Why has Boko Haram insurgency grown?
Below we publish an article from “Socialist Democracy”, June-July 2014, paper of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM – CWI in Nigeria).
Undoubtedly the Boko Haram insurgency is the most horrific political expression of the multiple crises currently ravaging Nigeria’s capitalist state. The brazen abduction in April of over 200 school girls at Chibok female secondary school in Borno State, in north-eastern Nigeria, put the Boko Haram insurgents into an international limelight and at the same time exposed the rotten underbelly of Nigeria’s capitalism and state institutions like the armed forces and the police.
Futility of military solution
The Chibok school girls were abducted by Boko Haram insurgents four months after the PDP capitalist government, headed by President Jonathan, extended a state of emergency in the three north-east States of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe, then the most ravaged by the murderous violent armed campaigns by Boko insurgents. It is now more than a year that these affected states have been under the state of emergency first declared on May 15, 2013. Almost two months after the Chobok school girls were abducted and without concrete clue of how these girls can be rescued, the ruling capitalist elite, prodded by leading capitalist countries of US, UK, France, Israel, etc. once again secured the extension of state of emergency in these three north-east States.
But otherwise the government is drifting while, up till the period of writing, the Boko Haram insurgency has not relented from its murderous, violent campaigns. In fact there are increasing reports of Boko Haram establishing local control in parts of the north-east, systematically attacking and attempting to drive out non-Muslims and opponents while the military is often conspicuous by its absence. An international report published in early June said that in the last 10 months 250,000 have had “to flee their homes” in the north-east and become part of the 3.3 million people who, according to the National Commission for Refugees, have fled Boko Haram’s attacks since the conflict began in 2009.
Boko haram before 2009
The current Boko Haram insurgency first came into public prominence in Nigeria around 2009. However, its reactionary and religious credo started far much earlier with the upsurge of the Maitasine movement in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The extreme, reactionary religious doctrine upon which the Maitasine movement, and currently the Boko Haram insurgents, developed is rooted in the permanent and deepening socio-economic deprivations of the vast majority of the people in the midst of stupendous natural and human resources.
Under the rule of international capitalism, the vast majority of humanity particularly in backward, neo-colonial capitalist societies like Nigeria live in conditions of unbelievable poverty and oppression. This is why the reactionary, fundamentalist religious preaching of sects like Boko Haram always met with sympathies of the most extreme downtrodden sections of the masses who are easily susceptible to the phantasgomeria of a blissful heaven as against the current sinful world dominated by unbelievers and agents of Satan! Around 2009 when the current Boko Haram insurgents came into national limelight, their initial popularity was based on its leaders’ courageous preaching and occasional armed assaults against both opulent living standard of members of the ruling elite and the rich and also against the police and related security forces whose rank and file members have the tendency to see the poor masses as mere objects of extortions and oppression as life in the Nigeria’s capitalist society increasingly become unbearable.
It was thus in 2009 that the ruling capitalist government of late President Musa Yar’Adua and the top echelons of the armed forces adopted a false militaristic strategy of suppressing the insurgents. At the peak of then military counter insurgency, Muhammed Yusuf and a few notable leaders of Boko Haram were arrested after hundreds, if not thousands, of their members have been summarily killed by the state military operations. Instead of bringing the arrested Boko Haram leaders into trial to try and unravel the reasons behind the campaigns, the state security forces summarily executed Yusuf and other arrested with him while they were in custody. This was in the characteristic capitalist ruling elite fashion of killing the messengers as opposed to addressing the messages! In consequence, what the capitalist ruling elite sees as a strategy of total extermination of the Boko Haram insurgency has now boomeranged into a big inferno that threatens not only to consume the ruling government but the Nigerian nation-state itself.
Why capitalist/military solution was always doomed
The Socialist Party of Nigeria wants all its members and the generality of the economically exploited and politically oppressed working people to note that in all human history, every effort to simply forcibly suppress a political/religious idea/movement has always ended in futility; more often than none, the idea/movement being forcibly suppressed always emerged much more stronger in the wake of forcible/militaristic suppression. In fact, the contemporary war against terrorism internationally and the upsurge of Boko Haram phenomenon graphically confirm the truism of the above proposition.
In the wake of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre in New York in September 2001, the major capitalist countries led by the US raised the banner internationally of “War Against Terror”. This imperialist propelled war first led to the military invasion of Afghanistan and later the military invasion and defeat of Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq. Today, after this imperialist led war against terrorism, more of the world’s political space is actually dominated by more terrorist organizations across the globe than what existed before the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre.
Locally in Nigeria, the Boko Haram insurgency developed into its present menacing and ferocious phenomenon in the wake of the brutal and summary execution of Yusuf, and other Boko Haram leaders, in the police custody during the regime of late President Musa Yar’Adua in 2009. Socialist Party members and the generality of the working people must always have it at the back of their minds that capitalist governments, either internationally or nationally, does not wage wars or execute policies in the best interest of the society. Thus, behind the imperialist war against terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq was the actual motive of the multinational corporations and their governments to economically and politically dominate oil rich and strategically important areas.
Characteristically, every major initiative of capitalist government is always driven primarily by profit motives of how much money can be extracted in the process. The international war against terrorism as well as the President Jonathan’s government war against the Boko Haram insurgents has cost humanity thousands of billions of dollars and naira respectively internationally and at local level. Despite hundreds of billions of naira that have been purportedly voted to counter Boko Haram insurgency and the declaration and extension of state of emergency in the three north-east states of Nigeria, the military operatives have been reported to be without basic and elementary weapons necessary to effectively confront the Boko Haram insurgents.
The reason for this state of absurdity must be clear to the working masses elements. While the ruling class’s customary looting has played a part, primarily the government’s failure is due to the fundamental political error of seeking to suppress a political or religious ideas/movement simply by force of arms as opposed to fundamentally and democratically engaging the idea being propounded by every political/religious movement or sect while simultaneously removing the economic and social conditions that allow them to flourish. But this sort of alternative can only be offered by a working peoples’ movement, it is utterly utopian to expect any of the rival cliques within the ruling class to be able to offer a genuine solution.
Socialists and the issue of “civilian” joint task force
In the face of overwhelming ineffectiveness of Nigeria’s capitalist armed forces in protecting the ordinary Nigerians against the murderous attacks of the Boko Haram insurgents, there has recently developed a kind of communal self-defence groups locally referred to by the media as Civilian Joint Task Force. Based on media reports, this kind of spontaneous communal self-defence committee has been credited of having repelled, or reduced the scope of, Boko Haram insurgency in some communities in the north-eastern Nigeria.
The Socialist Party of Nigeria sees such communal self-defence committees as a very effective means to checkmate the menace of the Boko Haram insurgents. However, the Socialist Party of Nigeria strongly advocates that this form of communal self-defence committees must be built on a clearly non-sectarian basis open to all religions and ethnic groups and strictly placed under the democratic control of the community associations including trade unions and youth organizations. This is important in order to prevent the degeneration of communal self-defence committees/groups into platforms that can be used to settle personal scores with individuals or exploited by corrupt leaders under the guise of combating the Boko Haram insurgency.
The Socialist Party of Nigeria also demands the democratic rights for the rank and file members of the armed forces to form and belong to trade union organizations. This is important in order to ensure that the huge resources being purportedly voted by the government to fight the war against Boko Haram terrorism is properly and democratically utilized to meet the actual needs of the armed forces and particularly the needs, starting with a living wage, of the rank and file members of the armed forces. The Socialist Party of Nigeria also advocates that the rank and file members of the armed forces must resist the urge to turn their arms and guns on ordinary Nigerians under the guise of fighting Boko Haram terrorism.
Ultimately, the Socialist Party of Nigeria reiterates its fundamental position that the primary reason behind the developments of reactionary and murderous movement like the Boko Haram insurgency and undemocratic but violently prone organizations like the Niger-Delta militias, the Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), MASSOB and the Bakassi Boys armed vigilante group in South East Nigeria in the early years of return to civil rule etc. was largely the unjust socio-economic and political atmosphere of mass misery and political oppression of the vast majority of citizens in the presence of abundant natural and human resources while only few capitalist rulers live in provocative and stupendous opulence.
For this reason, the Socialist Party of Nigeria advocates that the ruling class’s grip over the country is broken and the commanding heights of Nigeria’s economic and natural resources including key social infrastructures be put under common ownership of the Nigerian people and their democratic management by the trade unions, youth and communal associations. This is absolutely necessary to ensure that the natural and human resources of Nigeria and ultimately the world are fully mobilized and utilized to meet the economic and social needs of all and not just those of tiny community of billionaires and millionaires as is the case under the prevailing rule of capitalism where privatization of and private profit maximisation from societal wealth is the norm. With the achievement of this kind of society, most of the factors presently giving rise to terrorism and mass misery in the face of inexhaustible abundant, natural and human resources can be fundamentally brought to an end.
Perspectives for the 2015 general elections and after
As we write, there are several strategies and permutations being put forward by the capitalist strategists internationally and nationally to combat the Boko Haram insurgency. Now the 2015 general elections is about eight months away. However, on the basis of the domination of Nigeria’s political space by capitalist parties led by the PDP, APC and the misnamed Labour Party, etc., we in the Socialist Party of Nigeria strongly believe that the menace represented by the Boko Haram insurgency and other related ones will still fundamentally prevail in Nigeria. In other words, this bleak political perspective will still hold sway in Nigeria even if the currently abducted government secondary school girls held by Boko Haram insurgents are released by their captors. The ruling PDP government is still steadfastly and deeply committed to anti-poor but pro-rich economic policies that will only guarantee and consolidate the prevailing unjust socio-economic climate.
Recently, the PDP federal government sold the nation’s public electricity to profit merchants/private organisations under the false pretence that that is the only way through which electricity can be optimally guaranteed for industrial and domestic use. Months after this obvious capitalist robbery, the generation and supply of electricity for both industrial and personal use have drastically plummeted. To add insult to injury, the government agency in charge of electricity has with effect from June 2014 increased payable charges by consumers! However, instead of the capitalist ruling elites to openly admit the failure of privatization of public electricity, they have instead only advanced new arguments that will imply complete mortgage of Nigeria’s oil and gas resources to private profit capitalist corporations and fortune seekers.
Members of the Socialist Party of Nigeria and the generality of the working people must note that capitalism is always an unjust socio-economic order that has always invariably produced mass misery of the populace in the face of stupendous socio-economic abundance. Unfortunately, the working masses cannot expect a different and better socio-economic climate even if the major capitalist opposition party, the APC should defeat the PDP in the 2015 general elections.
To start with, the possibility of the APC being able to successfully dislodge the PDP from power is presently an unlikely proposition. The reasons for this conclusion are not far-fetched. One, the APC as a political party fundamentally and totally subscribes to the same anti-poor but pro-rich policies upon which the PDP stands. For this reason, it is improbable that the APC would be able to galvanize enough support of ordinary Nigerians from across all the geo-political zones needed to mobilise enough votes to politically defeat the PDP machine in the impending elections.
Here, it is instructive to bear in mind that “winners” of organised elections, particularly of neo-colonial countries like Nigeria, are usually determined by the faction(s) of the ruling capitalist parties in power at central and state levels. In addition, by the time the APC party concludes the process of nominations of its candidates for the 2015 general elections, the usual self-serving and individualistic pursuit of political powers by the APC leaders at federal and state levels would in fact have further weakened the potential capacity of the APC to mount a serious and effective political challenge to dislodge the PDP from power.
Can military rule stop the deepening socio-economic drift?
Against the background of weak working class political alternative to the prevailing rapacious rule and looting of all sections of the capitalist ruling elite there exist temptations by sections of the capitalist ruling elite to prop up the perspective of an outright military rule as a more effective means of checkmating and bringing to a complete end the Boko Haram insurgency and the likes.
In the present capitalist political logjam, sections of the capitalist class can begin to fan the false political argument that Nigeria requires a firm martial approach to defeat the Boko Haram insurgency. But for reasons which we have partly addressed in this article, even a full blown military dictatorship would not be absolutely capable, within the framework of the prevailing capitalist socio-economic and political order, of proffering effective socio-economic and political order that can permanently checkmate and bring to end the prevailing terrorist attacks and threats to the Nigerian society and its long suffering working people.
In fact the prevailing capitalist socio-economic and political bankruptcies are so deep that a military putsch in the prevailing economic and political condition may in reality worsen Nigeria’s economy and polity that would in fact threaten the total integrity of Nigeria as a corporate entity. Any attempt to give a civilian colouration to such a coup by, for example, establishing some kind of “national salvation” or “national unity” government would likewise soon begin to break down.
Working masses political alternative
Unfortunately at the moment, the main trade union organisations i.e. the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress totally lack independent working class alternatives to the ruinous economic and political permutations of the main big capitalist parties. They do not see that Boko Haram is able to take advantage of the fact that currently the trade unions are not leading any general struggle against the crisis gripping the country. It is significant that Boko Haram did not dare to launch any attacks when the mass of the country was united in struggle during the January 2012 general strike against a hike in fuel prices.
Even the Labour Party, which the NLC leadership itself created in the past, has been presently handed over to political merchants who offered the working masses no independent political outlooks from those being presented by the main capitalist parties. Scandalously, the Labour Party leaders has prescribed jumbo fees that no honest working class element seeking to hold party posts or contest elections into public political posts on the platform of the party can afford. The misnamed Labour Party supported Jonathan presidential candidate in the last 2011 general elections and going by the conduct and pronouncements of its leaders may still go into the 2015 general elections without its own presidential candidate and in fact may again endorse the PDP’s presidential candidature.
Against this unfavourable political atmosphere, members of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) has initiated a process for the formation of a Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) with a view to secure a legal political platform with which socialists and the generality of the working people of Nigeria can contest political power with all variant of capitalist parties. At the moment, we are at the advance stage of the process of submitting an official application for the registration of the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) under the 1999 constitution so that it can stand in elections.
In the best political prognosis, Nigeria’s working masses will have the platform of the Socialist Party of Nigeria to contest political powers with all the capitalist parties come 2015 general elections. However, given the nearness of the 2015 general elections and in the best prognosis that the SPN is registered by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), it should be obvious that the interventions of the Socialist Party of Nigeria in the 2015 general elections may not be fundamentally strong enough to dislodge the ruling capitalist parties at the federal and state levels from power come 2015 general elections. This is especially taken into cognizance the characteristic monetization of elections in Nigeria and especially against the background of widespread poverty that presently dominates all sections of Nigeria. A natural condition where money for votes flourishes! But the SPN’s campaign could be important steps towards building a movement that could be the basis for a working peoples’ government.
For these reasons, the Socialist Party of Nigeria calls on the NLC and the TUC to boldly adopt coherent pro-working class economic and political policies that would ultimately lead to the emergence of a pan-Nigerian working class political party/alternative that can permanently ensure that Nigeria’s abundant natural resources are fully utilized for the economic and political benefit of all Nigerians. We in the Socialist Party of Nigeria are fully confident that if the main Trade Union organisations adopt consistent socialist policies economically and politically, the prevailing disquiet and unwholesome socio-political climate can be rapidly transformed for the benefit of all Nigerians. The struggles of all sectors of the Nigerian society in their daily economic struggles within the trade unions and civil societies associations and their agitations for permanent better life in fact made this prognosis a realizable perspective.