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 that are 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 cull de sac that has become the war on terror, Umara Babagana Zulum, the governor of Borno state, North East Nigeria where it all started and has remained ten years on has 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’’. While it is a truism that Nigeria’s security agencies much like any other aspect of governance are faced with enormous challenges of maladministration induced incapacitation, which undermines its constitutional responsibilities to protect lives, properties and defend its territorial integrity, the time is nigh to look beyond symptoms as expressed by Gov Zulum to see the root causes of the Boko Haram insurgency.
The Boko Haram insurgency, which began ten years ago, actually has its root 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 fledging Muslim community, which has 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.
Having achieved a semblance of unity of the early Muslim community under the Caliphacy, Muslim rulers will soon go from being religious leaders and guardians of faith to empire builders. To advance their worldly course of dynastic empire building, a religious justification had to be sought. To expand the boundaries of the Muslim state outside the precincts of Medina to Judeo-Christian lands of Egypt, Damascus, Jerusalem and Constantinople, a doctrine that reclassifies believing people of the book [Christian and Jews] as unbelieving enemies of Muslims had to be evolved. The reclassification of the people of the book as outright unbelievers henceforth legitimized wars of expansionists’ aggression against people of other faiths by empire builders as a noble struggle in the cause of the spread of God’s religion [Jihad].
Vested in the Caliph are 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 will essentially become a subjective interpretation of the Islamic faith by the ruling authorities. Under the pretext of abiding with their own version of prophetic traditions, any dissenting opinion from the mainstream is 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 fortune of the Caliph increased significantly signalling an intense struggle for the leadership of the Muslim world. The struggles for leadership will became bloody but not before obtaining a religious sanction.
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 each other making killing of fellow Muslims lawful. The Taqfiri doctrine will prove 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 one thousand 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 outright unbelievers are not Islamic but only a Muslim invention for the purpose of empire building, they nevertheless are the most entrenched doctrines of mainstream Islamic theology in contemporary times. Following the collapse of Ottoman Empire in 1924, signalling the end of the over twelve century 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 as concerns 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 can only inevitably led to the current Boko Haram insurgency. By wholly imbibing the subjective interpretation of the Islamic faith by Empire builders by mainstream Muslim authorities in Nigeria has incubated whole generation 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 plural Nigeria. Arising from an innate conflict of their faith and citizenship is the ideal Islamic state that Boko Haram seeks to forcefully install 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 80s and 90s that swept through northern Nigeria like a whirl wind as the immediate precursor. Mohammed Yusuf was just one out of many mainstream Muslim authorities who preached and still preaches the ideals upon which the Boko Haram sect was founded. The Boko Haram insurgency is just putting to practice what has been preached overtime.
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 into the kind of Boko Haram devastation. 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 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, whom are imbedded in every strata of the society, by evolving a purposeful regulatory framework that aims to rid the mainstream Islamic theology of doctrinal embellishments of empire builders has ensured a steady flow of willing recruits into the ranks of the Boko Haram insurgents. The continuous watering of the seeds of radicalization by mainstream Muslim authorities has contributed the most in making the Boko Haram insurgency intractable ten years on because for every single insurgent fell by bullet in the theatre of war, there tens of replacements.
Dahiru, a public affairs analyst, writes from Abuja and can be reached through firstname.lastname@example.org
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Sky Daily