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Boko Haram gets a helping hand from desperate elites in Nigeria

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Issue 2407

The sectarian insurgency waged by Islamist group Boko Haram in Nigeria continues to claim lives in the dozens and hundreds.

This has been virtually on a daily basis since the abduction of over 270 female school students in the north?eastern state of Borno in April.

One of the reasons for the deadly toll is the support Boko Haram receives from civilian and military members of the ruling class. 

Serving senator Mohammed Ali Ndume was taken to court for allegedly collaborating with the group in 2011.

And Boko Haram fugitive Kabiru Sokoto was tracked down in the Borno state Governor’s lodge. He had been sentenced to death for his role in the 2011 Christmas day bombing of St. Theresa Catholic church on the outskirts of Abuja. 

Now reports say that ten generals and five other high ranking military officers have been sentenced by a court martial for providing the group with arms and information.

The government claims no courts martial were held. But the army made a statement last year that courts martial were being constituted and would be headed by General Ebiobowei Awala.


Tensions within the ruling class have been decisive in pushing the sectarian group further into the adoption of terror tactics. 

Two years ago, General Azazi who was then the National Security Adviser claimed that Boko Haram insurgents had “suddenly became better trained, better equipped and better funded”.

He said this was due to support from factions within the ruling People’s Democratic Party. Shortly after this he was removed from the cabinet. He later died in a helicopter crash.

When Ansaru, a smaller Jihadist group, ambushed a contingent of soldiers bound for Mali in January last year, the military cried out that it must have been infiltrated.

But probably the most damning insight comes from President Goodluck Jonathan himself.

During the 2012 Armed Forces Remembrance Day, he complained of highly placed Boko Haram supporters in all branches of government and in the military.

Boko Haram is a contradictory phenomenon. It was able to build a membership of a quarter of a million between 2002 and 2008, largely through its message of hope in the hereafter and bringing down the rich in the present.

This found resonance in the hearts of millions wallowing in destitution, despair and disillusionment in the north east. This is Nigeria’s most poverty-stricken region and the one with the highest rate of illiteracy.

Boko Haram grew in strength as sections of the elite there courted it. They hoped this would ensure victory at the polls for them.

Forced underground after the killing of its pioneer leader Mohammed Yusuf, the group took up arms. It increased in deadly sophistication as the years passed.

Resources from the bosses as well as weaponry from military top brass have been significant in the sect’s growing thirst and capacity for mayhem. The need for a revolutionary pole of attraction for the working poor, and against the ruling class as a whole, is essential. 

Only this can undermine the sectarian politics which the elite feed on and stoke up.

Baba Aye is a member of the Socialist Workers League in Nigeria



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