By GEORGE ONMONYA DANIEL
In the past lay the problems of the present and in the present lies the answers to the future or the destruction of it. History is very fascinating and in history lay the beginning of Boko Haram and the possible solution to the whole imbroglio. After listening and reading all the stories and raging debates on Boko Haram, I transported myself back into past and march slowl…y to the present in an attempt to see through the future. I will start from the beginning.
When in 1999, some politicians in northern Nigerian started agitating for Sharia law, they had no idea what it would lead to. It was simply a political tool to gain popularity among their people and to win election. They were obviously not bothered that it could snowball into sectarian violence and one would not be wrong to say that some people wanted it all to come crashing down on Olusegun Obasanjo’s government so that it spoils his incessant trips oversea to canvass for foreign investment. The Sharia logo was, ‘Sharia, Our Pride Their Fear,’ and as an undergraduate in 1999 living and schooling in the troubling city of Kano, I didn’t need a soothsayer to tell me that the atmosphere was pregnant with trouble.
Sharia law finally kicked off in Ahmad Sani Yerima’s Zamfara State on 27th October, 1999. Muslim clerics who would obviously be beneficiaries of the whole Sharia system started pilling up pressure on their various State Governors. Sharia was a hit and Ahmad Yerima, the man who summoned courage to start it all, an instant celebrity, at least among Muslims of Northern Nigeria.
When a man’s hand was cut off for alledgely stealing a cow in Zamfara State, majority of muslims applauded such action to the horror of the outside world. It took pressure from the international communities and Non-Governmental Organizations to save several women sentenced to death by stoning for alledged adultery in Katsina, Bauchi and Sokoto State in the period between 2000 to 2003.
In 2000/2001, the whole Sharia upheavel took another dimension. As muslim leaders put pressure on Ahmad Makarfi, the then Kaduna State governor, to implement Sharia law in the state, the indegenous people of Southern Kaduna who were predominantly Christians and against Sharia as they believed it would affect their livelihood vehemently opposed the introduction of Sharia law in the State. What followed was the deadliest sectarian clash between Christians and Muslims ever experienced in the State’s history. The rioting in Kaduna and environ was soon to spread to Jos and most parts of Plateau State.
In between the Sharia clash, something dramatic happened in the United States on 11th September, 2011, that came to influence and inflame the existing animosity between Christians and Muslims in Northern Nigeria. Terrorists hijacked airplanes on US soil and crashed them into targetted areas with the World Trade twin towers reduced to rubbles and the Pentagon. Osama bin Laden, American prime suspect became a heroic figure in Northern Nigeria and anti-US sentiment increased and was promoted by clerics. Osama bin Laden’s posters littered everywhere. In fact a month after 9/11, US attacked the Taliban government in Afghanistan after an ultimatum to the Taliban to handover Osama bin Laden elapsed. Mullah Omar, the head of the Taliban government a friend indeed refused to handover Osama. As US bombs rained on Kabul and Kandahar, Muslims and anti-war protesters all over the globe came out to protest. In Nigeria’s city of Kano, the anti-US protest turned into riots with hundreds of Christians killed.
In 2002, Sharia apologists in Northern Nigeria complained bitterly about Miss World Beauty Pagaent being hosted in Nigeria. It took the mistake from This Day reporter Isioma Daniel to give them an opportunity to incite their army of uneducated and hungry youths to go on rampage. Again, Kaduna caught fire, as Isioma’s article which was seen as being disrespectful to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) led to another attack on Christian which resulted into another deadly riot.
The Sharia law implementation and all the trouble that followed put Nigeria on headline of international media and began to attract extremist elements to the country. Niger State governor expelled a group of foreign Islamists from his State shortly before the Boko Haram problem took a dangerous dimension.
Late Muhammad Yusuf, the founder of Boko Haram, started his sect between 2003 and what fertilize the ground for his ideology to flourish was the implementation of Sharia Law by politicians and religious leaders to cash in on the national cake. It was easy to get an army of followers as the Sharia law embarked by the Muslim North which nosedived the hopes and aspirations of the common man failed immediately to tackle social and economic problems it promised to tackle. The failure of the Nigerian state to do anything about the welfare of Nigerians made it easy for such militant ideology to take root. The inability of the Nigerian government to take the whole thing serious from the onset is responsible for some of these problems.
The promotion of fanaticism and fanatical ideals by religious leaders must be combated by government. The Almajiri institution should be reformed and the Nigerian child protected and government must ensure every child is educated.