I was once invited to travel to an undisclosed desert location in the Republic of Niger to meet with Colonel Muammar Gaddafi; this invitation came approximately two years before the fall of his regime in Libya and his death at the hands of his captors. The invitation had been extended to me by indigenous entities interested in development in northern Nigeria; it was my understanding that they had previously met with Colonel Gaddafi in Niger soliciting his support and thought that he would fund a food security venture which I had proposed.
I informed them that I did not have a visa to cross into Niger; their response is exactly what I expected, if I were in their company then no visa was needed to cross into any country bordering Nigeria. Having operated for some time in northern Nigeria I knew this to be true; indigenes whether they be in the north, central belt or southern Nigeria respect tribal territory, their true borders, far more so than the fractured sovereign borders which currently define African countries. The current borders are a lasting legacy of Africa’s colonial past; borders which were conjured in the ‘Scramble for Africa’ created primarily to serve the interest of western masters, borders deliberately designed to create a political Frankenstein to control native populations.
The Frankenstein monster has awakened; having evolved from the creature we are familiar with into a somewhat sophisticated and stealth terrorist adept at hiding in the shadows, secretly planning its strikes, while silently stalking its next victims. Frankenstein is now known as Boko Haram. The monster has broken through the restrains of its colonial borders and is now drawing strength, support and sustenance from its true border regions, its territorial tribal borders which reach deep into Chad, Niger, Cameroon and beyond.
The monster is asking the question; “why did you create me”, why was I melded into several foreign parts to form the Nigerian experiment. This is the same question the Niger Delta MEND monster posed before it ravenous appetite was sated with palliatives from the Nigerian government.
Boko Harum has answered the questioned that the Nigerian experiment was created to serve western Christen interest which, they believe, is harum to Islamic interest. Thus it is seeking to return to its pre-colonial and/or tribal territorial borders, its true borders. Boko Harum is by no means alone in expressing a longing to free itself from its colonial amalgamated borders; in addition to MEND one only needs to refer to the not so distance history of the Biafran War.
Colonel Gaddafi being very familiar with the seething unrest boiling within many African nations due to these imposed colonial borders was only too willing to nurture the growth of this monster; seeding it with an abundance of arms and cash. His sojourns into the Sahara were rewarded by untold numbers of recruits joining his ranks to fight and die for his regime. His struggle against western interest to overthrow his regime became their struggle, their struggle to establish independent nations free of colonial borders became his struggle.
His support for their struggle has survived his demise; growing exponentially since his death.
The Tuaregs and other Islamist have joined to establish an independent nation in northern Mali; rebels in northern Niger are strengthening. Chad and Cameroonian insurgents are rapidly expanding the composition of Boko Haram; his funding allowing for training of new recruits in Somalia, Yemen and other countries.
I recall when the first suicide bomber struck the headquarters of the Nigerian Police Force. No one would or could believe that a Nigerian of any ethnicity would become a suicide bomber; this kind of thing just didn’t happen in Nigeria. The Nigerian media initially reported that the driver of the vehicle had planned to park the vehicle in the police compound for detonation at a later time. It was seemingly unfathomable to believe that suicide bombers had arrived in Nigeria.
It is highly instructive to note that the epidemic of suicide bombings arrived in Nigeria soon after Colonel Gaddafi’s conclave in the Sahel.
What is commonly referred to in security parlance as “porous sovereign borders” are in reality the true pre-colonial borders, the true borders, that have been traversed by indigenous tribes for commerce, hunting, weddings, and other social and business gathers long before the advent of the imposed colonial borders of Africa.
When these true borders are viewed within the context of the current unrest plaguing Nigeria and neighboring countries they provide insight into possible insurgent strong holds, as well as provide a potential predictive model to arrest future attacks. But more importantly they provide an acceptable road map to peace for all stakeholders.
Colonel Gaddafi tapped into a gusher of resentment driven by indigenous disenfranchisement due to the imposed colonial borders which historically have served only western interest.
These colonial borders are the true incubators and cause of the corruption which has been so thoroughly vetted and reported in the global media. There has been ongoing raging silent tribal warfare, which has fostered copious amounts of corruption, within Nigeria since its founding as a republic. This tribal warfare is executed annually by tribes plotting to control plum positions in lucrative federal ministries; then protecting senior positions in those ministries for their kind and follow tribesmen. This form of tribal nepotism is the crucible from which springs the most damaging and destructive forms corruptions to rend the Nigerian fabric.
If the two major militant factions are singing the same song from the same hymnal isn’t it time the world listen? All they are saying is that the current system is not working, has never worked, and never will work to serve the interest of those trapped within its borders.
One wonders whose interest is being served by this current border configuration; who is the beneficiary of a system so fractured that a nation has to develop a Federal Character Board to ethnically balance its sports teams, military and government institutions?
Let me be absolutely clear, I am not advocating for the break-up of Nigeria; but for the restructuring and alignment of systems and procedures to meet the needs of all its citizens.
What are the consequences if these systems are not overhauled to the benefit of all Nigerians?
A review of past militant organizations funded by Colonial Gaddafi may offer some insight. The history of Gaddafi backed militants’ reveals that bombs have been a staple in their arsenal to attack institutions. This fact combined with true tribal borders telegraphs the route and nature of future attacks on Nigerian personal and institutions.
In the absence of a negotiated peace deal with Boko Haram the nation should gird itself for more sustained targeted bombing of its federal institutions and commercial centers, assassinations of top state and federal leaders as well as politicians. Based on a review of past bombings by Gaddafi back rebels the militants will use massive bombs and increasingly more sophisticated and powerful ordinance in future attacks to destabilize the country.
As hard targets become more protected, bombing of soft targets, usually urban locations where large crowds of civilians congregate become the default. The recent targeting of the Crystal Lounge, a very popular night club in Abuja, should be viewed as a seminal event in the targeting of soft urban locations.