Presidential aspirant, Donald Duke, has explained that the rise of terrorist group, Boko Haram, was not due to religious extremism, but a political issue that was not properly dealt with.
While speaking during an interview on Pulse Nigeria’s Loose Talk Podcast on Friday, July 13, 2018, the former Cross River State governor said politics and poverty contributed greatly to the emergence of the group that has waged a nine-year insurgency against the country.
Even though the group’s name, Boko Haram, translates to “Western education is forbidden”, Duke said the sect’s most widely-publicised objective is “a mask”, noting that the environment “was ripe for dissension”.
Duke said the group had been used for political reasons by former Borno State governor, Ali Modu Sheriff, before he later abandoned them, leading to the sect’s anti-government sentiment that led to the insurgency.
He also highlighted steps the government can take to comprehensively deal with the group and end the insurgency which he described as a drain on the nation.
He explained, “The immediate cause of Boko Haram is political. The governor then, Ali Modu Sheriff, with the Sharia law.
“There’s this spread of Sharia and it was catching on and the governor wanted to ride on the back of that for the election. Of course, there were people who were going to use it against him, so he had a deal with this guy, (Mohammed) Yusuf (Boko Haram founder).
“After the elections, he reneged. Yusuf is one of these ideologues so he pulls out and develops an anti-government sentiment and he had a followership and the followership were threatening and the army and police were mayhem. They were slaughtering them. It’s on YouTube, you’ve seen the pictures.
“That is the immediate cause. If at that point, there was enquiry and all those who were involved in that were brought to book, you would have stemmed Boko Haram, it wouldn’t have happened. But nothing happened so the guys ran into the bush and took up arms.
“The remote cause that created the environment (for Boko Haram) is poverty. Don’t forget that in the 40s, 50s, and 60s, that part of the country was the cotton belt. Nigeria was on the cotton map of the world. We were one of the largest cotton producers in the world and we had textile mills everywhere.
“When the textile mills collapsed and cotton growing died, then the people were poor. That was the remote cause. The immediate cause was a political issue that was not dealt with.
“So how do you reverse it? You still may have to go back to that political thing to deal with, that’s one.
“Two, you’ve got to find a way of engaging but also it’s a failure of intelligence. We’ve been fighting Boko Haram for seven, eight years now – longer than the Nigerian Civil War, more expensive than the Nigerian Civil War, deadlier than the Nigerian Civil War – yet we don’t have intelligence on what’s going on? How come?
“By now, we should have infiltrated that place. So it’s a carrot and stick. While you’re dealing with them militarily, you’re trying to embed them because we created the environment for that thing to thrive.
“When you bring it under control, you must massively invest in that area. One of the things like housing, for instance, that doesn’t require too much skills to build.”
Since the insurgency of the terrorist group escalated after a 2009 crackdown by the military that led to the death of its spiritual leader, Mohammed Yusuf, Boko Haram, chiefly under Abubakar Shekau‘s leadership, has been responsible for the death of over 30,000 people and the displacement of more than 2.5 million scattered across Internally Displaced Person (IDP) camps across the country and its neighbours.
After a massive military operation resulted in the displacement of the group from its Camp Zairo base in the infamous Sambisa Forest, it has resorted to suicide bomb attacks on soft targetsand carried out daring attacks on military bases, with hundreds of captives still unaccounted for.
Despite the federal government’s repeated claims that the group has been defeated, frequent attacks mean the group is not yet confined to the history books.