Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Boko Haram menace: Matters arising

28 June 2011

WithTiko Emmanuel Okoye 

Like millions of Nigerians, my emotions ran the entire gamut of heightened anxiety, palpable fear, and red-hot rage when I heard about the suicide bombing of the Nigeria Police headquarters in Abuja by Boko Haram. I had prepared a rough draft of an essay on the subject before second thoughts over the poignant counsel of ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle on the vulnerability of impulsiveness cooled me down. Aristotle had intoned: “It is easy to fly into a passion – anybody can do that – but to be angry with the right person to the right extent and at the right time and with the right object and in the right way – that is not easy…”

Talk is said to be cheap, and many of those who rushed to pass premature judgments on the incidence failed to scale Aristotle’s acid test. It was either, they postulated, the Police High Command was incompetent hence the organization received a well-deserved bruised and bloodied nose in the hands of more capable terrorists or that the best way to resolve the terrorist menace is for the government to dialogue and negotiate with the leaders of the extremist religious group. Boko Haram has since continued to paint large swathes of the North and Abuja with human blood, no doubt encouraged by the sentiments of its misguided apologists.


Still, the bombing of the symbol of the nation’s security is a tragedy for us all, not the police alone. It simply exposes us as living a big lie. If a handful of fanatics could easily penetrate police headquarters and cause so much damage, what guarantee is there that the country can withstand a military aggression by the smallest of our neighbors? 

Those comparing the Boko Haram menace and the Niger Delta insurgency miss one very important difference. The militant youths in the Niger Delta were fighting against material deprivation, oppression and injustice, and as soon as late President Umaru Yar’Adua underscored his commitment to right the wrongs by establishing the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, the militants gave up their fight and embraced peace. Can the same be said of Boko Haram? Its members are filled with moral outrage at the decadence of their society, which they readily attribute to the tragedy of modern capitalism associated with Western education. And they believe they owe nobody any apologies for subjecting parts of the North and Abuja to their brand of murderous protest with almost metronomic regularity.

The philosophy of Boko Haram is essentially embedded in Darwinism: “All life is an eternal struggle and the world is a jungle where only the fittest survive and the strongest rule.”

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