By Frank Labaka
Many opinion makers have come forth to applaud how the West responded promptly to the “terrorist” attacks in France and further used this opportunity to call for the same support against acts of terror in the African continent, particularly against Boko Haram in Nigeria.
Instructive of those making this call is Ignatius Kaigama, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Jos in central Nigeria. The Mail and Guardian reported the Bishop as saying, “I see the very positive response of the French government tackling this issue of religious violence after the killing of their citizens”. He further said, “We need that spirit to be spread around, not just when it happens in Europe, [but] when it happens in Nigeria, in Niger, Cameroon and many poor countries, that we mobilise our international resources to confront the people who bring such sadness to many families”.
The profoundness of what the bishop is saying lies in the fact that he sees himself as part of the people who must solve the problem faced by the country. He doesn’t exonerate himself and fence-sit, in talking about the problem. Many have cast aspersions on the leadership of Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan. Chief among those is the well-respected academic, Professor Adekeye Adebajo, who posits that “Boko Haram has exposed Jonathan’s ineptitude”. He reduces the solution of the problem to one individual: President Jonathan Goodluck.
A very instructive lesson from the “Je Suis Charlie” campaign should be the promptness of the State against the acts of terror, the voluntary participation of the general public in supporting the State, and lastly support from the international community. Over and above, Boko Haram is correctly reported as an “insurgent” group, clearly meaning there are conditions concretising the cause of Boko Haram, not its attacks and explosions. Prof Adebajo has indicated this fact in his article, raising the question of abject poverty in the North compared to the South of Nigeria.
This fact makes the comparison between Boko Haram and the attackers of ‘Charlie Hebdo’ different. Something many opinion makers fail to nuance and comprehend. Diverting primary attention on the explosions Boko Haram is undertaking doesn’t come close to defeating it but invites more sympathy towards it from the communities in the North of Nigeria and elsewhere outside the country. The legitimacy of Boko Haram in the North is not rooted in the permanent conditions prevalent in that part of Nigeria, rather on socio-economic conditions that can be addressed by the State to stop this insurgent group.
So the spirit of collectiveness displayed by all who supported the France’s reaction to the crisis should inspire the same resolve in dealing with the conditions giving rise to Boko Haram itself. The progressive outcome of the Nigeria’s economic rebase which signalled a great boom should be translated into people’s socio-economic development and prosperity. In the end, the action against the attacks of Boko Haram requires collective efforts from within the borders of Nigeria, then the rest of the world would join the campaign and, yes, indeed Nigeria needs the same support as France.
Frank Lekaba, a Junior Researcher at the Africa Institute of South Africa in the Human Sciences Research Council.