Genesis of insurgency in Borno State: Religious Fanaticism or Political Militancy?

By Agwah Michael
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In present day Nigeria, when the state Borno (whose nickname is ironically the Home of Peace) is mentioned, the first picture that plays in the mind of any one that has been resident in the country for quite a while is insurgency and its vices.

When insurgency is mentioned, the first name that comes to mind is Boko Haram, which is seen as a group of Islamic extremists/fanatics whose priority is slaughtering of humans and destruction of properties for a cause they supposedly know nothing about.

To first understand the sect Jamā'at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da'wah wa'l-Jihad (Group of the People of Sunnah for Preaching and Jihad) popularly known as Boko Haram, it is most important to learn the course on which they supposedly operate under, Islam.

According to Wikipedia, Islam is a monotheistic and Abrahamic religion articulated by the Qu'ran (the holy book that is believed by Islamic adherents to be a context of the verbatim words of Allāh) and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (believed by Islamic adherents to be the last prophet of God).

An adherent of Islam is called a Muslim/Moslem.
Islam was first accepted and adopted in the then Bornu Empire, part of which is today called Nigeria, under the reign of Mai/King Idris Alooma. Mai Alooma ruled the Bornu Empire from 1571 to 1603.

Mai Alooma established the religion of Islam in the Empire by introducing Islamic courts, mosques and even, himself, embarking on pilgrimage (Hajj) to Mecca (the pilgrim destination of the Islamic faithfuls), where he built a hostel for pilgrims who were his subjects.

In the 19th century, an Islamic scholar by name Uthman dan Fodio embarked on a holy war, which is called Jihad by Muslims, in a bid to Islamize wherever he stepped foot on. He was victorious and established a Fulani Empire, with its capital at present day Sokoto, close by. The Bornu Empire withstood all invasion advances from the hot-blooded scholar.

By 1903, the Northern Empires (which included Kano, Sokoto, Bornu) had fallen to the British and the Empires became part of the Northern Protectorate which was later fused with the Southern Protectorate, by Lord Frederick Lugard, to become the country known as Nigeria.

The Bornu Empire was however allowed to exist as a subject to the government of the country as the Borno Emirate, which is today known as Borno State.

In 1999, when the military ceeded power of rule to a democratic government, a civilian governor Mala Kachallah was elected under the aegis of the All People's Party (APP), which would later become the All Nigeria People's Party (ANPP) and later merge with the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) political parties to form the current ruling party All Progressive Congress (APC).

Kachallah's election to power was financed by business tycoon, Ali Modu Sheriff, who became a Senator and represented Borno Central in the upper house of the National Assembly.

Prior to the handover to democratic rule, Borno State was not an Islamic state (one governed by the Sharia legal system) though it was a predominantly Muslim state.

In August 2001, the Borno State Assembly passed the bill to adopt Sharia (Islamic) law, thus declaring the state an Islamic State. The then governor, Mala Kachallah, reassured the Christian residents of the state that the law was only applicable to Muslim community of the state.

In February 2001, a Sharia Implementation Committee was established which brought the Sharia legal system into law by June of the same year.

Prior to the 2003 elections, then Governor Mala Kachallah had a fall-out with his benefactor, Sen. Ali Modu Sheriff, and the political party which brought him to power, thus ruining his bid for a re-run ticket under the platform of the All Nigeria People's Party (ANPP). He then decamped to the Alliance for Democracy (AD) where he clinched the gubernatorial ticket.

The All Nigeria People's Party (ANPP) then gave Sen. Ali Modu Sheriff the gubernatorial ticket for the party, with which he clinched the seat of governor of Borno State. Victory achieved meant a terrible feat for the state. The fall-out between the political godfather and son led to a political mayhem as a cult-like group, known as ECOMOG, was formed in the State. The group had operational bases in neighboring states under code names such as Yan Kalare in Gombe, Sara Suka in Bauchi, Banu-Isra'il in Taraba and Yan-Shinko in Adamawa.

According to the Galtimari Panel report, Sen. Ali Modu Sheriff was the suspected originator and sponsor of the ECOMOG group, which he allegedly used in the battle to clinch the gubernatorial seat of Borno State.

The group, after the elections, were left with their arsenal (local and sophisticated weapons) without amnesty given to them.

As the saying goes, An idle mind is the devil's workshop, and virtually all religions believe in the existence of an evil being referred to as the devil (though it might be known by different names in several languages).

In 2009, a member of the ECOMOG, who had become a radical Islamist preacher, by name Mohammed Yusuf reorganized the group and renamed it Nigerian Taliban. Sources within the group's caucus revealed that the motive for the reorganization was due to the lack of attention the group received from the government, except during elections.

The group gradually gained a visible form as they began attacking military troops, police formations, security operatives, and innocent civilians.

Several prominent state and federal levels politicians had continually been linked to the group.

The leader of the ECOMOG group, Mohammed Yusuf was eventually arrested by officers of the Nigeria Police Force and allegedly executed, in public view, outside their headquarters in Maiduguri. Police officials, however, debunked the allegation with claims that the arrested militia leader was shot dead by the military during an attempted escape.

With the death of their leader, the group once again restructured, taking the name Jamā'at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da'wah wa'l-Jihad (Group of the People of Sunnah for Preaching and Jihad) with the reins of leadership being taken over by a Nigerien, in the person of Abubakar Shekau. The group also adopted the name Boko Haram (given to them by the media) which means Against Western Education.

Under the new leadership, the group embarked on extreme mass killings, public bombings, kidnappings/abductions and several other vices. They unleashed mayhem on the residents of Borno State and other neighboring states.

In 2015, the sect seized a part of Borno State and declared it an Islamic republic, which they named Gwoza Republic. Their unleash of terror caught international attention when they kidnapped 276 secondary school girls (who are missing till date). The national defense forces, alongside international forces, have kept launching several offensives targeting the hideouts of the sect, yet like a hydra which when a head is cut off another grows, they have kept launching attacks on innocent civilians and military formations.

The sect has not deterred in performing their vow of upturn the democratic government of Nigeria and returning to the Islamic administration of the conquered Bornu Empire.

Recently, the sect declared an affiliation with similar international terror group, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the latter in acceptance of the affiliation declared the sect its West African branch calling it Wilāyat Gharb Ifrīqīyyah which means Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP).

Amidst all these acts of insurgency and its vices, who is to blame for the present state of unrest in the nation?

The supposed religious fanatics/extremists or members of the political echelon who climb(ed) to the floors of power through the establishment/employment of political militancy?

Article by Agwah Michael
(Founder 247NewsUpdate Blog, Researcher, Human Rights Activist, Social Critic and Political Analyst)

Twitter: @AgwahMichael
LinkedIn: Agwah Michael

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