must understand that Boko Haram, what they stand for and what they seek to establish is patently evil and that what they are doing represents the greatest threat to Nigerian unity since our civil war. They are not just a danger to Christians but to all true Muslims as well. Real Muslims like Dokubo, Tukur and all the others that believe that Boko Haram are fighting a ”just cause” would do better by trying to educate and enlighten their misguided Islamist brothers.
They should advise them to stop the violence, to stop the slaughtering of Christians and true Muslims, to stop destabilising the Nigerian state, to stop trying to Islamise northern Nigeria, to stop trying to return our country to the dark ages of the 17th century and to stop trying to wage a global war of terror against the rest of humanity. We as a people must not allow ourselves to be intimidated by their evil agenda and we must vigorously and courageously resist them no matter what it takes.
No responsible and strong government would compromise or enter into negotiations with such barbarous and evil men that have so much blood on their hands. To throw down the gauntlet and confront such evil is one of the major challenges of our time and it is a challenge that our government must not fail to rise up to in a fearless, vigorous and responsible manner.
A few home truths must now be told. We Christians take strong exception to the fact that literally hundreds of thousands of our fellow Christian brothers and sisters from all over the country have been brutally killed by Muslim fundamentalists in northern Nigeria over the last 50 years for no just cause.
The innocent blood of those people cries to God in heaven for vengeance and it gets louder and louder by the day. Boko Haram have said publicly that they want the adoption of full sharia law and the establishment of an Islamic fundamentalist state in all the northern states of Nigeria before they stop killing and bombing innocent people and spreading terror. Yet the truth is that that will never happen as long as Nigeria remains as one nation and remains a secular state. And if Nigeria ever stops being a secular state then we will simply break it up and go our separate ways. It is as simple as that. No-one wants a full blown religious war but neither will anyone run away from it if it is foisted on us. For how long can the people of the South and the Middle Belt sit by idly and watch silently as their own kith and kin that reside in the core north and their northern minority christian brothers and sisters are subjected to nothing less than genocide and mass murder from the most ruthless and barbatric terrorist organisation that this country has ever known. I believe in restraint but is it humanly possible that we will be restrained forever?
Yet I believe that there is still hope and that a war can still be avoided. That hope lies in the speedy convocation of a Sovereign National Conference. That, in my view, is the only vehicle that can provide a lasting solution to the monumental challenges that we are facing in our country today, including the scourge of Boko Haram. I say this because whether we like to admit it or not, Nigeria is more divided today on ethnic and religious lines than it has ever been since our independence in 1960. We should iron out all these issues at such a conference once and for all. These religious clashes and killings feature in the northern part of Nigeria alone and hardly in the south.
In the south-west where I come from the Christians, Muslims and the traditional worshippers are one and we treat each other with love, respect, understanding and sensitivity. We do not kill ourselves on account of our religious differences. That is simply our way and clearly many from other parts of Nigeria and indeed the rest of the world have a lot to learn from us. My position is that if Nigeria cannot be built on a foundation of equality, equity and fairness for ALL her people, whether they be Christian, Muslim, Northern, Middle-beltern or Southern, then we should reject the concept of a united Nigeria and we should begin to renegotiate the terms of our union. I love this country and I would always be amongst those to defend and speak up for her unity but the truth is that there is absolutely nothing that is sacrosanct about the unity of the Nigerian state if we cannot live together in peace.
As a matter of fact there has been a school of thought since 1914 when Nigeria was first created that it was an ”unworkable union” and a ”cruel joke”. Lord Frederick Lugard’s vision, and indeed his intention, when he recommended the amalgamation of the northern and southern protectorates of Nigeria in 1914 was ably described and enunciated by his own very words when he said that the Northern protectorate of Nigeria could be described as the ”poor husband” whilst the Southern protectorate could be described as the ”rich wife”. He then pronounced the ”permanency” of our forced union by saying- ”today we marry the two and our prayer is that this union lasts forever”. That is how the north and the south got ”married” and that is how the famous amalglamation of 1914 came about. The problem was that the two young spouses were never asked by their British masters whether they actually wanted to stay together, let alone get married. Worst still the ”poor husband” was never given the opportunity to court, woo or propose to the ”rich wife”. To make matters worse the two spouses came from different worlds, had different backgrounds, had a different religion, had a different history and had a different world-view . Today the ”rich wife” and the ”poor husband” have suffered immensely in each others ”loving” arms. The marriage has been strained and turbulent. We fought a brutal and avoidable 3 year civil war from 1967 in which we killed no less than 2 million of our own people. Since1960 the story has been more or less the same and the tales of tragedy and woe have just continued to pour in. If it is not genocide, mass killings or sectarian butchery by groups like Boko Haram then it is always something else. Yet today’s barbarism and mass killings are far more horrendous than ever and are far better planned, funded, orchestrated and executed by those that are behind them than ever before. The question is how much longer can the ”rich wife” and the ”poor husband” give and take this sort of thing from one another?
For how long can the centre hold before the voices of reason and restraint are completely drowned by the irrational, compulsive outrage that is gradually building up and the uncontrollable outcry for reprisals and revenge? For how long can our hope and fervent prayers prevent the dogs of war from being unleashed? May God save Nigeria.