A terrorist group in Nigeria, Boko Haram has been engaging in a bombing campaign against the Nigerian state, bombing whatever and whoever they can. The height of this engagement was the bombing of the Nigerian police headquarters at the country's capital city of Abuja on June 16, 2011. This group believes that western education has a corrupting influence; it also believes in a strict sharia-style of governance. The following are its demands if it must cease hostilities against the state:
- Strict implementation of Sharia law in the northern part of Nigeria (twelve states).
- Release of all its detained members.
- Prosecution of former Governor of Borno state, Ali Modu Sheriff, for the extra-judicial murder of its founder and leader, Mohammed Yusuf in 2009.
- Resignation of the present governor of Borno state, Kashim Shettima.
An important insight into the heart of the problem, which provides a glimmer of solution, is the fact that the group abhors western education. Although Boko Haram agents have been bombing Nigeria every so often, we Nigerians must not allow our senses to be equally bombed. An important weapon against their menace is quality education in the northern part of Nigeria, a part of the country that is fast breeding illiterates whose only value to society is no value; rather, the children of northern Nigeria have nuisance value for groups such as Boko Haram.
The third demand above reveals something very disturbing. After the Boko Haram leader, Mohammed Yusuf was arrested in 2009, he got murdered in the custody of the police. Boko Haram now accuses Ali Modu Sheriff of being responsible for his death. Why was Mr. Yusuf killed? Why is it that no police officer has been charged to court for the murder? Did Governor Sherrif instigate his murder in order to hide certain damning information that might have implicated him? Could Mr. Sherrif be the invisible financier or one of the major financiers of the group? Could the group have felt betrayed by him? There are many questions. I call on President Jonathan to order the arrest of Governor Sherrif. Furthermore, President Jonathan should order the arrest of the police officers in whose custody Mr. Yusuf was killed, and charge them with extra-judicial killing of a Nigerian citizen. An investigation must be carefully carried out to arrive at the reasons for silencing the open founder of Boko Haram (I have my feelings that the founder of Boko Haram is a man in the background who does not want as much as his shadow to be cast on national consciousness).
The new governor seems to understand that western quality education, which has the ability to dispel gullible ignorance, is a veritable weapon to combat the threat of Boko Haram. Accordingly, he has approached Abuja for assistance in this regard. No wonder the group is asking for his resignation. But Governor Shettima has started on the right path. Recently, it came to public light that past budgetary votes for nomadic education in the north were embezzled. President Jonathan should order the arrest of all who were in charge. They have contributed to the menace of Boko Haram group, which now regards western education as a facilitator of corruption. According to the latest statistics on education commissioned by the Jonathan government, 7 out of every 10 school-age children in states like Yobe and to an extent Borno are out of school. The president wants to integrate the makeranta ilmi and aro (for almajiris) into the mainstream formal education, and teach those northern children mathematics, English language, and sciences. I look forward to a brilliant and effective implementation of those measures. I hope the new minister of education will understand that he or she is at the heart of fighting the emerging danger of terrorism in Nigeria, and thus apply themselves scrupulously to this task.
Economic solution, in addition to the education solution outlined above, would do the magic in stymieing violent eruptions all over the country. I had warned some years ago when writing about the Niger Delta crisis, that the crisis could be replicated all over the country under different banners. The Area boys of Lagos are being sheltered under the developmental programs of Governor Fashola; the Niger Delta youth are being engaged today by the federal government, and I understand are being trained to take various responsibilities in their area. The Igbo boys, who for years have been taken care of through the innovative apprenticeship of that nation group, have not been provided for by the government. But for this regenerative apprenticeship program things would have been worse; but there is only so much that the program can achieve. Poor infrastructure in Nigeria can only guarantee intractable violence. Lest different groups emerge from different parts of Nigeria with their different brands of agitations, there is the need to convoke a sovereign national conference of all nationalities in Nigeria.
The Boko Haram group is asking for strict implementation of the sharia law in twelve northern states. This issue was broached in the past at "constitution assemblies". My people, the Middle Belt, would never accept even the mildest form of sharia law to be implemented in any of our territories, and that includes Southern Kaduna. We must come together and talk; and President Jonathan can only do well to work for this. Boko Haram is not the only group with demands to make on Nigeria. We must convoke at "Aburi" and discuss frankly this union. Those who are afraid of aburistic discourse don't love this country. Another Boko Haram group shall emerge from the ash of the present one if we keep avoiding our date with destiny at Aburi. If marriage between a couple is rancorous, and yet any talk of a discussion between them is squirmed at by one of the parties for the only fear that the discussion may go awry and end the marriage, it would only confirm that there has been no genuine marriage but simply pretence thereof. And all pretences must be uncovered.
Let not our senses be bombed. We have a choice to make. We must be bold to make it.
Leonard Karshima Shilgba is an Associate Professor of Mathematics with the American University of Nigeria and President of the Nigeria Rally Movement (www.nigeriarally.org ). Leonard Shilgba is also the Coordinator of the Middle Belt Federation under the Middle Belt Coalition agenda.