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Christians in the Muslim World

Nigerians Under the Menace of Boko Haram

Which conditions have created Boko Haram in Nigeria? Poverty by itself is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for violence. What are the others?

The challenge is for Nigeria to engage in some kind of examination of conscience. The government must seriously examine the conditions that have created Boko Haram. It requires a regime of border protection that is not subject to the criminal complicity and corruption that is common in the Immigration services. The borders with Cameroon, Chad and Niger remain the most problematic where claims of historical linkages have made it easy for the Boko Haram sect to exploit language and culture (here Kanuri) to their advantage.



Boko Haram’s deadly violence has been accentuated by poor policing of our borders, complicity in the funding of Boko Haram by Muslim elites, some as a result of blackmail and threats . Boko Haram and its supporters elsewhere have been involved in robbery of banks; drug trafficking, kidnapping (especially of foreigners), human trafficking and they also run drug gangs . Their victims include prominent politicians and businessmen, contractors, government officials, and traders


Clearly, what is happening today lies in the years of corruption, mismanagement of state resources which has consigned our citizens to a life of misery and squalor. In the Boko Haram narrative, one constantly hears references to Justice, Sharia and so on. This is merely another way of capturing the frustration that has spread across the country.



Of course, poverty by itself is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for violence. However, in our situation, years of frustration among poor Muslims with the lies and deceit of its own elite have added to their search for outlets. Northern Muslims have been at the helm of affairs in the country for over three quarters of the time in Nigeria. They have occupied key positions in public life. Rather than delivering services to their people, they have continued to focus on such hypocritical actions as building mosques, sending thousands of their people on pilgrimages and making claims of piousness. They openly declared the adoption and application of Sharia Law after the country’s return to civilian rule. Sadly, those claims have all but fizzled out. The cumulative impact of these frustrations is what is playing out as Boko Haram amidst claims that they want to establish and Islamic state.



Successive leaders have done very little to forge a united nation. The result is the gap has continued to widen especially in the face of collapsed infrastructure which has rendered movement impossible across the country. Increasingly, Muslims have felt constrained for space by people they consider strangers, namely the Christian community. The non-Muslims across northern Nigeria have continued to prosper amidst difficulties, a development that has elicited jealousy among their Muslim neighbours. Johannes Harnischfeger has beautifully captured this by explaining that for these Muslims…. Infidels should not be granted equal rights and that public affairs should be determined by those who were guided by God. Christians are not perceived as part of community, they are an alien influence that should be kept in check….they are widely seen as representatives of western civilisation who have brought with them all the vices of the west, greed, permissiveness and lack of respect. As their way of life was supposed to have corrupting influence on Islamic societies, it would seem best not to allow them to have any impact on public life .


Moving forward, it is important that the government focuses on how to create a united nation especially by focusing on enforcing the Constitutional aspirations of common citizenship rights for all Nigerians.



The federal government must act urgently to address the issues of corruption by ending impunity in public life and laying the foundation for good governance. The levels of poverty and misery, the depth of growing inequalities is morally intolerable and there is no way that Nigeria can enjoy peace if it does not address these issues with seriousness.



The issue of amnesty needs to be pursued but the difficulty lies in how to find the key mediators and how to create confidence especially given the deep fracture and suspicion in relations between Christians and Muslims in the northern states of Nigeria.