Boko Haram and Political Elites in Northern Nigeria

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For those observing recent events in Nigeria, it came as little surprise when the announcement was made of the arrest of an alleged Boko Haram commander, Shuaibu Muhammad Bama, by Nigeria’s military officers in the residence of a high profile politician in Maiduguri, the capital and the largest city of Borno State in northeastern Nigeria. Boko Haram seeks to create an Islamic state in Nigeria and has used violence to achieve its goals since 2009. There have been strong suspicions that politicians and top government functionaries are behind some of the atrocities perpetrated against ordinary Nigerians by armed groups across the country.

Ahmed Khalifa Zannah, a senator representing Borno Senatorial District and member of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Senator Ali Madu Sherif, the previous governor of the state and member of the opposition All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP), are two individuals who have traded accusations as to the identities of the real masterminds of the Islamist group. The invitation of the two prominent citizens from the state by security agencies over their roles in the formation, funding and activities of Boko Haram have further exposed the government corruption in the crisis.

Their desperation to exonerate themselves is a further testament to their possible complicity. The controversy could linger but the fact remains that atrocities being committed in the name of Boko Haram group is alarming. This group claims to champion Islam yet most of its victims are attacked in major enclaves of Borno and Yobe states and are actually Muslims. While attacks on Christians and churches in Bauchi and Kaduna states are quite worrisome with obvious wide media coverage, the attackers do not discriminate against their targets.

There have been recorded killing of Muslims, traditional rulers and other religious leaders. In fact, the majority of the victims during the Ramadan fasting period and towards the Eid-Kabir festivities in Borno and Yobe states were either retired or serving public figures who were Muslims. Not only were they killed along with their family members, but their houses were also razed. Consequently, other undesirable elements have obviously capitalized on the chaotic scenario created by the Boko Haram for economic extortion and other forms of criminal activities.

Armed robbers and kidnappers now easily use the name of the group to advance the pursuit of their sinister agenda. Genuine religious leaders, especially Christians who are able to read between the lines, have continued to decry the killing and destruction of properties by the attackers. They also counsel their followers to be wary of undesirable elements who could be fanning the flames of disunity and disintegration of the country.

Realizing that various other groups are hiding behind Boko Haram to perpetrate their violent motives of extortion, robbery and national disintegration on ethnic and religious lines, some interfaith groups have also sprung up to promote peaceful coexistence among Nigerians. These groups promote healthy dialogue and interaction while encouraging joint observation and celebration of religion festivities. This major security challenge confronting Nigeria has also weakened the economy of the affected states as schools, banks, factories and other institutions remain closed.

While Nigeria’s security challenges are real and complex, they are not insurmountable. It is a stage of development that was also similar to experiences in other countries but the good news is that realistic efforts are now underway to ensure that the country is returning to its peaceful past.

Yushau A. Shuaib is a Nigerian writer and author. He writes about various political, economic, social and religious issues affecting Nigeria at www.yashuaib.com. He is an award-winning Public Relations (PR) practitioner with a degree in Mass-Communications from Bayero University Kano and a Masters in PR from the University of Westminster, London.

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