Posted by Uche Ezechukwu | 9 years ago | 2,578 times
Like malevolent cancer cells, the Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'Awati Wal-Jihad, generally known as the Boko Haram, has continued to mutate and change its nature and tactics in response to what it must perceive as the reality, as well as in manners that have shown the group as a well-trained and determined evil group. It had started with suicide bombings and indiscriminate attacks on public places and on faith based institutions. Its concentration on churches and other Christian places of worship had gone a long way in creating a huge gulf and bad blood between the members of the two major faiths in the country, as suspicion has billowed against the Muslims from their Christian counterparts who had ascribed the responsibility for the misdeeds of the miscreants who mouthed Islamic justification on the bewildered Nigerian Muslims.
Next, the group graduated to selected assassinations and pinpointed attacks on political, military and religious dignitaries, especially of the Muslim faith, giving a lie to the pretension that the group had any Islamic credentials. They graduated to destruction of social and economic infrastructures as well as indiscriminate sowing of panic and fear at areas which had been hitherto thought safe and impenetrable. Abuja, which had become the nation’s most defended city buckled under Boko Haram’s multiple bombings. Suddenly the serene national capital lost its innocence. For Boko Haram, there has been no hallowed grounds.
Before long, everybody and everything had become vulnerable especially when the group abducted and took away more than 200 female students from their school in Chibok to unknown locations. Almost 150 days later, nobody seems to have the faintest clue of how to get the girls back alive and safely. Emboldened, the group had even kidnapped the wife of the vice president of the neighboring Cameroun.
Last month, the Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'Awati Wal-Jihad changed its methods dramatically. From being a wholly urban guerrilla outfit that sows terror indiscriminately, it has gone symmetrical, and has started fighting the troops head on with boots on the ground, taking and occupying territories. It has become very successful in this new chosen path as towns and communities along the Camerounian border and even further inland, as Bama, have started falling into their hands, the denials of the federal government hardly withstanding. What has become even more significant is that the group is no longer content with being a nomadic terror outfit; it has decided to capture territories, keep them and administer them. Last month, it captured Gwoza, the city where Nigerian elite mobile policemen and women are trained, and hoisted its flag, declaring there as the seat of its ‘Islamic Caliphate’. Since then, they have been making advances, capturing more places and annexing them, committing horrendous human rights abuses everywhere they set their foot.
Since then, many Nigerians – especially among the political, military and the academic classes – have been writing off and scoffing at the recent declaration of Gwoza and surroundings areas captured from Nigeria last month, by the insurgents as their caliphate, and without having said it in black and white, Shekau has become the Caliph. In all this, the Boko Haram has met very little resistance in its march, prompting a top US official to warn last week in Abuja that an attack on Maiduguri the largest town in the North West is imminent. Apart from the reported raids by the federal forces during the weekend, the advance by the violent group has replicated a slice of a hot knife through butter.
Before dismissing Boko Haram and their idea of a caliphate as a fluke, one must note that the group is not original in its activities but is rather replicating every step of the deadly and vicious Islamic State (ISIS) which is currently ravaging Iraq and Syria, in every way. Its methodologies, both in recruiting foreigners who wreak havoc with such brutality that is impossible with any local Nigerian people, to its touting a version of Islam that every Islamic scholar has found strange and reprehensible, to the vow to overthrow the status quo and replace it with its weird version of the Sharia, Boko Haram has proved to be a Siamese twin of the dreaded ISIS which the West has vowed to combat in a collective resolve.
Like ISIS that had started out as a terrorist group, Boko Haram no longer sees itself as a mere terrorist group, but now as an army that can hold and administer a territory. Like ISIS, it claims to govern according to harshly interpreted principles of Islamic law, including the imposition of dhimmi pacts on minorities and people of other religions – guaranteeing protection in exchange for the payment of a tax and the acceptance of second-class citizenship – and often worse. While the quality of its administrative capacity is questionable – like ISIS, it seems to insist on religious cleansing of the population just like ISIS did in Mosul where it ordered Christian and Yezidi minorities to convert or be massacred. From the tales of woe of Nigerians that have managed to escape from enclaves recently captured by Boko Haram, the bodies that are said to litter the streets are eloquent testimonies of what the group and its ‘caliphate’ promise.
The present activities of the Boko Haram have provided certain object lessons and helped to obliterate the hopes and fervour of any people who might have been thinking and hoping that the ascendancy of the group would spell an opportunity for them to practice the more puritanical version of their religion. Many Iraqis had thought so initially but have rued the cooperation they had extended to the invading ISIS with thousands of their foreign fighters when they unfolded their bloody agenda. Those who might have harboured some sympathy for Boko Haram for the very reason that they are mouthing some religious pretensions have since become disappointed. The way it is, more Muslims seem to have suffered under the scourge of this marauding evil.
Just like the initial ISIS, after it was formed by the Jordanian, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi – who was distinguished by his notorious roles in the Iraqi insurgency between 2003 and 2006 – first as, Tawhid wal-Jihad in the north of Iraq, when it depended on its affiliation with al-Qaeda for training and organization, Boko Haram seems to have followed the same path. Having also received funding and training from Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and was designated by the US as a terrorist organization in November 2013, it seems to have peeled off and become more affiliated, even if philosophical for now, to ISIS.
ISIS has since come of age and seems to be have been operating independently of Al-Qaeda which seems to have goose-pimples at the level of brutality exhibited by the group and believes that such brutality is capable of alienating supporters, as has become the case. With the ascension of the current ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in 2010, following the killing of al-Zarqawi in a US air raid, a new methodology has emerged which the Boko Haram seems to be copying closely. Just as ISIS was rushing to occupy the whole of Iraq and Syria and declare the territory as his Islamic caliphate, before being delayed by the US air strikes, Shekau and his colleagues seem to have the same programme for Nigeria and maybe Cameroun.
The notion of a caliphate is not new to Nigerians, having lived under the Sokoto Caliphate which, since 1804 has sown nothing but peace, justice, scholarship, economic prosperity and human rights in the large area of Northern Nigeria where it has and currently holds sway. The legacies of the Sokoto Caliphate have remained evergreen and sought-after because of their continued relevance in the different aspects of socio-economic endeavor. Even though the direct authority of the Sokoto Caliphate has been seriously diminished both by the British colonial authority and the subsequent constitutional tinkering by different post independent administrations, the Caliphate has remained very powerful and will for a long time remain a reference point to those who seek good governance in the ways that would appeal fundamentally to the people and groups whose lives the caliphate had impacted all through its history.
Majority of Nigerian Muslims belong to the tolerant Sunni sect and the sprinkling of the other more militant sects has not fundamentally diluted the moderate and cool-headed nature of Nigerian Islam. While the Islamic religion lacks the type of hierarchical nature of its Christian counterpart for its clerics, the Muslim umma has been organized around the authority of the Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs (SCIA) headed by the Sultan of Sokoto, whose forebear, Sheikh Uthman dan Fodio had carried out the jihad that unified Muslims and purified Islamic practice in a very civil and responsible manner, in the areas currently occupied by Nigeria and beyond.
Most Muslims that I have related with have been pained when, out of ignorance, they are being associated with Boko Haram, merely because the wild violent terrorists claim that they are on a mission for Islam. Both Muslim clerics and ordinary Muslims have been scandalized and have explained ad nauseum that there is nothing Islamic in what Boko Haram and its leaders are doing. If anything, Boko Haram is giving a very bad name to Islam, especially to the inadequately informed. The word jihad, they claim, has been very much misinterpreted and what the likes of Shekau are doing cannot be representative of the true jihad as, accordingly, all their actions are haram to Islamic belief.
For example, Islamic religion is said to be specifically against destruction of innocent lives as well as of places of worship. It is said to be against forceful conversion and holding of innocent people against their will. Islam is said to be against the subjugation of women and denial of education, as one of the famous verses quoted by my friends is that the Holy Prophet Muhammed had said that education is so important that it might even be necessary to go as far as China to obtain it. So, from where did Shekau and his mad group get the notion of fighting against Western education which made possible with which he is embarking on his wholesale destruction? From which rubric of the Islamic holy book did they extract the ongoing rape, murder and despoliation?
Nigerians know what to expect from Shekau’s caliphate, and it has not mattered whether they are Muslims or Christians. Yet, the Boko Haram insurgency which is a terrible predicament for Nigeria and all Nigerians seems to have provided for citizens of all religions and ethnics a golden opportunity to work together to defeat it and forge a new lease of unity. It has proved to be an equal threat to all Nigerians, irrespective of creed, tribe and tongue. Today, nobody can claim to be safe or point an accusing finger at any of his or her compatriot. Some Nigerians might have been in an Islamic boat and the others in a Christian boat, but the Boko Haram challenge has now put all of them in the same boat.
Boko Haram is a living and rabid danger to all Nigerians; it is a great insult to all Muslims. The resolve to defeat it is the most urgent demand on all Nigerians. It has nothing to do with political parties, ethnic group – and most importantly religious membership.
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