• Friday, July 19, 2024
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Evil of the year


Since 2013 I have selected a “person” of the year and published my choice first on the op-ed pages of The Guardian, and since 2006 in this column. My nominees and winners have ranged from individuals, groups, projects and have included political and society leaders, business persons and policymakers.

2014, however, marks an unfortunate departure from the norm. The most significant phenomenon in Nigeria in 2014 is not one to be celebrated, but an evil that destroyed lives; devastated communities; diminished us as a nation and a people; desecrated our values; and demeaned our society – “Boko haram”! Sadly, the pervasive influence on our nation in 2014 was the barbaric, murderous, insane and abhorrent group whose official name is Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’Awati Wal-Jihad (“People Committed to the Prophet’s Teachings, Propagation and Jihad”), but which is appropriately known as “Boko Haram” for its repudiation of books, knowledge, modernity, humanity and common sense!

2014 was the year in which the human toll in terms of death from the terrorists’ scourge crossed 20,000 persons. In the first two weeks of 2015, another 2,000 or so innocent lives may have also been taken by the brutes of Nigeria’s North East and their cynical, evil and diabolical sponsors who consider human lives dispensable in pursuit of power, hegemony and domination.
The terrorists also subverted our politics. Our politicians could not separate the overriding national interest from partisan politics and so politicians promoted a senseless amnesty, and opposed declaration of a state of emergency even though the terrorists had by then killed probably 10,000 people; politicians played games with terrorism and it is undeniable that in its birth, expansion, growth and recent escalation, Boko Haram has been deployed as an instrument of gaining political power! Every time Boko Haram killed, politicians and their “Almajiris of the internet” (poorly-educated and/or values-neutral young men and women deployed for mindless propaganda on electronic “streets” and “highways” on social media) celebrated, seeing nothing but an advancement of their masters’ and sponsors’ political objectives. For political reasons our National Assembly even refused to renew the regional emergency even as the situation in the region remains critical.

Boko Haram brought odium and shame upon our nation in the international community! 2014 was the year in which, finally, no discussion on the barbarianism of Islamist terrorism anywhere in the world was complete without mentioning ISIS, Taliban, Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Al Shebaab and Boko Haram; the year in which Nigeria fully joined Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon as centres of global terrorism.

In 2014, Nigeria was officially recognised worldwide as the country responsible for the deaths of the largest number of Christians, due to their faith. Across vast swathes of North East and North Central Nigeria (Plateau, Benue, Nasarawa, Adamawa, Kaduna, Borno, Yobe, Gombe, Bauchi, etc.), it has become very dangerous to be a Christian! 2014 marked an escalation in the numbers of internally displaced Nigerians, people killed, raped, tortured and forced to flee their homes and communities by terrorists bearing different brand names – “Boko Haram”, “Fulani herdsmen”, “Fulani mercenaries”, “unknown gunmen”, etc.

Of course, 2014 was the year terrorists kidnapped over 200 girls from Chibok in Borno State and, according to their deranged leader, Imam Shekau (or whoever is currently playing that role), shared or sold them into forced marriage, sex slavery and servitude mirroring 7th century practices that we all thought the world had turned its back on for good. 2014 was the year the terrorists’ activities became synchronised with the political calendar, and it became predictable that as the 2015 elections approached, the evil atrocities of this scourge will increase. 2014 was the year in which it became apparent that Boko Haram’s objective was to bomb and kill our people into submission; and in which the terrorists expected us, weary and defeated, to give in to their will. 2014 was also the year in which Boko Haram strategy evolved into taking and holding territory.

As Boko Haram was destroying North East Nigeria, its peers were ravaging elsewhere – ISIS became a global concern across Iraq, Syria and the Middle East, as well as in Western Capitals; Al Shebaab brought death and destruction to Kenya and Somalia… 2014 was not just the year Boko Haram battered Nigeria, it was the year Islamist terrorism became a mainstream global concern!

In 2014, as elections approached, Boko Haram became the subject of intense, cynical propaganda! As suspicions heightened about the “ownership” of the terrorists, subterfuge took over and weak minds could no longer tell truth from propaganda, as an Australian told us that a Christian General from Igboland was the sponsor of Boko Haram! And several naive Nigerians believed the lie!

2014 was the year elements within the Nigerian government and their collaborators in Chad sent the Nigerian government on a wild goose chase seeking an elusive truce with the fundamentalist terrorists. As the military began to destroy Boko Haram, a mysterious truce supposedly brokered by Chad and facilitated by very senior people in government was announced – as it turned out, a de facto stratagem to buy the terrorists a breather!

Many things happened in 2014 – a fairly balanced two-party system emerged (though one defined solely by the opportunistic prospect of power, rather than any differentiation between the parties); oil prices collapsed; a private sector-controlled power sector began to institutionalise; agricultural reforms proceeded apace; capital markets collapsed; two nationalised bridge banks were sold to private banks; a mortgage refinancing company was started and a e-national identity card scheme launched; an industrial strategy and enterprise development programme was conceived; most importantly, 2014 was the year Nigeria officially became the largest economy in Africa and twenty-sixth in the world, but all these were over-shadowed by the evil of Boko Haram.

Boko Haram was the evil of 2014, but by the grace of God and the power of our courage, determination and resilience, it will not prevail!


Opeyemi Agbaje