Is the Jonathan War a Civil War provoked by Boko Haram?
Mr. President, right there in Abuja, and all over the nooks and corners of
Nigeria, in the mornings especially, you see young men just sitting on the
ground of Nigerian streets, seated under short trees, at the base of the
trees, their legs stretched out in front of them ; or, at other times,
laying on the bare ground with saws, axes or shovel by their sides, some
barely managing to keep their eyes open, waiting to be picked for any
kind—any kind– of laborer's work.
A closer and careful look at their helpless faces will show that they are,
in reality, sincerely looking for honest work, and not waiting to be
called to what former Chief of Defence Staff General Theophilus Danjuma
called a Civil War, nor what Professor Wole Soyinka called a “revolt”.
Let us be clear. President Jonathan has never waged war against the North,
but according to Danjuma, by way of a psychological quip or Freudian slip,
he tells the Southerners to make no mistake; this is an ongoing five-year
war, with enemies between the South and the North, period!
These young men with a show of fluctuating emotions behind their smiles of
anger and frustration, on any given day, can be seen listening to their
little radios with ethnic-sounding languages drumming into their ears,
Northern-related worries, ranging from religious, governance, economic,
power and politics, deprivation, health concerns and many others. Yes,
they have heard complaints relating to Northerners' concerns that it was
their turn to rule. But this is not the immediate concern of these
helpless young men. All they need and are asking for is the opportunity to
work in order to meet their most basic needs for survival.
But these critical needs are not forthcoming, day after day, week after
week, and month after month; so they inherently come to the point where
they feed into the Northerner elites' political concerns, and are forced
to embrace messages of violence. With nothing to look forward to from the
larger society, we make them into something they are not, extremist
If truth be told, the larger part of the North is statically an economic
graveyard, with the rural areas full of pictures of miserable lives. In
the north-eastern states in particular, the entire region is known for its
deep economic wounds of insufficiency and poverty. The only thing that
seems available is the Jonathan War, and many of these young men, on the
basis of historical affinity, become open to recruitment into the Boko
Without their direct knowing, these young men, who have always been closer
to the door of death, could now care less if their hands bring destruction
and their plundering acts further aggravate poverty and pain in the North,
as long as they themselves are no longer visibly idle and saddened by
their former empty lives. They are now willing to die and take hundreds,
if not thousands, with them, having been forced to come to grips with
their long-standing reality of living in abject poverty.
If truth be told, Boko Haram intrinsically has never been about the
creation of an Islamic state for the whole nation, as they know such
theory in itself is sheer fantasy. In the same light, it is not about a
negative view of Euro-American education, as the Northerners have always
had a bi-learning approach to education in terms of English and Islamic
education. Indeed, many have always had an open and a special heart for
the great Islamic teachings as it relates to peace and humanness.
Nigeria remains a geographically complex place and the Nigerian security
forces find themselves fighting a diffuse war with the Boko Haram who, in
a crude manner, find themselves advantageously depending on poor
electricity, poor and narrowed roads with hidden big holes, poorly
maintained road paths, mosquito-infested environs, and snaked-filled
forests to strengthen its stand against the modernized styles of the
Nigerian security forces.
With the common knowledge that Nigerian security forces may never be
backed by superior American war devices, the Boko Haram crowd and its
sympathizers believe Nigeria is almost finished! But God forbid.
Mr. President, the irony here is that in 2010, the US designated the Boko
Haram as a terrorist organization, amid concern that it had developed
links with other militant groups, such as al-Qaeda. So why they are
unwilling to deploy American troops or sell Nigeria weapons remains an
open question. Could it be that there are bad insiders or secret
sympathizers within the Nigerian security forces that are acting as
watchful eyes for the Boko Haram, against the nation's security agencies
– the military, police and secret police known for their human rights
incapacitations, deep corruption and ambiguous approach to the rule of
This civil war may continue for a very long time under the cloak of
complicity at the uppermost levels of the Nigerian state and ruling elite
who possibly take corrupt pleasure in allowing these killings for
political reasons, especially in the run-up to the 2015 elections.
As the yet-to-be-recruited young Muslim Northerners continue to bear the
consequences of living in the northeast environment, where 70 percent of
people live on less than a dollar a day, and malnutrition and
infrastructure difficulties remain the most severe, the President, who is
a southern Christian, must now swiftly find a way to make the long
standing injustice against the North reduce drastically. All these
youngsters do not wish to maintain their current deadly and vicious
extremist beliefs, thoughts and feeling but, instead, desire something
personally beneficial to their lives. In general, they want to see a more
equitable distribution of wealth and meaningful economic opportunity, just
like in the South, where they have an opportunity to earn a fair
As long as the North remains a region marked with a hopeless and helpless
exploding youth population, the Jonathan War provoked by Northerners'
bitterness, fury, and wrath could exacerbate further and further with no
quick end in sight. Let us hope this will not be the case.
Dr. John Egbeazien Oshodi is a Forensic and Clinical Psychologist and a
former Secretary-General of the Nigeria Psychological Association.
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