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The Poor Husband, The Rich Wife and Boko Haram

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I have nothing against the islamic faith. As a matter of fact some of my most loyal friends are practising muslims. I also have many muslims in my family and my maternal great grandmother was a pure fulani woman from Sokoto state. I do however have to say that I completely disagree with my respected brother, Mujahid Asari Dokubo, when he suggested (in an article titled ''How To Address The Boko Haram Problem In Nigeria'', 25th June, 2011) that President Goodluck Jonathan should seek dialogue and enter into negotiations with Boko Haram, the ruthless muslim fundamentalist sect and islamist terrorist group that has killed thousands of innocent and defenceless Nigerian men, women and children in the last few years.

In my view the solution is simple. Boko Haram must be utterly crushed by the government and certainly not negotiated with. This is because in a civilised society there can never be dialogue with those that seek to establish a 17th century Islamic fundamentalist caliphate all over the world and those that seek to impose their strange values on the rest of humanity. There is no doubt in my mind that Boko Haram is part of the world-wide Al Qaeda-sponsored ''global jihad'' and if we give them one inch they will definitely take a mile. We cannot afford to have peace with them on any terms or peace with them at the cost of our hard-earned civil liberties, cherished values, plural multi-cultural society and modern way of life. There must come a time when we as a nation can boldly say ''enough is enough'' and when we draw the line in the sand. And if Boko Haram crosses that line they must be confronted by the full force of the Nigerian Armed Forces regardless of the collateral damage and immense infrastructural destruction that this will cause in various northern cities. President Olusegun Obasanjo did this ruthlessly and efficiently in the town of Odi in the Niger Delta area a number of years ago with remarkable success. Now there you had a Commander in Chief.

By the time the Nigerian Army finished shelling Odi from the land, the sea and the air there was not one building left standing except for, interestingly, the local bank. Why should the same treatment not be meted out today to any city or community in our country that grants the footsoldiers of Boko Haram support, a safe haven or shelter. This is because they are not true muslims or believers in God. Rather they are a cancer that must be identified, isolated and cut out before they spread their terrible diesease of hate, extreemism, violence and intolerance throughout the federation. That is what a strong, focused, resolute and purposeful government ought to do. Sadly we have not seen any such thing from our government. Instead what we have witnessed from them are a series of feeble and pathetic pleas for dialogue with the enemy and the shameful display of weakness, incompetence and insensitivity.

To make matters worse the National Chairman of the President's own ruling PDP, Alhaji Bamangar Tukur, recently declared that Boko Haram was ''fighting for justice''. I really do wonder what type of ''justice'' he is referring to when churches are now being blown up every sunday morning all over the north and when thousands of defenceless christians are being slaughtered on a daily basis. Is that what the Chairman calls ''fighting for justice''. Are these the people that are denying Boko Haram their justice and that are denying them their rights? Are they the ones that killed their leader, Mohammed Yusuf, a few years ago? Boko Haram started by targetting government institutions and security agencies with extreeme and deadly violence but now they have graduated to killing the followers of Christ and they have made known their intention to wipe out christianity in northern Nigeria and to stop christians from peacefully worshipping their God. Is that the just cause that they are fighting for?  

Mujahid Asari Dokubo has also said that islam is playing a ''second fiddle'' role in Nigeria and that Judaeo-Christian beliefs ''dominate the country''. This is not true. It is a fallacy and it is intellectually dishonest. Nigeria is a secular state and, if anything, since independence it is the northern muslims more than anyone else that have dominated the Nigerian state and it's institutions. The records are there for all to see. We must understand that Boko Haram, what they stand for and what they seek to establish is patently evil and that what they are doing represents the greatest threat to Nigerian unity since our civil war. They are not just a danger to christians but they also present a very real threat to the lives of all  true muslims as well.

True muslims like Mujahid Asari Dokubo would do better by trying to educate and enlighten their more extremist Boko Haram islamist brothers to stop the violence, to stop the slaughtering of christians and true muslims alike, to stop destabilising the Nigerian state, to stop trying to islamise northern Nigeria, to stop trying to return our country to the dark ages of the 17th century and to stop trying to wage a global war of terror against the rest of humanity from northern Nigeria. We as a people must not allow ourselves to be intimidated by their evil agenda and we must vigorously and courageously wipe them out no matter what it takes. No responsible and strong government would compromise or enter into negotiations with such barbarous men. This is because their agenda is not only evil but it is also anti-Christ. To throw down the gauntlet and confront such evil is one of the major challenges of our time and it is a challenge that our government must not fail to rise up to in a fearless, vigorous and responsible manner.

Sadly in his response to me Dokubo appeared a little offended at what he described as my ''derogatory language'' towards muslims and reminded me that he himself was a practising and devout muslim and he advised me to ''desist''. My response to him was that my so-called ''derogatory language'' was not directed against the moderate Muslims but rather against the ''islamists'' and I was sure that he must know the difference between the two. I went further by advising him to please understand that just as he said that he is ''a Muslim'', I am also ''a Christian''. And just as he takes exception to what I have said here about the islamists that seek to spread global jihad, I also take equally strong exception to the fact that literally hundreds of thousands of my fellow southern, middle-belt and northern Christian brothers and sisters have been killed by Muslim fundamentalists and islamists in northern Nigeria over the last 50 years for no just cause.

The innocent blood of those people cries to God in heaven for vengeance up until today and it gets louder and louder by the day. Boko Haram have said publically that they want sharia criminal law and an Islamic fundamentalist state, where no western education is to be permitted, to be established in all the northern states of Nigeria before they stop killing and bombing innocent people and spreading terror. Yet the truth is that that will never happen as long as Nigeria remains a secular state. And if Nigeria ever stops being a secular state then we will simply break it up and go our separate ways. It is as simple as that. No-one wants a full blown religious war but neither will we run away if it is foisted on us. For how long can the people of the south sit by idly and watch silently as their own kith and kin that reside in the north and their northern minority christian brothers and sisters are subjected to nothing less than genocide and mass murder from the most ruthless and barbatric terrorist organisation that this country has ever known.

Yet I believe that there is still hope and that a war can still be avoided. That hope lies in the speedy convocation of a Sovereign National Conference. That, in my view, is the only vehicle that can provide a lasting solution to the monumental challenges that we are facing in our country today, including the scourge of Boko Haram. I say this because whether we like to admit it or not, Nigeria is more divided today on ethnic and religious lines than it has ever been since our independence in 1960. We should iron out all these issues at such a conference once and for all. These religious clashes and killings feature in the northern part of Nigeria alone and hardly in the south. In the south-west where I come from the christians, the muslims and the traditional worshippers are one and we treat each other with love, respect, understanding and sensitivity. We do not kill ourselves on account of our religious differences and we will not allow anyone to contaminate us, separate us or come between us.

That is simply our way and clearly many from other parts of Nigeria and indeed the rest of the world have a lot to learn from us. I have been actively involved in the struggle against internal colonialism and religious bigotry since 1990 when I first entered the murky and dangerous waters of partisan politics. My position then, as it is today, is as follows- if Nigeria cannot be built on a foundation of equality, equity and fairness for ALL her people, whether they be christian, muslim, pagan, northern, middle-beltern or southern, then we should reject the concept of a united Nigeria and we should begin to renegotiate the terms of our union. The truth is that there is absolutely nothing that is sacrosanct about the unity of the Nigerian state. As a matter of fact there has been an intellectual and perfectly respectable school of thought since 1914 when Nigeria was created that it was an ''unworkable union'' and a ''cruel joke''. Lord Frederick Lugard's vision, and indeed his intention, when he recommended the amalglamation of the northern and southern protectorates of Nigeria in 1914 was ably described and enunciated by his own very words when he said that the northern protectorate of Nigeria could be described as the ''poor husband'' whilst the southern protectorate could be described as the ''rich wife''.

He then pronounced the ''permanency'' of our forced union by saying- ''today we marry the two and our prayer is that this union lasts forever''. That is how the north and the south got ''married'' and that is how the famous amalglamation of 1914 came about. The problem was that the two young spouses were never asked by their British masters whether they actually wanted to stay together, let alone get married. Worst still the ''poor husband'' was never given the opportunity to court, woo or propose to the ''rich wife''. What a marriage. To make matters worse the two spouses came from different worlds, had different backgrounds, had a different religion, had a different history and had a different world-view .

Today the ''rich wife'' and the ''poor husband'' have suffered immensly in each others loving arms. We fought a brutal and avoidable  3 year civil war from 1967 in which we killed no less than 2 million of our own people. Since1960 the story has been more or less the same and the tales of tragedy and woe have just continued to pour in. If it is not genocide, mass killings or sectarian butchery by groups like Boko Haram then it is always something else. Yet today's barbarism and mass killings are far more horrendous than ever and are far better planned, funded, orchestrated and executed by those that are behind them. The question is how much longer can the ''rich wife'' and the ''poor husband'' give and take this sort of thing from one another? For how long can the centre hold before the voices of reason and restraint are drowned by the compulsive and uncontrollable desire for reprisals and revenge? For how long can mere hope and fervent prayer prevent the dogs of war from being unleashed? May God save Nigeria.

Chief Femi Fani-Kayode was the former spokesman to President Olusegun Obasanjo, former Minister of Culture and Tourism and former Minister of Aviation for Federal Republic of Nigeria.