The security situation in northern Nigeria has always been fragile over time compared to other regions of the country. Conflicts of a religious and sometimes political nature have been plaguing the region for decades resulting in bloodshed, deaths, and destruction of properties.
But until the terror group Boko Haram launched its brutal Jihad against the Nigerian state over a decade ago, the conflicts were usually sporadic and intermittent.
In the past, usually, one event or the other would trigger or precipitate the conflicts. With the intervention of the security forces, the conflicts would usually be brought under control and peace would be restored for a while until something else would precipitate another round of conflict. Again, the conflicts were mostly local in scope—limited/restricted to particular areas. In between the conflicts, the region experienced some semblance of peace.
However, since the emergence of Boko Haram, Northern Nigeria has been engulfed in a steady stream of multifaceted conflicts. Other armed groups have also emerged to join Boko Haram in unleashing a reign of bestial brutality on the people of the region.
Notable among these armed groups are Fulani herdsmen and Fulani bandits.
Boko Haram rules the northeast. The Fulani herdsmen have its major operating theatre is the North Central and make incursions to other parts of the country. The Fulani bandits hold sway in the northwest region. With all these groups wreaking havoc on the region, the conflicts in the region have assumed frightening proportions in scope, brutality, and frequency of attacks.
Despite the government’s efforts to arrest the situation, the conflicts keep expanding in all ramifications.
The nature of conflicts has become very sophisticated. The nefarious activities of the terror groups are now well planned, coordinated, and sustained.
That a group like Boko Haram, which started as a ragtag army of radicalized young men, could sustain an armed conflict against the Nigerian state for over 10 years, tells a whole lot about the level of sophistication that the group has attained. It speaks to the planning that goes into their heinous operations and who their backers are. It also tells that they may have sympathizers and saboteurs within the state who sabotage the efforts of the state one way or the other. Whatever be the case, we are here now.
Given the root causes of the conflicts, the extent to which insecurity has escalated and become entrenched in the system, and the level of sophistication that the conflicts have attained, one is tempted to ask if there is any hope for a return of peace to the region.
A major cause of the conflict is religious intolerance and extremism which come from ingrained negative ideologies.
The plan to make the whole of Nigeria an Islamic nation under Sharia Law undergirds the operations of the terror groups. It is a herculean task to dissuade a mind that has been so indoctrinated and radicalized to begin to accept the fact that everyone has the right to choose what they believe and the faith they follow.
Closely related to this major root cause of the conflicts is one group’s insatiable and inordinate desire to dominate and exploit groups politically. The Hausa-Fulani Muslims would stop at nothing to ensure total dominance over other ethnic groups in the North. This desire leads to tension and frequent frictions as the other groups seek to resist and free themselves from such domination. The frictions would oftentimes escalate into conflicts leading to deaths and destruction.
Another cause of the armed conflicts especially in the northwest is illegal and unregulated gold mining which has birthed the struggle for control of the gold mines.
Part of the proceeds of the illicit mining is plunged into the purchase of arms for the groups.
With the arms in their hands, these evil men feel like the Lords of the Manor with the power to do and undo. How does one dissuade such men to down their guns and begin to learn to live in harmony with other members of the society?
Yet another important cause of the conflicts is easy to access to arms as a result of the largely unmanned and very porous land borders surrounding the North. Arms from war-torn and highly militarized Libya easily get through the porous borders into the hands of these armed groups. If the federal and state governments do not take decisive actions to stop the inflow of arms into northern Nigeria by closing the borders of the region with other nations, peace might continue to elude the region.
A lack of education for the majority of northern youths is a serious contributing factor to the escalation of the conflicts in the Northern. This is because an uneducated mind is easy to manipulate and indoctrinate. It would appear that the northern politicians prefer to keep things that way so that they have a pool of uninformed youths that they can always recourse to achieve their selfish political aims. The mass of uneducated youths also provides a veritable recruitment pool for the terror groups. As long as the status quo remains, peace will continue to prove an elusive commodity in the North.
The operations of men of the Nigerian armed forces represent a ray of hope for the return of peace to the region.
But they are stretched thin on many fronts in their attempt to tackle the conflicts in the North and other parts of the nation as well. Besides, there are strong indications that many officers and rank and file of the armed forces have comprised themselves in the theatre of operation and have become profiteers from the conflicts. They divert monies voted for equipping the fighting troops and taking care of their welfare into their private pockets. This group would rather not want the conflicts to end so that they can continue to profit from them.
With all the foregoing in view, what is the hope of the return of peace to northern Nigeria?