Africa: How is Nigeria Encouraging Boko Haram
If it is to take a glimpse back into history it is quite easy, and reckless, mistake which I am also guilty off, to affirm that the present situation in the country is due to the cultural and religious division, North standing for Islamism and poorer conditions while the Christian South is striking and blooming due to the oil in the area. Indeed, thanks to this area in particular Nigeria is about to become one of the top 20 economies. The World Bank characterized it as an emerging market and regional power in Africa, as it already is the richest country on the continent. Besides this, it is also part of MINT (acronym from Mexic, Indonesia, Nigeria, Turkey) which only states the economic power that Nigeria developed within the last years. The term MINT is mainly used in financial, economic and academicals sectors to describe the positive economic prospects of these countries, also encouraged by the demographical levels. Everything sounds promising and as a great future ahead, but there is one issue that nobody knows how to handle, corruption.
At a simple search on Google the first 3 pages, at least, are filled with articles from The Guardian, BBC, The Huffington Post and many others which, for the past few years have been presenting the situation in the country from different perspectives, such as corruption, human rights, education, other internal conflicts between pastoralists and local communities, but Boko Haram’s actions distracts the public and, from where I stand, it only adds to the issue. In one article from The Guardian, Philip Ikita points out that the government allegedly “plays on these sentiments and exploit them for popular support from a divided citizenry” which means that they consciously continue to distract people from the bigger problem. As Hobbes very well stated there are three causes of conflict which lay within the human being: rivalry, distrust and fame; and what media, and the people in general, give to the insurgents is exactly this, a big ego to reaffirm their stands. The attention given to the insurgents allows them to perceive themselves as powerful and to continue their doings because they observe it has an impact, and it has the intended effect, intimidation, which only leaves enough room for a projection of a possible change into their own advantage. It is feeding their vision.
Even though Boko Haram has a romantic background, paved with good intentions, helping the ones in need, taking care of what the government left behind, but at some point something changed. The cause of the conflicts lays in the change of leaders which followed after Yusuf died in 2009, who left behind Abubakar Shekau as the man in charge. Yusuf was killed in 2009, the year when the insurgent group started being aggressive, if not radical. The Nigeria Social Violence Project shows that they have killed around 11,000 people since then. Behind Boko Haram there stands a strong ideology, based on religion, it is the fuel for their actions, but not the final purpose. Everything is done in the God’s name, of course, and for the implementation of the Sharia law at the level of the state, but the question is, what encouraged these people in becoming extremists?
Transparency International has some interesting numbers regarding the level of transparency and the control of corruption in Nigeria. The country scores 136 out of 175 on corruption and 16% when it comes to the control of it. On the openness of the budget, there is barely sufficient if any. On the other hand, the judicial independence ranks 72 out of 142 with a score of 3.7 out of 7, which in overall is higher than that of Romania, for example, but it is overshadowed by the rule of law which only goes up to 11%. Regarding the Human development it ranks 156 out of 187 with a score of 0,459 and the freedom of the press is barely visible with 126 out of 170 (find pictures bellow the article). In a feature by the same organization, it is clearly presented that the people of the country do not trust their government or the armed forces with nine out of 10 people admitting this.
Moreover, Nigerians also have a so called “security vote” which allows politicians to have meetings behind closed doors while they are discussing issues involving millions of dollars by simply classifying them as “national security”. Sani Abacha, the previous president of the country, is known for using 60 “security votes” which helped him transfer $1.1 billion as he pleased leaving the military under-funded. Udoka Oakfor takes a very rational stand in The Huffington post when assessing that “our political climate and social cultural narrative is fundamentally shaped by corruption. Corruption manifests itself in different ways, both on a micro and a micro level. The current legislative and executive government are an epitome of the corruption in Nigeria.”
Corruption seems to be the biggest problem of Nigeria right now, as Udoka Oakfor knowingly entitled her article “The Nigerian government is a greater threat to its population than Boko Haram”. Corruption has the power of expanding, and while it is growing, the trust of the population goes the opposite direction. It is a disease that allows groups like Boko Haram to take advantage of the illiterate young men who come from poor areas and are worried about what they are going to eat tomorrow or how to support their families because the government seems to have forgotten about them. Boko Haram is counting on alienated and scared people and uses both political and social corruption into their own advantage. After all, corruption is the very basis of the radicalization of the movement because it has made these mad frustrated and outraged. Moreover, it only feeds the division of the country and it just encourages and perpetuates stereotypes based on religion that will go on for generations affecting the development of the society. It blocks education, it blocks freedom of the press, and it can cut off possible investors or international relations, but more important, it disables a public sphere from developing. The first thing that Nigeria needs to do is to offer transparency regarding its financial actions, both investment and procurement. A corrupted country translates into a divided society and leads to weaker institutions, too anemic for protecting their people.