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Is Nigeria Thinking de-radicalizing Islamists?, By George Onmonya Daniel

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Analysis

Is Nigeria Thinking de-radicalizing Islamists?, By George Onmonya Daniel

NEWISSUES, Abuja

What did they tell people to convince them to wrap up suicide vest around their waist to blow up themselves screaming “Allahu Akbar!”?.  Despite all government’s efforts to bring terrorism to an end in Nigeria, Boko Haram still have willing suicide bombers. Just yesterday three female suicide bomber blew up themselves killing 10 people in Chibok. The choice of Chibok is obvious, it would make more news than any other soft target, reasons being that Chibok is on the news regularly over the kidnapped over 200 school girls who luckily are being represented by #BringBackOurGirls who have persistently and consistently kept the fire of the protest burning. One time people even assumed that the Chibok girls were the girls being used as suicide bombers until military successes exposed that they were thousands of people, mostly women and children in Boko Haram’s custody.

How is Boko Haram able to convince them to commit such ultimate sacrifices of blowing up themselves for their agenda? This is the angle the Nigerian government must tackle seriously. The misinterpretation and misrepresentation of religion by religious leaders makes it easy for a largely uneducated people to do whatever blindly. This does not start in a day, it has a long history, even way before Boko Haram and it is all embroiled in how religious teaching has evolved over the years in Nigeria, our exposures to external influences and our relationship with these influences, and narratives of these influences as time changes. In our daily discourse we deliberately refuse to discuss these issues because it has been so politicized. The fact is that our widely interpretation of Islam in Nigeria makes it quite easy for our people to be embrace extremism.

In the early 1990s when I was growing up in Bama, Borno State, there were hotels and brothels here and there in Bama town, owned by mostly Igbos and Southerners. It was almost so all over the North. By the mid-90s to the late 90s most of these hotels were gone. When growing up these people were very tolerant and don’t really care that you are not a Muslim, few years later they call you “kridi” meaning Infidel, if you are not a Muslim and spit it on your face. Prior to the 90s, about 1988, Borno State suddenly changed their educational policies, females can no longer attend male schools. Before then most of the schools were mixed schools. Now everyone has to wear hijab and male no longer wear the Western shirt and trousers but caftan. Only the military schools remain mixed as the army protested and got their wishes. For one of the most peaceful states in Nigeria this was when everything began to change.

I left Borno State in 1995 and when I went back five to six years later, you cannot even throw a party inside University of Maiduguri that used to be known for parties in the early 90s. Unimaid and Umar El-Kanemi College of Eduction, Bama, were known for parties in the early and mid 90s. By 2000 you are faced by ‘Wustaz’, a militant Muslim brotherhood students, who like their counterparts, cultism in the South, have taken over the Universities and other tertiary institutions in the north. They are so powerful, backed by powerful people both inside and outside government that they got away with almost everything, even acts of violence against other students.  But they were tolerated. These groups championed the Sharia implementations in Northern Nigeria. They were very popular. All these changes were just a tip on the iceberg.

In the midst of the Sharia imbroglio and mayhem, there was 9/11, the incident in the United States where terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. It was another catalyst that change the narratives of happening around the world as a conspiracy against Islam and a need to so something about it. It is generally accepted that Boko Haram started about this time. These periods witnessed some of the deadly religious crisis in the history of Northern Nigeria, and consistently until finally Boko Haram that we are still battling with.

How do we fight the cancer of indoctrination? This type of war is not easily won by military solution. How do we stop Boko Haram from becoming appealing to people? That is what we hardly discuss in Nigeria. That’s what we should be doing in Nigeria. The country needs re-education and reorientation. The government must start strategizing towards this area. Every country plagued with terrorism is now thinking along this line.

 

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