• Nicky, Digital Researcher, Africa Analyst

Nigeria's Boko Haram


"With guns you can kill terrorists, with education you can kill terrorism", says Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani activist and Nobel Prize laureate. What happens when the terrorist considers education the motive for his terrorism? How would education kill terrorism when the aim of the terrorist is to kill education with terrorism?


History of Boko Haram


Sometime in 2002, an Islamic cleric in Northern Nigeria, Ustaz Mohammed Yusuf, established a group called Jamā'at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da'wah wa'l-Jihād which when translated to the English language means the 'Group of the People of Sunnah for Preaching and Jihad'.


The group's ideology centered around an intense aversion and opposition to western education, culture, science and technology. They would soon come to be popularly known as Boko Haram, referring to their stance on western education and culture.


The term 'Boko Haram' is Hausa language, and literally means "book is sinful", referring to the group's perception that western education (non-Islamic education) is sacrilegious.


Boko Haram Attacks


What initially started as a non-violent movement gradually progressed to radicalism, with Christians initially being the main victims of their senseless attacks. Later it further degenerated to a direction-less bombing of any building in sight as long as they suspect that a good number of lives could be annihilated in the attack.


Yusuf, the leader of the terror group, and his followers started launching several attacks on churches, schools, government offices, mosques, football viewing centers, and markets around the Northeastern States of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe. They caused so much mayhem, and left blood and gore wherever they hit. Their modus operandi was suicide bombing, having brainwashed their members with the promise of 72 virgins waiting to receive and comfort them in heaven.


They would soon start kidnapping under-aged children and women, strapping grenades and IEDs on them, and sending them into gatherings and marketplaces for suicide bombings. Police stations and army barracks were not left out from these attacks. They would attack prisons and release their detained members.


From using fuel-laden motorcycles, bows, poisoned arrows and local guns the group had upgraded to Improvised Explosive Devices. Currently, they use very sophisticated weapons such as RPGs, Ak-47s, armored tanks and other advanced devices, and frequently hijack and seize weapons from the Nigerian security forces to build up on their own arsenal.


The group has been very elusive in its ideology, employing the same Western technology it claimed to be fighting against to launch attacks, use highly advanced weapons for their attacks and post YouTube videos to claim responsibility for terror attacks. Many are left confused as to what ideology the group really stands for or what it intends to achieve.


Boko Haram's Leaders


In July 2009, Yusuf was taken into custody and allegedly killed by Nigerian security forces. His followers, comprising of some Islamic students from within Nigeria and neighboring Chad, Cameroon and Niger, went completely out of control assassinating, maiming and killing many residents.


Abubakar Shekau took over leadership of the group, operating from Gwoza, Borno State until 2015 when they made the Sambisa Forest their headquarters. The same year Boko Haram became integrated into the Islamic State's West African Province (ISWAP) and their attacks became more escalated and brutal. The group was at one time designated as the world's deadliest terror group.


In 2016, Boko Haram split into two factions; the Shekau-led faction and the Abu-Musab al-Barnawi-faction supported by ISIL.


Recent Attacks


In April 2014, the group had kidnapped 276 girls from a high school in Chibok, Borno State. This drew outrage from people all over the world, with the hashtag #bringbackourgirls# trending, the then government didn't achieve any progress in securing the release of the girls. Some of the girls were later rescued and restored back to their families during Buhari's first tenure.


In 2018, in between several attacks on villages and foreign aid workers, the group abducted another set of schoolgirls numbering 110 in Yobe State. Five of the girls were killed, and the Nigerian government paid a huge amount of dollars to ransom the remaining. All the girls were released except Leah, a little girl who refused to renounce her Christian faith and is still under the captivity of Boko Haram.


Boko Haram and the Nigerian Security Forces


Although the Nigerian military is putting in much effort to combat the insurgents, it is clearly obvious that they aren't really making much progress. Issues of lack of basic equipment and weaponry, corruption, embezzlement of welfare packages and funds meant for procurement of weapons, sabotage, and incompetence among service chiefs have severely demoralized the army. Reports of dozens of soldiers being ambushed, killed and stripped of their guns by Boko Haram are no longer considered strange news in Nigeria.


Meanwhile, the majority of Nigerians have given up hope in the promise to neutralize Boko Haram made by the current president, Muhammadu Buhari, when he ascended the seat of governance. President Buhari, who is a retired Army General, during the presidential campaign garnered tremendous support as many believed he had the wherewithal to handle Boko Haram's terrorism. However, the military under the Buhari-led government had gone from bad to worst. Lies, propaganda and the desire to score cheap goals had left many wondering on whose side the government is truly on.


The President who had always appeared sympathetic to the course of Boko Haram, and was reported to have made the assertion that "a fight against Boko Haram is a fight against the North (northern Nigeria)" claims the group has been technically defeated. Even with the recent massacre after massacre of soldiers, decapitation of hundreds of villagers, abduction of school children and women; captured Boko Haram members are labelled as repentant, welcomed with grand reception, rewarded with presidential dinners, and ejected back into the society or absorbed into the Army to continue serving as saboteurs.


In view of the rising insurgency and violence in Northern Nigeria, many have called for the sack of the present service chiefs, but the president would have none of it.


To complicate issues, a new set of terribly violent terrorists are having a field day in Nigeria today. They have been described under various names: Fulani herders, herdsmen, unknown gunmen, cattle rustlers, and most recently bandits. They go about with extremely sophisticated Ak-47s slung languidly over their shoulders, kidnapping for ransom, setting villages ablaze, macheting the men to death, raping and abducting women.


In the recent abduction of over 400 school children from a secondary school in Katsina, the Presidents home State, the attack was said to have been carried out by the bandits. However, in a funny but suspicious twist of events, Shekau the leader of Boko Haram had released a video of the abducted boys with one of the lads pleading for the Nigerian government to come to their rescue and affirming that they were kidnapped by Boko Haram.


The Nigerian government has since refuted the claim, stating that it was Fulani herdsmen who carried out the abduction. Now the question everyone is asking is how the boys ended up with Shekau. Are the Fulani bandits an extension of Boko Haram? The boys have been released after negotiations with the bandits. As usual, not even one of the abductors was apprehended or killed.


Albeit, as many are wondering what the real truth is concerning the current situation of things some facts that remain glaringly clear to Nigerians are these: Boko Haram is enjoying the sponsorship and goodwill of some dubious politicians, some people in the upper class are cashing out from the unrest and violence in the country, and finally Boko Haram is yet to be defeated. Until these facts are faced squarely and handled decisively the menace of this terrorist group will continue to thrive.


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