Boko Haram: The Shame Of A Nation —Ben Nanaghan


The sheer volume of literature on boko haram is intimidating. Some have advocated a one–cure solution while others have canvassed the mollycoddle approach of pacifying and negotiating with the Islamist sect for peace to reign.

The one-cure solution proponents believe that like the Maitatsine riots of 1980 the boko haram scourge could be stamped out in the space of a somersault, after all, they argued, Zaki Biam was destroyed, Odi was flattened, and Nigeria is still intact.

The advocates of pacification and negotiation were shocked when the boko haram group gave their own conditions which included (a) making public the finding of the panel set up to unearth the mysterious death of the boko haram leaders in 2009 (b) implementation of Sharia and declaration of all Northern Nigerian states as Islamic States (c) The trial of the former Borno State Governor Ali Modu Sheriff and the outright resignation of the new governor Alhaji Kashim Shettima.

Some Journalists even saw it as a simplistic defence of Islam and the North and used the opportunistic privilege in flaunting their 34 years journalistic experience without proffering a solution to the crisis at hand. Of what significance is 34 years of journalism if your greatest strength is the stereotype defence of your religion and tribal communities even when solutions are not 100 percent right? The feuding journalistic juggernauts merely skimmed the surface and skipped the heart of the matter.

I am neither placing the guilt of the boko haram tragedy on society nor on boko haram itself. Boko haram is a creation of government right from our independence in 1960 to date.

We should here recall that the basic philosophy of boko haram is anchored on a congenital hatred for Western education and its accomplishments. Specifically, boko haram’s hatred for the West is based on the fact that beneficiaries of this Western education have manipulated the system to short change the masses into poverty and penury.

It is true that the late dreaded leader of boko haram, Mallam Mohammed Yusuf and a few of his accomplices were university graduates but boko haram is principally a crusade of uneducated masses who were easily led by the nose to commit mayhem and anarchy. It was Peter Broughman who said “education makes people easy to lead but difficult to drive, easy to govern but impossible to enslave”. The boko haram adherents lacked Western education to know that merely beheading fellow human beings does not give them a free ticket to heaven as most Islamist fundamentalists are tutored to believe.

Horace Mann also posits that “A human being is not in any proper sense a human being, till he is educated” and also the highly revered Greek Philosopher, Aristotle puts it brutally thus, “educated men are as much superior to uneducated men as the living are to the dead”

The two positions above tell the whole story. That the uneducated boko haramists are not human beings in any proper sense of the world. Aristotle further nails the coffin by suggesting that uneducated men are like Zombies – Spiritually and mentally dead but only physically alive.

Government after government in Nigeria have kept education out of the reach of the Nigerian masses. It is far cheaper to invest in educational infrastructure than to waste scarce financial resources on guns and bombs to quell insurrections and fundamentalism. The problems of educational challenges are more complex in Northern Nigeria and the Niger Delta, but it is generally a Nigerian problem.

Apart from the North, the problems of education are very challenging in the Niger Delta region, where children have to move out of their rural domains to access education due to lack of schools. For instance, in the whole Ebijaw Ward of Odigbo Local Government Area in Ondo State, there is not a single secondary school for a population of over 200,000 people. The secondary school which was funded by the American Embassy in Gbenewei in the same ward was destroyed by the great flood of November 2006. This is verifiable. Even in Edo State, it is worse with neither a Ward nor secondary school for the people of Okomu and its environs with a population of over 30,0000 people.

These facts show that educational challenges are more severe in the North and the Niger Delta and maybe even more in the Niger Delta. And this disadvantage is so reflected in university admissions for the North and sometimes Bayelsa State (Not the Niger Delta).

Most Nigerian rulers have shifted emphasis from education and have rather stashed billions of dollars of Nigerian funds into their personal private bank vaults abroad. It will be shocking to discover the staggering billions of dollars owned by Nigeria’s past rulers, some of which are now untraceable.

Most former presidents in Nigeria have investments all over the world, some through proxies. It is saddening but instructive to note that a former always-smiling Nigerian military ruler owns vast outlays of posh and elite Estate in Cairo and Alexandria, both in Egypt. All these at the expense of the Nigerian people.

The boko haram tragedy is a deep rooted societal repudiation of prevailing cultural conflicts in Northern Nigeria and by extension all over the country. It happened in the Niger Delta when the militants carried arms to protect the policy of “killing” the goose that lays the golden eggs. The masses are yearning for education. The masses are yearning for an equitable redistribution of Nigeria’s abundant resources. The masses are yearning for a change. The masses are tired of high cost of cement, of rice, of flour, of noodles. All these goods are imported into Nigeria by one man who today is the richest African and blackman in the world. And of course the prices of these goods have to triple for this monopolistic importer and proxy to be one of the richest men on mother earth.

Nigerians are now rejecting those free lunches and dinners organised by the Alhajis to feed the dregs of society. The masses are yearning for an enabling environment to achieve their dreams as contracting and consenting parties to the social contract that guarantees a joint ownership of state properties and funds and the right to a decent livelihood.

The people’s right to qualitative education is inalienable and fundamental to their very existence as we consider the cleansing and magical functions of education. Only qualitative education can transform man from his state of nature into a denaturalised man, groomed to fit into a decent society where human beings reside.

A sect that rapes and kills a young youth Copper because she is dressed “indecently in trousers” is not made up of human beings in the true sense of the word. This sect needs a lot of education. The story of how Miss Grace Ushang, the youth corps member who was gang-raped and later killed with over 700 other human beings in 2009 is still very fresh in our memories.

This is why Nigeria must educate all its citizens if possible. And of course it is possible if the will is there.

Singapore achieved ethnic educational parity in the 80s, among its three main tribal groups, the Chinese, the Indians and the Malays. The Malays who were mainly Muslims were the least educated. The then Singaporean Prime Minster – Lee Kuan Yew, reasoned that an ethnic imbalance in the educational sector could cause future crises and endemic intra-ethnic tension, thereby hindering national growth and progress. Lee Kuan Yew then consulted with the Malay Community leaders and some Islamic scholars. The Malay Community leaders then formed the Majlis Pendidikan Anak–Anak Islam Council on Education for Muslim children (MENDAKI). From every Malay contributor of the Monthly Central Provident Fund (CPF), 50 Cents was deducted but later increased to $2.50. Each contribution was matched by government. dollar for dollar. In 1991, a group of young Muslim graduates formed the Association of Muslim Professionals (AMP) and augmented the solid foundation laid by MENDAKI.

The Singaporean attempts at educational parity became so successful that the Malay (Muslims) Community Students even scored higher than the International average in their 3rd International Mathematics and Science competition in 1995. The Chinese and Indians, who were surprised at the educational miracle of the Malays (Muslims), formed their own equivalents of MENDAKI and AMP as the Malays now turned the educational deficit in their own favour.

Northern Nigeria and the Niger Delta should pursue such lofty ventures instead of carrying arms against their own people and against their country. Nigeria is lucky to have Africa’s and the world’s richest black man. We also have very rich dollar billionaires on the Forbes list of billionaires but unfortunately, we lost Femi Otedola from that list immediately Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s regime expired.

The boko haram mishap is a Nigerian tragedy and luckily President Goodluck Jonathan has taken the right step by approving six new universities and work on the new sites has already commenced. Apart from those universities to ease admissions into tertiary institutions, government should establish Adult Literacy Centres all over the country even in the creeks of the Niger Delta and in all the nooks and crannies of Northern Nigeria. Government should also fund existing universities maximally to bring out the best in Nigerian universities.

Nigerians must Endeavour to make sacrifices to place Nigeria in the comity of decent nations aspiring for true greatness and economic and political parity with the most developed countries of the world.

Lee Kuan Yew ruled Singapore from 1959 to 1990 as Prime Minister and from then to 2004 as Senior Minister and he succeeded in moving Singapore from a weak 3rd world country to a 1st world country. He also fired Singapore’s per capita income from $400 in 1959 to $12,200 in 1990, and later to above $30,000 in the year 2000. The economy of Singapore also grew steadily at between 7-10 percent for over a period of 20 years.

By the 1990s, with a 1.2mn refinery capacity per day, Singapore had become the 3rd largest oil-refining centre in the world after Houston and Rotterdam, but remember Singapore does not have a single drop of crude oil. Singapore also became the world’s 3rd largest oil trading centre after New York and London. It also became the largest fuel oil bunker market in terms of volume and a major petrochemical producer.

Singapore was also the most stable government and the largest financial centre in Southeast Asia with a per capita GDP which the World Bank in 1995, rated the 9th highest in the world. Yet with all these superlative achievements, Singapore even to date does not possess any natural resources.

But in Nigeria President Goodluck Jonathan is being pummelled left, right and centre for proposing a single 6–years tenure after his exit.

If Nigerians think Nigeria always, we shall together be proud of this country in the nearest future and boko haram will be a forgotten story if government invests heavily on education.

God bless Nigeria.

•Nanaghan writes from Lagos, Nigeria. E-mail: [email protected]

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