Kadaria Ahmed's op-ed piece, published in the National Mirror newspaper last Friday, November the 11th, appears to be one of the few attempts by she and her Nigerian journalism contemporaries to scratch beneath the surface to find what makes the terrorist group "Boko Haram" tick. Yet Ms. Ahmed also fails to go as far as expected of her on the issue concerning the terrorist group, especially given all the complexities involved by way of the group's very existence, along with its true inspirations and motives, even as her editorial opinion came to a rather abrupt end. As it is, Ms. Ahmed may be guilty of very similar failings as the ones she finds with the government's handling of the "Boko Haram" menace, which is deploying less of an empirical analysis to a topic or issue that needs nothing less of same.
One however appreciates that Ahmed at least attempts to tackle this all-important issue, unlike many of her colleagues who tend to gloss over this subject. Ms. Ahmed touched upon subtexts that others failed to highlight, much less discuss. And there is little reason to believe that she did better than some of her colleagues in this venture because she answers to the same Islamic faith as the subjects under discourse, or because she is from up north in the Shari'a state of Zamfara, the very first state to adopt, as the basic law of governance, what many now see as political Shari'a ÔÇô and in the same region from where the terrorist group sprung to threaten Nigerians of all backgrounds with unconscionable violence and mass murder.
Although it is terribly obvious to most people already, amongst other things deductible from Ms. Ahmed's expressed opinion is the inference that crippling poverty, somewhat more widespread than what subsists in other regions of Nigeria, exists in many parts of northern Nigeria - making the region a veritable recruiting field for any terrorist organization seeking to exploit the void of hopeless poverty to indoctrinate and train vulnerable persons to take up a struggle against an indifferent central state authority. In many ways, that is exactly what has been happening in those regions of endemic poverty - poverty that others believe is so intense that it makes poverty in other parts of Nigeria look like Child's Play.
[Yet, if one must be honest with himself, poverty is poverty, especially within the African context. As such, the poverty-stricken northerner isn't any less desperate for a reprieve than the poverty-stricken southerner. But let us leave that angle for now].
It is all well and good for Kadaria Ahmed to point out those important facts. But she may have left out other critical mentions in all of the reality concerning the "Boko Haram" menace. To cite a few oddities: prior to Olusegun Obasanjo's emergence as civilian president, hardly anyone cared or agitated for anything as the implementation of the radical Shari'a laws in the statutes of many states of northern Nigeria. But like regional military commanders answering to a higher military command, the governors of these states with majority Muslim population fell into line to implement and defend Shari'a law in their respective domains - in defiance of superior federal constitutional laws that made no allowance for such.
Other similarly-timed excesses would follow, challenging the central state authority with such daring effrontery that left observers wondering where or what was behind such unapologetic confidence. It became obvious to keener observers that these excesses rarely occurred when the sitting leader of the country was from the northern political establishment. Even more telling is the fact that, in all the annals of political ascension in Nigeria, never had an emergent leader been as vilified, and disrespected, as Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was. The disdain shown President Jonathan by the small but very powerful minority elite that has dominated northern politics for so long has been shocking, to say the least.
There is more. The resort to wanton destruction and killing that occurred after the last presidential elections through which Goodluck Jonathan came to power as President and Commander-in-Chief reeked of the same kind of arrogant intolerance shown the president by certain powerful northern leaders. Although certain powerful members of the northern political power-base would have their fellow Nigerians believe that the violent protests and killings were spontaneous response to what the protesters perceived as electoral malfeasance, observers who followed events leading to that period knew that the irresponsible utterances of political leaders who should know better went a long way in sparking and fueling the violence. Some of these leaders went as far as stating bluntly that Nigeria would be ungovernable if they didn't have their way. Today, just as they promised after losing out in a battle of wits, the activities of "Boko Haram" is threatening governance in Nigeria.
Back to Ms. Ahmed's reference to the suffocating poverty in northern Nigeria as fodder for terrorist activities, a sincere and balanced assessment of that position may prove otherwise ÔÇô meaning, besides the points made in the earlier paragraphs, there is further genuine argument to be made to the effect that poverty may have less to do with the emergence of "Boko Haram" than claimed by professionals like Kadaria Ahmed. Poverty, as aforementioned, is poverty. Therefore, if the poverty in southern Nigeria (which is as biting as it is widespread) has failed to result in people going out on bouts of mindless violence and mass murder, why then has the poverty in the north inspired same? To suggest that the intensity of poverty in the north, relative to the poverty in the south, has anything to do with this is a lazy deduction.
What more, those who purport to belong to "Boko Haram" would not be the first, nor the last, to campaign against corruption in Nigeria. Long before "Boko Haram" arrived the scene, others from ordinary citizens to reputable Christian clergy have led the fight for a just and virtuous Nigerian society, and they fought these battles often at great sacrifice without using the killing of innocent and harmless citizens to make a statement of defiance to the authorities. And by the way, in response to Kadaria Ahmed revealing to her fellow Nigerians that the "Boko Haram" is made up of (geniuses as) chemists and engineers and philosophers, it is of no importance to those of us at the mercy of this opportunistic, blood-thirsty lot that they are sages or palm-readers; all we care about is to be free of their blood-letting by any means possible, even if it requires for them to be stamped into oblivion.