Of Boko Haram and our Oneness by Gbenga Aina

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You cannot live in sin and expect the grace of God to multiply – Chukwudifu Akunne Oputa

You cannot live in sin and expect the grace of God to multiply – Chukwudifu Akunne Oputa, Justice of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, delivering judgment in the case of Ojukwu v. Military Governor of Lagos State (1986). It was in this case also that Oputa's --known as the Socrates of the Supreme Court-- learned brother Kayode Eso, JSC coined the phrase "executive lawlessness" while censoring the actions of the military governor of Lagos State at the time, Raji Rasaki, an army colonel.

Finally the inevitable consequence of living in sin and expecting the grace of God to multiply has happened – corruption has caught up with the rulers of Nigeria. It’s been decades in the making, but the rest of the world has taken notice of the fact that Nigerians are now paying the necessarily steep price for acquiescing to be ruled by characters driven more by personal ambition than a national vision. The funny thing is that these characters have been associated with substantially the same conservative political party differentiated only by era and nomenclature – the Northern People’s Party (NPC) of the First Republic; the National Party of Nigeria (NPN, Second Republic) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) of the current dispensation. The repeated re-election of characters whose rascality truncated 2 successive republics and now threatens not just this dispensation but the continuation of Nigeria as currently constituted begs the question of whether Nigerian voters were conducting a mass experiment to verify or disprove Albert Einstein’s finding that “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result”.
Finally the inevitable consequence of living in sin and expecting the grace of God to multiply has happened – corruption has caught up with the rulers of Nigeria.
Looking back at Nigeria’s economy prior to Shehu Shagari’s unlamented presidency, those days seem like Nirvana. The economic outlook was robust; the Naira was desirable on the world market; many of our public institutions, while suffering teething problems and attempting to assert their place within the larger polity, were reasonably functional. I maintain this had to do with the continuity which was ensured from the period between independence to the end of Yakubu Gowon’s time as head of state. Murtala Muhammed’s decision to summarily and in one fell swoop sack the top civil servants he inherited after seizing power from Yakubu Gowon denuded the public service of over 1,000 years of institutional experience, talent and memory, set us back in dramatic fashion, and weakened the structure and resilience of the civil service. Now a military officer temporarily occupying the governor’s office, a federal minister’s seat or the presidency could belch an order which had to be carried out “with immediate effect” even though such orders were outside the civil service’s purview or the boundaries of the law. And so the degradation of the professional civil service class was very soon complete.


The economy was destroyed under the weight of Shagari’s corrupt government. Just how bad things had become was driven home to me one day during the dying days of Shagari’s presidency when I read a Nigerian Tribune story about a schoolteacher caught shoplifting in Jos, Plateau State who begged to be let go and given the goods he had stolen on the ground that he had not been paid in 5 months and had a wife and kids at home he couldn’t look after. But I thought the bottom had truly fallen out in the early days of Muhammadu Buhari’s “corrective” regime when I stumbled upon a Daily Sketch report on an armed robbery and firearms tribunal judgment in Ibadan, where the learned judge, rejecting the leniency plea of the two accused men, Segun Pratt and Tokunbo Williams –that they turned to armed robbery because they had been unemployed for over a year—described them as “lazy” and imposed the maximum penalty of death by firing squad. Bottom fallen out? How wrong I was!

Let him who expects one class of society to prosper in the highest degree, while the other is in distress, try whether one side of the face can smile while the other is pinched – Thomas Fuller (English physician and writer, 1654-1734)

In truth, the worst was yet to come. And when it came, it was in the form of 13 years of ibrahim babangida and Sani Abacha both of whom sent the Nigerian economy over the edge. Many of the Boko Haram terrorists were born during babangida’s 1985-93 reign – and suffered the social consequences of the official corruption –euphemistically called “settlement” or, in babangida’s own coinage, “the Nigerian factor”—which babangida institutionalized as state policy. We saw its manifestation first in spikes in armed robberies, kidnappings and advance fee fraud (419), to mention just three. That is the sudden impact. The creeping impact is more insidious, and manifests years down the road when the neonates and toddlers who came into it and grew up in it come of age, bearing on their shoulders the consequences of growing up in a dislocated society –degraded education system, sub-standard health care delivery system, rotting public institutions and infrastructures; and the ostentatious display of wealth stolen through grand scale public corruption activities juxtaposed with blistering public poverty, which is more pronounced in the north.

Clearly the solution to Boko Haram isn’t and can’t be limited to security and law enforcement but must be holistic – Boko Haram is merely a response of unemployed and brainwashed young men to corruption and its consequences cloaked in fundamentalist religious ideology. The Devil has found work for idle hands. Since the beginning of this current dispensation, the PDP controlled federal government has hardly put a foot right in instituting a climate of probity and accountability –or how do you explain Olusegun Obasanjo compulsorily retiring the Auditor General of the Federation after the man uncovered abuses in his annual report? In the present dispensation, to hear Goodluck Jonathan expounding on issues bordering on propriety, probity, accountability and the war on corruption is to imagine Satan working hard to abolish sin. Jonathan’s corruption dwarfs babangida’s and Abacha’s into Lilliputian scale.
Clearly the solution to Boko Haram isn’t and can’t be limited to security and law enforcement but must be holistic – Boko Haram is merely a response of unemployed and brainwashed young men to corruption and its consequences cloaked in fundamentalist religious ideology. 
Of course what this means for the polity at large is this: that unless a drastic departure occurs from “business as usual”, there will be worse than Boko Haram down the road for a successor government to deal with.

Peace we want because there is another war to fight against poverty, disease and ignorance. Indira Gandhi (Indian politician, 1917-1984)

Peace you shall and will earn if and only if --and when-- you truly and sincerely join battle against poverty, disease and ignorance.

Peace will endure in Nigeria only when those who lead her acknowledge our existential oneness and appreciate the logic which undergirds development.

I am myself and what is around me, and if I do not save it, it shall not save me. José Ortega y Gasset (Spanish philosopher (1883-1955) 

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