Why Somali not Ghana came to Nigeria
Ever since Somalia came to Nigeria, bombs and screaming guns have made us to constantly shudder. We live in fear. And we seek for hope. In awe, we stare as religious houses, schools and public spaces become ready targets of suicide bombers. Broken skulls, carcasses of the innocent are the teary testimonies of Somalia in Nigeria.
It should have been Ghana that came – democracy, smooth transitions, responsible and accountable governance. But Ghana didn’t come. It was Somalia that came – bombs, rockets, guns and machetes. We look across the borders at Ghana’s rising democratic credentials and how they shame our increasing inability to build a stable and people-centred democracy. We look at the value Ghana places on its constitution and how we treat ours with disdain.
Ghana’s constitution is not perfect. But even in its imperfections; it is able to inspire men of goodwill to obedience and to reject cronyism so that its spirit – the spirit of the constitution will prevail. It took us a horrendous and dangerous heating up of the polity to come to compromise to have an acting president instead of a fully sworn in president as the spirit of the constitution would have willed.
While we have no short supply of opportunists, cabalists, and dangerous kingmakers who would stop at nothing to keep power so as to have access to loot the public till; in Ghana, there’s abundance of patriots committed to nation-building. They prove the point recently. It took less than two hours to swear in the vice president to replace a popular president who had transited.
Why is Somalia here and not Ghana? A recent report by the US based Joint Special Operations University titled Confronting the Terrorism of Boko Haram in Nigeria proffers very insightful answers. I will share part of the report with you. “Terrorists and criminals thrive in a climate of sustained grievances. It is no coincidence that the worst forms of political violence in Nigeria today originate in the most socioeconomically disadvantaged parts of the country. In the north, where unemployment and poverty are the highest, radical Islamists and the imposition of Sharia law have challenged the authority of the state. In the southeast, where environmental destruction resulting from oil extraction in the Niger Delta has made local Nigerians’ traditional fishing and agricultural efforts virtually impossible, a flurry of criminal groups and armed militant gangs often consisting of unemployed youth have engaged in kidnappings, extortion, car bombings, murder, and other forms of violent attacks against the government and the nation’s critical oil infrastructure.”
“While the violence in the south of Nigeria is mainly secular and driven by grievances associated with resources and environmental damage, the north has seen far more ethnic, tribal, and religious violence, often manipulated by politicians for political gain and profit—especially in areas where neither Muslims nor Christians are a clear majority.” Too often, violence upheavals underscore resource scarcity and ethnic identity politics. For example, over the last decade an increasing number of the pastoralist Hausa-Fulani have migrated southward from the drought-ridden north, bringing with them cattle that are encroaching on more fertile lands historically owned by other ethnicities. The resulting conflicts have sometimes been portrayed in the media as being Muslim versus Christian, while in fact the violence has frequently been fueled by land use issues and indigenous versus settler rights.
“For example, a major outbreak of violence in February 1992 in the town of Zango, Kaduna state between Hausa-Fulani and Kataf Christians was largely over land ownership and access to markets. More recently, in late November 2011, what was initially described by Reuters as religious violence was actually a clash over the ownership of cattle and fertile farmland in Barkin Ladi—an area in the city of Jos, the capital of Plateau state—that left at least 10 people dead.
In a 2009 case study of Jos, Philip Ostien explains how local conflicts have arisen “primarily out of ethnic differences, pitting Hausa ‘settlers’ against ‘indigene’ tribes of Afizere, Anaguta and Berom.”
Boko Haram is not a peculiar challenge but part of the fallouts of the consistent greed and decomposition of the political class. Here again, let me share the observations of this report: “John Campbell, former U.S. ambassador to Nigeria, recently wrote that “Boko Haram, once an obscure, radical Islamic cult in the North, is evolving into an insurrection with support among the impoverished and alienated Northern population.” It is no coincidence that Boko Haram developed from a base in the north of the country, where a combination of socioeconomic isolation, politicized religious and ethnic identity, and conspiracy theories driven by fear and reinforced by a heavy-handed security response to protests all work together to create an enabling environment for radical Islamist ideologies to resonate.”
We are in a dire strait. But we are not irredeemable. Indeed, we are at a threshold. To use the name of an organisation, we are at the threshold to ‘save Nigeria.’ Now is the time for government to lead by its fidelity to the national pledge to Nigeria; to attack corruption and commit national resource to national developments that will engage millions of otherwise jobless and idle youths.
For now, government responses have been both shallow and lacking the capacity to chart the much needed course for a greater Nigeria. Finally, I end with this remark from Confronting the Terrorism of Boko Haram: “The Nigerian government’s response to the current security challenges [can be deemed] as “buying time and loyalty with oil money in the south and north… what they need to do instead is reduce corruption, emphasize infrastructure development, especially electric power, support education, and assure affordable housing options….The country’s political system is one in which government leaders “buy off” potential threats to their power and use public resources to influence the population.
The Nigerian government’s response to the current security challenges [can be deemed] as “buying time and loyalty with oil money in the south and north… what they need to do instead is reduce corruption, emphasize infrastructure development.