By Anwesha Bhattacharya
Edited by Anandita Malhotra, Senior Editor, The Indian Economist
Slaughter, bloodshed, merciless, anarchy, cold-blooded; these are the words most commonly associated with Nigeria’s homegrown extremists, Boko Haram. The name of the group means “Western education is forbidden” and is a major example of how duties towards religion blind people to their duties towards humanity. Designated a terrorist organization in 2013, Boko Haram has killed more than 13,000 people since 2009. Boko Haram is a prime example of distortion of religion that is prevalent in most terrorist and extremist organizations of today.
In recent months, the extremist group has taken over miles of land and turned the city into an abattoir. The vicious acts of the group continue to plunge the nation into new realms of terror and break the hopes of the millions living with a gun to their heads. The macabre atrocities meted out by Boko Haram are not just a heinous act against Nigeria, but against the whole of humanity. From the audacious kidnapping of 200 schoolgirls from Chibok which left the world shell-shocked to the looting, killing and burning of villages, the insurgent group remains a bone of contention among the leaders of Nigeria.
In April 2014, 276 girls from a school in Chibok, Borno were kidnapped by Boko Haram and 219 of them are still missing. Any rescue mission against Boko Haram will end in bloodshed, plunging the nation deeper into new realms of terror.
Many say that Boko Haram is a reflection of the deeper social, economic and religious crisis within the country. This is true to a certain extent. The poverty-prone regions of Northern and Eastern Nigeria have been a breeding ground for militant insurgency since a long time. Religious insurgency is not an anachronism in Nigeria; it is a way of life for the 61% of the population that live in poverty. Worsening of income inequality has rendered inefficacious the benefits of oil exports and economic growth. The government needs to step up and take a stronger course against inequality and bring Nigeria back from the brink of havoc.
In his presidential campaign in 2011, Goodluck Jonathan (the current President of Nigeria) had promised “justice, for all Nigerians to have access to power, for qualitative and competitive education, for healthcare reforms, to create jobs for all Nigerians; to fight corruption, fight to protect all citizens, and to fight for your rights!” Four years down the line and Nigerians are yet to see the fulfillment of even one of his promises.
Is war an answer to the destruction wrought by Boko Haram? Of course not. What the nation requires is strong government action. The nation’s destruction is fueled by the brutality and incompetency of the national security forces and well as the ineffectiveness of the government. The government is being crippled, not by insurgent militants, but by the stench of corruption and weak policy making. If the government develops a backbone in the near future, the fate of millions of Nigerians can be changed. The first step should be towards establishing a competent army, armed to the teeth. Western nations refuse to supply arms and ammunitions to Nigeria because of the gross human rights violations by the soldiers and their lack of training in handling lethal weapons. Raids, blasts, massacres, bloodshed and death will be a thing of the past if the Nigerian Army can combat the Boko Haram forces. Improvement in security personnel has to be brought forth by the government.
As Nigeria is a poor country, it has to look to neighbouring countries for help. Help from Chad, Cameroon, Benin Republic and Niger, coupled with ammunition from the West can destroy the stability Boko Haram has established in Nigeria. Talks held on Monday, 22nd December, have paved way for the establishment of a legal framework against Boko Haram in consultation with the UN Security Council.
The sect has destroyed the nation from inside out, leaving Nigeria at the threshold of disintegration. It is of utmost importance that the country fights the demons in its own closet. Only by driving out the two-headed beast that is poverty and inequality, will Nigeria be able to combat the threat posed by Boko Haram. The upcoming Nigerian elections may witness a change in power with presidential candidate Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) gaining favour over Jonathan. Will a change in power bring about a change in the social and economic conditions of Nigeria? Only time will tell.
Anwesha is a first year Economics student at Lady Shri Ram College for Women. She has a passion for writing and traveling; it is her lifelong dream to go on a backpacking tour across Europe and start a travel blog simultaneously. She considers herself to be a foodie and loves German and Japanese cuisine. Her favourite pastime is escaping into the magical world of fiction. She is always ready to make new friends and explore new horizons.