The Under-Reported Issues of Northern Nigeria
That Could Potentially Be Nigeria’s and Africa’s Next Socio-Security Challenge. Part I
As I pondered on the political climate of Nigeria I in trying to understand another perspective of issues and challenges confronting the Nigerian state, I decided to relay and report the contents of a book I stumbled on a few months ago, which to some sounds too controversial and or “inflammatory” (depending on which side you stand) like in many other books, papers or publications in Nigeria of the ethno-religious inclined types, it could easily be dismissed for a “conspirational/biased” reportage on some critical issues confronting Nigeria’s social-economic development with emphasis on northern Nigeria, but his/her ability to site and produce communiques, press release etc. to back up some of the assertions is compelling even to the most suspicious mind. To illustrate how inflammatory the contents of this book is, the author remained anonymous, while also side stepping the publishers/printing press’s name or address, having read through the book I will understand why the author will go to extra lengths to keep his identity a secret, because in a country that is so divided along ethno-religious lines one group’s freedom fighter can easily be seen as a villain by another group which will spill over to affect his/her family, community, ethnic group or religion as the case may be with such a person or his/her kit, kin and community marked for retaliation which more often than not is violent with fatal consequences. From what I have analyzed about this book its author is of a minority ethnic group of northern Nigeria, socio-politically/economically suppressed and most likely not a mainstream background, these are the grounds I think are responsible for the anonymity of the author and publisher. As we move forward I will dissect and analyze the author’s claims to ascertain its validity as either fact or fiction in a bid to shedding some light into some of the least concerns of minorities of the north.
“The abduction of over three hundred female secondary school students from government girls secondary school (GGSS), Chibok, Borno state, Nigeria on April 14, 2014 has elicited consternations all over the world. This though was not the first time that Boko haram has abducted female students.it is however its biggest haul. Chibok is a predominantly Christian community and the bulk of the abductees reflect this predominance in the ratio of 9:1. A few facts have since arisen about the abduction.
- The Sambisa forest is some 60km from Chibok, Borno state.
- The federal minister of education had at the time prior to the abduction advised the state governor, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, to relocate all students sitting for the year’s West African School Certificate Examination (WASCE) to Maiduguri the state capital about 120 km away from Sambisa forest, for adequate protection, because the examination body, west African examinations council lost 3 invigilators to Boko haram in 2013. The advice was implemented everywhere in the state except as it relates to GGSS Chibok.
- Muslims in Chibok cooperated with the insurgents when they invaded to carry out the abductions. As a matter of fact, a son of the former APC (All Progressives Congress) in Chibok ward was the supplier of petrol to Boko haram. He was arrested by the community and handed over to the military.
- Chibok is a bastion of the people’s democratic party (PDP) in Borno state, though the state is an APC ruled state.
- Boko haram largely avoided Chibok after a former chairman of the local government was gunned down in front of his house after returning from church service.
- Boko haram invaded Chibok with fighters dressed in military fatigues in 25 pickup vans and operated from 11pm to 3am.
- The invaders burnt down some houses belonging to Christians in Chibok town while a detachment proceeded to the school premises, where they told the students that they were soldiers who had come to rescue them.
- Two of the vehicles used to transport the girls were commandeered from a local motor park.
- Boko haram insurgents looted the school food store first, before burning it down.
- The school’s principal and vice principal in charge of administration (both Muslims) and their families and other teachers were nowhere around the school on the night of the abduction, suggesting some foreknowledge. The principal was new to the school having been appointed to take over from the former Christian principal in keeping with an unwritten policy in Borno not to allow Christians to head any state government institution.
- The governor of the state claimed he had alerted the military of the pending attack on the school four hours before the attack took place, yet made no attempt to evacuate the students from the school. In any case Boko haram does not require four hours to travel to Chibok from the Sambisa forest, their believed embarkation point. As such anyone with a foreknowledge of four hours before the attack must be a Boko haram insider.
- The state governor kept contradicting the defense headquarters spokesman, and the principal repeats whatever the governor says.
- Certain individuals are in cohorts with the insurgents. For instance, governor Shettima of Borno state announced to the media that the girls abducted in Chibok had been forcibly converted to Islam and married off to Boko haram fighters. A day later, Abubakar Shekau, the sect’s leader released a video making the same claim. Shehu Sani an “activist”, claimed that the sect wanted to exchange the girls with members of the sect arrested by the Nigerian authorities. A day later, another clip emanated from Shekau making the same demand.
- Notable northern and leaders then in opposition in the today’s governing APC voiced opposition to international assistance to bring back the Chibok girls and to fight terrorism in Nigeria”.
Points 2-9: Ethno-religious Bias and Discrimination
Shows the suspicion of the Christian community of the Muslim’s, if these statements are true I can deduce that the latter community feel preyed upon by the former due to their divergent socio-cultural and religious believes especially their convictions in the Christian faith, if false, it shows the level of distrust and mutual suspicion between the different ethnic nationalities in Nigeria, which further indicates the shaky unity of the country. These events are best verified by the locals of Chibok and not through official statements of Maiduguri or Abuja.
Point 10: Willful and Premeditated Sabotage
In other climes the world over, a show of such gross professional incompetence as exhibited by the principal of this institution is enough grounds to proceed on criminal intent to harm, against such a person to put it mildly. None of the potential punishment for what is evidently a many count charge of what appears to be criminal offence and gross misconduct against any such perpetrator includes promotion in the civil service or appointment to any political office, pathetically that was the case as today the principal was promoted to the post of permanent secretary (level 16, the pinnacle of civil service in the country) in the education ministry of Borno state and presently she serves as commissioner of education of the state.
Points 11-14: Identity Crisis of Minorities and The Domineering Attitude of the Majority
The claims by different groups that some interests groups seek to dominate and control every facet of their daily life has been a long and in some cases a well-documented one by all groups that feel marginalized or oppressed, though this has been the subject of discussion in many fora’s at different levels of Nigeria’s national life which in turn has fueled agitation for devolution of powers, resource control, outright secession, etc. What lies at the root of these agitations are socio-cultural recognition/respect, political inclusiveness, poverty etc. have been shied away and swept under the carpet by successive governments since independence, with quest of domination leading the nation into a civil war, and decades later in part fueling the insurgency we see today in the north-east and many other violent clashes across the country. If Nigeria is to truly function as a state these concerns must be addressed, thus calls for the restructuring of the country devoid of politicization of these issues is a step in the right direction.
“As shocking as the Chibok incidence is, it is not a happenstance. Non-Muslim females have historically been preyed upon by Muslims in northern Nigeria. The obvious conclusion is that the Chibok girls were abducted because of their faith. Also:
- In May 2013 Boko haram attacked a police barracks in Bama, Borno state, and abducted 12 Christian women and children. Shekau took responsibility for the abductions on May 7 2013.
- Hajja, a 19 years old Christian was abducted from Gwoza, Borno state area. She was forced to convert to Islam, forced to involve herself in the sect’s operations and was set to marry one of her captors when she managed to escape.
- In august of 2013 a Christian student reported an attack on her university accommodation. The men were murdered and women segregated into Muslim and non-Muslim and the Christian women were systematically raped.
- Mid-February 2014, Boko haram murdered 51 persons in Konduga Borno state and abducted 20 women.
- In Buni Yadi, Yobe state earlier in 2014, 76 students of students of federal government college were murdered in cold blood and 16 female students abducted. They have not been heard of ever since.
- Forceful marriages of Christians to Muslims.
- Most of the new attacks by Boko haram, such as Algarmo (Mbulakuduga), Shima, Kimber and Ablam are all Christian villages.”
Point 1 & 5: Boko Haram Furthering Whose Agenda?
With the many atrocities of the Boko haram sect it is no surprise that they carried out these despicable acts, but the author’s emphasis on the religion of the abductees is due to the fact that boko haram’s hate speech is most times specifically tailored and directed at the Christian community as will be later seen in the course of this article.
Points 2 & 6: Forced Unholy Unions
The issue of forced marriages of some groups in Nigeria is a multi-faceted problem, if it is viewed from a cultural perspective it is understandable and in some cases permitted by usually within a particular culture but rarely is it cross cultural (a cross cultural forced marriage could lead to a violent backlash), a cross religious forced marriage is rife in northern Nigeria and is frowned upon by the Christian community but in a socio-political setting where they are in the minority the procedures to seek redress is skewed as most are referred to religious courts (Shari’a court), traditional council, or court of public opinion in all cases getting justice for these persons is notoriously slim. This problem is further compounded by the tacit approval by the elite and ruling by their actions and inactions a case in point is the marriage of a 14 year old by an emirate council of the Katsina emirate, where the emir endorsed the abduction of a child and her forced marriage to his council member much to the outcry of her parents and the Christian community across the country, if a monarch recognized and backed by the constitution cannot defend and protect a minor in his domain (http://punchng.com/want-daughter-returned-virgin-father-minor-forced-marriage-katsina/) this goes further as have been reports of abduction from the southern part of Nigeria of minors for marriage (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-3569267). Across the other side of the aisle a Christian dating a Muslim is simply put “abominable”, the consequence of defiance most times goes beyond death threats often resulting to bodily harm or fatality, in all these it is not prohibited for Muslim males to date or marry outside of Islam. Thus it is understandable if certain groups feel preyed upon by such targeted actions that seems to have the backing at least in some quotas of the very authorities that should serve them fairly as enshrined in the constitution.
Point 3 & 4: More Atrocities of Boko Haram
There are many of such alleged attacks the validity of any such claim is subject to an on the ground investigation with signed statements of the victims, though not trying to cast aspersion on the pains and sufferings of the victims without verifiable facts these remain touching stories at best.
Point 7: Target Killings, Maiming’s and Destruction by Boko Haram
These are not easily verifiable assertions with the level of destruction and displacement of entire communities by the scourge of boko haram’s activities, many settlements in their hundreds are presently ghost towns or villages, that is in no way saying these are not variable, as amongst the thousands of the internally displaced persons in refugee’s camps across the country are former residents of the mentioned communities who can shed light on the demographics of these communities. As we proceed forward more facts will emerge.