Tag Archives: Boko Haram

[Spoken Word] Boko Haram Poem – The Phantom Menace

The Phantom Menace wishes Nigerians a Happy Independence Day! (1st October). The Phantom Menace is glad another year of celebrating together with Nigerians. Hahahahah….

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Boko Haram: Appreciating Abstract Art

Enough is enough! Foreigners seem to have a clearer picture on the decline of Nigeria as a state. May be Nigerians are just too artistic that we subvert a picture (clear as unlabeled biology drawings) to an abstract art.

 

Abstract Artists

I can’t stand this but many Nigerians can’t either, that is why they sit down and get a jolt of excitement when the occasional bomb-story sparks an imagination in their minds; which makes their favorite abstract art take semblance. Abstract art has its powers in its ability to resemble different things to different people. But whatever image(s) it resembles is a product of the memory of the observer. Therefore Nigerians’ collective memories and harbored-sentiments seem to shape the picture they see from the abstract art; that is Boko Haram.

Nigerians still argue against Boko Haram menace with popular remarks such as “If they don’t like western education how come they use phones, the internet and even electricity”. While it is easy to use this single-statement attack to dismantle the Boko Haram ideology, it suffice to say this statement is way off. It shows how people lack the most basic understanding of the Boko Haram agenda; which ironically their unofficial nickname (Boko Haram) clearly captures. More insidious is when the aforementioned assertion is not stated but can be found as implied in a more sophisticated argument. The latter is what overwhelms media reports. It is difficult to take serious arguments that assume such primitive, yet rudimentary, understanding. We seem to be lost in the world of abstract arts while foreigners seem to get a clearer picture.

I am referring to three analytic articles recently written by foreigners with insight in to the Nigerian recent problems. They articles are, in chronological order: “Boko Haram is not the Problem by JEAN HERSKOVITS“, “Nigeria’s Battle for Stability by JOHN CAMPBELL” and “On The Trail Of Boko Haram by ANDREW STROEHLEIN“. (The last of which was published 12th March 2012)

 

Non-Abstract Artists

Jean Herskovits is a professor of history at the State University of New York. Her article highlighted the lack of evidence in most of the Boko Haram rhetoric and promotion of unnecessary complexities regarding the threat which culminated in the exorbitant security slice of the annual budget. She cautions the US government from embarking on the Nigerian war on terror; which she made to look more like a child’s call for attention by the present Nigerian administration.

 John Campbell was the US ambassador to Nigeria from 2004-2007. The article starts from the death of the former president to present day crisis with Boko Hram. He laid out the two popular narratives concerning boko haram: the first portrays the President as a hero who saved the country, promises a bright future but is hindered by the unforeseen tentacles of Islamist terrorist; the second portrays the president as dishonorable opportunist who’s inability to deal with the country leads him to unsubstantiated accusations. The first narrative is favored and promoted by present administration (and probably more supporters in Southern Nigeria) and the Obama administration while the second is only harbored in discontented minds (most from Northern Nigeria). He advices on how the Obama administration can do its part in fighting (or at least, not supporting) corruption which he believes is at the heart of Nigerian problems.

Andrew Stroehlein is the Communications Director of the international Crisis Group. He laments about the omnipresence and concurrent absence of the menace that is Boko Haram. He attempts to make out a discernible outline from the murky media/mass-painted picture of Boko Haram. He sees the government as a hindrance to solving the problem for its incompetence. The other two major contributors, he felt, are the unskilled police force and the rumor-mongering media. He feels good governance is promptly required to prevent a failed state; Boko Haram being a symptom.

 

Art Critique

Do we lack publishing analysts of similar insights? May be I haven’t come across them. I have read a few interesting pieces which deceptively start as analysis then seamlessly alternate to and from sentimental accusations. It doesn’t help too that most of the vocal commentators (that draw mass attention) are not without their political allegiance. In a society where sentiments & allegiance reign over critical thinking, it is so easy to dismiss the most valid argument with an accusation of an attack. Not that the two are mutually exclusive; an attack could be a valid argument.

I think I am objective, but that is an oxymoron. On many issues, Nigerians lack creativity; content with whatever. But this is a place I think they have overcompensated for their lacks. Their imaginations runs wild around this Boko Haram issue and what each has is a different picture of the situation shaped by sentimental memories. This is no parochialism, it is an Abstract Art exhibition where what you see is only limited to your mind’s imagination. Let Nigerians move away from Abstract Arts and deal with objective diagrams. The psychedelic past-time must stop!

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Divide and Conquer: Tactics on Unity

On 4th Jan 2012, an alleged ultimatum of the illusive Boko Haram was published in which the Boko Haram gave Christians (living in Northern Nigeria) three days to vacate the North. Language is important here. Does it say non-Muslims, Christians or Southern Nigerians. This Boko Haram statement, even without answering the posed questions, implies Christians, non-Muslims and Southerners in the mind of a Nigerian who has forgotten to differentiate between these in a country immersed in tribal rhetoric.

I forgot to mention that the ultimatum surfaced just after the NLC (Nigeria Labour Congress) decided to embark on strike and protests as a reaction to the shady petroleum subsidy removal (a unilateral decision). This was a very convenient time for such threats to National Security to come up because any protesting crowd could be dealt with in the context of the crowd potentially having Boko-Haram-agenda. First NLC planned a protest on the 7th, the we hear Boko Haram giving a 3-day ultimatum on the 4th, then protest was shifted to 9th. Who knows how reliable the information is, but the circumstances make the unreliable-government’s claim even more questionable. But there is a second aim that can be derived from the appearance of this timely information.

Divide and Conquer

Now is a time where Nigerians are probably as unified as they have been since the finals of the 1996 olympics football finals; under their disapproval of petrol subsidy withdrawal. Politics in Nigeria (as in other places) strongly depends on identity segregation/wars to achieve goals of ambitious politicians. Two methods are being used by the government to break up this unity.

The first is through the convenient Boko-Haram ultimatum (mentioned in the introduction). This information will catalyze the us-versus-them sentiments already infesting Nigerians. Southerners/Christians in the north will not feel safe and possibly see Muslims as threats.

The second is not as obvious; it is by the recent fortressing of churches by security agents especially on Sundays. Churches have been destroyed (for lack of a better word) recently including the famously dubbed Christmas-day-bombing (which Boko Haram has refuted the allegations). This has necessitated extra protection to churches. Some attackers on the churches have not been caught but we can see why Muslims/Boko-Haram are the suspects. However it seems we are forgetting that there is a recorded cases that a caught church-attacker was not a Muslim but dressed to look like one (there are other similar stories). But how does all this fit in the divide and conquer master plan?

Roads to churches are now barricaded on Sundays (at least in Abuja) but not mosques on Fridays. This image of security (or lack of it for Mosques) establishes the belief that only Christians are at risk of Boko-Haram attacks. Therefore the Muslims are safe because we expect that they are cool with Boko-Haram. Casualties in most recorded (and alleged) Boko-Haram attacks are not religion-specific. At the beginning of a Sunday mass, a Christian is reminded how he/she is not safe when they pass the new-found security. At the end of the mass, the feeling of security (in form of guards outside) comes to an end. The Christian is reminded that they are moving in to hostile territory. Even if the Muslim does not feel cool with Boko-Haram, you can see how the Christian may take certain measures for security. These measures are fueled by an us-versus-them paradigm. This is a threat to the unity of the country, be it in light of the ongoing protests or after it.

One more thing…

Just to illustrate the second method, the president said in a speech on 8th Jan 2012:

Some of them (Boko Haram) are in the executive arm of government, some of them are in the parliamentary/legislative arm of government, while some of them are even in the judiciary. Some are also in the armed forces, the police and other security agencies. The situation we have in our hands is even worse than the civil war that we fought. During the civil war, we knew and we could even predict where the enemy was coming from … But the challenge we have today is more complicated.

Worst of all, Mr President said this in a church during a remembrance service for the armed forces. Now the claims of this post don’t even sound like conspiracy theory.

As evidence of the success of this strategy, a mosque was burnt in the south and a church was burnt in the north yesterday (9th Jan 2012), despite the brief disappearance of tribal/religious segregation. It is imperative we see through these harmful devices.

I am skeptical to give the government officials credit for this master plan, not because they are the nicest people but because it may seem very thoughtful of them. Whatever the cause, the effects are the same. Keep vigilant! Don’t fall in to these sectarian traps.

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Criminals: Passport Portrait of Boko Haram

Know your Enemy

It is better to have an enemy you know than an enemy you dont. But is it? The question is: better for who? To you, may be it is but to the one seeking to control you, it is better to have your enemy be unindentifiable. There are two ways to achieve this: by shrouding the enemy in mystery or by inducing paranoia so that everyone seems to be the enemy (eventually even the reflection in the mirror).

Clearing the Air

First some issues should be put to rest regarding Boko Haram (they got a wikipedia link). If you dont know about Boko Haram, you probably shouldn’t be reading this post.

One issue is that of asking the wrong questions. Many radio shows, columnists and bloggers are preoccupied with the same questions: who is Boko Haram? The country’s president set the stage with his accusations of Northern Politicians who want to see his administration’s downfall which he launched before this year’s Boko Haram comeback. The president persisted on his accusations even while facing confessions (taking credit) from MEND concerning the bombings during the Independence day celebration of 2010. The question being asked is: who is Boko Haram? Once in a while someone asks a different question: where is Boko Haram? Both questions relevant but are equally over-signified.

Is there anyone asking: why is there a Boko Haram? I mean how did they come about, could it have to do with lack of justice? Let us move away from the one word answer that is said (by the critical thinkers) to be the cause: Corruption. Corruption is a wide concept so details should be investigated. Rather than the president’s quick accusations, it is while asking the right questions that we may ask: might Boko Haram have a connection with political entities?

By asking WHO and WHERE is Boko Haram, we are looking to treat symptoms. By asking WHY and HOW it came to be, we are going to the source to remedy the issue. Treating symptoms, if successful, is just a battle victory in a lost war.

The Faceless Threat

Although faceless, Boko Haram has a voice. Thank God for that because I can’t imagine the monster that would have been created by the media (and citizens) if Boko Haram had no voice. Presently the media and the frightened have used their artistic license to paint a thousand faces of Boko Haram. To some it is any northerner, to some it is any muslim looking person, to some its any one with a beard. To the media it is any bomber, house robber, bank robber and probably any bully.

In the successful creation of the Al Qaeda monster in the US, the politicians-controlled media had most control in deciding what is Al Qaeda and what is not? They were more eager to say every attack is Alqaeda and imagination of citizens completes the fear-politics cycle. The situation in Nigeria differs in that the politicians AND criminals primarily decide what and who is Boko Haram. Armed robbers now explain themselves as being Boko Haram; as if to offload their guilts and chanel the blame away from them, they still have conscience it appears. A bank robber is reported to have shouted “Allahu Akbar” during a bank robbery counting on witnesses to make the link to the notorious Boko Haram. In the US, domestic terrorists viewed Al Qaeda as a threat because it could over-shadow them and make their message lost.

On this side of the world, criminals are part of those who paint the face of Boko Haram. Criminals, as is their attribute, are opportunistic. They carry out their attrocities and they know people will blame it on the elusive Boko Haram. Some criminals have decided to throw distracting smells in the direction of Boko Haram by saying either “Allahu Akbar” (A muslim signature) or introducing themselves as Boko Haram members out on acquisition missions to fund their organization. Criminals are taking a free ride on the tide caused by Boko Haram. Even Non-muslim criminals have exploited this opportunity as reported from recent busts.

How do we know that it is not Boko Haram? well, we listen to the representative-voices (Abu Qaqa and co). After many of these tragedies and accusations, the voices have denied responsilibilities and claimed some. They have denied lacerny charges but claimed assasinations and bomb blasts. They were also the voice that corrected a voice when they denied affiliation with (according to them) a self-professed celebrity spokesperson called  Al-Zawahri. In the cases where some criminals identified themselves as “Boko Haram”, that by itself is a clear sign of not being Boko Haram because the group call’s itself “Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal Jihad” not the un-prestigious “Boko Haram”.

Passport of Boko Haram

Criminals have hijacked the face of the faceless. Criminals have put their face on the faceless while maitaining the faceless’ identity. Am I a Boko Haram PR officer? No way! look what happened to the last person who claimed that. I am not endorsing their actions neither. This is just an interesting observation on the dynamics between stake holders in Boko Haram context: the Boko-Haramists, the Criminals, Media, Politicians and other Citizens.

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