Commentary | Boko Haram has been blamed for the death and destruction that rocked the northeastern city of Potiskum, Nigeria on Saturday; killing seven and injuring dozens more. At least 30 people were murdered during the last three days in a wave of shooting, stabbing and bombing by the Islamist fanatics terrorizing the African nation.
A nurse at a local hospital reported receiving 20 bodies at the morgue. Asking not to be identified, she told foreign journalists, “Most of them have gunshot wounds, but some had their throat slit.”
The weekend”s violence is part of a reign of terror being waged by Boko Haram against Nigeria’s non-Muslim population. Since its founding in 2001, Boko Haram (Hausa for “Western education is sinful”) has burned hundreds of churches to the ground; leaving countless homes and villages in ruins. The group has killed thousands of civilians and forced untold numbers of Christians to go into hiding in fear for their lives.
Boko Haram is a Salafi Jihadi organization that has openly declared its intention to impose its ultra conservative brand of Islam on all of Nigeria’s inhabitants. Earlier in the year, the groups leader, Abubakar Shekau, told the lawfully elected Christian President of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, to convert to Islam or resign and leave the country immediately.
The military units assigned to track down the heavily armed terrorists have also been accused of committing crimes against humanity and engaging in the indiscriminate slaughter of non-combatants. Several well known international organizations, including Human Rights Watch, have filed numerous complaints about government troops murdering, raping and looting the very people they are supposed to protect.
Those of us who are blessed to live in First World nations have a tendency to shake our heads, voice our sympathy for the victims, and then, we go about our business. Sadly, the daily torment of the Nigerian people is too difficult and frightening for most of us to think about.
Imagine, if you will, that you live in a sub-Saharan African nation of 162,000,000 human beings. You struggle to find your place in a society that is still being pulled in several different directions by competing cultures, tribes and religious beliefs. Many of your nation’s people live in poverty, the median life expectancy is 52 years, and four percent of the population is infected with the HIV virus. You do your best to provide the necessities of life, but even feeding your family is difficult in a country that has a Per Capita income of $1200 per year.
Life for the average Nigerian is difficult at best, but consider what it would be like to live in a country that is virtually torn in half by religious differences. Northern Nigeria is home to many of Nigeria’s 79 million Muslims and Southern Nigeria shelters a large number of Nigeria’s 80 million Christians. The two regions function as nations within a nation, with an ever widening gulf growing between them.
Day to day existence is hard enough, but the tribulations of daily life are nothing compared to the constant attacks by Boko Harum and the crimes of the government troops who also prey on the helpless population. The fanatics of Boko Harum have given all non-Muslims three simple choices; Convert to Islam, leave Nigeria or prepare to be slaughtered. The government troops are a law unto themselves and the average Nigerian is crushed between a rock and a hard place.
First World nations can no longer blame Nigeria’s problems on lack of economic opportunity. We can”t be fooled by clever political pundits who would like to ignore the fact that a religious war is being waged by a dedicated group of vicious madmen. Instead of exploiting Nigeria’s immense oil reserves, we need to save the lives of innocent human beings. The United Nations and the free world ignored the cries of the people of Rwanda and a million Rwandans died. We must make our leaders understand that we simply will not tolerate another bloodbath in Africa, and we will not allow another African nation to be stripped of its wealth. The time has come to raise our voices against the hatred of Boko Haram and demand peace for all the people of Nigeria.