MAY 21, 2014, 4:40 PM
Walid: Corruption, bad policy are part of Boko Haram equation
International media attention has been focused for the past month on extremist group Boko Haram in Nigeria, which kidnapped almost 300 schoolgirls. The girls, who were purportedly were to be sold, are now being held as leverage for the Nigerian government in exchange for some Boko Haram members. Most of the girls have yet to be returned to their families.
Boko Haram, like its pseudo-Christian brethren the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), which has caused mayhem and bloodshed in Central Africa, should be viewed along the lines of a cult. Nigerian Islamic organizations, mainstream American Muslim organizations to ultra-conservatives in Saudi Arabia have condemned Boko Haram as being un-Islamic even prior to this latest act of treachery.
What has been missing, though, from many discussions on television and the hashtag campaign #SaveOurGirls is a discussion of the environmental factors that gave birth to Boko Haram and whether U.S. government policies in Nigeria actually helping its people or contributing to problems.
Boko Haram has waged a brutal campaign of terror in an attempt to overthrow the central government’s authority in Northern Nigeria in part due to many legitimate grievances. Nigeria is one of the largest oil producers in the world, yet lacks in education, economic opportunities, healthcare and security problems are rampant, especially in Northern Nigeria were Boko Haram operates.
Archbishop Joseph Edra Ukpo in Nigeria just stated a few days ago:
Corruption is what is making it difficult to bring the Boko Haram insurgence to an end and unless we fight corruption it will be difficult for Nigeria to make much progress as a nation because it has taken over much of our national life.
Boko Haram, hence, has deployed extremist tactics in their warped worldview in an attempt to remedy extreme sociopolitical conditions. Moreover, they believe that poverty and depravity in Nigeria is primarily due to its corrupt government that has been propped up by Western governments and oil interests.
Due to extreme poverty in the region, Boko Haram has recruited mercenaries from its country and neighboring Niger, many who are not even religious ideologues, just young men who desire a couple of square meals a day and shoes on their feet.
It’s a mystery where Boko Haram receives its funding, but it is known that they obtained weapons in Libya after President Barack Obama’s non-congressional authorized intervention there, which led to the downfall of Qadhafi and further destabilization of Nigeria and Mali.
At the end of the day, Nigerians have to solve Nigeria’s problems. Western intervention and staking out moral high group will not bring those kidnapped girls home nor assist Northern Nigerians. We should not pretend to be superheroes of the world.
What we can do, however, from our side of the pond, besides pray, is make sure that we are not oversimplifying complex geopolitical issues and promoting misinformation about Nigerian Muslims and Islam in general.
We should be vigilant as Americans that our government’s policies abroad do not support incessantly corrupt regimes and that we avoid unneeded military interventions, which have unintended consequences of empowering extremists, who harm large swathes of people.