Nigeria: Savagery in the Savannah
By Anthony Chuka Konwea, P.E.
Bigotry and corruption are the two core existential threats confronting Nigeria in its stuttering march towards genuine nationhood. In a number of recent write-ups with general slant on nation-building, this writer has sounded the alarm on the danger which corruption in high and low places poses to the future of the country. Indeed such essays as ‘The Unholy Trinity – National Interest vs. Regime Interest’, ‘Who Is The Thief-In-Chief? – Parts (1), (2), and (3)’ and ‘To You Looters, Rejoice!!!’ have reflected extensively on the phenomenology of corruption in Nigeria.
At first glance, bigotry and corruption appear to be completely unrelated. At a higher level of abstraction however we notice that there is indeed a connection between the two. My loot! My religion!! My children!!! My tribe!!!! There you have it. The link between bigotry and corruption is ego and the celebration of self. It is the same self-enhancing ego which motivates the cornering of the common patrimony for personal gratification that instructs the consideration of one’s creed, one’s tribe, one’s children and every other thing associated with one’s self as definitely superior and quasi infallible while denying other creeds, other tribes and other peoples’ children their space under the sun and their very right to coexist in peace.
And so even as you read this piece, it is quite possible that a number of our compatriots in Northern Nigeria, defenseless men, women and children, all bona fide Nigerian citizens like you and me, are having their throats slit or their innards bombed out by cowardly savages going by the name of Boko Haram terrorists. They suffer all these atrocities for what crime? Chiefly that they happen to be Christians and occasionally that they happen to be moderate Muslims who do not support wanton murderous acts against their peaceful unarmed compatriots of different faith. Their tragic fates and their innocent blood shed ostensibly in the name of protecting and avenging Islam are acts of human bestiality against fellow human beings crying out to God day and night for divine justice.
And so before our very eyes, the map of Nigeria is being progressively redrawn. Vast areas of northern Nigeria particularly in the northeastern part of the country are gradually being effectively excised and isolated from the rest of the country via ethnic and religious cleansing. The sovereignty of the Nigerian state over segments of its own territory is being challenged daily with reckless impunity.
The notion that Islam cannot coexist peacefully with other faiths and creeds is a fat lie. We have as proof to the contrary, the situation in the south western part of Nigeria. One must pay unqualified tribute here to the Muslims in South-Western Nigeria and other peaceful Muslims elsewhere in Northern and Southern Nigeria, who against all odds have stoutly refused to emulate the murderous hate-filled activities of radical Islamism.
In all my years of existence on earth, I have never heard of Muslim youths in South – Western Nigeria and they exist there in significant numbers, going on a rampage and killing their fellow compatriots just because they are so-called infidels, Christians or pagans. Indeed moderate Muslims in South-Western Nigeria by their peaceful co-existence with their neighbors of differing faiths, make a far better case for potential conversion to Islam by any one than the murderous, cowardly, radical Islamic terrorists of Northern Nigeria.
If you truly believe your religion is superior to other religions, and that you are headed to paradise while others are doomed to go to hell, your attitude towards others at best should be one of loving sympathy and at worst one of derisory pity. Certainly your attitude should not be one of murderous hatred except perhaps if you are not content with the strictures of your religion and are envious of the liberties granted by others’ faith. In any case, you are not making a good sales pitch for your faith if all we see associated with it is radical bigotry sandwiched by butchery of the defenseless and bombing-out of the innocent.
There is a fundamental contradiction in radical, intimidating religious activity. You can never truly and genuinely convert someone to your religion by force or by intimidation if that is your main goal. Any conversion by intimidation is at best a timorous conversion. It is well said that a man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still. If the unnecessarily premeditated clash of faiths in Nigeria were purely and simply a battle for minds and a contest for new converts, surely the radical Islamists would concede that they have lost the tussle hands down by a wide margin due to their brutal methodology.
Personally I do not believe that the radical Islamists are daft enough not to concede defeat in the battle for minds if ever there was one. That they persist in their brutal methods leads one to the inescapable conclusion that a battle for fresh converts is not their main intention. Their intention is something darker, something far more sinister.
And so we must recognize all this talk of radical Islam in Nigeria for the ruse that it truly is. Radical Islam as practiced in Northern Nigeria is a Trojan horse for geo-political domination. What is going on here is that on the pretext of defending their faith which in any case is not being threatened by anybody, radical Muslims in Northern Nigeria are engaging in acts of intimidation and latterly terror in order to secure geo-political advantage and pre-eminence for themselves and their sponsors in the nation’s affairs.
Since in any case, you cannot subsequently convert to your faith a person you have just slaughtered and since we do not see the threat a simple peasant Christian family in Northern Nigeria, struggling to eke out a living in these harsh times, poses to Islam, we insist that the murderous activities of the Islamic terrorists in Northern Nigeria and their sponsors have nothing whatsoever to do with the propagation of or defense of Islam but everything to do with a geo-political power grab.
Recognizing the fundamental threat radical Islamists pose to the State, all patriotic Nigerians, moderate Muslims, Christians and pagans alike, must rise up, stand shoulder to shoulder in unity and stoutly resist them whenever and wherever they emerge. It is not for nothing that progressive Muslim countries like Turkey and even quite a few Muslim monarchies like Saudi Arabia and Morocco hold radical Islamists in their countries on a tight leash. These countries having correctly assessed the danger, appreciate that radical Islamism has very little to do with Islam but everything to do with a pre-historic, antiquated, feudal power grab no more, no less.
Rest assured that no amount of appeasement would satisfy the radical Islamists until they subvert all State institutions, overthrow the State and erect a new radical Islamic state fashioned to suit their peculiar whims and caprices. The short but brutal rule of the Taliban in Afghanistan, where young girls were stopped by decree from going to school and young men were stopped by decree from shaving their beards is still fresh in our memories. Is that the sort of country we want to bequeath to the next generation of Nigerians? The concurrent battles going on in post-Mubarak and predominantly Muslim Egypt between moderate Muslims and the Muslim Brotherhood backed President Mohamed Morsi should serve as a timely reminder.
Now it has been advanced by some that moderate Muslims particularly those in South-Western Nigeria are not pious Muslims. Not being a Muslim myself, I am not in a position to comment on who is a pious and who is not a pious Muslim. What I do know and I have certainly been around, is that vice and virtue cut across the entire length and breadth of Nigeria regardless of creed, tribe, age and gender.
There is no vice practiced in other parts of Nigeria that is not practiced in Northern Nigeria by northern Muslims. Is it bribery and corruption? Is it stealing? Is it adultery? Is it fornication? Is it prostitution? Is it homosexuality and lesbianism? Is it alcoholism? Is it smoking? Is it bearing false witness against one’s neighbor? Is it 419? Is it kidnapping? Is it slothfulness? Is it slander? Name it. The intensity may be different in each particular case, but these vices are not unheard of among northern Muslims. In any case, when did murderous hatred for one’s neighbor of a different faith or tribe become a mark of piety?
All religions without exception abhor vice and sin. But no religion worthy to be so called should promote hatred on the basis of creed, race, tribe, age and gender. By any means hate the sin, but certainly do not hate the sinner. If you cannot bring yourself to love, at worst pity the sinner and leave him to his providential fate. And that should be the leitmotif of genuine religious activity.
Forget about the propaganda. While the Islamic terrorists by their murderous activities proclaim that they hate the so-called infidel sinners; their hypocritical lifestyles confirm that they love and secretly partake in the infidels’ sin. What they seem to be saying in other words is that you may commit the infidel sin discreetly, so long as you are a northern Muslim.
In the wake of the murderous activities of the Boko Haram terrorists, the Nigerian ruling class finds itself in a quandary regarding the way forward. While many people have called for negotiation with the terrorists, others have called for an outright military solution or a fight to the finish. What is the best way forward?
As we have noted, appeasement never pays with radical Islamists. Radical Islam is like a cancer which has to be rooted out before it spreads widely. And so negotiation with the terrorists should never be an option. What the Government should do in the short term is to announce an amnesty for terrorists, who are willing to drop their arms, renounce radicalism and come in from the cold. After extensive debriefing including gathering of intelligence about unrepentant terrorists, such reformed terrorists should be retrained and rehabilitated while still being monitored. Unrepentant terrorists should be hunted down and brought to justice.
Our security forces have to be revamped and retrained in modern counter insurgency methods, including containment of urban terrorism, intelligence gathering and evaluation, bomb detection and bomb disposal methods etc. Indiscriminate killings by the security forces should be very strictly discouraged with offenders among the security forces brought to book. It is better for one terrorist to escape than for a single innocent blood to be shed by our security forces. Terrorist infiltration into the security services should be treated as high treason and those involved made to pay the consequences to the letter.
The greatest weapon terrorists have is that of surprise. They enjoy the liberty of choice over the place, time and type of terrorist activity to unleash on captive vicinities. The most effective way to confront them is to use their own methods upon them. Our anti-terrorist forces should adopt and enforce unannounced ‘lockdowns’ of randomly selected, designated neighborhoods in terrorist infested areas. During such lockdowns, every square inch of the specified area should be searched and every person found therein should be interrogated as to their mission.
It has been suggested by some, that the major recruiting catchment for radical Islamists are the so called ‘almajiri’ street boys. According to this school of thought, graduates of the almajiri system constitute the bulk of the foot soldiers of Islamic terrorism in Nigeria. The almajiri network is being fingered as the nursery or ‘killergarten’ of radical Islam. It is uncertain how true this assertion is but whatever may be the reality, the governments of the Federation should take more than a passing interest in the almajiri phenomenon. As a long term panacea, the Federal and State governments, corruption permitting, should invest in the vocational education of the street boys in order to make them self-reliant and self-sustaining.
In the wake of the Boko Haram terrorist attacks, many southern Christians and southern Muslims resident in the North have run back to their ancestral regions. Spare a thought for indigenous northern Christians. With nowhere to run to, they remain perched in their ancestral homes in the North waiting like sitting ducks to be plucked by the terrorists.
While today the terrorists have northern Christians in their sights, northern moderate Muslims are well advised to be wary of the existential threat posed to them too by Islamic terrorism. For if they fail to join hands with the rest of us their compatriots in confronting these monsters, perhaps in a few months’ or years’ time they too could find themselves in the cross-hairs of this creeping terrorism.
Then they would lament like the Europeans did about Hitler that ‘First they came for the Igbos, we did nothing. Then they came for southern Christians, we did nothing. Next they came for southern Muslims, we did nothing. Then they came for Northern Christians, we did nothing. Until finally they have come for us northern moderate Muslims, and there is no body left to save us’.
May God bless Nigeria – in – distress.
Engr. Anthony Chuka Konwea, P.E.