Boko Haram now on last legs, says Al Qalam guest speaker

The days of terror group Boko Haram is numbered, says Nigerian personality Dr. Usman Bugaje who was the guest speaker at Al Qalam Lecture Series event in Durban. Naseema Mall reports.

Since it emerged on the Nigerian landscape 10-years ago, Boko Haram’s reign of terror has left thousands dead and has displaced over two million people.

In its orgy of terror, many school, homes, mosques and markets were destroyed. But after a decade of tracking Boko Haram, the group is being pulverized from all sides, said Nigerian academic and Boko Haram specialist Dr. Usman Bugaje, when addressed guests at Al Qalam Lecture Series event in Durban recently.

Bugaje was brought to South Africa by the Afro-Middle East Centre (AMEC) to conduct a seminar in Johannesburg.

Bugaje briefed the audience on the history of Boko Haram and why it emerged on the scene. He said it first started out by youths who had good education but could not find work.

“Boko Haram is not a label that the group gave itself. They were labelled as such when they took the world stage. It was started by a young man by the name of Muhammad Yusuf who felt that Western education was not fulfilling a purpose in the Nigerian context. It was not helping him and other young people find suitable employment. So he mobilised other disenfranchised youth by empowering them, but at the same time he propagated his radical teachings,” explained Bugaje.

According to Bugaje when the governor of Borno state recognised Yusuf’s influence, he approached him for help to gain electoral support. But their relationship soured and the group went underground. After six months they resurfaced and their strategy led to the bombing of government offices, until criminal elements entered the fray and the group eventually began targeting civilians.

In describing the character of Boko Haram, Bugaje said: “This is basically a group of young people who are dissatisfied with the Nigerian state. It’s a revolt by Nigeria’s young people against political economics. But after it escalated, it became a franchise and so many other people joined including Christians – there are Christian members of Boko Haram. What is called ‘Islamic” is basically the discourse which they use. Having “graduated’ from a big movement with external links, they managed to get training, logistical support and other means of sharing intelligence. This is how they’ve sustained themselves.”

Bugaje said that the new regime has had major successes in the past and current year in destroying numerous Boko Haram cells which has significantly weakened the terror group. Many had been arrested.

Nigeria has been fighting the terror group for well over a decade. For the first few years it was basically an internal problem, but over time, the group forged links with other insurgent groups, such as ISIS.

In comparing the previous government of Goodluck Jonathon to the current regime led by Muhammadu Buhari, Bugaje said unfortunately there was no political will to confront Boko Haram under the leadership of Jonathon. However, under Nigeria’s leadership, Buhari has made it his mission to get rid of Boko Haram with the help of coalition countries that include Chad and Cameroon. “There is no doubt that Boko Haram started out as a youth revolt against the establishment that gave them no hope,” said Bugaje.

*Dr. Bugaje has authored over 50 publications dealing with good governance, poverty, education, environmental and reproductive health. He is a former national secretary of Nigeria’s opposition Action Congress, chair of the Nigerian parliament’s house Committee on foreign affairs, and presidential envoy to Sudan.


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