JUNE 13, 2014 BY OMOTOYE OLORODE
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Some of us have always argued that the Nigerian ruling class and their mentors from the so- called “international community” need the Boko Haram disaster to sustain their hegemony. Therefore, if it did not exist, they would have needed to create it. This is for the simple reason that the situation in North-Eastern Nigeria has now dominated the attention of Nigerians, Africans, and the World to the exclusion of related crimes of Nigeria’s ruling class, the policies that underpin those crimes, and the identities of the forces and individual that created, and have sustained, those policies.
The kidnap of hundreds of schoolgirls at Chibok, Borno State had created massive national and international anguish and mass action in the last few weeks. These responses have been necessary to put pressure on the Nigerian state to secure the release of the Chibok Girls without delay. And everything necessary (including unconditional negotiation) must be done to secure the release of these children without any of them being harmed.
But was the Chibok calamity the last straw, or should it have been the last straw? Why did Nigerians and the so- called international community wait until Chibok happened? With specific regard to the episodes of the violence attributed to, or claimed by, Boko Haram, we are all painfully aware that there had been deadly attacks on churches and mosques, military and police installations, markets and whole towns.
Before Boko Haram, and contemporaneously with it, there had been acts of violence including mass killings during religious, communal, inter-communal, ethnic and related face-offs in different parts of the country: North, East, Middle Belt, West, South-South, etc. There had been blood-chilling murders of kidnapped citizens by criminals (as at Soka, Ibadan) who trade in human parts just as there are those who trade in whole human beings in what they call human trafficking. Of course, the media is always replete, everyday, with regular reports of criminal activities like robberies and unprecedented avoidable carnage in our air space, on our roads and the waterways!
There has always been, of course, state terror perpetrated by the so-called law-enforcement agencies against hapless citizens, groups of citizens, or whole communities especially where state agents are unleashed to enforce law and order as occurred in Odi, Ogoni, Zaki Biam or at a little known, thanks to media cover-up, peaceful community near Mokwa called Dar-Ui-Salaam where the whole village was dissolved. In this collateral state violence, only Providence knows how many alleged Boko Haram “suspects” or what are in detention or have been killed!
One of the explanations for the massive national response to the Chibok calamity is that the shock is just too much to bear. If this is true, precisely, why is this particular shock more intense than that of the Madalla bombing or the discovery of human bodies floating in a river somewhere in the East, or the sacking of whole villages in many parts of Nigeria at different points of time? Why had these calamities not elicited similar national uproars? We may never find any answer beyond “We just think enough is enough”
Or is it about the timing of the Chibok kidnapping? Is it about the general disillusionment with the incumbent government even among those who entrenched the regime such as the defecting Peoples Democratic Party governors, legislators, and their acolytes?
Most people who have had anything to say about the activities of Boko Haram have linked the escalation of its specific and related scourge with the growing economic crises and poverty in our country. It is not only those who are profiting from the current neoliberal economic policies that object to the link between poverty and social violence, there is a substantial segment of our society that explains what they call “evil” in society as the result of “wrong” religious beliefs or religio-spiritual failure. Our own understanding of the situation is that most of the violence in our society today such as inter-communal clashes, ethnic and religious antagonisms, crimes, etc., have economic foundations. Issues like crimes, unemployment, what they call corruption, human trafficking and trafficking in human parts, election rigging and generalised violence all have economic foundation. That foundation is neoliberalism—privatisation, deregulation of wages, commercialisation of education, health, and housing and the dominance and valorisation of private, as opposed to collective, public purpose. The foundation has created generalised poverty and inequality because it puts individualism, wealth accumulation and profit above common and public ownership and welfare.
These IMF and World Bank economic policies which have been imposed on our country by successive governments (military and civilian) and supervised by the World Bank agents masquerading as technocrats in our ministries and parastatals since 1976, have produced varieties of shock for our society. However, various segments of our society have struggled to absorb or resist these shocks in different ways, and by various means such as labour strikes, students’ protest, urban (OPC, MEND, MASSOB, MAITASINE etc.) violence, crimes, ethnic, and religious fundamentalism and obscurantism, emigration abroad etc. The Nigerian ruling class has also manipulated many of these responses to its own advantage while the recolonisation of Nigeria, backed with propaganda and state power (new laws, armed forces, cultural institution, religious institutions) advanced. Neoliberaism triumphed within national borders and globally but it could not totally annihilate the victims of poverty it has created and multiplied. What all these mean is that a certain category of violence such as ethnic and religious fundamentalisms or crimes like armed robbery, or self-directed crimes like suicide etc. may actually represent counter violence arising from the violence of economic fundamentalisms that global capitalism and its local beneficiaries have imposed on countries like Nigeria. However, the ruling classes of victim nations like Nigeria not only endorse but profit from ethno-religious manifestation of counter violence while they frown on violence of more regular crimes like petty stealing, crimes against minors and women, armed robbery, kidnapping etc.; they even float well-heeled NGOs to advertise their concerns!
To be concluded on Monday