- Thursday, 20 November 2014 00:00 (The Guardian Newpaper)
- Written by Patrick Dele Cole
HERE in Nigeria, disgruntled Nigerians have once more formed an extremist group called Boko Haram - literally that western education is sinful. In the past few weeks, the untold violence in humanity has been unleashed by these disgruntled elements on all who they disagree with including their own Moslem brothers.
I am not going to spend time to show that the Western education so virulently hated is a part of Moslem education from which the West borrowed the numerals, medicine, chemistry, knowledge of the universe, astrology and astronomy, sea faring, etc. Education as a process is unique - borrowing from all cultures to make life more pleasurable and abundant and even meaningful: to accumulate, store and use knowledge for good or evil (nuclear bomb).
But the singular contribution of all civilization culminating in what we have is tolerance. Some freedom and the right to a society that would allow you fulfill your potential. All religions, including Islam have learnt to accept that not all who do not proclaim the faith are profane; they have come to accept that human rights are a universal precept from which they cannot and must not escape; that the right to life is inviolable and if you unjustly take life you will be killed or punished.
Many do not see this but it is because they have not followed the logic of existentialism. Some people point to the failures and double standards of the West. But the essence of the concept still remains intact even if breached every now and again.
In both Islam and Christianity; and Judaism, there is plenty that is exclusive; there is enough brimstone and fire to consume our enemies, there is enough blood of Christ to protect us against weapons fashioned for our destruction.
These are concepts of comfort, a restatement of freedom for you to go ahead and do what you must and can, provided it is within the law and does not violate human rights. If it were not so, then we are in the realm of pure chaos, a return to the state of nations, as described by Hobbes.
A nuclear bomb in the hands of ISIS or Boko Haram would be used against their perceived enemies. Anyone who can descend to the bestiality of Boko Haram cannot be trusted to treat non-Moslems with compassion. Boko Haram has not issued one word about living in peace with non-Moslems. So far as one can gather, it is "convert or die". It is true that atrocities are committed against Moslems by Boko Haram and ISIS - but their ultimate goal of establishing an Islamic State has been unequivocal.
What is Government doing about Chibok and Boko Haram? We have had the Niger Delta Militants, the Agbekoya and similar low insurgency units. I cannot remember how many times Obasanjo sent me to bring D.S.P. Alamieyeseigha right or Goodluck Jonathan to Aso Rock with Obasanjo's command and ringing with airs to go and release hostages. They did.
The Niger Delta militancy started as politicians sought to protect themselves and their votes from rivals. In Rivers, there was deep rivalry between Sergeant Awuse, Marshall Harry, Peter Odili, Aminasoari Dikibo, each supported by a gang of political thugs. In Bayelsa there was rivalry between Pere Ajuwa, D.S.P. Alamieyeseigha, Charles Dogu, Obule; Delta was torn apart by thugs of James Ibori, Great Ogboru and others. The Niger Delta militants the world was to read about were the political thugs of politicians, who found that they had little use for large numbers of thugs after the elections. Many were trained by mercenaries from South Africa, Britain, Israel etc. They, for their part, felt that their erstwhile masters were blowing hot and cold. They were trained, armed and dangerous. The poverty of the area and degraded environment provided some philosophical casus belli for them; they started hostage taking and bunkering leading to a mid level insurgency of the area.
Similarly in the North East, the politicians openly recruited thugs. In Borno, the hostility between Bunu Sherriff and Ibrahim Bunu, despite the fact that they married two sisters, was legendary. In Adamawa, Atiku and Tukur were open rivals, such that if an event was in Yola, all their visitors knew you had to visit both or sometimes three (there is a third person whose name escapes me); if you were there at lunch time the visitor had to have three lunches!!! I would not be surprised if the first members of Boko Haram did not come from these politically disaffected but active groups. This does not say that Atiku or Bamanga or Sheriff or Bunu were responsible for Boko Haram or in anyway encouraged them, but I would be very surprised if, as in the Niger Delta, these were not the origins of militancy. As stated earlier, we knew who these men were in the Niger Delta, we knew their parents, girl friends, wives, sisters, brothers, teachers, mentors etc. I am sure that in the North East, the knowledge of members of Boko Haram is equally widespread. My quarrel is with the closet Boko Haramists who know them, share their aspirations and pretend otherwise.
I believe that members of the Boko Haram went to school and live in Nigeria; they have parents, brothers and sisters; a lemmas and spiritual leaders. If they cannot be found, it is because their people are hiding them. But their people also went to school, mosques, and markets and socialized with others. I cannot teach our intelligence officers what to do but I can certainly raise questions about what they obviously are not doing? The Militants of the Niger Delta were known even if there was little anyone could do; to stop them.
Radical Islam seems bent on living in a time warp; unfortunately even conservative Islam follows these trends: I saw a sign in a mall in Dubai forbidding "excessive show of affection in public". How can love offend the sensibilities of a human being? We all accept that the standard of behaviour of younger generation is sometimes not up to our standards but we learn to accommodate such behaviour. Islam has to prepare itself for the 21st century beyond its wholesale adoption of the Kalashnikov and violence. There are too many Muslims willing to accept the need for a jihad dying for a higher cause with the certainty that the dead martyr is destined to go straight to heaven and to the arms of 70 virgins!!. I hope this is not the true motivation for suicide bombings. It is difficult enough to deal with one virgin!!
In the new world order, what moves man is his affection of his fellow man, the belief in the intrinsic essence of shared humanity and a respect for our differences? The modern world has no room for a theocracy - all religions have tried this and failed; we all live in a modern state, with laws, definite boundaries, shared beliefs, and respect. A modern state with considerable freedom of movement, health and education systems, the enthronement of individual rights and the rule of law, communications. The renaming of an area cannot make it a state - which passport will those in the new areas of ISIS, Libya, North East Nigeria - will they use? There will continually be a separation of religion and the state despite all that is said in the Holy Books.
When Ojukwu declared Biafra or secession of country, the rest of Nigeria was mobilized to keep Nigeria one. After these many years we see a fissiparous tendency towards cessation. It would be a shame if religion were to be the basis of secession. We have not seen a massive mobilization effort to keep Nigeria one in the present secession moves of Boko Haram. Why??
Boko Haram poses an existential threat to Nigeria. The response of Governments to this threat is at best lukewarm, at worst, co-operative. Politicians, who have their head in the sand like the proverbial ostrich, will
find that they have no country to govern.
- Dr. Cole, Nigeria's former Ambassador to Brazil, wrote from Lagos.