Sunday, 28 November, 2021

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Boko Haram war without end


As one the longest-running conflicts in the contemporary Nigeria, the Boko Haram insurgency has become intractable. Defying military solution, the Boko Haram terror group has mutated significantly from a rag-tag gang of rural marauders to a well-organized army of professional fighters brazenly attacking hard targets of Nigeria’s security forces and inflicting heavy losses in officers, men and equipment on a scale never experienced since the end of the civil war in 1970.

To underscore the military cul-de-sac that has become the war on terror, Umara Babagana Zulum, the governor of Borno State, where it all started and has remained 10 years on, had this to say, “The capacity of the military has to be re-examined in terms of technological warfare. Otherwise, this thing [insurgency] will never end. Boko Haram now uses drone to monitor the operations of the military. Without providing proper and up-to-date technological capacity to the military, this thing will never end.”

The Boko Haram insurgency actually has its roots in an ideology that predates modern Nigeria, spanning several centuries to the 7th Century.

Upon the death of the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad PBUH, in 632 AD, his companions developed and incorporated certain doctrines into mainstream Islamic theology in order to maintain unity and cohesion of the early Muslim community. To legitimize a centralized rule over the fledgling Muslim community, which developed in the city of Medina under the divinely guided leadership of the Prophet of Islam and command absolute loyalty from the ummah, the doctrine of Caliphacy was introduced into mainstream Islamic theology. The concept of Caliphacy essentially entails a unitarian Islamic state governed as a theocracy with the Quran as exemplified [Sunnah] by the prophet of Islam as the legal framework [Sharia] under the leadership of his acclaimed successor, designated as the Caliph.

Vested in the Caliph were temporal and spiritual powers as acclaimed successors of the Prophet of Islam in a clear case of non-separation of the state and religion. As religion is a subjective interpretation of faith, the Muslim religion essentially became a subjective interpretation of the Islamic faith by the ruling authorities. Under the pretext of abiding by their own version of prophetic traditions, any dissenting opinion from the mainstream was regarded as an innovation in religious practices by the ruling authorities. With the expansion of the Muslim state beyond Medina into an empire straddling much of Arabia, the Levant, Persia, Palestine, Anatolia, North Africa, India and Spanish Andalusia, the power as well the fortunes of the Caliph increased significantly, signalling an intense struggle for the leadership of the Muslim world. The struggles for leadership became bloody but not before obtaining religious sanctions.

The introduction of the Taqfiri doctrine, which equates disobedience and innovative religious practices to outright disbelief, was exploited by rival claimants to the Caliphacy when they often mutually excommunicated one another, making killing of fellow Muslims lawful. The Taqfiri doctrine proved to be a very potent weapon of mobilization of religious warriors in the numerous intra-religious wars that characterized epic dynastic struggles for control of the global Muslim community throughout the over 1,000 years of the Muslim Caliphacy.

Whereas, the twin doctrines of Caliphacy and Taqfiri, as well as the reclassification of the believing, One God-worshiping People of the Book as unbelievers are not Islamic but only Muslim inventions for the purpose of empire building, they nevertheless are the most entrenched doctrines of mainstream Islamic theology in contemporary times.

Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1924, signalling the end of the over 12 centuries-old Muslim Caliphacy, a wave of nationalism swept through its successor nation states of modern-day Turkey as well those of the Middle East and North Africa. Emergent nation states from the rubble of the collapsed Ottoman Empire fiercely protected their territorial integrity by elevating citizenship of the state over cross-border pan-Muslim solidarity. To achieve this, these governments took proactive steps to rid their mainstream Islamic theology of any strand of doctrinal imprints of ancient empire builders, especially concerning the concept of the Caliphacy, through a purposeful regulatory framework. This is precisely what Nigeria has failed to do so far. 

In a religiously plural country like Nigeria, the proliferation of such doctrines as the concept of the Caliphacy, reclassification of People of the Book as unbelieving enemies of Muslims, as well as the Taqfiri doctrine, which equates disobedience to disbelief by mainstream Muslim authorities inevitably led to the raging Boko Haram insurgency. In imbibing the subjective interpretation of the Islamic faith by empire builders, mainstream Muslim authorities in Nigeria incubated whole generations of radical Muslims who consider fellow citizens of other faiths as enemies as well as a burning aspiration to revive the Caliphacy by first establishing an Islamic state out of plural Nigeria. Arising from an innate conflict of their faith and citizenship is the ideal Islamic state that Boko Haram seeks to forcefully instal by dismantling the current constitutional, democratic and plural Nigeria.

Therefore, it is rather simplistic to ascribe the insurgency to the killing of Mohammed Yusuf, the founder of the Boko Haram sect, in 2009. The insurgency was long time coming with the Sharia movement of 1980s and 1990s that swept through northern Nigeria like a whirlwind as the immediate precursor. Yusuf was just one out of many mainstream Muslim authorities who preached and still preach the ideals upon which the Boko Haram sect was founded. Boko Haram is just putting into practice what has been preached over a long time.

Religion as a subjective interpretation of faith is an opium whose formulation, dissemination and consumption, much like every other psychopathic substance, must be regulated to prevent abuses, resulting in the kind of Boko Haram devastation Nigeria is suffering. Unfortunately, this has not been done because modern-day empire builders [politicians] have found radical Islamic ideology useful in their quest for power. In a plural country like Nigeria, radical Islamic ideology is a useful election protectionist tool in the hands of the predominantly Muslim political elite of northern Nigeria.

The unwillingness of Nigeria’s political leadership to reconcile the faith and citizenship of millions of radical Muslims imbedded in all strata of society, by evolving a purposeful regulatory framework that aims to rid mainstream Islamic theology of doctrinal embellishments of empire builders, has ensured a steady flow of willing recruits into the ranks of the Boko Haram terror group. The continuous watering of the seeds of radicalization by mainstream Muslim authorities has contributed the most in making the Boko Haram insurgency intractable 10 years on because, for every single insurgent felled by bullets in the theatre of war, there are tens of replacements.

Credit: Daily Sun

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