Nigerian Elites and the Boko Haram Menace (Part 1) By Odusote Oluwakayode
I have mixed feelings about the security situation in my country, No one is safe, and you could hear the blast of explosions anywhere at any moment especially in the Northern part. At each moment of the sad explosions, lives are lost, I do not mind the properties destroyed, lives don’t have a duplicate and as much as lives don’t have a duplicate, our government doesn’t have a concrete system for the needed security measures to protect lives and now, properties. We are used to the government’s rhyme of condemnations, promises and assurances.
One would imagine why a President with the constitutional powers and government security machineries at his disposal is unable to curb the incessant and unreasonable attacks from a group whose demands are mostly unreasonable, unreasonable in the sense that the demands don’t have meaning to a Nigerian unity but decorated with the stains of vendetta against some individuals who massively used them for selfish political gains. The users are the Elites whose selfish appetite for state control has no limit. They would go to any extent to get the political and economic dominance needed for total control at the expense of a country’s tranquility.
The Nigerian Elites are at war with its serious impact on the mass poor populace whose believe is twined to a group called the Boko Haram as the primary author of terrorism unleashed. Correct me if I’m wrong but I feel we are caught in the middle of the Elite war! Permit my reference of Prof. Wole Soyinka’s assertions in a recent interview that ‘PDP is at the heart of the trouble, it’s within PDP they have been making this dirty bargain. “You rule for so long, it’s my turn.” It is not in the constitution. So it’s the PDP members, who really should go and sort out this problem among themselves. But the nation is the one paying the penalty. This is not comfortable because they can protect themselves. They are the ones that divided the country into two–the North and then, the South.
I think that the reason which you might say is on paper, in terms of political planning, are the six geo-political zones. This ‘two’ business, I don’t understand. But they are using this division of North versus South the same way as they are using religion. The issue is completely political. But with toxic element of religion infused into it, it gives them the leg to ally with international terrorist bodies based on religion. Those are only too happy to be of assistance.
Let’s briefly touch on the style as learnt in political science and sociology, elite theory is a theory of the state which seeks to describe and explain the power relationships in contemporary society. The theory posits that a small minority, consisting of members of the political/economic elite and policy-planning networks, holds the most power and that this power is independent of a state’s democratic elections process. Through positions in corporations or on corporate boards, and influence over the policy-planning networks through financial support of foundations or positions with think tanks or policy-discussion groups, members of the “elite” are able to exert significant power over the policy decisions of corporations and governments.
Bottomore, T.(1993), Elites and Society explained that the Elite theory stands in opposition to pluralism in suggesting that democracy is a utopian ideal. It also stands in opposition to state autonomy theory.
We conclude therefore that power lies in position of authority in key economic and political institutions so the psychological difference that sets Elites apart is that they have personal resources, for instance intelligence and skills, and a vested interest in the government; while the rest (poor masses) are incompetent and do not have the capabilities of governing themselves, the elite are resourceful, rich and powerful. They will strive to make the government work or fail depending on their selfish interest.
These are some of the fundamental truths about the Elite mentality, therefore when there are grievances within the elite group, they automatically resort to the use of possessed powers to fight each other simply described in the words of Prof. Chinua Achebe thus ‘Turning and turning in the widening gyre, the falcon cannot hear the falconer; things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, the blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned; the best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity’.
It is widely known that the group was founded by Mohammed Yusuf in 2002 in the city of Maiduguri capital of Borno state, northern Nigeria under former Governor Ali Modu Sheriff an ANPP chieftain who allegedly used the sect for political gains and even had one of their member as a commissioner in his cabinet. Information has it that Yusuf established a religious complex that included a mosque and a school where many poor families from across Nigeria and from neighboring countries enrolled their children.
In the guise of working in the interest of the then governor as its machinery against political opposition especially the PDP, the group had ulterior political motives and was working as a recruiting ground for future jihadist to fight the state with willing recruits from neighboring unstable countries like Chad and Niger republic. Yusuf carefully and successfully attracted followers and sympathizers from the jobless youth by criticizing political corruption, poverty and unemployment. He became an advocate and was loved.
The group conducted its operations more or less peacefully during the first seven years of its existence and except for the state of it operations, the group was largely unknown nationwide not until 2009 when we were woken to a massive launch against its leaders by security operatives. The government clamp down on the group saw several members of the group arrested in Bauchi state, sparking deadly clashes with Nigerian security forces especially the Nigerian Police. The group’s founder and then leader Mohammed Yusuf amongst several other influential members and relatives was extra judicially killed during this time while still in police custody. After the killing of Yusuf, the group retreated and resurfaced by carrying out its first terrorist attack in Borno state in January 2010. Since then, we have been made to live with the violent attacks of incessant bombings and assassinations. As at the last attack on the media houses in Abuja and Kaduna, the group’s killings and attacks have claimed over 400 lives.
The brief fundamentals of Elite theory and the rise of Boko Haram have been highlighted and from here we examine some suspicions which might not be based on fact but of revelations from some of the group’s arrested members who have alleged that some northern governors of Kano state Ibrahim Shekarau who incidentally contested under the umbrella of ANPP and lost the 2011 Presidential election which was alleged to have been massively rigged in favour of the PDP candidate Goodluck Jonathan and Bauchi state governor paid them monthly. The questions are what were the payments for? Were they known to have been armed? What were the steps taken to curb them? Between 2007/2011, the state of Kano was under the leadership of an ANPP Governor with fierce opposition from the PDP. The state eventually fell to the PDP candidate and current governor Kwankwanso who allegedly stopped the said monthly payment thereby living the state prone to attacks as forewarned by the sect.
A quick reference again to Prof Wole Soyinka’s assertions ‘Let me begin by reminding everyone that Boko Haram has a very long history, whether you describe Boko Haram as an army of the discontent, or even as some people grotesquely try to suggest, “revolutionaries,” or you describe them as, legitimately, this time, as marginalized or feeling marginalized.
When I say that the phenomenon has a very long history, I am talking about a movement that relies on religion as a fuel for their operation, as a fuel for mobilization, as the impetus, an augmentation of any other legitimate or illegitimate grievance that they might have against society. Because of that fuel, that irrational, very combustible fuel of religion of a particular strain, of a particular irredentist strain; because of the nature of that religious adherence, which involves the very lethal dimension of brain-washing from childhood, all a man needs to be told is that this is a religious cause. All they need to be told is that this is an enemy of religion and they are ready to kill. No matter the motivations, no matter the extra-motivations of those who send them out, they need only one motivation: that they are fighting the cause of that religion’.
Just as Prof. asserted above, the northern political elites have adopted and relied on religion to brainwash innocent illiterates to becoming terror to their country. Former governor and now Senator Ahmed Yerima started the whole impetus of religion with the creation of Sharia law in Zamfara state around 2000/2001. He possibly galvanized support for his selfish project just to maintain his hold unto political power. He deceived the governed illiterates to measure his performance through fueling religious sentiments rather than the required developments expected of a leader.
15th May, 2012
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To be continued next week….
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