Nigeria The complex web of intricate security challenges, whose north-west corner has been ravaged by cross-border bandits, farming communities in its north-central part sacked by murderous herders, and its north-east axis overrun by Boko Haram insurgents, has reduced Africa’s most populous country to the continent’s largest human battleboard. More than 10 years after the Boko Haram insurgency began, the Nigerian state has failed to contain this deadly terrorist group, instead its security forces have been drawn into a protracted war that has clearly become intractable. It is conservatively estimated that the Boko Haram insurgency has claimed over 47,000 lives and displaced over two million in the Northeast alone in the past 10 years. More than a decade into the Boko Haram insurgency, many questions remain unanswered about the motive, goals, strategic goals, recruitment, working methods and funding.
That the epicenter of the multifaceted security challenges facing Nigeria, the greatest of which is the Boko Haram insurgency, is undoubtedly in its northern half, and particularly in the Muslim north, offers a credible clue to solving questions about one of the deadliest terrors in the world world groups. Boko Haram is a violent manifestation of the radical ideology of Islamist separatism on which the mainstream theological framework of northern Nigeria’s Muslim religion is firmly built.
Spread across the southern parts of the ancient region of Western Sudan, shaped by the militant Islamist reform movements of the 19th century, Nigeria’s Muslim north is an area that includes the ancient theocratic city-states of the ancient Kanem-Borno Empire and the Fulani-Sokoto -Caliphate includes .
Following the British colonial merger in 1914 which brought the region and the rest of non-Muslim Nigeria under administrative control to be governed by a secular, constitutional and democratic system of government and fearing the loss of their Muslim heritage, hegemony and power , the leadership of the Muslim North slowly rushed to embrace the new modern reality, especially the concept of modern education. The Muslim North viewed it as a Judeo-Christian heritage used by the Western colonial powers as a tool to neutralize their traditional Muslim way of life, and was slow to embrace “Western” education and any other way of life that it saw as Western.
More than half a century after the British colonial interregnum that produced Nigeria, a multi-religious and multi-ethnic country they had created on the road to becoming a modern, secular and constitutional democracy that guaranteed every Nigerian the right to freedom of religion began in late 1960 the North slowly retreated and began a regression to its pre-colonial Muslim theocratic state of traditional administration. And as Salafism swept into the region from Saudi Arabia via Sudan in the early 1970s, the robust Muslim legacy of its militant 19th-century Islamist reformism made northern Nigeria fertile ground for planting the seeds of a radical Islamist revival sow, which was widespread throughout the Muslim world.
The rapid spread of the Salafist version of the Islamic religion in the Muslim North, the cardinal doctrine of which is a return by Muslims to their own interpretation of what their self-appointed theological rulers saw as conforming to Puritan prophetic tradition within the legal framework of a Sharia-governed global Muslim state, led to the spread of the radical ideology of Islamist separatism in the region.
Coming under the theological influence of Salafist clerics who for several decades have steadily watered the seeds of radicalization by passionately preaching the virtues of a Sharia-ruled Muslim state and virulently denouncing the vices of a secular, multi-religious, constitutionally-ruled democratic society, and in The process that created a cognitive conflict between the Islamic beliefs of millions of Muslims in northern Nigeria and the citizenship of Nigeria, their country, these influential cleric went a step further to exhort Muslims to consider fighting [Jihad] for the realization of the ideal Islamic state governed by the Sharia, a religious duty that entails great rewards in the afterlife. In this process, hatred and intolerance towards people of other sects or religions was vigorously preached and denounced by these clergy as apostates and unbelieving unbelievers.
Islamic separatism in the Muslim North has found expression in the hysterical mass movement for full implementation of Muslim Sharia law in a region that is an integral part of a secular, multi-religious and constitutional democratic Nigerian country. Notwithstanding, the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria guarantees freedom of religion for all Nigerians, allowing Muslims to freely adhere to Sharia beliefs [upholding virtue and abstaining from vice by personal conviction]The Muslim north of Nigeria considers the governing legal framework incompatible with their Islamic faith until it is repealed and replaced by Sharia law [upholding of virtue and abstaining from vice by compulsion].
Unfortunately, the Northern political leadership has devised an ingenious means of arming religion as a powerful arsenal of political mobilization for their selfish ends by exploiting their people’s religious sentiments. Political leaders in the Muslim north professed solidarity with the people in their quest for a Sharia-ruled Islamic state and promised to enforce Sharia rule in states in the region if they came to power. However, governors such as Ahmed Yerima of Zamfara, Muazu Babangida Aliyu of Niger State and Abdullahi Umar Ganduje of Kano failed miserably in realizing the ideal Islamic state through the instrumentality of political Islam, which they promised their people because they did not believe in Sharia adopted out of personal conviction and fear of God in fulfilling their responsibilities, and have instead imposed merely token Sharia law on their states out of fear of the powerful class of self-proclaimed theological potentates who wield enormous influence over the deeply religious masses of the Muslim North. While Islam is a divinely guided faith that cannot be overseen by mere mortals, the powerful Salafist clerics of the Muslim north have shouldered the duty of protecting people’s religious life.
The Boko Haram insurgency may have started in 2010, but the seeds of the radical Islamist separatist ideology that are its driving force were sown several decades earlier and are still being sown by Salafist clerics, who are the dominant authoritative voices in mainstream northern Nigeria brought Muslim community.
As the Boko Haram insurgency concentrates in the north-eastern region of Nigeria, Boko Haram ideology permeates the entire Muslim north with millions of latently radicalized “Boko Haram” Muslims at heart. It is the spread of Islamist separatism’s radical Boko Haram ideology into mainstream Muslim theology in northern Nigeria that provides the oxygen in the form of funding, logistics and recruitment that enriches the base of “holy warriors” ready for action to fight for the realization of their ideal Islamic state ruled by Sharia. The Boko Haram insurgents are only practicing the Boko Haram ideology that has been preached for decades and that political Islam has failed to achieve in the region.
The most sustainable solution to the Boko Haram insurgency is to initiate a systematic reversal of radical Islamist separatist ideology and remove its embellishments in mainstream Muslim theology in northern Nigeria, with the ultimate goal of reconciling the beliefs of latently radicalized Muslims with their Nigerian citizenship and restoration of secularity in the Muslim north, where religion and state are clearly separated.
The continued existence of Hisbah, the Sharia law enforcement police force, in some northern states such as Kano, which has gone from arresting people for blasphemy and destroying bottles of alcoholic beverages belonging to tax-paying Nigerian companies to banning the use of the term Black Friday. on radio stations, is cannon fodder for the ongoing violent struggle by Boko Haram insurgents to achieve their ideal Islamic state.
The fact that Kano, the most populous state in the Muslim north, has recently become the bastion of political Islam in Nigeria continuously reinforces the belief in the psyche of many Muslims that one cannot be “Nigerian” and “Muslim”, although the motive behind the Hisbah activities in the state are approximated to those of Abu Shekau and his Boko Haram insurgents.