Boko Haram is a tragedy of warning signs neglected in the past

nigeriaBishop Emmanuel Badejo, the Bishop of Oyo Diocese in Nigeria and Chairman of the Communications Apostolate for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria says the Boko Haram insurgency is a tragedy that has been waiting to happen in Nigeria for some time due to a combination of misuse of power, resources and capacities for decades past and the near total disregard for the rule of law, provoking layers of unreserved resentments from the past.

In an exclusive analysis for Vatican Radio about the events surrounding Boko Haram in Nigeria, Bishop Badejo speaks also of his personal testimony in Oyo Diocese where Catholics and Muslims co-exist. “We are only about 45,000 Catholics among about 1 million Muslims with whom we thankfully enjoy cordial coexistence. The murderous activities of the group (Boko Haram) are as alien to some of the Muslim leaders as they are to me.”

According to Bishop Badejo, the insurgency which at this moment strangulates the country is actually not the result of a sudden explosion of conflict and aggression. It is the outcome of many warning signs which had been neglected by the authorities at a time in which it was widely believed, prompt action could have been taken to salvage the situation. He believes that while the present administration cannot be held responsible for all the current mess, it must be held responsible for not courageously confronting corruption head-on in spite of the government’s modest achievements.

The problem of unemployment is one problem that is fueling the insurgency. Bishop Badejo says the teeming unemployed and unemployable population in the North of Nigeria which has been a perennial problem in the nation, has often brought the government to raise questionable policies and mindboggling sums of money ostensibly to tackle the problem. Such efforts have often been suffocated by corruption, political patronage and bad management.

Bishop Badejo further asserts that the general opinion among Christians in the north is that the Boko Haram insurgency is a child of powerful northern politicians who had armed some young thugs for their selfish interests. These thugs have now become radicalized beyond even the control of their originators. Nevertheless, it is very clear that what Nigeria is facing today, in the insurgency, is more than just a bunch of thugs but a well-trained army of criminals who are able to disconcert and demoralise even the Nigerian army by the strategy of their warfare and their weaponry.

Although Boko Haram has largely targeted Christians, Christian institutions and churches over a period of time Bishop Badejo says the entire Boko Haram movement has also destroyed government structures and wiped out entire villages. This has led to the belief that there are versions of Boko Haram which range from political, religious and economic varieties. This suggests differing interests which might hide under Boko Haram to gain mileage in a brutal way. Nonetheless, this does not diminish the heavy losses which Christians are suffering.

The sad and sensational abduction of nearly 300 girls from Chibok gone for over 100 days now stands as a tragic icon of lawlessness and insecurity in north eastern Nigeria. Nigerians question the possibility of anyone abducting such a large number of people, with no one seeing or noticing a thing with the security agencies totally helpless.

In other words it has become extremely difficult if not impossible to differentiate what interests are really being served or targeted by the attacks. It is so bad that two recent bomb blasts in the city of Kaduna were allegedly targeted at a popular Islamic cleric and a main opposition party leader who also is a Muslim, fortunately without success.

The positive side to the tragedy of the insurgency, if it can be so stated, is that it has increased the solidarity/charity character of the Nigerian Catholic Church. Many dioceses have taken up the support for the affected places and families in a way that could hardly be imagined before. The youth, in particular, must be given the motivation to refuse to be conquered by despair.

Many people are getting the message that religion itself is a problem and a cause of conflict. It is important to highlight more and more the good that religion and religious people have done and continue to do in the daily life of people, in conflict resolution, development and nation building. This is often missing in the media and public discourse.

Lastly, in his analysis, Bishop Badejo finds that there seems to be much hypocrisy in the concern of the international community in helping to solve the problem. He asks, is “is it really impossible to trace the source of funding for Boko Haram and other insurgencies and wars in Africa, in such a forensically efficient world?”

Source: Vatican Radio

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