AN ASSESSMENT OF THE BOKO HARAM INSURGENT GROUP IN NIGERIA

AN ASSESSMENT OF THE BOKO HARAM INSURGENT GROUP IN NIGERIA

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Chapter One

1.1 Background to the Study

An insurgency is known to be an armed rebellion against law enforcement or an authority. Usually, insurgency arises whenever a group of dissatisfied persons decides to stage an armed attack against the government of a country. As such, recruitment for insurgency becomes very easy since the common indicator of an insurgent is dissatisfaction with governmental policies, which thus feed into finding outlets for the seething grievances. This translates to the fact that the justification for engagement in uprisings against the government is that such is a fight for a just cause that might be beneficial to their country in years ahead.

An instance of insurgency is the Communist insurgent group in the Philippines, traceable to the early 19th century, precisely 1968 and still exists till date. It has outlasted martial law and four democratically elected governments. Despite what many consider as anachronistic ideology, the insurgency has endured, because many of its criticisms like income inequality, human rights abuses and broader social injustice still resonate with some Filipinos. Equally, since the 1960s, the Southern region of Thailand experienced the same dimension of insurgency challenges as the Philippines, and this is still ongoing.

It started as an ethnic conflict, involving 4 provinces- Songkhla, Pattani, Yala and Narathiwat. Since onset, the insurgents have become increasingly violent. The insurgency formed from these four provinces was ruthless and sees no reason for negotiating either with the government or with other insurgent groups. Thai analysts believed that foreign Islamic terrorist groups were infiltrating the area and that foreign funds and arms were being brought into the country; this has

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served as both the major cause and driver of insurgency in Southern Thailand. The United Kingdom has also had its fair share of insurgency. The Jewish insurgency in Palestine dates back to 1939-1948 at the British Mandatory Palestine. It occurred as a result of violent campaigns carried out by Jewish underground groups against the British forces and officials which led to the death of dozens of British soldiers, Jewish militants and civilians.

Insurgency in Nigeria can be dated far back to 20th November 1999 and is still existing till date and it is stronger than it has ever been before. It‟s concentrated in the Northern states of Nigeria but most prominent in Borno state. Looking back at the history of Nigeria, there has not been any serious and intense insurgent group which led to death of over 1500 people since it started. Although there were crisis and conflict among ethnic groups, nothing made headlines like the Boko Haram insurgent group in Nigeria.

Before we go into proper analysis of the activities, aims and movement of the terrorist group, we have to have an idea of the word „terrorism‟. Terrorism is gotten from the root word „terror‟ which simply means instilling fear into people. It‟s usually random and unpredictable. The practice of terrorism can be traced back to 1st century AD Sicarri Zealouts who got their name from hiding sicae or small daggers in their cloaks in order to kill Romans who offended them publicly. Since then, every country has had its fair share of terrorists whose sole aim is international recognition or causing fear and havoc in the state. Various terror attacks include bombings, car attacks, kidnapping, arson or hijacking a commercial aircraft.

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Boko Haram simply means education/westernization is forbidden. It‟s officially called Jama‟atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda‟Awati Wal-Jihad meaning people committed to Prophet Mohammad‟s teachings. Boko haram stands for outright rejection and total unacceptance of any laws that are not Islamic. They greatly frown at Western culture, Western education and modern science. They want strict Islamic laws to prevail in Nigeria in its purest and most impeccable form. Hence, they believe they are doing the country a favor by killing and destroying „infidels‟ and people who do not believe in Allah. They believe they are fighting a Holy war. Yusuf Bala Usman (1979) observed that:

The intermediary bourgeois (the ruling elite) cannot claim political leadership openly on the grounds that he is, or wants to be an exporter, shareholder, reinter or rich bureaucrat. He has to take over as an Ibo, Hausa, Idoma or Efik… the manipulation of religion in Nigeria today is essentially a means of creating the context for this fancy dress ball, for this charade of disguises.

Ever since the Usman Dan Fodio jihad in the early 18th century, Northern Nigeria has always been a highly sensitive ground for religious activism because they at that time refused to separate religion from politics (Ajayi 1990:55-65). Mohammed Yusuf in 2002 founded the Boko Haram group in Maiduguri, Borno state although there were speculations that the group had been existing since 1995. Boko Haram sees Western education and democracy as corruptive and immoral. Their main targets are non-muslims whom they also refer to as infidels. They have a certain ideology which is based on their religion that anyone who does not worship Allah and abide by the sharia law, should be killed.

They believe strongly that they are on a mission, a holy war which they call it, to eradicate non-believers of Allah. They kill people who engage in practices that are un-Islamic such as adultery 3


and drinking alcohol. Mohammed Yusuf, the father of the insurgent group in an interview with BBC in 2009 said „…like rain, we believe it is a creation of God rather than an evaporation caused by the sun that condenses and becomes rain. Like saying the world is a sphere. If it runs contrary to the teachings of Allah, we reject it. We also reject the theory of Darwinism…‟ Darwinism was founded by Charles Darwin and it states that all species grow and develop through natural selection of variations that increase the individual‟s ability to survive and reproduce. Yusuf was said to have condemned the reading of books other than the Quaran.

Some Scholars maintain that boko haram is an outgrowth of the Maitatsine movement in early 1980s whose main goal was the purification and strict adherence to Islam (Adesoji, 2011). The Maitatsine sector evolved to confront the pretentious ruling elites through several religious uprisings (Oyovbaire, 1980: 20-22). The Maitatsine was led by an immigrant, Alhaji Maitatsine and it consisted of various religious fanatics. They were well known for assaults and murder of both the rich and the poor and anyone who does not conform to the teachings of the Quaran. This occurred in Northern states such as Sokoto, Kano and later Borno. Boko haram drew its roots from the Maitatsine group and followed their objectives but their organizational structure is more in line with the Taliban (Danyibo, 2009) .By 2009, there we increased fights between the group and the police which led to the arrest of Yusuf as well as other fighters. In what was called extrajudicial killings

In the first seven years of operation, the insurgent group was said to be rather peaceful and also redrawing themselves from society, hereby moving into the north-eastern areas. According to former boko haram leader, he claimed they were attacking the police because they killed their brothers. He claimed the reason for their retaliation was the fact that Muslims in Nigeria were being killed and the authorities were doing nothing about it. He also emphasized his hatred for

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the political system in the country and swore that more blood will be shed if nothing is done about it.

It has been established after wide research that Boko haram is linked with the Al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) which usually assist newly recruits in weapon handling, use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and combat training. Fingers have also been pointed at some prominent politicians in the North for being sympathizers of the group but till date, no hard fact has proven this.

1.2. Statement of the Problem

In taking a critical look at the insurgent group, there are a number of problems that caused the insurgency. Before the boko haram came into existence, Nigeria had recorded no act of terrorism. And aside the experience of the Maitatsine‟s insurgency in 1984/85 and militancy in the oil laden Niger Delta between the close of last century and the start of the 21st century, the country did not witness any form of insurgent attack within its confines. Although people had their varying perspectives of the government and the system alike, there was never any case of any group getting furious to the extent of engaging in arson, kidnapping or carnage.





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