Several reasons have been advanced by analysts, pundits and critical interest groups as to causes of the deadly insurgency by the terror group, Boko Haram, against the Nigerian state. Some believe it was politically motivated, while some others argue it was caused by illiteracy, poverty and general economic underdevelopment of the North East region, which is the home base of the Boko Haram terror group. In the midst of these conflicting positions held by the different interest groups concerned, there evolved frightening conspiracy theories, each largely accepted by people according to their ethnicity, religious beliefs, region of origin and political party affiliation.
To members of the former administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, their supporters [ethnic, regional and partisan], the Boko Haram insurgency was as a result of the bitter struggle within then ruling party, PDP, over the issue of zoning of the office of the President between the North and South, which President Jonathan violated. Therefore, the insurgency was nothing but the North’s response to loss of power and a ploy to discredit the administration of President Jonathan. On the other hand were people, mostly Muslims from the North, who, living in denial, promoted the narrative, Boko Haram is not only un-Islamic but their members were not Muslims. Therefore, as far as they were concerned, the Jonathan administration was not only negligent of its duties to protect life and property of all Nigerians but was actually the sponsor of the insurgency for the purposes of reducing the population of the North to gie the South more political demographic advantage.
The continuous insurgency under a northern Muslim President, Muhammadu Buhari, has clearly shattered all myths shrouding the real motive and purpose of Boko Haram’s campaign of terror and exposed all conspiracy theories to be mere conspiracy fallacies. Unfortunately, these conspiracy fallacies have almost completely driven the narrative about the insurgency, thereby relegating the real motive of the terror group improperly diagnosed inadvertently, leading to an intractability of the crisis.
Such factors as illiteracy, poverty, underdevelopment and other social factors may have contributed to the escalation of the deadly insurgency but they are not the root cause because a close analysis of some leading members of global Jihadi movements shows they are not only highly educated but also from upper middle class families, some of them born and raised in the West.
The fundamental cause of the Boko Haram insurgency is an overflow of radical Islamic ideology from mainstream Islam, wherein the seeds of radicalization were sown, watered and nurtured to monstrous maturity. The motive of the Boko Haram terror group is to impose an Islamic state in Nigeria as part of the ongoing revival of the Caliphacy globally. The aspiration for Islamic rule in Nigeria is one, which is equally shared by mainstream Islamic authorities and sects. Nigerian Muslims have been indoctrinated at every level of Islamic theology on the primacy and superiority of the Sharia law over all laws, thereby giving an average Muslim a sense of unfulfilled spiritual satisfaction being governed by a legal framework that is not in conformity with Islamic law. Mainstream Muslim leaders have also advocated openly for the full implementation of Sharia law in matters concerning Muslim affairs. The inability of Muslim authorities to achieve this most desired aspiration through advocacy and political influence is what has led to violent insurgency to achieve the same objective.
The quest for Islamic rule in a country that is multi-religious and multi-cultural is the most fundamental factor driving radical Islamic ideology. The complicity of mainstream Muslim authorities in the radicalization of Muslims in Nigeria is clearly demonstrated in this public declaration by the Sultan of Sokoto. “Our religion is our total way of life; therefore, we will not accept any move to change what Allah permitted us to do. Islam is a peaceful religion; we have been living peacefully with Christians and followers of other religions in this country. Therefore, we should be allowed to perform our religion effectively’’..
In making this statement, the Sultan may have presumed he was specific about the gender equality bill. However, what the most influential Muslim leader in Africa may not have realized is the effect of such a statement in the minds of several latently radicalized Muslims who may carry this message beyond the issue of gender equality into other aspects of life. The Sultan as the leader of Muslims in Nigeria failed to take into cognizance the fact that radical Islam, which has an entrenched doctrine of hate, intolerance and violence, may have become the predominant form of Islam preached and practiced in Nigeria over several decades. For radical Muslims, the concept of a modern, democratic constitutional entity known as Nigeria is not only un-Islamic but anti-Islam. Therefore, if some Muslims who are only exposed to radical Islamic ideology are to live by their complete religious beliefs, Boko Haram insurgency, which seeks the violent repealing of Nigeria and replacing with an Islamic state, is most definitely the result.
In resolving the conflict of faith and citizenship brought about by the non-separation of state and religion, it is pertinent for mainstream Islamic authorities to commence a genuine re-appraisal of certain doctrines that are embedded in mainstream Islamic theology that are driving radical Islam. Muslims in Nigeria should be encouraged by Muslim authorities to begin to accept the supremacy of Nigeria’s democratic constitutional order above all other laws, Sharia inclusive. Nigeria’s constitution is a delicate compromise of the various diverse religious and cultural groups that occupy this geographic space but which, fortunately, guarantees the individual freedom of citizens to freely hold beliefs and practice their faith in peace and harmony with one another. Leading Muslim authorities must emphasize more on Sharia faith over Sharia law because the constitution guarantees the freedom of religion extensively. If a Muslim is Sharia-faithful, which is most spiritually important than Sharia law that is only symbolically significant, there will be no need for a compelling compulsion in matters of faith, which may be viewed as an imposition of a particular theology on others.
As a result of a widely shared aspiration for a unified Islamic state globally, Muslims in Nigeria have developed a sense of solidarity with Muslims of other nations, particularly in the Middle East. A typical Nigerian Muslim feels more obligations to a fellow Muslim of foreign nationality in an imaginary Islamic state over and above a fellow citizen of different faith. Muslims in Nigeria must begin to accept the fact that their loyalty and obligation is to the Nigerian state and fellow citizens, whether Muslim or not. A Nigerian Muslim is closer in ties with a Nigerian Christian and animist than a Saudi Arabian Muslim, because that Muslim is a citizen of Saudi Arabia but the Christian and animist are citizens of Nigeria. A Nigerian Muslim will be required to get a visa before visiting Saudi Arabia or any other Muslim country and, when there, is subjected to their laws and unique diplomatic protocol because he/she is a foreigner. A leading Muslim country like Saudi Arabia values its friendship with a Western Judeo-Christian country like the United States more than any Arab/Muslim interest because of its own peculiar national security and economic interests. Similarly, the Islamic Republic of Iran values its friendship with non-Muslim Russia above all Muslim interests. This clearly shows the naivety in the one-way pan-Islamic sentiments of Nigerian Muslims.
Nigerian Muslims should also realize that if their country is plunged into a religious war, the doors of Muslim Middle East countries will be shut tightly against those seeking refuge there because they are foreigners, Africans and Nigerians, whether Muslim or not. Therefore, Nigerian Muslims must rededicate themselves to Nigeria, their only country, and concern themselves only with matters of benefit to their nation’s national security and economic interests. A Nigerian Muslim’s loyalty must be to his country and fellow citizens and not to any other entity. When America invaded Iraq, it wasn’t a war against Muslims or Islam, as widely perceived in the Muslim world, but a war against the Saddam Hussain regime of Iraq. Rather than condemn America for invading Iraq, Nigerian Muslims should commend America for saving millions of lives by providing their country with financial aid to tackle polio, tuberculosis, malaria, HIV and other endemic diseases.