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Published On: Tue, May 13th, 2014

Religious war unlikely in Nigeria (1)

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By Mansir Lawal Kaware

Fears were expressed in Nigeria following recent security challenges in the country of a religious war breaking out. This is because adherents of different religions hold on to their faiths and a crisis could easily assume a religious nature. But the present Nigerian situation does not call for that because none of the religious bodies could be identified as waging a war against the other. Although a body headed by Professor Wole Soyinka in conjunction with Osun state government organized a colloquium in Osogbo on 14/4/2014 aimed at preventing religious war, the danger of a religious war is remote. In his address, Nobel Laureate Professor Wole Soyinka, Chairman of the Board of Centre for Black Culture and Interventional

Understanding, represented by Professor Wale Adeniran feared that Religious war looms, saying no nation in the world ever fought religious war and became the same again. The conference which brought together Muslims, Christians and traditionalists discussed possible ways of avoiding religious conflicts because of its sensitivity. While their concern is commendable, Nigerians have understood that the problems were more political than religious.

The fact that Muslims and Christians places of worship were being attacked does not in any way prove it to be religious.

The Boko Haram and its associates in the North, MEND and its likes in the South have independent reasons for the attacks depending on the situations and the time of their actions.

Ethnic, Religious and Political crises are not new to Nigeria, many of them had come and gone, what surprised Nigerians in the present case is how Boko Haram crises are sustained for years now.

While the attackers may be Muslims or Christians, there is no clear reason that could attribute their actions to either of the religious reasons.

We had religious crisis in 1980 during Shagari regime, that was witnessed in Kano as Maitatsine uprising, other crises before that time were also recorded, but it was the Maitatsine religious conflict that first attracted the military before it was brought under control. Since then there were more than fifty ethno-religious crises in the country that may not be all religious. Nigeria is believed to have different ethnic groups ranging from 250 – 400, mostly divided between the two major religions of Islam and Christianity. Over the years we had crises involving religious groups like 1981 Bulunkutu uprising in Maiduguri, the Jimeta – Yola religious conflicts of 1984, Zangon-Kataf crisis of 1992 and many more. Under the militia groups, there were the July 1999 Shagamu conflict, the Kano reprisal attacks, the OPC reprisal attacks in Lagos, the Kaduna (Igbo conflict on Shari’a 2000) and the Enugu reprisal attacks. Another sort of conflicts is on issues of struggling for political and economic gains mostly through militants groups such as the OPC, Bakassi Boys, the Egbessi Boys, the Ijaw Youth Congress, Igbo People Congress, Arewa Peoples Congress, Mossob, MEND and the latest of them all Boko Haram.

One noticeable issue about all the conflicts was the fact that no conflict ever survived two weeks after drafting the military or Police or imposition of a curfew in the affected areas except that of MEND and Boko Haram. The issue of MEND is very clear, it is more of economic and political reasons than religious and those fighting that war and their supporters/sponsors have their targets. But the most confused and tensed contraption is the Boko Haram. Those involved neither believe in Islam nor Christianity in their actions. The actors in that group are themselves not sure of what they are doing, but they are people simply acting under the influence of drugs. They may not even have the idea of who exactly are using them and for what purpose. There can not be an action without mission except that those that have the mission kept it to themselves and left others in the wander land.

The Boko Haram of 2009 had changed feathers, it has metamorphosed into many other killer groups with different names but carrying the same assignment. The killer squads squaring-up just as Boko haram are Gunmen, Fulani Herdsmen, Cattle Rustlers and other smaller groups posing as armed robbers, local thieves and the like. There could not be religious war in Nigeria today because those perpetuating the acts do not spare both Muslims and Christians in their killing spree. Although Muslims are the most affected, ordinary Muslims can not attack the Christians they stay with because they never saw them clearly assaulting the Muslims. What is happening looks more like madness, because only a madman attacks people without reasons. In the world history, attacks that killed people massively are only carried out for three reasons; either for Political Power, Economic or Religious reasons.

The Boko Haram and its branches are not visibly fighting any of the three. It can not be religious, because they attack both Muslims and Christians and neither establish an Islamiyya or Babtists Schools to teach the followers after the attacks. It can not be economic, because it is either they do not take anything victims after the attack, or what they carry is not commensurate with the killings, while they sometimes killed those who do not have anything to offer economically. The closest to reality of what may be considered is political power. But one may be tempted to ask, where do they want to conquer. Northern Nigeria is part of Nigeria, how do they wage a war against a section of Nigeria if really they want to takeover the country. The new Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Air Marshal Alexander Sabundu Badeh declared on 20/1/2014 that Boko Haram will be crushed by April 2014, probably the CDS never knew how powerful Boko Haram has been and as new comer he assumed that under normal circumstance three months was enough for the Army to finish with the insurgents as they are sometimes referred to. The ACF has in its letter to the Governors of the North said there is more than meets the eye. The ACF had on a courtesy visit on 7/3/2014, to Governor Aliyu of Niger State doubted the capability of the Armed forces to deal with the insurgents.

Although, the fighters are claiming to be fighting an Islamic religious war, it has never happened in Islam to have those working for Islam engaged in abducting and raping women. The women captured were not taken as prisoners of war or slaves but used for sexual abuse as testified by two of the women who escaped from the camps i.e. Salima Abubakar and Rosemery Edo, a lady who hails from Cross River and went to Maiduguri in search of work.

They said there are many women being used sexually by the insurgents and it is so in all the places they operate. In 1981/82 it could be recalled that Chadian troops were crushed into their country by the Nigerian Soldiers in less than two weeks when they put the Nigeria might to test. Nigerian Soldiers and Police Officers who went to UN peace keeping always returned with commendations from such missions for outsanding performance. One wonders what went wrong that for about five years now, the Nigerian Military and other security agencies could not bring an end to, this menace of Boko Haram insurgents or by whatever name called. The attacks have spread from Borno, Yobe and Bauchi to over 2/3 of the Northern States though in different names. While the Nigerian soldiers claimed some victories, the attacks are on the increase and the massive killings continued. The Governors of Adamawa, Benue, the father of Kano Governor, Senator Ndume from Borno, Shehu of Borno and the Emir of Kano were all attacked and only escaped deaths by the whiskers. The Governors of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa made claims of inefficiency on the part of the Nigerian security personnel but were usually denied by the military authorities or the presidency. On the 12/4/2014, wives of soldiers at Enugu barracks protested sending their husbands to Maiduguri. By this action, the women were telling the military high authorities, that they do not see the war being fought as a sincere one, but simply sending their husbands to a place of no return. Otherwise the women know their husbands were employed to fight and protect the territorial integrity of the country and would not have complained if they saw it as a serious war.

This conflict which came in the open in 2009 left us with no clear idea, because the leader of the initial group Mohammed Yusuf said if the war started it would continue for long. He is dead now and nobody is there to interpret what he means. But the sophistication with which the war is going on now did not tally with the prohibition of Western Education as earlier claimed by the sect members. In fact the Governor of Benue State, Gabriel Susuwan said what is happening in Benue is beyond Fulani herdsmen, leaving the army that killed Fulani men in the name of protecting farmers to search elsewhere for an answer to their action.

To be continued

Mansur Lawal Kaware wrote in from Katsina

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