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MANY other Nigerians have argued that Mr. Abdulmuttalab does not typify an average Nigerian youth, given his privileged background and exposure to international environment, his radicalisation while attending a London university and his subsequent enlistment in al Qaeda and training in Yemen. Still others have argued that the young Nigerian’s case is that of failed parenting. All of these arguments do not relate with the fact that Mr.Abdulmuttalab grew up in an environment in Nigeria, characterised by a cruel mix of widespread poverty, religious fundamentalism, intolerance and terror.
THE effects of the social environment of northern Nigeria on the disposition and vulnerability to an ideology of terror have been ignored. This poses a great danger to future of the country. Terrorism is not a tool used at the international level alone. It is our view that the use of terror for religious and political purposes in northern Nigeria must be addressed.
VIOLENT fundamentalism and extremism, especially in the name of religion, has grown in northern Nigeria. From the 1980s after the Maitatsine sect unleashed terror on innocent citizens and were eventually routed by the superior fire power of the federal military government, Northern Nigeria has become a festering ground for a remarkable number of radical Islamic sects that have demonstrated their readiness to inflict violence and mayhem to pursue their agenda. These sects use guns, bows and arrows and machetes to unleash unimaginable terror on ordinary citizens, including young graduates on national service. These have provoked, given the dominance of Muslims in the North, similar dispositions among Christian groups in the north. It seems the political leadership at both national and sub-national levels has not adequately taken account of the remarkable growth of extremism since the return to democratic rule.
OVER time, in some parts of the North, religion-inspired violence has become more and more vicious and better organised. The instruments of violence have also grown in sophistication, just as intellectual capacity of the leadership of these extremist groups has improved with the recruitment of university graduates, top government officials and important elements from the upper rung of the society in the North.
FOR all practical purposes, it must be recognised that religious extremism and/or terrorism has become a mark of many cities in northern Nigeria. It has become obvious by the frequency and the systematic occurrence of these events that they are planned to intimidate or cause terror in pursuit of religious, political and other goals. This is certainly the perception of victims of these crimes. This conclusion is further justified by the fact that perpetrators of these crimes usually go scot-free; they are never punished. Where the government overwhelmed the perpetrators of the acts, the leaders of the sect involved are usually eliminated in action, extra-judicially killed or set free. That is why since the 1980s, no leader of these terror groups has had the chance to make a case in the law court, fuelling rumours that people in high places have something to hide concerning state sponsorship of such groups.
THE intergovernmental conflict that led to the setting up of two parallel panels by the Federal Government and the Plateau State government over the previous mayhem in Jos also buttresses the view that there is more to these crises than meets the eye.
THE involvement of a Nigerian youth who has lived in several cities in the North, though born to a wealthy Nigerian from Katsina, may be a harbinger of the arrival of a northern network that has adopted extremism and terror as policy. The government must deal with the issue of extremism in the North with all the seriousness it can muster. This should involve detailed investigation into the various religious sects and radical groups that hold the potential of unleashing terror. A strong intelligence network should be established to keep a perpetual eye on their activities. Proactive and pre-emptive measures must be the focus of intervention.
THIS also means that government at the state and national levels must cooperate to address social, political and economic conditions that feed fundamentalism and intolerance and make ordinary people available for recruitment. These conditions include poverty, typified by widespread deprivation and hunger, lack of access to quality education, unemployment, political manipulation of religion by the elite class and struggles over control of state resources. All these conditions must be addressed fully to bring an end to these crises not just in the North but in other parts of the country.Share