Islamist Terrorism and State Failure in Northern Nigeria

Boko Haram, six years after it declared war on the Nigerian state, has extended its operation to the neighboring countries of Cameroun and Chad and ranks as the world's deadliest terrorist organization. These developments have lent credence to the view that it is on a mission to eradicate Western cultural influence in Nigeria. However, the conventional narrative does not explain the Jonathan administration's inability to dismantle or significantly degrade it despite an apparently favorable balance of power. Furthermore, it does not explain the government's failure to nip it in the bud during the period of radicalization that for ten years preceded the inception of its terrorist mission. To bridge the existing knowledge gap pertaining to Boko Haram's resilience and growth, this article posits that the Islamist terrorist group and other insurgencies are symptomatic of the dysfunctionality of the Nigerian state. State dysfunction or failure derives from the chronic inclination of the national elites to abuse their role as custodians of public institutions and resources. As evidenced by key national decisions related to constitutional separation of state and religion, Nigeria's membership in the Organization of Islamic Countries, the adoption of sharia by northern states, and the Jonathan administration's counterinsurgency strategy, the autonomy of the Nigerian state and its ability to safeguard the safety of life and property within its borders have been severely compromised by elite behavior marked by political expediency and obsession with personal aggrandizement. Contrary to the conventional narrative, politicians from throughout Nigeria, including those in the south, contributed to the conditions that gave rise to Boko Haram.

Publication Date:
Jun 30 2017
Date Submitted:
Sep 28 2018
Africa Today

 Record created 2018-09-28, last modified 2019-04-03

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