Sponsors of Boko Haram and the Future of Nigeria: Another Quodlibet

A new quodlibet emerged in the history of boko-haram-induced insecurity in Nigeria with the identification of Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, former Governor of Borno State and General Azubuike Ihejirika, former Chief of Army Staff, as sponsors of boko haramism in Nigeria. They were identified by Dr. Stephen Davies, an Australian national and specialist negotiator in the area of dialogue with terrorists. He is one of those negotiating with the Boko Haram on behalf of the Federal Government of Nigeria on the release of the Chibok Girls. In an attempt to contain boko haramism by all available means, including negotiation and use of force, the Goodluck Jonathan administration empanelled a group of negotiators to seek a compromise with the Boko Haram terrorist group. It is within the context of the failure of the ongoing negotiations with the Boko Haramists that Dr. Davies felt the need to reveal to the people of Nigeria the deepening recidivism that has come to characterize boko haram-induced insecurity in Nigeria and that he has claimed the conspiratorial involvement of General Ihejirika and Senator Sheriff in boko haramism.

Dr. Davies’ allegations is quite interesting because it not only raises a new quodlibet or debate but also the issue of hypothesis versus theory in international relations, and particularly in terms of comparative methodologies in the social and physical sciences. Is it possible for General Ihejirika to have been combating boko haramism tooth and nail, on the one hand, and also be covertly aiding and abetting it, on the other hand? Logically, it is not expected in the context of General Ihejirika. On the one hand, he is accused of ruthlessly killing them. Northern politicians have even asked for the International Criminal Court to try him. The All Progressives Congress (APC) has renewed the call following the allegations of Dr. Davies. On the other hand, he is accused of dining with them. Although this double standard exists in international relations, it is difficult for General Ihejirika that notable Nigerians do know to be a double agent. The likely scenario might be that the Boko Haram wants to revenge his effective attacks on its members. In this regard, Dr. Davies will be correct because he would have been told by the Boko Haram, but completely far away from the truth because he would have simply believed in the totality of what he was told without means of first verification.

Consequently, his allegation may, after all, not be a big deal in the context of his negotiations with the Boko Haram. It should be expected that a party to a dispute can exaggerate its claims and present its position for acceptability purposes. A mediator is expected to be able to read between the lines without fear or favour. Dr. Davies need not capitalize on what he was told. What will be sufficient is to also provide empirical evidence in order to make his strong belief in what he was acceptable

In the context of International Relations

However, in international relations, the allegation against General Ihejirika may make sense, especially if we recall the fact that, during the Cold War and its extension to the Angolan War, the United States gave active political support to Dr. Jonas Savimbi, the UNITA leader, and active economic support to the Luanda-based MPLA government simultaneously. In fact, the US warned Dr. Savimbi never to drop any bomb near the Cabinda enclave where the American Gulf Oil Company was operating. In other words, US support strengthened both the Savimbi rebellion and the Luanda government. Again, the US simultaneous support is quite understandable within the context of protection of the national interest. This US example is a fait accompli and an empirical case that does not fall within hypothetical consideration anymore.

An hypothesis in the physical sciences is necessarily a theory in the social sciences. A hypothesis in the physical sciences dovetails into a theory. It must have been first experimented and the environmental conditionings clearly subjected to scientific rules before it is accepted as a theory for general application. On the contrary, in the social sciences, hypotheses are firstly arguments, though they might have been based on observations by the proponents. They are generally submitted to further enquiries by other scholars. One fundamental difference between a theory in the physical and social sciences is that a theory in the social sciences can easily be faulted over time as a result of change in fundamental dynamics, but cannot be faulted in the physical sciences. For instance, an action and reaction cannot but remain equal and opposite, to borrow the idea of Newton in physics.

Thus, considering the personality and integrity, as well as professionalism of Dr. Davies, do we consider his observation and claim as a theory in the physical sciences, meaning that it is already a truism? This question is necessary because Dr. Davies already believes in what the Boko Haram told him. Is it a theory within the context of the social sciences which can still be subject to further debate? This question is also apt here because Dr. Davies has not told us the other side of the story. The allegations are too serious for anyone to ignore for various reasons: the Boko Haram has become the most noisome problem and enemy number one of a united Nigeria. It has also become the most critical threat to democracy in Nigeria. We posit here that in both cases, the claim should be subjected to further enquiry. The main rationale for this is the very serious implication of the claim for the future of Nigeria, particularly in terms of its potential to disintegrate Nigeria not by use of force but by Nigerians simply acquiescing to it. For instance, boko haramism has raised different questions beyond the Boko Haram

The current Quodlibet

Firstly, there is the issue of on postponement or non-postponement of the 2015 general elections in 2015. One school of thought has it that it makes little or no sense to hold elections when a part of the Nigerian territory is under another claimed illegal sovereignty. In other words, the insurgent threats should first of all be removed before the holding of any election in 2015. In this regard, it is suggested that not holding the election as at when due is a well-calculated intention for tenure elongation of Mr. President. The counter argument provided by another school of thought is constitutionally driven. Aminu Tambuwal, Speaker of the House of Representatives, says that ‘on the issue of someone, somewhere perpetuating his tenure in office, we have a constitution, for goodness sake, of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. All citizens of Nigeria should, as a matter of responsibility, obey the laws of the land and abide by the constitution… no matter your ambition you must situate your ambition within the context and content of the constitution.’

A second quodlibet is about the declaration of an Islamic Caliphate in the North East of Nigeria and which raises the question of who are really sponsoring the Boko Haram. It is possible to talk about self-sponsorship. The current leader of the Boko Haram had said: ‘Oh people, I am Abubakar Shekau, here still standing, the leader of Jama’atu Ahlissunnah Lid Da’awati wal Jihad in Nigeria, in the country called Nigeria. We are in Islamic Caliphate, we have nothing to do with Nigeria.’ We are told that caliphate, in Arabic, simply means ‘succession.’ Islamic caliphate therefore means ‘Islamic succession.’ But we should ask succession to who? This declaration suggests that the ultimate objective of boko haramism is to enable the establishment of an Islamic State in Nigeria and the Boko Haram has chosen Gwoza as its capital. The choice of Gwoza is understandable: it has easy entry and exit points, coupled with the mountainous areas that make the containment of insurrections very difficult. Besides it has abundance of food resources and vegetation.

As further reported by Hamza Idris and Kabiru R. Anwar from Maiduguri and Yola (Weekly Trust of Saturday, August 30, 2014, Abubakar Shekau also noted as follows: ‘God is great indeed. We thank Allah we are inside Nigeria, the country they call Nigeria, but as far as we are concerned, we don’t know any country called Nigeria. May Allah curse her. To us, we are in the territory of Allah and we practice the religion of Allah and we are in the empire of Islam. Even the Prophet established the first Islamic empire with 70 people. Nothing will therefore stop us from establishing our empire inside Nigeria with 5,000 or 10,000 or 20,000 or a million people. This is Allah’s doing. Allah has given us victory.’ This quotation is self-explanatory. Consequently, the abducted Chibok girls are apparently kept for safe keeping possibly as citizens of the Islamic Caliphate. The maiming and senseless killing of opponents of boko haramism, destruction of churches and western values, etc, are simple manifestations of efforts at Islamisation.

In this regard, how should Nigerians address this development? Is the problem really the abduction of Chibok Girls? Is the problem that of who is sponsoring the Boko Haram in Nigeria? If it is, why are Nigerians looking towards Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya where it is strongly believed that the only enduring solution to political instability is to partition Nigeria into Muslim North and Christian South? Is the current situation in Nigeria not reflecting Muammar Gaddafi’s agenda?

There is also the issue of how to end boko haramism. Dr. Davies strongly believes that if those he had identified as sponsors of boko haramism are investigated and prosecuted, boko haramism cannot but quickly become a thing of the past. This recommendation gives to, a great extent, credibility to his allegations. It shows that he is more than convinced about the veracity of his allegations. However, the allegations are still hypothetical and diversionary, even though they help to strengthen the observation that some people are bent on Islamising, with or without the support of some people, Nigeria.

Nigeria’s Future Scenarios

For various reasons, Nigeria’s future can only be guaranteed by use of force with the current situational reality in Nigeria in the Gowonian manner. According to General Yakubu Gowon during Nigeria’s first war of national unity, ‘To keep Nigeria One is a Task that must be Done’ The truism today is that the Boko Haram sect and all its adherents want, at least, an Islamic State in their region if it will not be possible to make the whole of Nigeria an Islamic State. It is important to state here that, grosso modo, the main threats to global peace and security are driven by Islamic fundamentalism. The examples of current crises in Syria, Egypt, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Nigeria, etc, clearly illustrate our observation. And true enough, efforts have been made in the past to impose Sharia in many States of the North. Zamfara State is a case in point. Contrary to the argument often proffered that the initial support by politicians for the Boko Haram was for the purposes of electoral victory, there can always be a change in situation. In fact, ab initio, if that reason was to be held sacrosanct, why should politicians adopt thuggery in order to win an election?

The likely scenario is that other states in Nigeria may acquiesce to the Islamic Caliphate with capital in Gwoza not because they will like it, but because of imposition, that is, forceful acquiescence by the Boko Haram in Borno State and non-forceful acquiescence by other peoples of Nigeria. In this regard, the acceptance by other people cannot but be governed by the principle of self-determination to which other states of Nigeria will also be entitled. If a section of peoples in Nigeria wants to have an Islamic State contrary to the secularity principle provided for in the Constitution in Nigeria, it is nothing more than a declaration of war on united Nigeria. Currently, Nigeria is prosecuting a war without actually presenting it as such.

The use of force has merits and demerits. The merits are consistent with the interests of people who do not accept boko haramism. Consequently, Government is on the right path by seeking to protect law abiding Nigerians. On the contrary, in terms of demerits, the use of force has the potential to increase the number of deaths and casualties as the war may not limited in time and scope simply because the objective is very religious. Killing to please God is the main dynamic of boko haramism. For as long as the belief in the need to kill any infidel, in the need to remove any obstacle to effort at establishment of Sharia by force, the Government may always win the battle but not the war. If the war drags on for too long, the other States in the country may have to rethink and accept the situational reality but with the ultimate objective of considering self-determination as solution to the national crisis.

The future is not in any way bright for the people of the North for one major reason: Northern leaders have not laid, and are not laying, any good foundation for the future of their youths beyond rhetoric. For instance, the recently released WASSCE (West African Senior School Certificate) results have shown that eight of the 36 states in the country that obtained less than 10% are in the north: Adamawa, Jigawa, Sokoto, Zamfara, Kebbi, Gombe, Bauchi and Yobe. This result does not augur well in light of that of Anambra (65.92%) which has the highest score; Abia (58.52%); Edo (57.82%).

It is important to note here that students are not necessarily dull. It is the poor conditions of study and don’t care attitude of their governments that largely explain the poor results of their students. For instance, in an advert placed by the Key Science Academy in the Nation newspaper on Wednesday, September 3, 2014, p.44, all the students sponsored from JSS 1 to SSS 3 passed well their School Certificate Examinations. The management of the Academy congratulated ‘the Executive Governors of Kebbi, Zamfara and Sokoto States for the brilliant performance of their state government-sponsored students in the academy as shown by the recently released 2014 WAEC examination results.’ The important point being made here is that northern students perform better in a good environment outside of their states. If greater emphasis had been placed on improving educational standard back home, there is no reason why their candidates would not have always performed better.

In conclusion therefore, greater caution should be taken to prevent the management of the politics of sponsorship of the Boko Haram from compromising Nigeria’s future. Many foreign countries do not wish Nigeria well. The two suspected sponsors should be investigated publicly. Even though I am persuaded that General Ihejirika cannot be pro-Boko haram, it will still be useful to know what might have prompted his inclusion as one of those sponsoring anti-Nigerian activities.