Democratic Socialist Movement

For Struggle, Solidarity and Socialism in Nigeria

By - DSM



By Dagga Tolar and Kola Ibrahim

What began as an attack on public institutions of the state by an Islamic sect, Boko Haram, in Borno, spread to other northern states of Bauchi, Kano, etc. and left in its wake the killing of about 800 persons.

Members of Boko Haram under the leadership of Mohammed Yusuf, armed largely with bows, arrows, locally made bombs and guns easily within a short space of 4-6 hours overran the police Headquarters in Maiduguri and burnt it down

After four days of running battle between Boko Haram and security operatives, the military called in as reinforcement arrested Mohammed Yusuf and subsequently handed him over to the police, who summarily executed him. The police also embarked on indiscriminate arrest.

Why this uprising? Boko Haram means in Arabic: western education is a taboo. Mohammed Yusuf is quoted to have said “any knowledge that goes contrary to the pronouncement of the Qur’an and Islam, Allah does not agree with it. And we will continue to fight against it, if Allah wills”. According to the mainstream Muslims, this is a gross misrepresentation of the teachings of Islam.

Critically examined, the idea of Boko Haram reflects the rotten state of the country. How will you tell a young person of 20 years, who have not had access to education in his life and see the educated as being the ruling class who exploit the common riches of society at the expense of the poor, that education is good?

For the past ten years of civilian rule, nothing could be shown as gain of democracy in the country. Thus, a young boy of 10, 15 or 20 years is a potential religious fundamentalist, ethnic militant or social miscreant. You only need to visit Nigerian cities to see army of potential social miscreants. For the north, it is even worse with education rating very low while gainful jobs are hard to come by, Boko Haram and other religious crises before it are natural expectations. Boko Haram come up with arms against a system that denies them assess not only to western education but also the basic needs of life. To think that Boko Haram can abruptly be brought to an end by the extra judicial execution of Mohammed Yusuf, his deputy, Abubakar Shekau and Bijato, an alleged sponsor of Boko Haram sect and other members can only be wishful dreaming on the part of the ruling elites.

The ruling classes who have held sway in the country at least for the past ten years should be held responsible for the various crises in the country. While the reactionary ruling class in the north was quick to introduce Sharia law, in order to retain their privileges, provision of free and quality education, healthcare and gainful employment for the youth are elusive. It should be recalled that tens of thousand of jobs were lost in the past ten years as a result of collapse of hundreds of medium-sized industries in the north. Today, the remaining big firm, Peugeot Automobile Nigeria is already in doldrums.

It should however be raised that the Boko Haram crisis is not a special case, but like every reactionary and far-right group is a product of pervasive disillusionment. In the absence of genuine revolutionary mass organization that will galvanize the anger of the working and poor people together for radical changes, far-right and militant groups in the form religious, ethnic or racial colouration are bound to grow. In Nigeria, while we have Boko Haram in the north, we have Niger Delta militants in the creeks, many Yoruba jingoist groups in the south west and Igbo secessionists in the south-east.

Of course, there should be right of self-determination, the reality is that without a genuine revolutionary, socialist mass organization of the working people, even secession can bring more miseries than under a repressive state. For instance, while Niger Delta militants complains about the use of oil resources, the monies realized by some militants from oil bunkering do not go to the poor people of the region but only in the service of a few clique of gun-wielding youth, their godfathers and multinational collaborators.

Experiences have shown that when the masses through their organizations like NLC and LASCO embark on national struggles, ethnic cum religious jingoist tendencies are subsumed.