Terrorism And Political Stability In Africa : A Case Study Of The Boko Haram Insurgency – Abimbola Rasheed

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Background to the Study

The threat of ‘terrorism’ is not peculiar to western countries alone, its tentacles are spreading fast like wild fire ready to consume any object or person in its way. Terrorism is an illegitimate means of attempting to effect political change by the indiscriminate use of violence (Lodge 1988:5). Also, Madunagu (2001:51) maintains that terrorism is the use of violence to achieve political objectives. The bottom line of the above definition is that terrorism is an aspect of political violence. Since September 11, 2001 multiple attacks on the Twin Tower of the World Trade Centre and Pentagon in the United States of America, terrorism has become a household discussion in the world. Over the years, terrorism has rocked almost every continent in the world. In fact it has grown to become a global trend. Africa which is one of continents in the world, is not spared from this issue of terrorism. The issue of terrorism in Africa is now most closely associated with Al-Shabab in Somalia, Al-Qaeda in the islamic Maghreb in Sahel region ( including Algeria, Mali, Mauritania , and Niger ),  Boko Haram in Nigeria , and to a lesser extent the Lord’s Resistance Army in Central Africa (Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan ).

The transition from over three decades of military rule into a democratic rule in Nigeria was borne out of hardship both politically and economically. The institutionalization of democratic rule in Nigeria and the inabilities of political leaders to address key developmental problems increased the proportion of criminal activities such as kidnapping and vandalization of oil pipelines in the Niger Delta region. This led to the establishment of ethnic militias with the aim of protecting their regional and cultural identities.

The frequent Boko Haram insurgences in the North-Eastern  part of the country is still the latest act of terrorism in the country. The tactics, strategies and mode of operations adopted by these terrorists are similar and professional in line with terrorist ideologies and practices found elsewhere around the world. The ugly phenomenon of terrorism has dented the image and credibility Nigeria among other nations of the world.

The attack on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001 by a terrorist group known as Al-Qaeda re-awakened the world to the threat posed by the phenomenon to international peace and security. It also renewed the interests of stakeholders in fighting terrorism anywhere it could be found in the world. However, fighting terrorism is no tea party because it entails a lot of financial commitments. Though it appears that it is only the great powers that are confronted with the threat of terrorist attacks and have sufficient resources to fight it, the spate of attacks in Kenya, Tanzania and Somalia in the early part of the decade; coupled with growing activities of pirates in the African high sea illustrates the threat posed by terrorism to African countries.

This situation has been compounded by Nigeria’s litany of bad governance and economic disarticulation, leading to conflicts, war and proliferation of criminal groups in several parts of the continent. Unfortunately, most African countries do not possess the resources and required technology to individually fight terrorism. Terrorism is a term that has no generally accepted definition , The 1937 Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of Terrorism defines terrorism as “all criminal acts directed against a state and intended or calculated to create state of terror in the minds of particular persons or a group of persons or the general public” (Duffy, 2006: 17). Terrorism is often employed to achieve political ends, even when it also evinces other motives, such as religious, economic, ethnic or social. But while all terrorism has a political purpose, there are technical and moral dissimilarities, civil dissidence, and other forms of civil violence, or revolution, which are also political phenomena in themselves (Harmon, 2000:1).

Between 1999 and 2006 alone, 6,177 casualties were recorded from 296 acts of terrorism in Africa (Goredema and Botha, 2005: 51). In addition to this, pirates in the Gulf of Aden, off the Coast of Somalia carried out 73 attacks on ship, and were still holding on to 11 people as at October 2008 (The Guardian, 2008:11). War and weak governance in several parts of Africa provided the fertile land for criminal networks to germinate and these networks have proved themselves ready to collaborate with terrorists in order to undermine security in Africa. Terrorism has the brightest chances of blossoming in Africa in the next decades due to its multifarious “ungoverned spaces”, unresolved “national questions” and bad governance which are the root of political instability, the question of non-transparent resource management, political selection rather than election and a host of other factors.     

 Statement of the Problem

Terrorism is by its nature an organized and planned event or policy. It is not unplanned, although random events may obviously terrorise. Terrorist targets may be developed over time and reflect the premeditation of terrorism, but the common denominator remains the intimidation of a particular target community or undermining/damage of a particular economic-political system. What makes terrorism so fearsome is that attacks are often directed at a group, people or symbol that may not be directly linked to their real target, often a government, system, practice or ideology. Terrorism is a threat all peace loving people.

The emergence of Nigeria as a sovereign state in 1960 was relatively peaceful in spite of the internal centrifugal and centripetal forces induced by the ethnic incongruence of the amalgams made to form the nation. The forces, though latent, have since retarded the advancement of Nigeria into an appreciable Nationhood. Hence, since independence, the tremor of possible disintegration has always remained. The failure to suppress it led to the Nigerian civil war of 1967-1970 (Kolawole, 1978: 1). It was assumed, though erroneously, that having survived the civil war, Nigeria had built-in mechanism that would make her survive all threats to nationhood, although recent developments have not validated such assumption. Indeed, such developments have shown the artificiality and fragility of the present arrangement. Terrorism was seen by Nigeria until of late as a distant irritant plaguing some areas of the international system. It is an irony of history that over sixty years after independence from British rule, ethnic nationalities treat the Union like a piece of glass cup that must be delicately held, otherwise it would break.

Much of the worries of the average Nigerian these days are often centered on the means of survival, as poverty, unemployment and other basic needs of life. It becomes more of an issue as the safety and life. The activities of the Boko-Haram sect have cost the nation a great deal, the Boko Haram group is bent on forcing the Nigerian state to dance to its own tune, yet the diversity of the Nigerian state is not concomitant with such principle, given the fact that every Nigerian citizen has his or her right vested in the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. The emergence of the Boko Haram group has no doubt bedeviled and usurped the delicate balance of the Nigerian state.  It has created more issue that has revoked the polity as cleavages continue to appear. The victims of the terror waged on the Nigerian society by the Boko Haram group are still counting their loss (the only few ones alive to tell the story). Boko Haram has destroyed life and property in Nigeria. The bombing of the United Nations building in Abuja in 2011 opened the eye of the international community about the intention of the sect.

Ever since the Abuja bombing, countries like U.S.A, Britain, France etc has warned their citizens about travelling to Nigeria. This has given Nigeria an international tag as a terrorist nation which eventually has reduced her foreign investment and also killed the tourism sector of the country. The Boko Haram activity has displaced over a million Nigerian citizens and their activities are still ongoing even as this paper is being written. There is a controversy over objective of the sect. In other words, the unresolved question is “ is the sect a religious group fighting for the Islamization of Nigeria or is it a tribal or ethnic group fighting for the domination of the other groups or tribes? Though the activities of the Boko Haram are still restricted to most Northern part of the country , the other part like the South South, South West , South East are gripped in fear of  being attacked any time. The attack of the group has been mainly set towards schools and place of worship like church and recently the Kano mosque bombing.

The education sector in the not too literate Northern part of the country has been in a waterloo. There has been fear of going to school and receiving western education which incidentally is what the sect wishes to achieve –preventing the Northern part from receiving western education. On the night of 14/15 of April 2014 the Boko Haram group kidnapped over 300 secondary school  girls in Chibok in Borno State. This action has taken to the wild the activities of the group , making the US president Barack Obama and so many great leaders and pop stars condemned the action. The United States Army wanted to get involved in rescuing the girls but due to logistics problems, it was unable. So far, there has been no success to retrieve the girls till date. The recent young girls, suicide bomber have been greatly linked to the kidnapped girls in April 2014. The Boko Haram sect has created so many problems for the West African nation. Most of the activities of the sect are notably related to other terrorist group activities, bombing of the United Nations office, kidnapping, bombing of Parks, Schools, Markets etc. The above are well known activities of terror groups. Overtime, the group has attacked villages, killed people and destroyed properties, especially the North-Eastern part of the country which has in recent time been the hiding and harboring home for the groups.

The 2015 general election in Nigeria was recently postponed due to the claim of insecurity in the country , the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Chairman ,  Professor Attahiru Jega claimed that the general election is meant to make sure everyone in every region is allowed to vote , but due to the insecurity in the North-Eastern part of the country and the claim of the Nigerian Army of not being able to guarantee security during the election, it was eventually postponed from its February 14, 2015 date to March 28 2015. It was a shock to the general public, even the international observers were confused on the justification of the election postponement. This is a clear indication of how the insurgency is disrupting the political stability in the country.

The Boko Haram has also made the Nigerian Military and Armed Forces look toothless because it appears as if all the counter terrorism effort of the military has failed in ending the menace. The Boko Haram group has jail broken over 2000 inmates, attacking prison facilities and police stations. By so doing, its membership has been growing, and the inability of the Nigerian military to end the insurgency has led to the questioning of the ability of the Armed Forces. The activities of the sect has increased the awareness of insecurity in the country, which has forced many citizens to seek asylum in other countries. Boko Haram has killed more than five thousand Nigerians and displaced hundreds of families and villages. It has also destroyed properties. To a large extent the sect has affected negatively the citizens and the country as a whole. All these and more will be discussed in this study. 

Justification for the Study

This study is justified to the extent that,

One, Boko Haram has dent the image of the country at the international community as a terrorist state.

Two, Boko Haram has caused major disaffection between the Muslims and Christians in the country.

Three, lives and properties worth several millions of Naira have been wasted to the unabated Boko Haram insurgency.

Four, the study is also justified to the extent that the activities of the Boko Haram sect has been threatening the Nigerian democratic stability.

Five, the activities of the Boko Haram sect has successfully militarized the youth in the North-Eastern region and caused a psychological trauma to those that are affected by sect’s activities.

Definition of Terms

The definition of terms will give a pictorial description of the terms used in the research for the purpose of giving the reader a proper understanding of the intention and reasoning of the researcher.  Some of the basic terms are:

Africa: Is the world’s second-largest and second-most-populous continent. It covers six percent of the Earth’s total surface area and 20.4 percent of the total land area. With 1.1 billion people as of 2013 (m.wikipedia.com/Africa Retrieved on 08/03/2015). Africa accounts for about 15 percent of the world’s human population. , its population has over 50 percent as youth and over 45 percent of this youth are jobless. Africa is engulfed in immense poverty, political instability, drought, international debts, disease and most of the countries in it are underdeveloped. That terrorism is presently at its peak in Africa, with so much jobless youth , and a vast proportion of land it is obvious that the phenomena has a place to stay in Africa . Africa is according to Frantz Fanon in the book The Wretched of the Half, most territorial diversification today was engineered by European influence through colonialism after the end of slavery. It is assumed that the pathway of initiating Africa into the international system is part of the reason for the so much backwardness of the continent. Violence and struggle were used to achieve independence of most African regions from colonialism

Terrorism: Terrorism is an illegitimate means of attempting to effect political change by the indiscriminate use of violence (Lodge 1988:5). Also Madunagu (2001: 51) maintains that terrorism is the use of violence to achieve political objectives. The bottom line of the above definition is that terrorism is an aspect of political violence. In this research, terrorism will be related with terror activities and these activities ranges from bombings, killings, destruction of property to kidnapping. Terrorism will be restricted to the activities of Boko Haram and other terror groups relevant to the discussion.

Boko Haram: Boko Haram is the Hausa equivalent for the Muslim sect called Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad, which, in English, means “People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad.” “Boko” is the word for “Western education” while “Haram” stands for “sin”. The equivalent, therefore, means “Western education is a sin”, and is a shorthand for the sect’s religious ideology, which is opposed to Western civilization and its institutions.

Islamization: Is the process whereby a society shifts towards Islam, such as found in Sudan, Pakistan, Iran, Malaysia or Algeria. In contemporary usage, it may refer to the perceived imposition of an Islamist social and political system on a society with an indigenously different social and political background. Islamization over the years has been used in different parts of the world, some with forced conversion, political revolution and societal acceptability (Charles 1996:19). Islamization is an Islamic measure that involves the totality of Islam; it extends from individuals belief to families, groups, societies, states and regions. It involves the use of Sharia Laws and Islamic teaching to run both the social and political affairs and using the words of the Holy Book Al-Qur’an in place of the constitution to administer the state or territory. Most countries and areas like Egypt, Kuwait, Gaza, Pakistan, Syria, Sudan, Iran etc has been Islamized in one way or the other, either through use of force or political willingness. Islamization over the years has been adopted by most terror groups as an objective. The Boko Haram sect has adopted the Islamization of Nigeria as its aim and has over the years been intending to make Islamic laws a dominant law in Nigeria especially in the Northern region of the country. 

Political Stability:   Political stability is well understood as governance with peace and lack of violence. It is the durability and integrity of a current government regime. Political stability is well measured based on the amount and level of violence which are related to political issue, ethnic/tribal or interest agents. In this study, political stability will be seen as a possibility of a society without violence; These violence can be widely related to terror act, destruction of government properties and chaos within the system. Even though the concept of political stability does not really exist in Africa due to the historical antecedents of Africa, at some point or the other, this concept was assumed to be achieved in different parts of Africa, but the emergence of terrorism has disrupted the political stability in Africa.

Political Instability: Political instability connotes the direct opposite of what political stability means from the negative sound of it (instability).Political instability involves having demonstrations in form of violence, workers’ going on strike or the possibility of a coup d’état. It means a government or polity with no much of stability; it is a society with so much violence. In this study, political stability will be well related with violence erupting from terrorist activities in the Nigeria.

Theoretical Framework

Frustration-Aggression Theory

The Boko Haram insurgency is ravaging the north in an alarming and unprecedented manner. A plethora of theories could be used to explain the violent attacks of Boko Haram. Some of these theories are the Relational-Vengeance theory, the General System theory, the Islamic theory (Aloejewa 2012: 85). Each of these theories provides a persuasive explanation on the Boko Haram insurgency from different view point. Out of the numerous theories that could be used to analyse the Boko Haram insurgency, the researcher adopts the Frustration-Aggression theory as the most appropriate theoretical framework to explain the actions of the Boko Haram sect. Using the Frustration-Aggression theoretical framework, the emergence and presence of terrorism in a country like Nigeria cannot be analysed by any other theory. This theory gives insight on how terrorism is caused by frustrated expectations and a state of hopelessness and sustained by bad governance, corruption and a pervasively weak institutional framework.

The frustration-aggression model is a theoretical framework developed by John Dollard and his associates in 1939 but was expanded and modified by Yate 1962 and Berkowitz (1963), drawing mainly from the psychological basis of motivation and behavior. The theoretical framework provides explanation for violent behavioral disposition resulting from the inability of a people to fulfill their human needs. It is based on the general premise that all humans have basic needs which they seek to fulfill and that any blockade to the fulfillment of these needs by individuals or groups elicit violent responses.

Frustration-aggression theory emphasizes the difference between what people feel they want and the discrepancy however, marginal, between what is sought and what they get, the greater the violent reaction. In the face of these frustrated expectations, a group is most vulnerable to embark on violent destructive behavior or be a ready army to be used to cause crisis. Central to this explanation is that aggression is the natural outcome of frustration. In a situation where the legitimate desires of an individual or group is denied either directly or by the indirect consequence of the way a society is structured, the feeling of frustration can compel such persons or group to express their anger through violence that is directed at those perceived to be responsible for their misfortune or others who are indirectly related to those frustrating their expectations.

The relevance of the frustration-aggression theoretical framework to the insurgency of Boko Haram is better appreciated when viewed against the backdrop of widespread poverty in Northern Nigeria. Poverty though endemic throughout Nigeria, the rate is highest in the north. The three northern regions have the highest incidence of poverty having an average poverty incidence of 70.1% compared to 34.9% of the three geo-political regions of the South. Ten states in Nigeria with the highest incidence of poverty are all in the north, while ten states with the lowest incidence of poverty are in the south (Lukeman 2012). This means that about 70% of people in the north live below poverty line with an income of less than one dollar per day.

The poverty profile is exacerbated by the problem of unemployment and hopelessness. A negative condition caused not by the unwillingness of the people to work but by bad governance that creates capability gap. The capability gap portrays the inability of governance to effectively utilize the resources of the state to better the lots of its citizenry through the provision of job opportunities, infrastructural development and initiation of potent or viable poverty alleviation and eradication programmes. This failure of governance breeds frustrated expectations. Under this pathetic condition, members of this sect and other frustrated persons are readily available to be recruited under the auspice of Boko Haram as a destructive political agent for indiscriminate and sporadic suicide bombings in northern Nigeria. A society with so much influx of idle youth, who are uneducated and are deprived most all the best things in life can easily be hijacked and orientated into terrorism. The frustrated youth are most definitely going to indulge in terror to get back to the government.

Looking at the recruitment process of the sect, Boko Haram recruits members from Northern Nigeria as well as militants from neighboring Chad, Niger and Cameroon. Their targets are usually youth between the ages of 17 to 30 who are often passionate and excessively enthusiastic for Islamic knowledge. The bulk of these youth, (especially those who execute their operations) are illiterate, poor, frustrated and jobless. This thus paves the way for successful recruitment based on “indoctrination.” The leaders persuade these youth by quoting verses from the Quran.. Their former leader, Yusuf for instance, technically implants the group with extremist ideology often contrary to westernization and backed by passages from the Quran, a reason which also made many youths dropped out of school to join his supposed cause. A good example of such passages is Chapter 5, verse 47 of the Quran which reads, “Let the followers of the Gospel judge by what Allah has revealed therein, and those who do not judge by what Allah has revealed are the transgressors.” Additionally, the late Yusuf argued that western education or “Boko” had only brought poverty, suffering, political corruption and injustice to the region and for these reasons, it is tabooed, or “Haram,” in Islam. And like Eric Guttschuss, Human Rights Watch researcher opined, Yusuf gained supporters “by speaking out against police and political corruption.”

Consequent upon these factors, which are true of the Nigerian polity, more members were recruited and some even had to sell their belongings in order to financially contribute to the cause of delivering Islam from the supposed shackles of westernization as well as sanitising the Nigerian polity which they believed can only be done through Sharia laws. As time passes by, more educated people such as bankers, university students, lawyers, doctors and uniformed men were recruited. In order to also maintain their loyalty and commitment especially from the illiterate and poor members, Boko Haram gives rewards in money and material gains. Lastly, Boko Haram recruits members by breaking into prisons and setting prisoners free. In return, most of these prisoners become part of the group. Of course, there is frustration and aggression, for so much poverty, governmental failure and political instability, youths whose dreams have been shattered due to government failure can easily find a way out through terrorism to hunt the government.

Literature Review

The development of man from a primordial age up till the present days of modernity has been described by different authors and scholars based on their experience and reasoning over time. Man has lived for so many years, yet it still makes discoveries and research. Man has moved from caves to home , from metal to technology and from hunting to growing ; the various happenings makes up the history of man , although some are written while most are up on our mind , we call them culture , norms and customs. The social contract theorist (Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau) have sought to theorise this evolutionary process and thus, to situate the metamorphosis of human social relationship in a scientific perspective. This chapter will concentrate on different opinions of authors and scholars in relations to the research at hand. Hence, the review of literature will be done in areas related to terrorism, political stability, insurgency and Boko Haram. Efforts would, therefore, be made to review literature related to these subject matters. This review is precisely concerned with pre-existing views and perception of various scholars and academicians as regards their contributions to the subject matter. This study will be focusing on Terrorism and Political Stability in Africa; A Case Study of Boko Haram Insurgency in Nigeria. Also, the Boko Haram Insurgency has attracted so much controversy based on the inconclusiveness of its ideology as either being a political tool, ethnic or  tribal militia , or a religious extremist , hence, the view of different scholars will be used to unravel the controversy and will eventually lead to  determining the ideology of the sect.


Most scholars and analysts tend to subscribe to the opinion that terrorism is a political expression and not a criminal act. Terrorism is used to describe a variety of dysfunctional behavior in the international system. But it is necessary to understand as Best and Nocella (2004) had warned that “All terrorism involves violence, but not all violence is terrorism”. This warning stems from the fact that there has never been a consensus on an acceptable definition of terrorism. This definitional morass is reflected in the fact that “one recent survey of definition by leading researchers found 109 different definitions” (Ibid;3). In spite of this, it is easy to agree on the phenomenon of terrorism. The former UN secretary-general Mr. Kofi Annan noted “terrorism as any action constitutes terrorism if it is intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or non-combatants, with the purpose of intimidating a population or compelling a government or an international organization to do or abstain from doing any act”(cigionline.org/article/2005/03/an/annan-proposed-defination-terrorism Retrieved July 2 2015) Kofi’s definition was stemmed with great criticism but the brilliance of the definition is undeniable, Allan Rock , the then Canada’s Ambassador to the UN said Mr. Kofi’s definition is not ideal and doesn’t cover all circumstances but it is a good working start in a final round of discussions on how terrorism should be defined. Also  Kofi Annan (Quoted in Ibid) seek to find a way out of the definitional debate by stating that :

Regardless of the differences between government on definition of terrorism, what is clear and what we can all agree on is (that) any deliberate attack on innocent civilians, regardless of one’s cause is, unacceptable and fits into definition of terrorism.Kofi Annan, in his definition was well aware of the complexity adherent in the definition of terrorism, hence, he was able to generalize the view of different government and sponge a clarity of the definition of terrorism.

Terrorism is by its nature an organized and planned event or policy. It is not unplanned, although random events may obviously terrorize. Terrorists’ targets may be developed over time and reflect the premeditation of terrorism, but the common denominator remains the intimidation of a particular target community or undermining/damage of a particular economic-political system. What makes terrorism so fearsome is that attacks are often directed at a group of people or symbol that may not be directly linked to their real target, often a government, system, practice or ideology. It threatens all of us. In the process, those that suffer injury and death are generally innocent bystanders, possibly exemplified by the bomb attack on the UN in Iraq, resulting in the death of Sergio Vierra and many others, but equally applicable to the vast majority of people killed at the Paradise Hotel close to Mombassa in November 2002 (en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/2002_Mombasa attacks Retrieved 12/04/2015).

The scourge of terrorism has since become a reality of our everyday existence. If some thirty years ago, the exploits of the Con Bendits,  Symbionese Liberation Army,  Bader Meinhof’s Red Brigades,  Japanese Red Army, Tupamaros  and Sendero Luminoso (or the Shining Path), seemed remote (Carson, 2012:1-5),  sporadic or episodic, today, the atrocities of innumerable terrorist groups all over the world especially, Islamic fundamentalists such as Al Qaeda, Taliban’s and El Shabbab  have become common place and assumed an eerie permanence on the global landscape so much that people have now become numb to the successively outrageous nature  of terrorist acts perpetrated by these common enemies of humanity (Bartolotta, 2011: 44-57). The threat posed to international peace and security by these modern day crusaders of evil  is such that the very survival of human civilization might well be in question except and unless decisive action is taken by the international community to arrest the growing incidence of terrorism (Gimme, 2013: 22). This explains the rationale for the adoption by the family of nations of several international anti-terrorism instruments whose signatories are obliged to implement them within their respective legal orders.

According to Lodge (1988:5) as already cited, “terrorism is an illegitimate means of attempting to effect political change by the indiscriminate use of violence. From Lodge’s definition, we can assume an introductory phase of what terrorism means. Firstly, terrorism is illegitimate i.e. it is not legal and it is a crime. Lodge also noted that it is an attempt to effect political change. Finally, he defined terrorism as an indiscriminate use of violence. Lodge’s definition recognised terrorism as an illegitimate means of effecting political change making terrorism more of a political issue of course, the Boko Haram Insurgency in Nigeria can be said to be a political issue, and the final notion of Lodge was the use of Violence , which is obviously seen as an act of major terrorist groups across the world. Violence is one characteristics of terrorism, the unleashing of terror and fear makes the whole concept complete.

 According to Cook (1989 Retrieved 08/10/2014), terrorism is an attempt to achieve a political end by creating a climate of fear through bombings, assassinations, kidnappings, and seizure of aircrafts. This definition is stipulating more on the act of terrorism, and making more emphasis on the political content of terrorism. The activities of terrorist groups across the globe range from Bombing , kidnapping , assassinations, hijacking of aircrafts, mass slaughter of people, etc, Cook’s definition of terrorism is relating terrorism more to the activities of terrorist groups.

Lacqueur (1997 5-9) posited that terrorism is “the susbstate application of violence or threatened violence intended to sow panic in a society to weaken or even over throw the incumbent and to bring about political change”. In Lacqueur’s words, one can say that terrorism and revolution are synonymously the same because both are intended to bring about political change at the tail end. But on a contrary terrorism mostly does not bring about political change, it is sometime related to religion extremism or ethnic consciousness.

Furtherly, Best and Nocella (Op cit : 10) defined Terrorism as the intentional use of physical violence directed against innocent person … to advance the religious , ideological , political or economic purposes of an individual , organization , corporation or state government. This definition strikes so many angles, from violence on innocent people to the motive of the terrorism or terrorist groups ranging from religious, political , ideological , economic motive. Also terrorism was not just seen alone as a motive of an individual alone, Best and Nocella related terrorism as a purpose of individual, organization , corporation and also state government. The question of government’s involvement in international terrorism is also very controversial, for a variety of reasons. The definition issue rears its head again here, since some governments acknowledge assistance to what they perceive as “national liberation movements,” but deny that these same groups—whether they are Palestinians, Afghans, or Contras—are terrorists. Definition and labeling thus takes on a political or ideological character. Regrettably, this tendency finds its way into some of the literature.

Also Poland (quoted in Best and Nocella op cit :10) defined terrorism as the premeditated , deliberate , systematic murder , mayhem , and threatening of the innocent to create fear and intimidation in order to gain a political or tactical advantage, usually to influence an audience. The problem here is nobody knows whom the audience refers to : is it the international environment , the citizens or the neighboring states? Poland’s definition like most definition represents the fear and intimidation of terror on innocent people; terrorists according to him, also have political ambitions. Like Chomsky’s notion on terrorism, he noted that; terrorism is the calculated use of violence or threat of violence to attain goals that are political, religious or ideological in nature through intimidation , coercion or instilling fear,  (quoted in Ibid :11). In Furtherance, Madunagu (2001: 51) maintains that terrorism is the use of violence to achieve political objectives”. The bottom line of the above definitions is that terrorism is an aspect of political violence but it is an extra normal kind of political violence. This is because in a bid to immobilize the forces of the incumbent, the acts waste innocent lives. One important feature of terrorism is that governments, states and their symbols including innocent people are attacked in order to undermine confidence in a state’s ability to protect its citizens. Narrowing it down to Nigeria, there is no history of terrorism in the form of co-ordinate attacks to spread fears and undermine the government of the country until recently.  Terrorism was seen by Nigerians until of late as a distant irritant plaguing some areas of the international system. it is an irony of history that the phenomenon hitherto perceived as distant has now become, at a speed of light , the nations albatross (Kolawole 2014:2). Osama Bin Laden, successfully elevated terrorism through the Al-Qaeda organization into international consciousness especially with the September 11, 2001 terrorism attack on the USA masterminded by him (Robinson 2001:275-288). Since then there has been considerable escalation of the scourge, some nations with pluralist tendencies of ethnicity and religion tend to vent the incongruence of their nationhood on the divergences. The discontented extremists within such system often seize on this by utilizing terrorism as an instrument of avenging their discontentment. It does not sound logical to the discerning mind, but it serves the purpose of those who are not prepared of those who are not prepared to accept constitutional accommodation within the status-quo.

Nigeria seemed to have been immune to terrorist activities. Indeed, this research would have seemed grossly out of place or irrelevant if it had been presented say, fifteen years ago. However, the horrendous acts of terrorism wrought in the hands of sundry local dissident forces in the recent past would seem to have effectively put an end to all that. The country has since lost its innocence as terrorist incidents masterminded by MEND, the Boko Haram and some other faceless groups have become common place on the nation’s landscape with deleterious consequences for our reputation and our erstwhile smug satisfaction that it could not happen here (Casale, 2008:49-78).

Political Stability/Instability

Political instability is a situation where by a country is currently going through political turmoil. It may also involve the death of people within that country (Ayotunde, 2004:1-5). Political stability is situation whereby a state of peace is experienced in a country, thanks to the activities of the government. The government in this case makes decisions keeping in mind the best interests of the people.

Political instability is generally related to economic instability. Some people believe that all political instability comes from an inequality among the classes of people within a certain country or environment. Political instability might also be caused by a large gap between the wealth of the upper class and the lack of wealth in the lower classes. This type of instability is often related to the birth of a country or nation and once the nation matures the instability disappears (Ayotunde 2004:1-5). 

The following items are the various ways which political instability may occur:

  1. Lack of a smooth process of handover of power
  2.  Lack of well planned elections can lead to political instability,
  3. Intervention of the military in the governing process.

Political stability has been a great issue in Nigeria over the years, dating it back from the nationalist movement till the days of the civil war. The military intervention in politics of Nigeria lasted for over three decades and yet its spills are still being felt. The country only moved back to democracy to only face more political problems , so far, the Nigerian state cannot be totally noted as a politically stabilized state, Ayotunde’s criteria of a politically unstabilized country above obviously connote the situation in Nigeria. Nigeria over the years has been in political hurdle and a porous democratic atmosphere. The new trend of terrorism in Nigeria has affected the popularity of the country globally. The status of peace in the country is on the negative side, apart from just security challenges , the economic condition in the country is worrisome, the societal class disparity promotes a very wide gap, the rich and politicians remain wealthy and the poverty in the land continues to drag the poor behind.

The Boko Haram sect has likened the situation in Nigeria to other terrorised countries across the globe; the security challenges in Nigeria have moved beyond just domestic theft and instability into terrorism. The political stability in Nigeria has been shaken and disordered due to the activities of the Boko Haram sect. The just concluded 2015 election in Nigeria was rescheduled and delayed due to the fear of the sect. Although the time extension during the election was used to take some counter-terrorism measures against the sect, the election went on and was faced with little security challenges, but the turn-out of voters in the North-Eastern part was reduced due to the fear of the sect’s attack. Of recent, the Boko Haram sect has continually threatened the government and people of the Nigeria. The political atmosphere in Nigeria and the unity of the country have been faced with different levels of threats or the continuous bombing of police stations and Army Barracks has made the whole country to be vulnerable. At first churches were attacked and it was assumed that the sect was just a religious group but when the attack was more pronounced, the political substance started aggravating. When the sect attacked the U.N office in Abuja, the message was passed to the world that the sect was holding a more political motive.


Before terror can assume the status of insurgency, it must have some basic trends. On the factor of violence, terror is generally agreed to be an indispensable means to an end. In fact , Columbus and Wolfe (1986) conceptualised terrorism as the calculated use of violence …. In pursuit of political , religious , or ideological goal. However, this may also be said of insurgencies.

Encarta Encyclopedia (2001) emphasised the fact that:

There is nothing inherent in either Insurgency or Guerrilla warfare that requires the use of terror. While some of the more successful insurgencies and guerrilla campaigns employed terror tactics, and some developed into conflicts where terror attacks and terrorism become predominant, there have been others that effectively renounced the use of terror.(Encarta Encyclopedia , 2011: 1)

 Consequently, the deliberate choice to use terror is for the purpose of inspiring further resistance, destroying government efficiency, and mobilizing support from connected populations. Thus , on the factors of violence , where   terrorism and insurgencies maybe outwardly alike, terror is absolute in the former , but only relative in  the latter.

Michael Morris, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S Marine Corps, discussed the differences between insurgency and terrorism. He opined that:

Insurgencies combine violence with political program pursuit of revolutionary purposes , in a way terrorism cannot duplicate. Terrorists may pursue political, even revolutionary goals , but their violence replaces rather than complement a political program.( Morris , 2005:1)

Morris’ discussion complements a vivid explanation of the difference between the two concepts. Relating it to the Boko Haram sect , the group gained the status of insurgency when it started taking over territories in the North-Eastern part of Nigeria, obviously the group staged attacks , bombing , kidnapping , massacre etc everywhere, but the moment the group started taking up territories and declaring Islamic state and laws on these territories , this was beyond terrorism according to Morris illustrations. On the required intention, it is argued that the ultimate goal of an insurgency is to challenge the existing government for control of all or a portion of territory , or force political concession in shaping political power. (Encarta Encyclopedia,2011). One major distinguishing line between insurgency and terrorism as noted by Morris (2005) is that , while insurgencies organise their forces in military fashion as squads , platoons and companies … and are usually overt in nature , especially in zones which they dominate terrorist units are usually smaller and composed of isolated teams, not organised into a formal military chain of command. He also added that terrorist organisations tend towards extreme secrecy and compartmented cells to facilitate security , a style which seldom replicates an insurgency’s political structure.

   Basically, insurgents often pursue some common objectives targeted at undermining the legitimacy of the government while increasing their own ties with the population. According to the 2012 “Guide to the Analysis of Insurgency” published by the US Government, insurgencies seek to accomplish the following:

  • Undercut the ability of the government to provide the population security and public services, including utilities, education, and justice. An insurgent group may attempt to supplant the government by providing alternative services to the people, or it may be content to portray the government as impotent.
  • Obtain the active or passive support of the population. Not all support has to be-or are likely to be-gained from true sympathizers; fear and intimidation can gain the acquiescence of many people.
  • Provoke the government into committing abuses that drive neutral civilians toward the insurgents and solidify the loyalty of insurgent supporters.
  • Undermine international support for the government and, if possible, gain international recognition or assistance for the insurgency.

From the above excerpt, insurgencies thus represent a race wherein the loyalty of mostly an uncommitted population or general public is sought by the insurgents on one side and the counter-insurgent on the other. The success of both parties thus lies in their ability to successfully persuade the general public. In what Robert Thompson describes as the “build-up phase of insurgency,” insurgents try to discredit the reigning government by breaking down their ability to provide services and security to the people while also trying to reinstate their own legitimacy and provide service for the people (Thompson, 1966: 19-20). A government who has continually failed to provide the population with basic infrastructures has little chances of convincing and winning the hearts and minds of the people. The government must also apply caution with regards to her brutality in fighting the insurgents otherwise she loses supports from the people, and here lies another chance of the population supporting the insurgents (Weinstein, 2007: 37).

It is also important to note that every insurgency has its specific goal often reflected in its modus operandi though they largely share common features such as being internal and its use of force. Additionally, modern insurgents’ warfare are characterised by a protracted strategy, general lack of front, asymmetric methods and unconventional military tactics such as Guerrilla. Insurgencies have been categorized in different ways such as by; goal, tactics, size, region, duration, international significance and the character of the regime being challenged (Gompert and Gordon, 2008: 23-24). Many insurgencies also exhibit a combination of these characteristics or such may evolve during the course of the conflict. In line with the base of supporters, John Mackinlay developed the typologies of insurgencies into Lumpen, Clan, popular and global (Mackinlay, 2002: 43). Drawing the types of insurgencies from their specific goals, the US Government noted the following five typologies:

  • Revolutionary insurgencies seek to replace the existing political order with an entirely different system, often entailing transformation of the economic and social structures.
  • Reformist insurgencies do not aim to change the existing political order  but, instead, seek to compel the government to alter its policies or  undertake political, economic, or social reforms.
  • Separatist insurgencies seek independence for a specific region. In  some cases, the region in question spans existing national boundaries.  
  • Resistance insurgencies seek to compel an occupying power to withdraw from a given territory.
  • Commercialist insurgencies are motivated by the acquisition of wealth or material resources; political power is simply a tool for seizing and  controlling access to the wealth.

Although the above gives a clear picture of the different types of insurgency, it fails to take into account the issue of contemporary global insurgency. In pointing out the extent to which globalization affects the ends, forms and means of insurgency, Gompert and Gordon identified four types of insurgencies thus: local insurgency, local international insurgency, Global-local insurgency and Global insurgency (Gompert & Gordon, 2008: 25-30). They argued that globalization has also increased the danger of global “insurgency by enabling strong bonds to form among members of transnational communities” (Gompert & Gordon, 2008: 29). In the same vein, local insurgencies have greater propensity of being baited to external forces.

The organizational structures and strategies of insurgents also provide answers to its category, be it military, political or otherwise. This is not to say that such structure or strategy is not subject to change in the course of actions. The US Government outlined the organizational structure of insurgents as:

  • Politically organized insurgencies which develop a complex political structure and try to consolidate control of territory through the use of shadow governments rather than through military power. Although they also undertake military operations against the government but their military components are subordinate to their political structure.
  • Militarily organized insurgencies which emphasize military action against the government over political mobilization of the population. The insurgents calculate that military success and the resulting weakening of the government will cause the population to rally to the insurgents’ cause. Militarily organized insurgencies begin with small, weak, ill-defined political structures, often dominated by military leaders.
  • Traditionally organized insurgencies draw on pre-existing tribal, clan, ethnic, or religious affiliations. Established social hierarchies—a system of chiefs and sub-chiefs, for example—often substitute for political and military structures in traditionally organized insurgencies.
  • Urban-cellular insurgencies develop and are centered in urban areas. These insurgencies lack hierarchical political and military leadership structures, instead organizing around small, semiautonomous cells.

Boko Haram

In as much as the Boko Haram sect only began its violence in 2009 , it has attracted so much literature , so many scholars and observers have had their say on the issue of Boko Haram in Nigeria. Nigeria as a nation has had a long checkered history of religious upheavals. Religious uprising in Nigeria has been mainly related to the two dominant religions in the country i.e. Christians and Muslims. The Boko Haram evolved in  the Northern city of Kano in 1980 and later spread to other cities , mostly in the North. Isichel (1987:194) emphasized on the 1980 revolt as the root of the uprising, the crisis that resulted in the death of more than 4177. Isischel related this to the Miatatsine crisis in the Northern Nigeria. After the mindless religious massacre of the 1980’s, there was a brief period of calmness before another orgy of religious engineered crisis took centre-stage. It started when Sani Yerimah as then governor of Zamfara State introduced Sharia legal codes in  his state and was promptly copied by most of the Northern states. As the hullabaloo caused by the Sharia crisis were dying down, intractable ethno-religious crisis engulfed Plateau State.

More than 3,000 persons have been killed in clashes between Boko Haram and state security forces. More than 1,600 fatalities are attributed to the sect and several hundreds to security forces (Human Rights Watch “World Report 2013: Nigeria” 2013).  The group’s official name is Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal Jihad, meaning ‘People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad.” It earned its nickname from the teachings of its founder Mohammed Yusuf in the early 2000s, in the restive northeastern city of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State. Yusuf argued that Western education, or ‘Boko’, had brought nothing but poverty and suffering to the region and was, therefore, forbidden, or ‘Haram’ in Islam. He began peacefully mostly preaching and quickly gained followers among disaffected young men in the northeast. But his anti establishment rhetoric and hints that Boko Haram was building an arsenal of weapons also caught the attention of the authorities. (OMAN : 83).

The Boko Haram sect is said to have been linked with other terrorist groups especially the Al-Qaeda , According to the Guardian of London (2012:12), for militant groups, claims of Al-Qaeda membership bring the temporary boost of credibility and kudos, and therefore, of funds and recruits. But we should be wary of taking the supposed links to Al-Qaeda too seriously. Claims that Boko Haram leaders met Al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia during the pilgrimage to Mecca should not be dismissed outright. But it is unclear whether it was an encounter with Saudi Arabian militant of whom there are very few these days or with figures from “Al-Qaeda Central”, who would have taken an enormous risk by traveling. Both scenarios are theoretically possible. The conventional wisdom in intelligence circles is that Boko Haram has received cash, possibly large sums of Euros paid to criminal “jihadi” factions in the Sahel, from the Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Qaeda in the Maghreb. The latter group is fragmented but tenacious, and is also believed to have provided Boko Haram with training in contemporary urban terrorism, particularly suicide attacks. However, the Nigerian group remains a local phenomenon that does not pose an international threat, British and other officials say. The fact that it appears to be boasting of links with Al-Qaeda which has suffered significant losses in recent years does, however, indicate that the brand created by the late Osama bin Laden may remain more attractive and durable than some analysts have thought.

It also raised fears that due to its rapidly involving attacked capability, Boko Haram now was on a trajectory to become the next jihads franchise group to become a transnational terrorist threat, following in the steps of Al- Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the Yemen-based Al-Qaeda franchise group. The January attacks provide us an opportunity to evaluate the theory. For instance, according to the new Boko Haram leader in Nigeria, he said in a recent interview that the group’s members were spiritual followers of Al-Qaeda, and met senior figures in the network during visits to Saudi Arabia. He goes on to posit that the group recruits from neighboring Chad, Cameroon and Niger Republic (Adeyemi, 2012:1- 4).

          From the indices above, (Stewart, 2012) captured this al-Qaida linkage analysis in the following thematic forms:

First, the group appears to have no shortage of explosive material. In addition to the devices the group employed in the attacks, the police reportedly seized some 300 improvised grenades and 10 VBIEDs (Adeyemi, 2012:1). It also appears Boko Haram has access to large quantities of commercial explosive, rather than being forced to rely on less reliable and less stable improvised explosive mixtures. A good deal of mining occurs in central Nigeria, and it appears that the group is either stealing commercial explosive from mining companies, extorting mining companies for explosives or has somehow been able to purchase commercial explosive using a front company or companies.

The Nigerian government has sought to tighten control on commercial explosive in response, but its efforts so far do not seem to have affected the group’s ability to procure large quantities of explosives. Boko Haram also appears to have competent bomb makers. While the improvised hand grenades the group is issuing are quite rudimentary, being made by inserting a non-electric detonator with a short piece of time fuse in a soda can filled with high explosive. The devices are functioning as designed. The same can be said for their suicide vests and VBIEDs: They are simply yet functional. This stands out, since IEDs commonly malfunction. Bomb making is an art that normally follows significant learning or instruction from a more experienced bomb marker. Boko Haram’s proficiency suggests the group’s bomb maker(s) indeed received training from experienced militants elsewhere.

The group also appears to have had no problems recruiting militants, including suicide bombers. The January 20, 2012 attacks alone involved dozens of militants. Two people served as suicide bombers for the VBIEDs while perhaps two other suicide bombers worked on foot; others threw IEDs from motorcycles and conducted armed assaults (Adeyemi, 2012:4). That shows that, the group’s operational planners do not appear to be as advanced as their bomb makers and recruiters. Though they have proved fairly successful in attacking soft targets, they have not had much success in their attacks against harder targets. For example, the attacker in the January 20, 2012 strike on the State Security Service Office in Kano was shot and killed before he could approach the building. Likewise, security forces were able to repel the attackers in the January 22, 2012 attempted bank robbery in Tafawa Belewa (Lister, 2012:14). All three January attacks also occurred in Boko Haram’s traditional central regions of Nigeria. These areas are both familiar and accessible to the group and it has strong support there. (It also has significant support in the area around Abuja). Joe Bavier, a writer, who is a frequent visitor to the region, told CNN that the Federal Government has completely lost control of the north-east, despite deploying thousands of troops and establishing a Joint Task Force.

Now, he says, it looks like this insurgency has broken out of the north-east”. And what’s worrying, he says, is that there’s “not a whole lot of visible effort from the Federal Government to calm things down (Lister, 2012:14). Philippe de Pontet, Africa analyst at the Eurasia Group, says that Boko Haram’s main aim appears to be humiliating Jonathan’s government, tapping into an existing sense of grievance among Muslims in the north. He and other analysts say the government’s heavy-handed response has played into Boko Haram’s hands (Thomas and Kujenya, 2012:12).

“The impulse is to hit back hard and there are political pressures for a crackdown,” De Pontet argues, “but Jonathan is so weak in the north that he needs to be careful not to alienate people there further” (Lister, 2012:14). Among the poorer part of Nigeria, the north lacks infrastructure such as reliable power. Since the end of military rule, much of the region has felt excluded from the system of patronage that fuels Nigerian politics. When he ascended to the presidency in April 2011, Jonathan broke the unofficial rotation of Christian and Muslim as Head of State. Bavier, who is with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, says poverty has fed Boko Haram’s ranks. It is no longer a sect of Islamic fanatics but has the support of disgruntled politicians and their paid thugs (Lister, 2012:14).

A spate of increasingly coordinated and sophisticated attacks against churches from December 2011 through July 2012 suggests a strategy of provocation through which the group seeks to spark wide scale sectarian violence that will strike at the foundations of the country (Forest, 2012). The group killed more than 900 people in 2012 and about 250 people in 2013 (Ndujihe, 2013). Human rights organisations estimate that approximately 3,500 Nigerians have been killed in violent attacks related to Boko Haram over the past three years (IRIN, 22 February 2013). More recently, at least 187 persons including women and children were reported to have been killed by either gunshots or fire after Boko Haram gunmen engaged soldiers of the Joint Task Force (JTF) in a deadly shootout that left the commercial border town of Baga in Borno State completely burnt down (Premium Times, 22 April 2013; Atlanta Blackstar, 23 April 2013). At least 2,000 houses, 64 motorcycles and 40 cars were burnt in the wake of the attack.

In January 2012, the Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan stated that,

The situation we have in our hands is even worse than the civil war that was fought, Former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in Nigeria, Nuhu Ribadu, also noted a similar line when He argued that if nothing was done  about Boko Haram, Nigerians will lose Nigeria to civil war (Codewit World News, 25 March 2013).

          Unfortunately, numerous attempts at negotiating with the group, including the recent amnesty offer extended to members of the group, have stalled due to distrust on both sides, and the factionalized leadership of the group’s different cells (IRIN, 22 February 2013). In the Benue violence, 53 people were killed and 13 villages burnt in central Nigeria’s Benue State (BBC News, 15 May 2013). Following these deadly attacks by Boko Haram, the Nigerian President has declared a state of emergency in three northern states: Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe. In a pre-recorded address broadcast on 14 May 2013, President Jonathan said: “What we are facing is not just militancy or criminality, but a rebellion and insurgency by terrorist groups which pose a very serious threat to national unity and territorial integrity” (BBC News, 15 May 2013). The President further noted that Boko Haram actions amount to a “declaration of war” (BBC News, 15 May 2013).

          The group has yet to display any ability to project power outside its traditional operational area into less familiar and more hostile environments. Some ask whether Boko Haram is merely a political tool used by northern politicians to pressure the Nigerian Federal Government in much the same way politicians from the Niger Delta have used militant groups such as the movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) to ensure what they believe is their fair share of Nigeria’s oil revenue. While undoubtedly some northern politicians and Boko Haram exist, it would be simplistic to suggest such politicians completely control Boko Haram.

          The emergence of Boko Haram as a terrorist grouped can be said to be related to the political trend in Nigeria. There is a wide assumption that the Boko Haram sect’s activity will be reduced due to the emergence of  General Muhammadu Buhari as president at the just concluded 2015 presidential election; the former Military Head of State who is also a Northerner has made the curbing of the sects dominance as one of his major manifesto during the election. All fingers are crossed on the possibility and negativity the future holds for the peaceful co-existence of Nigerians.

The Historical Background of Boko Haram

Nigeria was governed by a series of military dictators from its independence in 1960 until the evolution of democracy in 1999. Ethnic militancy is thought to have been one of the causes of the 1967-70 civil war that accounted for millions of deaths. Religious violence reached a new height in 1980 in Kano, the largest city in the north of the country, where the Muslim fundamentalist sect, Yan Tatsine (“followers of Maitatsine”) instigated riots that resulted in four to five thousand deaths. In the ensuing military crackdown, Maitatsine was killed, fuelling a backlash of increased violence which spread across other northern cities over the course of the next 20 years (Martins, 2013: 54-67).

Mohammed Yusuf founded the sect that became known as Boko Haram in 2002 in Maiduguri, the capital of the North-Eastern state of Borno, establishing a religious complex with a school which attracted poor Muslim families from across Nigeria and neighbouring countries. The center had the political goal of creating an Islamic state, and becoming a recruiting ground for jihadist. By denouncing the police and state corruption, Yusuf attracted followers from unemployed youths (Johnson, 2011:11).  He is reported to have used the existing infrastructure in Borno of the Izala Society (Jama’at Izalatil Bidiawa Iqamatus Sunnah), a popular conservative Islamic sect, to recruit members, before breaking away to form his own faction. The Izala were originally welcomed into government, along with people sympathetic to Yusuf. The Council of Ulama advised the government and the Nigerian Television Authority not to broadcast Yusuf’s preaching, but their warnings were ignored. Yusuf’s arrests elevated him to hero status (Chris, 2011 Retrieved 04/05/2015).

Inequality and the increasingly radical nature of Islam, locally and internationally, beginning with the 1979 Ayatollah Khomeini revolution in Iran, contributed both to the Maitatsine and the Boko Haram uprisings. Local politicians in Nigeria have the authority to grant ‘indigeneship’, which determines whether citizens can participate in politics, own land or work. The system has been widely abused. It has been an aggravating factor in riots with combined ethnic and religious dimensions in which hundreds or thousands were killed and tens of thousands forced to flee their homes, for example in Zangon-Kataf in 1992, and in Jos in 2002 and 2008 (Chris, 2011 Retrieved 04/05/2015).

Borno’s Deputy Governor Alhaji Dibal has claimed that Al Qaeda had ties with Boko Haram, but broke with them when they decided that Yusuf was an unreliable person. The violence of Boko Haram has also been linked to the militancy of the Arewa People’s Congress, the militia wing of the Arewa Consultative Forum, the main political group representing the interests of northern Nigeria. For decades, Northern politicians and academics have voiced their fundamental opposition to Western education. The Arewa Consultative Forum is a well-funded group with military and intelligence expertise, and is considered capable of engaging in military action, including covert bombing. Co-founder of the Arewa People’s Congress , Sagir Mohammed, has stated:

We believe we have the capacity, the willpower to go to any part of Nigeria to protect our Northern brothers in distress … If it becomes necessary, if we have to use violence, we have to use it to save our people. If it means jihad, we will launch our jihad.

Boko Haram was founded as a Sunni Islamic fundamentalist sect advocating a strict form of Sharia Law and developed into a Salafist-Jihadi group in 2009, influenced by the Wahhabi movement (Onuoha, 2014:54-67). It seeks the establishment of an Islamic state in Nigeria, and opposes the Westernizing of Nigerian society that has concentrated the wealth of the country among a small political elite, mainly in the Christian south of the country (Bartolotta, 2011:44-57). Nigeria is Africa’s biggest economy; 60% of its population of 173 million (2013) live on less than $1 a day. The Sharia law imposed by local authorities, beginning with Zamfara in January 2000 and covering 12 northern states by late 2002, may have promoted links between Boko Haram and political leaders, but was considered by the group to have been corrupted (Barnaby, 2000).

 Boko Haram kill people who engage in practices seen as un-Islamic, such as drinking alcohol, fornicating, and especially Christians who they claim are non believers. In a 2009 BBC interview, Mohammed Yusuf, the founder of Boko Haram (a group whose name means “Western education is forbidden”), claimed that such education “spoils the belief in one God”. He also said, “Like rain, we believe it is a creation of God rather than an evaporation caused by the sun that condenses and becomes rain. Yusuf stated that:

Like saying the world is a sphere. If it runs contrary to the teachings of Allah, we reject it. We also reject the theory of Darwinism.(BBC News, 2009).

According to Borno Sufi Imam Sheik Fatahi, Yusuf was trained by Kano Salafi Izala Sheik Ja’afar Mahmud Adamu, who called him the “leader of young people”; the two split some time in 2002-4. They both preached in Maiduguri’s Indimi Mosque, which was attended by the deputy governor of Borno (Adebayo, 2012). Many of the group were reportedly inspired by Mohammed Marwa, known as Maitatsine (‘He who curses others’), a self-proclaimed prophet (Annabi, a Hausa word usually used only to describe the founder of Islam), born in Northern Cameroon, who condemned the reading of books other than the Quran (Adebayo, 2012: 350-357).

Boko Haram conducted its operations more or less peacefully during the first seven years of its existence, withdrawing from society into remote north-eastern areas. The government repeatedly ignored warnings about the increasingly militant character of the organization (Adams, 2013).  In 2009 police began an investigation into the group code-named ‘Operation Flush’. On 26 July, security forces arrested nine Boko Haram members and confiscated their weapons and bomb-making equipment. Either this, or a clash with police during a funeral procession, led to revenge attacks on police and widespread rioting. Yusuf was arrested, and died in custody “while trying to escape”. He was succeeded as leader by Abubakar Shekau, formerly his second-in-command (BBC News, 2009). A classified cable sent from the US Embassy in Abuja in November 2009, available on WikiLeaks, is illuminating (Adebayo, 2013:350-357).  Borno political and religious leaders asserted that the state and federal government responded appropriately and, apart from the opposition party, overwhelmingly supported Yusuf’s death without misgivings over the extra judicial killing. Security remained a concern in Borno, with residents expressing concern about importation of arms and exchanges of religious messages across porous international borders. The government has proposed a preaching board which will certify Muslim preachers, but it has not yet been inaugurated. While most contacts described Borno as a “State of Peace” and did not expect additional attacks, the Northeast remained vulnerable to violence and extremist attacks due to lack of employment opportunities for youth, exasperated by ethnic and religious tensions.

Origin of ‘Boko Haram’ as a Terrorist Group in Nigeria

The Boko Haram sect did not start its operations with violence. It mainly started its operation as a pressure group or can we say as just public opinion of few, although the latter intention of the group was not codified or documented. At the onset of the group’s terror activity, even the U.S government did not see the group as a terrorist group not until the group made its intention known to the world when it bombed the U.N office in Abuja. It started mainly as a religious group of Muslims seeking for the rejection of western education and the propagation of an Islamic state and law. The group comprises youths from Nigeria and neighboring countries of Chad, Niger and Cameroun.

The group was founded by Mohammed Yusuf in 2002 in the city of Maiduguri with the aim of establishing a Sharia government in Borno State under former Governor Ali Modu Sheriff. He established a religious complex that included a mosque and a school where many poor families from across Nigeria and from neighboring countries enrolled their children. The centre had ulterior political goals and soon it was also working as a recruiting ground for future jihadists to fight the state. In 2004 the complex was relocated to Yusuf’s home state of Yobe in the village Kanamma near the Niger Republic border. Yusuf was able to recruit membership from numerous unemployed youths, whose situation has made them become dissatisfied with the state. Late Yusuf also took advantage of the irresponsible leadership at all levels of government, unemployment, poverty, corruption and insecurity in  the country as a whole and in Borno state in particular. And as he points out such failures, citing verses of Quran and the saying of the prophet, the youth see him as the leader that will indeed deliver them from malevolence to the promise land. Many Nigerians are hungry for progress and an improvement in their lives, but Northern Nigerians feel this need most acutely. Life in Nigeria for many is tough, but across the North, life is grim. A UN study shows that poverty in the 12 most Northern states is nearly twice that of the rest of the country. The health indicators also reflect this. For example, children in the far north are almost four times as likely to be malnourished. Child mortality is over 200 deaths per 1000 live births, leading to lower life expectancy. Educational standards are just as bad. Literacy in the far north is 35 percent as opposed to 77 percent in the rest of the country. Seventy-seven percent of women in the far North have no formal education, compared to only 17 percent in the rest of the country. In Northern Nigeria, primary school attendance is only 41 percent, while youth unemployment is extremely high. All of this contributes to joblessness and a deepening cycle of poverty (Carson, 2012: 1-5). In the same vein, Abdulkarim Mohammed, a researcher on Boko Haram, added that violent uprisings in Nigeria are ultimately due to “the fallout of frustration with corruption and the attendant social malaise of poverty and unemployment’’ (Cook, 2011: retrieved 14/5/2015).The members of the group do not interact with the local Muslim population and have carried out assassinations in  the past of anyone who criticizes it, including Muslim clerics. In a 2009 BBC interview, Muhammad Yusuf, then leader of the group, rejected scientific explanation for natural phenomena, such as the sun evaporating water being the cause of rain, Darwinian evolution, and the Earth being a sphere if it runs contrary to the teachings of Allah”.

Before his death, Yusuf reiterated the group’s objective of changing the current education system and rejecting democracy. In the wake of the 2009 crackdown on its members and its subsequent re-emergence, the growing frequency and geographical range of attacks attributed to Boko Haram have led some political and religious leaders in the north to the conclusion that the group has now expanded beyond its original religious composition to include not only Islamic militants, but criminal elements and disgruntled politicians as well. The group conducted its operations more or less peacefully during the first seven years of its existence. After Yusuf’s killing, a new leader emerged whose identity was not known at the time. After the killing of Mohammed Yusuf, the group carried out its first terrorist attack in Borno in January 2010. It resulted in the killing of four people. Since then, the violence has only escalated in terms of both frequency and intensity (Eme & Ibietan, 2012: 10-32).  Following the death of Yusuf, a man later known as Abubakar Shekau took control of the group. Authorities had previously believed that Shekau died during the violence in 2009. By mid April, 2012, the group was responsible for over 1000 deaths. According to the Borno State Governor Kashim Shettima “Boko Haram has become a franchise that anyone can buy into. It is something like a Bermuda Triangle,” (Baiyewu, 2013: 9).

The Boko Haram onslaught in the Northern part of the country employs the use of suicide bombing, outright shooting and abduction in its activities. This has led to loss of many lives and property.

The Name

The official name of Boko Haram is ( جماعة أهل السنة للدعوة والجهاد ) Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’Awati Wal-Jihad,”People Committed to the Prophet’s Teachings for Propagation and Jihad. The group was originally also known as ‘Yusifiyya’, after its leader, Mohammed Yusuf, until his death in 2009. (BBC news, 2013). The name ‘Boko Haram’, ‘Western education is forbidden’, is from the Arabic حَرَام ḥarām, ‘forbidden’; and the Hausa word boko [the first vowel is long, the second pronounced in a low tone], ‘fake’ (defined as “(a) Doing anything to create impression that one is better off, or that thing is of better quality or larger in amount than is the case, (b) anything so treated … etc.”) (Adesoji, 2013:95-108).

Western education has always been dismissed as Ilimin boko; a school that teaches Western education is Makaranta Boko. The uncompromising hostility of the northern Nigerian Muslims towards anything remotely perceived as foreign, a mindset of Boko Haram that has in the past been applied even towards vocal recitation of the Quran, has historically been a source of friction with the Muslims from the middle of the country.

Boko Haram has also been translated as “non-Moslem education is forbidden, “Western influence is a sin, and “Westernization is sacrilege.

Structure, Members and Recruitement of Boko Haram


Every terrorist group globally adopts a structure, although most times this structure might not be publicly stated out but through research it has been observed that these groups have a structure just like organizational structures. Terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda, Al-Shabab and other faceless groups have an order of leadership. Like in the Boko Haram for example, after the death of Muhammed Yusuf, Shekau took over power; also, the role of Abu Qaqa as the public relation officer represented a well structured terrorist group. As earlier noted that the Boko Haram members went on training in Somalia, Niger, Chad and other unconfirmed locations , there is an absolute possibility that the group is well structured like other terrorist groups globally. The Boko Haram sect publicly has not identified its structure but some observers views will be highlighted in this study.

The Boko Haram sect has a cell-like structure which has remained somewhat unclear. Its activities seem somewhat compartmentalized and split into several platoons across the Northern part of the country. On the 12 of June 2012 , Sahara Reporters in  New York ,USA, noted that a senior security official told the media that the militant islamic sect Boko Haram , has developed a sophisticated leadership structure that includes several departments headed by highly trained personel , and charged with specific assignments. The security source stated that the organization which is waging a violent fight against the Nigerian state has developed a layered organizational structure.

The Shura Council is the Boko Haram highest decision making body. In addition, the sect has recruited many members trained as specialists in suicide bombing. Other sub-groups include those specialized in stealing and disposing expensive cars at gun point for use in their violent activities ; those who gather intelligence and carry out research for possible targets and modes of operation, and those trained as ground troops to repel security agents and other counter-actions against the sect in armed conflict (Sahara Reporters 2012). Furtherly, has observed that the sect has some affiliations with politicians, elites and security officials who are strong and important members of the group. The Boko Haram cell like command structure remains somewhat unclear, however, after the death of the sect’s former leader  Muhammad Yusuf in 2009, Mallam Abubakar Shekau became the leader of the group , till date, he remains the leader of the group even though there were claims by the Nigerian military that he was dead at a time. According to Onuoha (2011) in his journal “ The audacity of the Boko Haram Background” , he noted that each state with a Boko Haram presence has its own commander called an Amir. Below the regional Amir are local Amirs followed by each Jihadist recruit. (Onuoha :2011). This claims can be ascertained as different attacks are staged in different parts of the northern part of the country, the network of the sect has grown over years and the members are so scattered that even the counter-terrorism activities of the federal government has not yield much progress as expected.


The northern part of Nigeria is faced with so much poverty and structural decay. Also, the region has been well known for ethnic and tribal violence over the years. With so much population and majority of the youths unemployed, idle and received just Islamic education, there is high possibility of the Boko Haram influence over the majority of the youth and people.

 Boko Haram recruits first among migrants from Chad , Niger and other neighboring countries who are in a precarious economic situation, because of the collapse of the industrial sector and commercial farming.(Roland 2012:4).A significant proportion of the Boko Haram sect is drawn from the “Almejeri” (people and student learning Qur’an)(Roland 2012:4).  Forest (2012:61) describes the Almejeri as the ragged boys sent by their parents to islamic boarding schools in Northern Nigeria, where they received little education beyond rote memorization of the Holy Qur’an.  Another potential recruitment base is made up of the jobless youths in the country and mostly school leavers and un-employed graduates who are subject to idleness mostly in the northern part of the country. Boko Haram has also appealed to people like University lecturers who come from middle class homes, and who rejects all Western and Christian influence. (Forest 2012: 62). Hence, the sect is made up of aggrieved citizens who have become psychological victims of the poor socio-economic condition of the country.

The government flaws have been a major threshold of the sect in combating the state and its people and also the corruption in the country has led the country developmental process on a backward ride. This has nourished the majority of the people with poverty vitamins. Youth in the northern part of the country who are not gainfully employed are idle and un-educated, with most of them receiving just Islamic education through the Arabic schools.  There is thus a psychological trauma on these youth with their lives not making so much meaning to themselves and they choose violence as the only way to hit back at the government.

The April 14 2014 abduction of over 200 school girls by the Boko Haram sect can be well linked to the major recruitment process of the sect. The abducted girls till date are still in captivity as at when this research was carried out. It is assumed by the researcher that with over 365 days of captivity, there is high possibility of the girls being initiated and transformed to the rampant female suicide bombers. The end of 2014 and the beginning of the year 2015 witnessed a big increase in female suicide bombers in the country. Most of the living victims claimed that the bombers were young girls of school age according to Punch Newspaper. Although there has been so much effort by the Nigerian Government to rescue the abducted girls, there has been a little success as there was a slow response to the issue as when it happened. In the last one year, there has been an increase in the feminisation of terror by the Boko Haram sect in that the group has adopted the use of females as both victims and vanguard of terror. According to Al-Jazeera reports, the group has abducted over 500 women and girls in the North-Eastern region since 2009. However the abduction of over 276 teenage girls from Chibok in April 2014 has been the largest single incident so far.  As of 20th January 2015, there have been a total number of 15 female suicide bombings in Nigeria 

Affiliation and Funding of Boko Haram

In 2002, Osama Bin Laden dispatched one of his aides to Nigeria to distribute $3 million to sympathetic Salafi groups. Among the recipients was Mohammed Yusuf, Boko Haram’s founder.( Daily Beast, retrieved 11 May 2015) Documents discovered in Bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound in May 2011 show Boko Haram’s leaders had been in contact with top levels of al-Qaeda, Bin Laden himself.(The Guardian: 2012). Shekau, Boko Haram’s Emir and Yusuf ’s successor, very obviously backs Al-Qaeda rhetorically; a message released in November 2012 featured Shekau praising Al-Qaeda, its leaders (including Bin Laden and Musabal-Zarqawi, the former leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq) and its fighters across the world, and threatening the US, Britain, Israel and Nigeria(youtube.com  Retrieved 04/06/2015). Boko Haram is also tied to the broader Al-Qaeda network. Over thirty members of Boko Haram are also believed to have trained in Afghanistan, with at least one being trained by Al-Qaeda there. Between 2010 and 2012, Boko Haram fighters are thought to have been trained in the Lower Shabelle and Lower Juba regions of Somalia, areas known for Al-Shabaab activities.

The US government suspects that there were ‘communication, training, and weapons links’ between Boko Haram, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen, Al-Shabaab and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). In February 2013, AFRICOM Commander, General David M. Rodriguez named Boko Haram as an Al-Qaeda ‘affiliate’ in a Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing. According to a September 2013 House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee report , this was ‘perhaps the most direct assessment of the Al Qaeda/Boko Haram relationship issued by a major US official’. Similarly, in May 2014, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan stated that ‘Boko Haram is no longer a local terror group. It is clearly operating as an Al-Qaeda operation’. It is via AQIM that Boko Haram’s main ties to Al-Qaeda exist. As early as 2006, Nigerian security sources feared that Boko Haram members were training in the Sahel alongside AQIM, with its emir Abdelmalek Droukdel confirming that his group had Nigerian elements in its midst in 2008. In January 2010, Droukdel then stated that AQIM would assist Boko Haram with training, personnel and equipment. According to the UN, Boko Haram has ‘gained valuable knowledge on the construction of improvised explosive devices from AQIM’. AQIM’s media wing, ‘al-Andalus Establishment for Media Production’ has published a statement by Shekau on a jihadist forum (the first time AQIM had done so for another group) and Boko Haram’s recent messaging on the internet is also similar to that of AQIM, suggesting that training that has occurred has also included a media component.

The funding of the sect’s activities has created long talking points. Explosives are not biscuits or water that are cheap to get; there is also the question of how these weapons and instruments get to them, obviously with a porous border like that of Nigeria, there is high tendencies of weapons and machinery being imported to the country. But how do they get the money to purchase these sophisticated weapons? The video stream of the sects shows them handling sophisticated weapons and vehicles. From the beginning of the sect, reports state that members had to pay a daily levy of ₦100 to the leader. This provided basic sources of funding for the small group as at when it started. Onuoha claimed that additional donation came from Politicians, government officials and other individuals or organizations within the country. Also, the international affiliation with other terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda, Al Shabab etc serve as a source of weapons and funds. Since terrorism is also feeds from the benefits of globalization, the sect has gained access to funds, training, and weapon from its affiliation with other terrorism groups.

Another major source of funding for the sect has been through stealing, the sect attacks markets to get food and money; banks in the Northern part of the country have recorded their losses. That is, the group robs banks, offices and also indulge in stealing cars and use them for operations. They also kidnap and request for ransom. The above are the various ways in which the sect generates funds to prosecute their operations. 

Tactics of the Boko Haram Sect

As a terrorist group, most of the time, their environment and financial capabilities determine the kind of tactics to be used, Boko Haram as a group that evolved around a very poor North-Eastern part of the country cannot assume the use of sophisticated war machines like choppers and nuclear weapons. The claim that the sect has affiliation with other terrorist groups justifies the source of the weapons with the sect. Often and often, the sect over-powers the Nigerian Military and Police, attacking them even at their stations and Barracks. According to Forest (2012:64) Boko Haram’s most frequent charges have been police stations, patrols, and individual police men at home or in public who were off duty or even retired. The sect makes use of petrol bombs, improvised explosive devices and armed assaults in these attacks. A common tactics used by the sect has been drive-by shootings, usually involving motorbikes against unarmed individuals. On a few occasions, they (Boko Haram) have attacked prisons. This tactic is aimed at freeing aggrieved prisoners and absorbing them into the sect. The sect has over the years freed thousand of prisoners, they have attacked prisons in Bauchi, Yola, Bama and several other prison especially police stations holding its members in custody.

One major tactics of the Boko Haram sect is suicide bombings which the most dreaded of all. The group has attacked individuals whom they deem to be engaged in un-Islamic activities. But the category with the largest number of unidentified casualties has been church goers, and others affiliated in some way with organized religion. The group through bombings, either suicide or improvised explosive devices have killed over 10,000 people since 2009. The most recent of their tactics is the use of females in attacks, the group has recruited an abducted a number of 1000 school girls as suicide bombers and attackers. Rumors in the North assumes that the Boko Haram sect has since the end of 2014 deployed over 250 females, both women and girls to stage major attacks on Nigeria and its neighboring countries. Since the inception of the New Year 2015, Nigeria has witnessed more female suicide bombings and attack than ever recorded. Reports show over 17 attacks so far and 15 being successful. The females have been reported by victims as wearing Hijabs and placing the bombs underneath it. Investigations reveals that most female oriented attack turns out to be more successful than the male, as the male portrays a higher level of threat. The scourge of female suicide bombing is a global menace that still worries the international system. Reports globally shows that most of the attacks staged by females especially suicide bombers have been most successful with a success record of over 70%. The more worrisome part of the Boko Haram scourge has been the sect’s ability to lure in more females into the group either through force or initiation.


This chapter presents the interpretation of the data gathered through the in-depth interview conducted in course of writing this research work. Cogent points are brought out of the interview supported by scholarly views on the research topic. The chapter, therefore presents the following; an insight to Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria, the role of the Federal Government and the military in curtailing the activities of Boko Haram, its emergence, reasons for its emergence, the clarification of the sect’s ideology, relationship between Boko Haram and other terrorist groups, the way forward and international policy options.

An Insight into Boko Haram Insurgency in Nigeria

Nigeria was ruled by the military from 1966 until 29th of May, 1999 when democracy came into being. During the military regime, it was very difficult for any armed group to emerge or parade itself as a terrorist group. The then military Head of State, Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar handed over the reins of government to a democratic president in person of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo who was elected under the umbrella of the People’s Democratic Party (David, 2015 Interview). Chief Olusegun Obasanjo ruled the country for an uninterrupted period of eight years. In the year 2007, Late Musa Yar’Adua was elected as the president, with Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan as his deputy. Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan served as the Acting President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria after the demise of Musa Yar’Adua on the 13th of May, 2010. He ruled as the Acting President for a period of one year. He was duly elected during the 2011 general election under the umbrella of the People’s Democratic Party (David, 2015 Interview).

With the advent of democracy, various socio-cultural and religious groups arouse with different objectives which were not hitherto possible during the military era (Adetoye, 2015 Interview). During the period of the former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s regime, there was nothing called Boko Haram insurgency then. The only group that was heard of then was the Niger-Delta militant group (Movement for the Emancipation of Niger-Delta) which was a socio-cultural group (David, 2015 Interview). What these people were fighting for then was that they were being exploited by the government and the multinational oil companies. The government and the oil producing company mine their crude oil and as a result of heavy deposit of crude oil, their sources of water are contaminated with oil. This made it impossible for them to have access to quality water supply. Yet, the government failed to provide them with quality water supply and other social amenities (David, 2015 Interview). They viewed the way and manner in which they are being treated as a form of maltreatment which they do not deserve (David, 2015 Interview).

The Emergence of Boko Haram Sect

The Boko Haram group was known initially to be a religious group but later it became involved in political issues (Adetoye, 2015 Interview). Boko Haram has mainly been staging attacks on the North Eastern State within Nigeria, state like Yobe, Adamawa and Borno (Abdulkadir 2015 Interview). The group was founded in 2002 in Maiduguri by Ustaz Mohammed Yusuf. In 2004 it moved to Kanamma, Yobe State, where it set up a base called “Afghanistan”, used to attack nearby police outposts, killing police officers. Boko Haram initially came up as a religious group, they were basically emphasizing on Islamizing Nigeria, later on, it started attacks on police stations , churches , mosque  and army barracks (Abdulkadir 2015 Interview). Boko Haram conducted its operations more or less peacefully during the first seven years of its existence, withdrawing from society into remote north-eastern areas. The government repeatedly ignored warnings about the increasingly militant character of the organization (Cook, 2006). The whole problem started when a member of the former leader of the group was murdered by the Nigerian Police Force. In retaliation of the murder of their leader, the Boko Haram sect emerged as a terrorist group (Adetoye, 2015 Interview). The police shot and wounded several members of Boko Haram for simply refusing to comply with a new law requiring motorcycle passengers to wear helmets. Shortly after, the group launched a series of attacks against the police in the town of Bauchi, and security forces responded by killing more than 700 Boko Haram members, as well as innocent bystanders. Later that year, when the police captured Yusuf, they summarily executed him in front of a crowd gathered outside of a police station, an act that has been considered significant in driving the group toward its modern, brutal form.  Although Boko Haram generally lacks popular support from the north, especially after it became so indiscriminate in its targets, Boko Haram’s rise is a direct result of the poor governance and poverty in the region (Foreign Affairs, 2015). Boko Haram just  want to unleash terror , destroy properties , governmental infrastructures , governmental institutions and create fear in order to gain popularity, they are anti people , anti government , anti system , anti progress and anti Nigeria (Abdulkadir 2015 Interview).

Reasons for the Emergence of Boko Haram Sect

This research has been able to interview some people and gather their responses on the reasons and contributory factors to the emergence of Boko Haram sect in Nigeria. They are; poverty/unemployment, politics, religious fanaticism and social inequality

Poverty/Unemployment: Poverty has been identified as one of the major factors that are responsible for the emergence of the activities of the Boko Haram Sect in Nigeria. It is through unemployment that poverty surfaces. Anyone who is gainfully employed cannot experience poverty (David, 2015 Interview). This is in concordance with the view of Kashim Shetima when he asserted that widespread poverty, illiteracy, high rate of youth unemployment and youth anger provided a fertile ground for the Boko Haram insurgency. 

 Social Inequalities:  Social inequality refers to the ways in which socially-defined categories of persons (according to characteristics such as gender, age, ‘class’ and ethnicity) are differentially positioned with regard to access to a variety of social ‘goods’, such as the labour market and other sources of income, the education and healthcare systems, and forms of political representation and participation. These and other forms of social inequality are shaped by a range of structural factors, such as geographical location or citizenship status, and are often underpinned by cultural discourses and identities. In an interview with Oluwasanmi (2015), he identified social inequalities as one of the factors and reasons why Boko Haram emerged in Nigeria. Social inequalities are differences in income, resources, power and status within and between societies. In his own view, Oluwasanmi stated that the Boko Haram sect launches attacks at times because of the fact that they are not as rich as other social groups in the country. They believe that they cannot make any reasonable contributions to the growth and development of Nigeria; otherwise they believe they can mar the country. So far they know that their voice can never be heard in Nigeria and that their opinions cannot be respected; hence, they try everything possible to leave the North-Eastern part of the country a desolate place thereby declaring an Islamic State (Oluwasanmi, 2015).

Poor Governance and Corruption: Poor governance and rampant corruption have pushed these social and religious tensions to the breaking point. Resource-curse politics and the opulent behavior of northern elites amid mass poverty have fostered a deep sense of popular grievance. Boko Haram initially emerged as a protest against the poor governance and corruption of northern leaders, which the movement sought to remedy through demands for an Islamic state and strict adherence to Sharia law. According to David, bad governance has been the major reason for the emergence of Boko Haram, he noted that if the government have been doing more for the people over time, there would not have been any glimpse of terrorism in the country.

Abdulkadir talked about other factors responsible for the emergence of Boko Haram sect in Nigeria , among which are: ignorance of the people , the environmental factors ,economic factors (Abdulkadir, 2015 interview). He said People are just desperate to get something in life without thinking of making the best out of the present one they have. People rush to religion without seeking proper knowledge, people turn to be consumed about paradise and the after-life. He opined that the environmental factor was based on the environment most of these youths find themselves , poor infrastructure , lack of basic education , high level of illiteracy and poverty, He said that ‘religion was the opium of the people , and was a major means of the sect recruitment.  On the economic factor, he noted that there are people gaining in every war , arm dealers and manufacturers gain a lot from wars and conflicts, Adetoye also noted that there are global arm dealers who secretly instigate wars and conflict in order to book their market without considering the implication (Adetoye, 2015 Interview). Adetoye also noted that the porous state of the Nigerian border has facilitated the entry of arms and ammunition for the sect. Corruption has also been another shortcoming of the government in that money budgeted for purchasing arms and ammunition are either embezzled or diverted to other things.

The Role of The Federal Government And The Military In Curtailing The Activities Of Boko Haram

The Federal Government of Nigeria, both the present and the past administration has done a lot to get rid of the Boko Haram sect. The federal government of Nigeria under Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan strived hard in curtailing the activities of the sect, they engaging in various dialogues with the members of the sect. He purchased arms and ammunition for the Air Force, Navy, Police Force and most especially the Nigerian Army. The army tried its possible best in ensuring that peace reigns in North-East geopolitical zone of the country. Many soldiers lost their lives during the process of obeying the call to defend their fatherland. Some police officers also died in active services in their fight against Boko Haram (David, 2015 Interview). In Abdulkadir’s words, the former president did not take the fight against the insurgence serious enough for reason not known to everybody, Adetoye also noted that the fight against the group might have been motivated politically in order to create a possibility of elections not being held in the troubled region. Boko Haram has attacked more than 40 communities. About 3.3 million people are currently internally displaced. In areas and villages like Bama , Baga , Woza , there is no single structure that is standing. Initially they kill destroy and go, but they changed this tactics and kill destroy and stay. Places like Gamborigala, Woza, Bama, Krenua, Maripe, the sect has completely taken over their control and administration and formed a parallel government. They destroyed Nigerian flags and hosted theirs, they introduced their own taxation system. They destroyed farmland and traditional institutions before they were ousted by the Nigerian military troops. The issue of tackling the Boko Haram sect is more complicated than it seems. Initially the sect made the attacks appear like attacks on Christians by Muslims, but when they started attacking mosques also and Islamic cleric there was a change in methodology in order to further destabilize the system. They caused disaffection, disagreement, disunity and damages to life and property in the country (Abdulkadir, 2015 interview). Adetoye noted that Boko Haram engages in Guerrilla Warfare, and Guerrilla warfare is not a conventional warfare in that it is usually difficult to win when you are fighting with faceless people (Adetoye 2015 interview). Adetoye also noted that without being cheeky about it, it is usually very difficult to conquer terrorism totally. He said it was an instrument of embarrassing government. If not, what is the philosophy of loading yourself with bombs and going to the market to blow yourself up? (Adetoye,2015 interview). For a sect like Boko Haram whose ideologies are not spelt out, it is not easy to determine how to tackle the problem. Abdulkadir who is an NTA defense correspondent, has been following the insurgence in Nigeria  right from the on-set noted that when they got to the Boko Haram camps they, found volumes of Quran and volumes of Bible.  He said they found so many drugs and condoms which is an indication that Boko Haram are heavily into drugs and alcohol. when the police arrested and questioned some of the members at the war front, they are usually high and unconscious of themselves, when you ask them their name and reason for involving in the fight,  they don’t know , it takes several hours before they are aware of their surroundings. This shows you that these people are not saints as you will assume them to be and are lost in the world (Abdulkadir 2015 interview).

In his own view, David (2015) believed that there is no need for the federal government to establish any special force that will curtail the menace of the Boko Haram insurgency in the country. He stressed the needs for the government to equip all the military and paramilitary forces that already exists in Nigeria. He further stated that the Nigerian government has enough money to cater for employment of more security personnel. To him, 10,000 police officers that the IGP wants to recruit are not enough if Nigeria wants to successfully curtail the activities of this sect. He said that if all other forces can do the same thing, there will be enough security personnel to get rid of the Boko Haram menace in the country. He concluded that if these recruitments are done, there will be no need for creation or establishment of any other special force.

Abdulkadir, he noted that Nigerian government is already on the verge of winning the war. When the insurgent started, the government never took them serious , the government were not fighting them before; they were only trying to negotiate, but that gave room for the group to expand and recruit more members and weapons The issue of tackling the Boko Haram sect is more complicated than its seems , initially the sect made the attacks appear like attacks on Christians by Muslims ,but when its started attacking mosques also and islamic cleric there was a change in methodology in order to further destabilize the system, they caused disaffection , disagreement disunity and damages to life and property in the country (Abdulkadir 2015 interview). He gave a clear explanation on how the Nigerian government have been tackling the insurgence, the government started with ‘Operation Boyona’; during this period, the government started introducing state of emergency in affected territories , there were curfew here and there , although these state of emergency was not a total one because they still had government structures, later ‘Operation Zamalafia’ was adopted which means let us live in peace, a way of appealing  to the sect to stop the violence, ‘Operation Lafiadole’ is the third stage which means peace by force , here the government was ready to use force to achieve peace.

The Clarification of the Sect’s Ideology

This section set out to justify that Boko Haram has either a religious or political ideology.

Religious ideology : The Boko Haram sect is believed to be more of religious than political because from their name which means western education is a taboo, it could be deduced that the sect is first of all against the ideology of the western education (Oluwasanmi, 2015). The Boko Haram uprising of July 2009 was significant in that it not only set a precedent, but also reinforced the attempts by Islamic conservative elements at imposing a variant of Islamic religious ideology on a secular state (Ome & Casimir 2015:95-101). Whereas the religious sensitivity of Nigerians provided fertile ground for the breeding of the Boko Haram sect, the sect’s blossoming was also aided by the prevailing economic dislocation in Nigerian society. In present day Nigeria, due to the incessant bombing and kidnapping of souls, many churches and mosques preach against the activities of the sect. We all know that lately, the Boko Haram sect has shifted the attention from killing of Christian brethren, but they target mosques. And it is believed by majority of the citizens that they more of religious than political. They attack mosque due to several reasons among which are; they want to shift the attention of the people and change their orientation from calling them Islamic group. Secondly, they attack those Muslims who are against their activities (Oluwasanmi, 2015 Interview). If we take a critical look at their operation from the onset, it will be discovered that they did not go beyond the North-Eastern part of the country in their attack. The aim and objectives of this group is to create and Islamic state all this while. He further stressed that there were speculations that the Boko Haram sect are planning to come to the Southern part of the country, the bitter truth is that if really they are willing to come to the Southern part of the country, nobody or any security force can stop them (Oluwasanmi, 2015 Interview). It should not be forgotten that the most securities protected areas habe been attacked by this group in the year past.    

In his own view, one Islamic cleric (Alfa Abdullai), maintained that the Boko Haram sect is not in any way related to Islamic religion. This is so because no verse or chapter in the Holy Quran states that one should kill his fellow man. He further stated that for the fact that the sect recites Arabic does not portray them as an Islamic group because it is possible for anyone to learn Arabic. He further asserted that the fighting embark upon by the sect is not for Allah because no one can fight for Allah. Allah Himself is self sufficient. He is the creator, he has power over everything. He opined that the sect members are fighting for their own interest. He further stated that there is no connection between Islam and terrorism, He also noted that the fact that Boko Haram speaks in Arabic doesn’t make them Muslims , the fact that a Yoruba man speaks English well and writes English doesn’t make him an Englishman . The meaning of Islam means religion of peace; therefore Islam is not in any way related to terrorism (Abdullai, 2015 Interview). Abdullahi asserted that there is no verse in the holy Quran that state that if one kills, he will have reward after his earthly mission. He said that it is not a yardstick for anyone to gain entrance into Al-Jana. He concluded that only good work can take one to Al-Jana.

Abdulkadir noted that Boko Haram members are no saints and they perform more inhuman things anyone can imagine. He declared that they are not only Muslims and that there are also Christians among them (Abdulkadir 2015 Interview). The doctrines of the sect are constructed by the group leaders in order to motivate the sect to stage more attacks. The members of the sect are brainwashed about after-life and paradise, they have been made to believe that there is better life than this present one. They are promised 27 virgins and luxury houses, this makes them give up the present world and decide to kill in order to gain access to the so called after-life (Abdulkadir 2015 Interview).

Political ideology: The Boko Haram sect members are believed to be political in nature because of the way and manner they launch their attacks. They claim that they are not political, they said they are against the western education and their culture, but don’t forget that they make use of western instruments in launching their attacks (David, 2015 Interview). These include machine guns, improvised explosive devices and guns. If they are really illiterate that they claimed to be, the question is who taught them how to operate all these instruments? And who purchased the instruments for them? If they do not belong to the elite category, they are supposed to use catapult, arrow, camel, cutlass and other forms of local armed devices. It is crystal clear that this Boko Haram sect has political backings.

 According to David (2015), he stated that the politicians equip dismissed members of the force. That is those that had been dismissed from the Nigerian Police Force, Nigeria Navy, Nigeria Air force, and Nigeria Army. When they have nothing to live on, no job to call their own, they find both decent and indecent means to survive. When they are being offered a large amount of money, they embark on any assignment given to them by their dictator. For instance, how do the members of the sect get training on how to use the ammunitions? This is rightly impossible if not with the help of the members of the armed forces. In his own view, during Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan administration, what the sect wanted to prove was that the opposition party was incapable of ruling the country thereby portraying them as a bad government, inexperienced set of people and administrators.

Abdulkadir later noted that the ideology of the sect is beyond religion and politics. He stated that it had educational content, they say no to government, they say no to the economic lifestyle and they say no to virtually everything. He gave an instance that when they throw bombs , does the bomb attack those in PDP alone or those in APC? That shows you cannot pin the ideology down just to political consideration. You can expand it beyond that. He further stated that the sect wants to introduce a caliphate, where you don’t need to go through election to be a political office holder, they want to introduce a system that is totally different from the political system and structure of the Nigerian state.

International Collaboration

Terrorism is the bye-product of globalization. Globalization has made territorial integrity vulnerable, a country alone cannot fight terrorism  (Abdulkadir 2015 Interview). There is a new ideology now because an injury to one country is an injury to the entire global system. Since Muhammad Buhari came on board, the war has changed. His attitude and actions have shown some seriousness in tackling the insurgency especially the relocation of the Command and Control Centre to the North-Eastern region where the war is actually being carried out has been one of the major steps taken by Nigeria to convince the international community of the readiness of the country to tackle and win the war (Abdulkadir 2015 Interview). Also regional territorial collaborations have been achieved to end the insurgence. For example, we can see the Lake Chad states coming together to fight terrorism and the United Nations and African Union sharing logistics and modules of ending the insurgence.

The recent Multi National Joint Task Force (MNJTF) saw the coming together of countries like Cameroun , Chad , Niger and Nigeria deciding to come together to fight against a common enemy (Boko Haram). This is another major international collaboration being set up to end the insurgence. Here, we have Nigeria playing the big brother role because Nigeria so far has raised its own 7700 troops to the MNJTF and has also released $25million for the take off of the MNJTF operations. Nigeria is the highest stake holder in the fight against terrorism in the sub-region and that is why it contributes more in winning the war. Initially, the other countries saw the issue as just Nigerian problem and meanwhile, it is their territories and borders that were used to transport ammunitions into the Nigerian soil not knowing that they were equally digging their own grave. The moments these attacks were now being staged in their own home soil, they become interested in ending the insurgence (Abdulkadir 2015 Interview).

More international collaboration are said to becoming, as many countries of the word are ready to support Nigeria in ending the insurgence , the G8 countries , USA , the European Union , African Union , United Nations have all shown support to Nigeria towards tackling the insurgence.



This study has examined terrorism and political stability in Africa; Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria as a case study. The objectives of the study were  to examine good governance or collective security that represents the best strategy to combat terrorism in West Africa, to analyze the terrorists typology in Africa, to examine the relationship between  Boko Haram group and other terrorist groups across the globe, to clarify the controversial categorization of the group as either being a religious group , a tribal group or a political tool, to analyze the effort of the Nigerian military towards curbing the activities of the group and to suggest ways through which the region can prevent terrorism through the combination good governance and collective security. The study also investigates the effect of Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria. The study adopted the frustration-aggression theory as being adequate for the analysis of the insurgency. Scholarly review of literature was done for the purpose of giving the study a sound base. The study made use of both primary and secondary sources of data collection. The primary sources included the use of structured interview to seek the opinion of people on the insurgency. The secondary source employed the use of articles, journals, internets resources, textbooks, newspaper and magazines. The data gathered showed that there are various factors that are responsible for the emergence of Boko Haram. It was revealed from the study that Boko Haram insurgency is more of a political issue than being a religion issue. Other contributory factors are; poverty/unemployment and social instability. The study revealed that there is a high rate of poverty in the North-Eastern part of the country where the Boko Haram insurgency is prevalent. The study showed various ways through which the activities of the sect can be curtailed. This include putting necessary instruments in place, employing technical personnel, good motivation and welfare package for the military and paramilitary among others.


After all said and done, people’s life and property are not safe. Citizens are becoming refugees in their own fatherland. It is imperative to find a way out of the mess which the Boko Haram sect has brought to the country. In the light with this, the following recommendations are made in order to curtail the of Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria;

  1. Domestication of true democracy and good governance, which will address the socio-economic and political roots on which extremist ideologies thrive such as absolute and dehumanizing poverty; unbridled corruption; bad leadership; electoral fraud; social injustice; inequality etc.
  2. Re-employment of dismissed military and paramilitary officers,
  3. Employment of technical personnel into the force,
  4. Empowerment programmes for the unemployed youths, especially in the North-Eastern region.
  5. Purchase of sophisticated ammunition for the Nigeria military,
  6. Seek for more assistance from the international community,
  7. Dialogue with the members of the sect.
  8. Individual should embrace love irrespective of religion or tribe.
  9. Massive youths employment. 
  10. Orientation programme for the inhabitants of the region,
  11. Rendering supports to the victims of the insurgence.


The discourse on Boko Haram insurgency clearly revealed that Nigeria is confronted with security challenges. This is made manifest in the Boko Haram murderous campaigns against security personnel, government institutions, religious institutions, clerics  and members of the general public.

The study has identified the root causes of Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria. It is suffice to say that Boko Haram insurgency is more of political than being a religious group. The major contributory factor to the incessant increase in the number of its members is unemployment. Majority of Nigeria youths are unemployed. When an unemployed person is assured of good living, there is nothing a hungry man cannot do in order to get something in the stomach. Initially, Boko Haram was not a political group, it was later that it metamorphosised into a political tool. The members are being used by political parties against one another in order to portray the ruling party as not being competent enough in the administration of the country. 

Their activities are supported by other terrorist Islamic groups globally. They are also being funded by some perpetrators of evils who live among us. Why can’t individuals see this insurgency as a collective responsibility to fight against it together to the last end? It is in the opinion of the researcher that every citizen needs to see the fight against Boko Haram as a fight for all. Let’s rise and fight this fight in unison. It is imperative to remember that united we stand, and divided we fall.    

In conclusion, the actions of Boko Haram insurgents are barbaric and extremely wicked. The attack and abduction of innocent school children for whatever reason is inhuman and unacceptable to any right thinking person. Killing children is akin to cutting down the future of a people. It is imperative for the good people of Nigeria, government, military and paramilitary and the international community to rise up and wage war against this enemy of our dear country, Nigeria.

Our Take: Terrorism has wracked practically every part of the world throughout the years. Africa is not immune to these threats as several attacks it has witnessed over the years have come from different parts of the continent. Al-Shabab in Somalia, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in the Sahel region (including Algeria, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger), Boko Haram in Nigeria, and the emerging Lord’s Resistance Army in Central Africa. The frequent Boko Haram attacks in northern Nigeria have remained one of the most troubling on the continent. Their indiscriminate attacks fueled by their religious ideologies and political interests have left national security in a critical state. Finding the root drivers and sponsors of this terrorist group is key in tackling them.

About the Author: Abimbola Rasheed– Ekiti state university, Political Science, AlumnusEkiti state university, Political Science, Alumnus  

Source: Academia

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