It started as street tout outrage in 2002 in the Northern Nigeria. Many people thought it was caused by joblessness, marginalization, religious or communal restlessness. Lives were lost everyday. Churches and mosques were burnt without restriction. Everybody, including the Federal Government of Nigeria, believed that the insurgency could be brought to rest by dialogue. Committees were set up to negotiate with leaders of Boko Haram, but to no avail.They were not ready to negotiate with government, individuals or organizations.
The situation was discouraging because it was difficult to meet with people who operated from behind a mask. No one knew the reasons behind the brutality. The more the government tried to cope with the menace, the more innocent lives were lost.
It was reported that on February 8, 2011, Boko Haram gave conditions for peace. They demanded that Borno State Governor, Senator Ali Sheriff, should vacate office immediately and that their members should be allowed to reclaim mosques in Maiduguri.
Somewhere in Yobe State, Nigeria, the group used motor cycles loaded with fuel to attack people and police stations. In September, 2010 they freed over 750 inmates from a prison in Bauchi State. Escalating further, on June 17, 2011 the first suicide bombing at the police headquarters in Nigeria was recorded. It was targeted at Police Inspector-General Hafiz Ringim.
The most infamous tragedy happened when over 200 Chibok school girls were kidnapped. Some fled, some died, and many were sold into slavery or forced to “marry” fighters. The girls’ parents were hopeful that their daughters would return home unconditionally. They cried to the government, carrying placards with various inscriptions such as “Return our girls” and “Free our girls.” The news spread across the world like wildfire. President Jonathan promised to tackle the situation in the northeast, as Boko Haram captured and killed men, women and children.
Presently, the situation is getting worse by the day. It is believed that Boko Haram is now using some of the Chibok school girls as suicide bombers. They target market places and schools to detonate bombs, killing themselves and hundreds of people.
There has been series of attacks in the north since 2002 in connection with the Boko Haram Islamic sect. In a statement from President Jonathan about the five-year-old insurgency, which has so far killed over 18,000 people and displaced about a million, he said that Boko Haram is part of an international problem. Many felt that with this problem he was implying that Nigeria could not tackle it alone, but he did not lay blame. It is ironically observed by many that Boko Haram is, first and foremost, a product of Nigeria’s broken politics which now risks destabilizing neighboring states.
Every Nigerian was in a joyful mood when they had tentative signs that a more concerted approach to dealing with the menace may be emerging. A few weeks ago, the UN Security Council urged countries in the region to combine their efforts against the insurgency. A day later, officials from West African states reconvened in Niger to discuss a way forward. They suggested the creation of a multinational task-force to bring peace in the affected areas. Although it was encouraging, the prevailing sentiment within the country is that such moves will not be effective unless Nigeria is prepared to face its problems independently. The insurgency in Nigeria, the world is coming to see, may need more than dialogue for it to come to a permanent end.
By Anietie Cosmas
Image courtesy of Anouk Delafortrie – Flickr License