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Political Mistakes that Produced Boko Haram in Nigeria

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"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it"- George Santayana

This article traces the origin of political confusion that has led to Boko Haram and its quest to rule Nigeria through a jihad. This analysis is coming at a time when the international community is confused as to the true Nigeria going by so many unexplained happenings of recent. The kidnap of more than 200 girls from a Christain Neighbourhood school at Chibok Near Maiduguri,Nigeria and the many explanations that It was a Moslem Christain conflict or rather Northern,southern. How come that security is so weak as not to prevent kidnap or do anything to effect release. What about some military personnel opening fire on their commander and the President not visiting Chibok for security reasons.

The time has come to retrace the history of mistakes that led to today's confusion and do something about it before it escalates. The international community can be of immense help here.

It is true that there was some conflict between the two parts of Nigeria ,North and south down to history but today's conflict is between two totally conflicting understanding and implementation of the Nigerian project. One the Military created and enforced versus the original concept at Independence which still guides international action and expectation. The true Nigeria christened the New Nigeria is just the original concept being reawakened by The transformation of President Goodluck Jonathan and resisted by the old military concept which uses Religion and ethnicity as tools and this has produced Boko Haram.

Down memory lane you could see the emergence of these world views and the mistakes that led to its persistence. In 1914 there were two Nigerias. The North and the Southern Nigeria managed by Lord Luggard the then British Governor General . He thought it would make sense for the British to amalgamate the two since there were no more scramble going on by competing Powers. Amalgamation could produce an economy of scale and enable each side to benefit from the others advantages while integrating into a giant provider of British raw materials.

Earlier the methods of administration of the two had differed greatly. The North was ruled indirectly allowing the feudal system to remain unperturbed by modern advances and it produced great courageous infantrymen to defend the whole. The south was ruled directly through democratic means and the people were assimilated to the western education as basis for their proper participation and ownership of democratic culture. Earlier they were organized in hostile city states and did not care much about integration or nationhood except it was bound by force of arm. So the South developed faster in this new way of organizing in the public realm shedding their much of their cultures to accommodate the ways of the white missionary. On the other hand the North was already conquered by the jihadist Arab from the North who introduced their Islamic religion to calm down the earlier existing city States and established the Fulani Emirates to rule over the people. They were highly successful in utilizing the political cleavages of religion in organizing society something that the colonial British admired and wished to retain because it was also productive and effective.

It was an uphill task getting to amalgamate the two disparate world views but the British had the machinery to instill law and order. Remember that left on its own the two sides cannot gravitate towards integration or nationhood. So the presence of some prerequisites in the British style made it possible to hold the two together. The first requisite is force ,ie a good law and enforcement with a disciplined army. The other is productivity. The whole thing hinges on economy of scale. The British was able to keep the two sides separate while uniting them at the point of their output at the Federal levels. So the federal system was complemented by the Parliamentary structure of governance. There was nothing unitary.

What it means is that a law consistent with international standards and expectations contained in a constitution and backed by a strong disciplined army also rooted in international standards was needed to keep Nigeria Amalgamated. It was needed to keep Nigeria productive and secure but she must be governed by a balanced federal structure with delivery mechanism being a parliamentary system of government because of its educative ,accountable and responsible characters. It took the British 50 years of trial and error to achieve this balance and when Nigeria became independent in 1960,this system was handed over to the new Government.

Unfortunately those whom the British saw as worthy enough to continue this legacy did not seem to understand it. Neither did they have much chance to operate it before they began to remove the very pillars that kept the system stable in the first place. The first pillar to be removed was British authority or guidance. The last Governor General of Nigeria who became the first President Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe was to provide that necessary link as Queens Consul. Much of Nigeria's exports still went to Britain. The economy was structured to serve British industries even the Railway lines ran to the sea. The first bad move was making Dr Azikiwe a ceremonial President. Then followed the rush to declare a Republic in 1963. As soon as the Republican status came,Britain had its hands tied even though it still retained the lever! Earlier the new leaders were already working ignorantly to destabilize the army. The Northern Premier wanted quota recruitment of Northern Youths into the Army. Then followed attempts to alter the tripod structure bringing about instant instability in the polity . The Creation of Mid West Region sent wrong signals to the North that the South was trying to put them In disadvantage . The centre could no longer hold! All these were distractions to productivity and the groundnut pyramids,cocoa and oil Palm exports began to show signs of decline!

The consequences of the above events happening before 1964 was that the army was disabled,the parliamentary system and the Regional Federalism was now in doubt in just 4years what was put together in 50 years came crumbling down. There was no need to continue this analysis until the physical effects became form in 1966 coup. The discovery of oil in the Niger Delta came as a structural defect instead of blessing. It emboldened those who thought that the Army could play a stabilizing role with or without the other prerequisites such as a good law and enforcement with international backing. Those who did not understand the great need for Federalism and Regional autonomy in the Nigerian equation, those new experimenters who believe that he who controls force which later translated to the economy can enforce National unity and integration!

From 1966 the Nigerian constitution was suspended,the FEDERAL structure disbanded,the army became unprofessional as quota soldiers had their way. Since the constitution was no more law and order took a nosedive and the rest is history. Attempts to create states to replace the Regions to give semblance of unity multiplied governance units until it was no longer controllable and units became unviable eating deep into crude oil federal coffers establishing a new reason de entrée for this new concept of the Nigerian State to sharing instead of productivity. Later on attempts were made to put these unviable states into eight geopolitical zones and after many years of running at seemingly stable democratic rule from 1999 till date after the earlier republics proved abortive,the imbalance in structure remains and great poverty besets the land in the midst of plenty. The people are no longer the centre piece of the new democracy rooted in a common wealth of sharing of oil funds. Money had assumed a surfer age if its own and can buy votes or positions. The Military rulers since 1986 were experimenting in Diarchy and have converted to the new civilian helmsmen but they still feel that unitary control of everything from the centre will retain their control of this experimental brand of Nigeria! So constitutional conferences are open but not entirely free to discuss the major issues capable of returning power to the people once again or returning Nigeria to its true nature.

So here we are today grappling with the effects of the perpetual conflict between the two Nigerias and the people are all but ignorant of what is happening to them! Although they perceive the conflict some mislabel it and therefore for narrow political expediency deceive their people into wild goose chases year after year. They would tell you it is a conflict between the North and the South,Muslims and Christains,Arab and West,politicians and the people,and other vague phrases arising out of pseudo knowledge or ignorance. Most people cannot decide it because they have arisen from it and cannot detach themselves from it or overlook it as to know the big picture! From here you can see that the conflict you see today manifested in Boko Haram,Sharia,coups etc was made in Nigeria! It was as a result of the rush to rule Nigeria when you do not even know what Nigeria is all about. Now what is happening is that the attempt to change the old British prescription for a stable Nigeria has failed disastrously and the new Nigeria which is just a return to the old is rising! It has no geographical boundaries so it is not the North or South,Moslems or Christains but the will of God!

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Nwokedi Nworisara and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

Articles by Nwokedi Nworisara