Politicisation of Boko Haram insurgency, bane of Nigeria’s anti-terror fight (2)
Being paper delivered at Portcullis House, House of Commons, London by Alhaji Lai Mohammed, National Publicity Secretary, All Progressives Congress, APC, on Monday
BY LAI MOHAMMED
PHASE Three: This is where things started to fall apart between Boko Haram and politicians/government officials in Borno State. Available reports point to some sort of disagreement between the group and some politicians following the 2007 elections (e.g. over monthly stipends payable to the group). This was followed by recurring clashes between Boko Haram members and the local police, especially over police harassment and arrest of Boko Haram members.
One of such led to the massacre of over a dozen police officers in July 2009. This triggered a large-scale security operation as ordered by President Yar’Adua in Borno, Yobe and Bauchi states. It is estimated that over 1000 suspected Boko Haram members were killed or summarily executed by security forces, including Mohammed Yusuf and his in-laws in this operation. In the aftermath of this crack down, some members of Boko Haram leadership escaped and regrouped outside Nigeria, and linked up with other Salafist groups in the Sahel.
Phase Four: This covers the ‘hardening’ of Boko Haram as it was transformed into an ultra-violent, insurgent Salafist group. Remnants of Boko Haram reportedly joined up with salafi-jihadi groups – such as the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) and Al Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) – and underwent insurgency trainings in jihadi camps in Northern Mali, and Mauritania. From September 2010, Boko Haram commenced violent attacks to mark the onset of the current insurgency. It started with high profile targets such as the Nigerian Police headquarters, United Nations country office, police and military facilities, prisons, mosques and churches, banks, schools, government offices, telecommunication masts, markets and lately local communities.
Phase Five This covers recent dynamics of Boko Haram insurgency, including the emergence of splinter groups, and the sheer increase in the Boko Haram’s audacity, including the kidnapping of more than 200 Chibok school girls (that internationalized the insurgency), the take-over of entire communities and towns; the declaration of a Caliphate and hoisting of its flags in attacked communities. In short, the Boko Haram insurgency has changed from what it was before, and it is at its fiercest level, as yet.
The Politics of Boko Haram
I have carefully chronicled Boko Haram’s evolution to counteract the rationale of PDP-Jonathan Administration failed attempt at linking it to the APC.
What is the PDP’s logic and rationale for linking the APC with Boko Haram?
This is based on a faulty logic of presuming that the APC is a sectional (Northern), as opposed to a national political party, that the APC is made up predominantly of Muslims, that it is a North/Islamic party; and therefore the APC must directly or indirectly support and sympathize with Boko Haram; and finally that Boko Haram is a Northern and Muslim plot to resist and challenge a Southerner-Christian Jonathan Presidency.
This position is inconsistent on several fronts. First, Boko Haram climaxed during the reign of Late President Yar’Adua, hence could not be a Northern plot against a Southern-Christian president. The 2009 security operation which led to the death of over 1000 members of Boko Haram was ordered by a sitting Northern-Muslim president!
Second, it was the PDP, from 2009 till date that transformed Boko Haram from a movement into an insurgent group, from a moderate Sunni group to a Salafist-Jihadi franchise, from a local group with localized (socio-economic and cultural change) agenda to an international violent jihadist group.
Third, while it is true the APC is the number one grassroots party across Northern Nigeria, but so also is the case in substantial parts of Southern Nigeria. The APC is a proper Pan-Nigerian party that reflects the ethno-religious and cultural diversities of Nigeria. The APC has functional structures across the 774 LGAs, and 36 states plus Abuja. As a matter of fact as of today APC has seven state governors from the Northern part of Nigeria and eight from the Southern part of the country.
Fourth, the APC is neither a Muslim nor a Christian political party. I make bold to say that it is impossible to have a religious political party in Nigeria because of the complex diversities in Nigeria. APC, like the PDP has Christian members across Northern Nigeria, and Muslim members across Southern Nigeria. Moreover, it is absurd to still think of Nigeria in a simplistic North equate Muslim, and South equate Christian prism.
Fifth, the APC is neither ashamed nor proud to acknowledge the socio-economic and political abyss that made the emergence of such a deadly and evil group like Boko Haram possible in the first place, and the crass leadership failures and ineptitude that transformed Boko Haram into a killing machine.
It is the APC’s acknowledgement of the underlining socio-economic and political conditions that is misinterpreted by the PDP as APC’s ‘sympathy’ for Boko Haram. The truth must be told, Boko Haram, similar to other ethno-political militias in post-1999 Nigeria, emerged against the backdrop of deepening poverty, social-economic deprivations, corruption, poor governance, police brutality and governance failures under the PDP since 1999. It is no coincidence that the northern half of Nigeria, including the northeast corner (Boko Haram base), are the poorest in the country.
A 2010 assessment by the National Bureau of Statistics reported the national poverty rate was 60.9 per cent, but it was 77.7 percent for the northwest and 76.3 per cent for northeast, compared with 59 per cent for the Southwest.
The World Bank also noted that economic growth and opportunities were not equally shared by different parts of the country, that growth was fastest in southern and middle agro climatic zones, with much slower growth in northern states. This has resulted in the largest number of poor people residing in the northern part of the country.
Sixth, Alh. Ali Modu Sherif, and all known persons directly or indirectly implicated in Boko Haram are members of the PDP or persons serving or with close ties to the Jonathan presidency.
Finally, the President Jonathan-PDP’s political manipulation of the Boko Haram has to be understood as part of its ‘poker-like’ calculus for clinging on to political power ahead of the 2015 elections.
How is the PDP doing and using this? In essence, how is the PDP benefitting politically from the Boko Haram insurgency?
This is in at least six ways: The PDP is using the Boko Haram crises to launder the battered image of the Jonathan presidency by securing attendance and participation for President Goodluck at important international summits and meetings. Curiously, Boko Haram has now become a way of getting the international community to talk and meet with President Goodluck Jonathan, and gain international media coverage.
The PDP is also using the Boko Haram crises, especially the #Bringbackourgirls campaign, to blackmail opposition groups, impose emergency rule in states and areas controlled by opposition political parties, harass and restrict media freedom (through military clampdowns), and for justifying illegal activities.
The Boko Haram crisis is readily used by the PDP to rationalize the Jonathan Government’s abdication of its constitutional responsibilities, including visits and assistance to areas affected, effective response to kidnappings and abductions (e.g. the GEJ government was silent over the Chibok girls kidnaps for over 15 days).
The declaration of emergency rule, massive increases in spending on security without correspondent impact, has become a political gimmick by the PDP now being counted as the GEJ achievement in promoting peace and security.
The PDP is actively politicizing the declaration of emergency rule. For instance, the PDP government is ever quick to propose and declare emergency rule in areas controlled by opposition political parties, but not in PDP-controlled states even where the scale of violence, killings and destruction are similar. For example, despite incessant violence, killings, displacement and destruction in Taraba, Benue and Plateau (PDP controlled states), the PDP has been quick to discount the possibility of a full scale emergency rule in the above mentioned states, however it is quick to impose emergency rule in non-PDP states at the slightest episode of violence.
Finally, the status quo favours the PDP and President Goodluck Jonathan. Why? Boko Haram affected areas and indeed the Northern region are APC strongholds, hence Boko Haram crises, the declaration of emergency rule and general atmosphere of insecurity in the North are likely to affect voting (low turnout due to displacement). There is already talk of cancelling elections in some areas in the Northeast, all plots designed to minimize President Jonathan-PDP electoral losses in the North and enhance the likelihood of a PDP victory.
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