Islamist Boko Haram: The Riff Song On The Incompetence Of Nigeria's State Security Service, National Security Adviser And The Police

By Ademola Bello

In the aftermath of the shock that greeted the news of the arrest of Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab, a Nigerian man accused of trying to bring down a U.S.- bound airliner on Christmas Day, 2009,I wrote an article titled, "Al-Qaeda In Nigeria: Grazing In The Sahara."

In the article, I argued that since a majority of States in Northern Nigeria adopted the Islamic Sharia law criminal code in the mid 1990's, fundamentalists in the region have had adequate reason to be further radicalized. They first gained impetus in the 1980's when the country's ruling military junta secretly made the most populous African nation a member of the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

I further stressed in the piece that the militants in Nigeria wanted a return to an Islamic caliphate, in which a Sultan or an Emir ruled the entire region as a monolithic Islamic empire. I also noted that they imagined a day when all of Nigeria would be brought under the rule of Sharia law. It did not matter to them that Nigeria is a homogenous society nor that the population is split between Muslims in the core North, Christians and moderate Muslims in the South and Middle Belt, and a sizeable number of traditional worshipers across the country. On Boko Haram, a militant group that believes western education is a sin, I also wrote, aimed to turn Nigeria into a failed State, like Somalia or carve out their own autonomous tribal region, as seen in Pakistan.

I find it ridiculous that President Jonathan's current administration has been deliberating whether to offer amnesty to Boko Haram. I also find it hard to believe that the Nigerian government has adopted a carrot- and-stick policy in dealing with the terrorist group.

How Do You Solve A Problem Like Boko Haram?

Boko Haram's mission is clear: It wants its own autonomous tribal region. As evidence of this, its members have killed hundreds of innocent people in Borno, Yobe, Bauchi, Kaduna Kano and Adamawa States,areas where the group has a noticeably stronger grip. Boko Haram is capable of carrying out attacks in both the Northern and Southern regions of Nigeria. To that end, I find it worrisome that Nigeria's State Security Service and the police lack the necessary tools and are not adequately prepared to confront or stop Boko Haram from further unleashing mayhem on innocent civilians.

A former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory-(FCT) Mallam Nasir El-Rufai recently wrote a brilliant article titled, "What Nigerians Pay FG." In the article, he alleged that the National Security Adviser was allocated the sum of 208 billion naira in the 2011 budget. Yet, the country's security agencies have nothing to show for it.

Whether this claim holds true or not is irrelevant. That the Nigerian State Security Service arrested Mallam El-Rufai for expressing a courageous opinion about the lack of professionalism and miserable failures of the Nigerian State Security Service, the Defense Ministry and the Police in protecting the country's citizens against attack from Boko Haram extremists and other militant groups, showed the level of intolerance Jonathan's administration has towards anyone with different opinions regarding his government's practices.

Nigerians look up to President Jonathan as Commander In Chief to keep them safe; unfortunately, the reverse has been the case. The Inspector General of Police, Hafiz Ringim; the National Security Adviser, General Andrew Azazi and the Director-General of the State Security Service, Ita Ekpeyong all seem ill-suited for their jobs through their reckless and empty rhetoric suggesting that they will defeat Boko Haram. Much to their chagrin, they later acknowledged that they lacked the proper equipment to do so and had never really put any serious plan in place to dismantle, defeat and disarm the terrorist group. In fact, the intelligence chiefs have become a pathetic national embarrassment not just for the Jonathan administration, but to the entire country through their sideshow, lack of seriousness testimony before Nigerian Senate in which they blame judiciary for insecurity caused by Boko Haram.

It is doubtful whether the present National Security team of President Jonathan's administration can curb the Boko Haram menace because their recklessness and ineptitude have further endangered the lives of innocent Nigerians and compromised the nation's security.

Nigeria's former Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Comassie suggested that the nation's intelligence agencies need to return to the drawing board to ensure an amicable end to the clandestine moves of Boko Haram and others like it in the country. He also said the intelligence agencies are not adequately prepared to face the challenges headlong.However, Islamic scholar and leader of the Izalatul Bid'a wa Ikamatul Sunna, Sheikh Yakubu Musa Hassan attributed the present decay in Nigeria's security situation to corruption and injustice within the security operatives.

I think both men made interesting points to varying degrees. My opinion is that President Jonathan needs to shake up his national security team and the country's intelligence agencies. So far, the current National Security Adviser, Andrew Azazi; the Inspector General of Police, Hafiz Ringim; the Director-General of the State Security Service, Ita Ekpeyong and the Chief of Defense Staff, Air Marshall Oluseyi Petinrin have demonstrated they lack the know-how of ensuring the country's safety with their poor intelligence gatherings, as displayed through the misinformation about the Boko Haram suicide bombers who attacked the police headquarters in Abuja. Similarly, these national security leaders have lost the confidence of the citizens. The top job at Nigeria's security intelligence agencies should be headed by people who will display thorough professionalism in their jobs, not people who owe their allegiance to President Jonathan's Peoples Democratic Party, and who are more interested in curry political favors rather than on the seriousness of their jobs.

Some people have argued that the root cause of the Boko Haram problem in northern Nigeria is the poverty many youths are facing in that region. To be candid, poverty is a factor, but it is of secondary reason why some northern Nigerian youths embrace Boko Haram. The primary reasons Boko Haram thrives in northern Nigeria is the twisted and radicalized doctrine of the Quranic verses and sermons these youths are taught from radical clerics like Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakyzaky, the Shiite cleric who has ties to the Lebanese guerrilla group, Hezbollah. There is need for Nigeria's government to regulate the Madrasahs or Islamic schools in northern Nigeria to ensure they are using curriculum that does not emphasize hate as a focal teaching point. Furthermore, all the Islamic textbooks already donated or being donated to Nigeria's Islamic organizations and Madrasahs by the Saudi Arabian, Iranian and Libyan governments should be thoroughly reviewed or vetted by Nigeria's education ministry before being allowed to circulate across the country.

If Boko Haram's anger is genuinely directed towards the northern elites who failed to provide its people with good governance and looted their resources, as some would like us to believe, why didn't the terror group directed its anger to its ‘visionary hero,' Senator Ahmed Sanni Yerima who looted Jigawa State treasury when he was a governor, amputated a poor man's hand for stealing a cow and recently used public money to compensate the father of his underage bride in the sum of $100,000?

Of course, there are some politicians within the northern Nigeria political hierarchy who are using elements of Boko Haram to display their bitterness towards the Jonathan administration because the president was perceived to have stolen the northern mandate by his refusal to jettison the party zoning system between the North and South following Umaru Musa Yar'Adua's death in order to realize his own selfish ambitions.

In addition, some radical northerners cannot stand the fact that after the eight-year rule of former President Obasanjo, the Godfather of the current president, another Southern Christian is presiding over the affairs of Nigeria-a country they would like to be recognized as a Muslim nation.

This has become a bitter pill to swallow and they are hell-bent on disrupting and discrediting Jonathan's administration through some elements of the terrorist group.

Finally, Boko Haram is an irrational terrorist organization and dialogue with its members can never and will never be fruitful. They are unlike the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger-Delta (MEND) that has a clear mission of its grievances against the Federal Government, namely the injustices towards and neglect of oil-producing regions.

What does Boko-Haram want?

The group wants its own autonomous tribal region within Nigeria where it would be ruled by Sharia law if its goal of spreading Sharia law throughout the country cannot be achieved. Secondly, Boko Haram wants to be recognized and respected. The organization is extremely frustrated that its Hafidh training, which requires successful completion of the memorization of the Qur'an using Tajweed Rules of Recitation at special Islamic schools or Madrasahs with Imam instructors, amounts to nothing in Nigeria's competitive job market.

This may sound strange, but it is true--Boko Haram wants the certificates its students obtain from roadside Madrasahs to be recognized as equal to a university diploma so its members can compete for government and private-sector jobs. They believe their certificates should put them on par with the likes of formally educated professionals such as doctors, engineers, scientists, teachers, historians, sociologists and linguists, to name a few.

Boko Haram believes Nigeria's society discriminates against its members, regarding them as uncouth for their traditional Muslims beliefs and for choosing to attend local Imam-ran Quranic schools or Madrasahs rather than choosing ‘western education,' an institution they despise and consider sinful.

Boko Haram believes its people are noble and pious, and are in this world to carry out Allah's mission through abiding by the tenents of Islam.They believe the Qur'an and Hadith back up their claims because as ( Hafidh) which they are they will be rewarded on the day of Qiyamah (Judgment Day)

One orientation that needs to change in Northern Nigeria is that future would be Boko Haram needs to be enlightened or educated that their training through Madrasahs should not prevent them from enrolling in schools for "Western Education." If Islam wants to continue flourishing, especially in the 21st century and beyond, Muslim youth, particularly those attending local Imam- ran Quranic schools or Madrasahs must be ready to make further sacrifices and develop bigger dreams of acquiring a formal college education and be trained in the arts and sciences.

Sadly, Boko Haram's members are not ready for the big dream of acquiring formal education, yet they want something they have not earned to be handed over to them. Besides, some of Boko Haram's backers, like the Islamic Movement of Nigeria also known as the Muslim Brotherhood of Nigeria, under the leadership of radical Shiite cleric Sheikh El-Zakzaky appeared ready to continue the Jihad against the Nigerian government.

Sheikh El-Zakzaky, who now appears to be untouchable in Nigeria because of his cult-like followers that spread across Islamic sects and include high-profile politicians, is known for his incendiary sermons. He has called for the destruction of the State of Israel, labeled the United States as ‘Satan,' and has expressed great admiration for the late Al-Qaeda leader, Osama Bin-Laden. And as noted earlier, he also has strong ties to Hezbollah.

In 2009, after a team of Nigerian soldiers carried out the execution of hundreds of Boko Haram members and their leaders, Utarsz Mohammed Yusuf and his second -in-command, former commissioner in Borno State, Buji Foi, Sheikh El-Zakzaky vowed to launch Islamic Revolution in Nigeria to avenge the deaths of Yusuf, Foi and other martyrs. He also said his group would carry out the massacre of some Nigerian police officers. In that same year, some members of El-Zakzaky's Shiite sect opened gunfire on Nigerian policemen,forcing the police to return fire. This year, however, the radical sect seems to have gotten better, as Boko Haram is gaining the upper hand in wars against the Nigerian government. T hey appear more equipped and fearless, compared to Nigerian police and soldiers that confront them.

So, how does the Nigerian government solve a problem like Boko Haram?

First, the government should launch a literacy program that will focus on helping disarmed Boko Haram members. The ‘reasonable' ones among the members of this extremist group will need jobs. The Nigerian government should find creative ways of economic empowerment that will satisfy their yearnings. To further illustrate my points, the government should show a renewed investment in farming in northern Nigeria or create new farms that will employ disarmed Boko Haram members as workers or laborers.

Secondly, the Nigerian government should set up small-scale businesses or make loans available to specifically help the nation's poor start a trade or small business, which would also be extended to Boko Haram members.

While I believe the points above would be helpful, I do not believe they will ‘cure' the problem of Boko Haram. The terror group's core objective is to have its own independent tribal region where its followers would be ruled by Sharia law. Therefore, I believe the best way to solve the Boko Haram problem is to convene a Sovereign National Conference of all ethnic nationalities and religious persuasions in the North and South of Nigeria to discuss power sharing, how to foster religious harmony, and how they hope to function together as an indivisible nation. If this problem is not well handled carefully, Nigeria may disintegrate. It is very important to have a Sovereign National Conference/ Referendum where people who want Sharia law rule and Boko Haram ‘authority' can be allowed to decide their own future, and the rest of Nigeria can then live in peace in a secular country.