I have been wanting to comment on the issue of terrorism for a while now but I kept on postponing it. I felt it would be appropriate to talk about it in the wake of the Boston Marathon Bombing. My condolences go out to the families and friends of those who were killed and injured during the bombing and the shootout that followed. Terrorism is an issue which affects us whether we have encountered it on any level, either directly or indirectly. I was walking to buy something from a shop the other day and I thought to myself, “Anyone could commit an act of terrorism around me”. That is not to say that we should walk around afraid. I don’t do that and I don’t walk around looking at people thinking that they could be terrorists. We should at least be aware of it.
I heard about the bombing from my sister who was randomly watching the news. For a week we stayed glued to CNN. It is concerning that a minority of people are alright with committing atrocities in order to sustain a religious belief or for other purposes such as political motives. As of now, one of the suspects, Tamerlan Tsarnaev is dead and his younger brother is in hospital answering questions from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Their parents are in denial which is understandable. How can any parent believe that the child they have raised is capable of such evil? Either that or maybe as they claim, it was a set up. However, there were witnesses. If they were innocent, why did they run from the police and why did they allegedly throw bombs at law enforcement when being chased?
Deem it naive but I never thought that terrorism could emanate from Nigeria. The main terrorist groups in Nigeria are Boko Haram, Ansaru and the militant group the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND). Boko Haram, founded in 2002, is a group that wants an Islamic state and is anti-Western. Ansaru, formed in January 2012, is for the protection of black muslims in black Africa. In its video released in January 2012, the group declared that it would attack Westerners in defence.
Goodluck Jonathan has a major task on his hands and it is one that I do not envy. No matter what decision he makes regarding these terrorist groups, he will face opposition and criticism and we all know he gets enough of that already (deserved or undeserved). One criticism is that he is using the situation in order to gain support from Northern Nigeria should he run again for president in 2015. He has once again promised to end terrorism after his last promise of ending it in June 2012 failed, unsurprisingly.
The President has set up an Amnesty committee to discuss whether granting members of Boko Haram amnesty is possible. They will also set up a 60 day disarmament plan, develop a victim’s support programme and source the causes of the attacks in order to prevent subsequent attacks in future. If the committee decides that members of the group will be pardoned. The issue remains on whether the victims and their family and friends will be in support of this. I can’t imagine being in their position, however, is amnesty the solution or a means to and end in order to eradicate further threats and devastation in Nigeria? I never considered that Boko Haram would reject the offer of amnesty but they did, stating that they do not need it as they aren’t the ones in the wrong. I assumed they would want to be absolved of the crimes that they have committed.
I have read online and heard people say that Nigeria should take the Boston Marathon Bombings as an example of how they should approach things. Within days, the images of the bombers were released and one was caught. The response was immediate. The Nigerian police and the Joint Task Force have been making various arrests and hunting down suspected bombers. I have read online about these arrests and I told a relative of mine during a discussion. Her response was, “…and after they are arrested, what happens?”.
Nigeria does not face threats from Islamist terrorist groups alone. MEND is a group that has kidnapped oil workers and blown up pipelines. Members of this group are advocating for the increased benefits of its oil production towards the Niger Delta. They want benefits such as better roads, schools and hospitals. Despite being an area rich with oil, the Delta is impoverished. This is the situation facing Nigeria as a whole. It is one of the top oil-producing countries, however, the state of the country is not how it should be i.e. bad roads, corruption, poverty, lack of refineries and the barrels of oil that go missing. Amnesty has already been offered to members of MEND. MEND’s assumed leader, Henry Okah, was offered amnesty and accepted it, however, he was re-arrested in South Africa. He is currently facing 24 years in jail for the Warri Bombings of 15th March 2010 and the 2010 Nigerian independence day bombings.
Where do we go from here? It is easier to criticize than to come up with a solution. I agree with Sheik Gumi when he says that Nigeria needs to work as a united front in order to “flush out” our enemies. He commended Boston for its good intelligence analysis, good governance and cooperation by the public. These are things that Nigeria needs in order to fight terrorism. As for MEND, Sheik Gumi believes that they should be taught that petroleum is not a commodity for an ethnic group to monopolize. A way for the Government to tackle the issues with the Niger Delta is to help its citizens and alleviate the poverty by improving the environmental and social conditions of the people. They deserve things such as better roads, schools, hospitals, clean water, electricity supply and for a state that is so rich in oil, it is surprising that they don’t get these things. To a lot of people, it isn’t surprising. It is down to corruption. It is only when we look at the root of the problems and find ways to solve them that Nigeria will take a step towards peace.