On my way from the Igbo and predominantly Christian Eastern Nigeria to Lagos a couple of days ago I fell into conversation with co-passengers in a bus. They were mostly young undergraduates and school leavers. Nobody in the bus had witnessed the Nigerian civil war of 1967-1970 first hand. But as information on the Kaduna bombing reached us almost everyone came to the conclusion that only Nigeria’s break-up would end the Boko Haram onslaught.
Since then I have been wondering if it is over for Nigeria. Since the Madalla bomb blasts of Christmas last year, massacres of Christians, Southern Nigerians and moderate Muslims in Northern Nigeria has become a way of life. The effect on the national psyche is staggering. Fear and rage pervades the country. There are no sacred places in the bombers’ hit list.
The perceptions and implications of Boko Haram’s campaign are ominous.
Nigeria’s fragile ethnic and religious links are quickly unraveling. Reprisals are getting more organized and bloodier. Extremist fringes of Christianity and Islam in Nigeria, hitherto checked, are having a field day in utterance, if not action. Quite a few Nigerians are coming to the conclusion that the Jonathan government cannot cope with the security challenges. Thus they should resort to self-help.
Interestingly, the Northern Nigerian elite who are strongly opposed to Jonathan’s government are pleading with Boko Haram to cease fire. In the Southern part of Nigeria these elite are seen as the invisible backers of Boko Haram to incapacitate the government. If they are now seeking peace the ugly probability that Boko Haram has become a Frankenstein monster comes to mind. But the role of fundamentalist Islam infiltrating from the Middle East and North Africa cannot be ignored.
Nigeria is unlikely to survive another civil war, especially a religious one. At times I am tempted to write a posthumous apology to Colonel Mummar Gaddafi for the slur Nigerians heaped on him when he called for Nigeria’s division along religious and ethnic lines.