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TERRORISM IN NIGERIA: UNVEILING THE REAL TERRORiSTS
An Inaugural Lecture
PROFESSOR HENRY ALAPIKI
B.Sc, PGDE, M.Sc, PhD (UPH
Department of Political and Administrative Studies
Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Port Harcourt
INAUGURAL LECTURE SERIES
MARCH 12, 2015
Vice Chancellor Sir, I am humbled and highly honored to be invited to deliver the University’s 117th Inaugural Lecture to express my thoughts and vision of a better Nigerian Society where peace and development would thrive beyond the chains of terror and bad governance. As a Social Scientist and Professor of Political Science, I make bold to say that “unless we get the politics of our country right -by conducting public affairs strictly on the basis of the rule of law, economic development, public morality, peace, justice and equity will remain in chains and the people will remain in bondage”.
Living in bondage is a state of subjection to force, power or influence beyond your control. The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines it as:
“The state of being under the control of a force or influence or abstract power, e.g. “he was in bondage to fear”; he sought release from his bondage to negative and evil powers”
In a society where the citizens live in bondage, they will evidently lack political freedom, liberty, basic social services and absence of fundamental human rights.
This will be so if and when the views and interests of the masses do not count. In such a case, those who “capture” power act like demigods and govern in a reckless and ruthless manner, unmindful of a probable backlash.
Where the above scenario exists, you find the absence of the rule of law as the dominant guiding principle of governance. In such circumstances, the judiciary is likely to be in a state of near comatose. The result is the enthronement of the culture of impunity” at all levels of governance. It is common knowledge that culture is the way of life of a people. Hence, where impunity become the dominant feature of a political culture of a society, the citizens — as individuals and groups, tendentially resort to lawlessness and self-help; where obedience to the law is weak, individuals become laws unto themselves. Brute force and terror become weapons of choice for those who want to exercise power over others. If and when this state of affairs becomes a common feature of a society, then the “commonwealth” has regressed back to what the political philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, referred to as the “state of nature”, a condition where “everyman has the liberty to do anything he thinks necessary to preserve his life. In such a society, life will be ‘solitary’, poor, nasty brutish and short”.
Mr. Vice Chancellor and distinguished audience, in these circumstances, it does not require native intelligence to see the link between the “culture of impunity” and the “culture of terrorism’. It is in the light of the foregoing necessary precursory that I have chosen the title of this inaugural lecture as: “The State and The Culture of Terrorism in Nigeria: Unveiling the Real Terrorists”. In the discussions that follow, we shall seek to answer the following questions:
Who is a terrorist?
What are the causes of terrorism?
How and why is the state the key actor in terrorism in Nigeria?
How can we win the war against terrorism?
What is the way forward?
This lecture shall be presented in four parts. First, is the introduction and conceptualization of terrorism. Secondly, we shall highlight the nature and character of the Nigerian state and the tendential recourse to terrorism. Thirdly, we shall examine the rise of domestic terrorism in Nigeria and its causes and effects. The fourth section shall be devoted to finding the way forward.
Terrorism is perhaps the most challenging problem of our time nationally and internationally. For some of us, the effect of terrorism may not have hit home yet, having not suffered at the hands of terrorists or living in the hope that terrorist activities will not come to your area or region. If you hope and think in this manner, you may be living in a fools paradise. Can anyone say for sure that “he is safe from terrorism because of distance”? I hope not. The world has become a global village, and it does not matter anymore which part of the world you live in. The unfortunate reality is that terrorism has gone global and every citizen of this world is equally susceptible and vulnerable. Every time you travel by air, bus, train or gather in a public event, you can’t help wondering at the back of your mind, the possibility that anything is possible. The world has lost its innocence, not that there was much innocence earlier. but whatever there was, none seems to exist now. So what do we do? Should we restrain ourselves to the fact that terrorism cannot be fought with? Or that there is no solution to terrorism? Well, I believe that there are possible solutions that we can look at. To begin, however, we need to understand what causes terrorism. From this perspective, we can then focus part of our efforts to dealing with the instigating variables which promote terrorism.
There is neither an academic nor an international legal consensus regarding the definition of the term ‘terrorism. Various governments and agencies adopt different definitions. The difficulties, which occasion the reluctance to formulate a common legally binding definition, emanate from the fact that the tennis politically and emotionally charged.
Definitional issues are matters of pragmatism and fruitfulness. In the non-scholarly analysis of terrorism, they often become emotional items structured in the we-and-them perceptive prism. Those who enjoy our sympathy are called “freedom fighters”, while the ”enemy” groups are terrorists and criminals. In a similar vein, people sometimes call self-styled freedom fighters terrorists if they do not have the support of the population that they claim to speak for (Richardson, 2007:32). It is because the term terrorism is so loaded with conceptual problems that a generally accepted definition of it still does not exist. Below is a list of definitions of terrorism by some of the most distinguished scholars and institutions on the matter.
* The US Department of Defense defines terrorism as “the calculated use of violence or threat of violence to inculcate fear, intended to coerce or to intimidate governments or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological”.
* The UN General Assembly (Resolution 49/60) describes terrorism as: “criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public”
* The Arab Convention for the suppression of terrorism defines it as: “any act or threat of violence that occurs in the advancement of a criminal agenda and seeking to sow panic among people, causing fear by harming them, or placing their lives, liberty and security in danger, or seeking to cause damage to the environment or to public and public institutions and property”.
* The UN Security Council (Resolution 1566) (2004) defines terrorism as: “criminal acts, including acts against civilians committed with the intent to cause death or serious bodily injury, or taking of hostages. with the purpose to provoke a state of terror in the general public or in a group of persons or particular persons, intimidate a population or compel a government or an international organization to abstain from taking action against terror”.
* Alex Schmid and Albert Jongman (1988) define terrorism as “an anxiety-inspiring method of repeated violent action, employed by individuals, groups or state actors for idiosyncratic, criminal or political reasons. whereby the direct targets of violence are not the main targets. The immediate human victims of violence are generally chosen randomly (targets of opportunity) or selectively (symbolic targets) from a target population, and serve as message generators.
* Alexander Yonah (1976) aptly defined terrorism as: “the use of violence against random civilian targets in order to intimidate or to create generalized pervasive fear for the purpose of achieving political goals”.
Deduced from the definitions above, we can conclude that terrorism is:
- A specific type of violence. It can be international or domestic.
- It is perpetuated mainly against civilians.
- It is a planned and calculated action. The selection of a target is neither spontaneous nor random.
- Terrorism is motivated by political, religious, ideological and socioeconomic objectives.
- It is action intended to produce fear i.e. a psychological act conducted for its impact on an audience.
TYPES OF TERRORISM
Terrorism is classified or categorized differently by different scholars and institutions. One classification shows 5 different types of terrorism thus: nationalists, religious, state-sponsored, left wing and right wing terrorism.
- a) Nationalist Terrorists seek to form separate state for their own national group, often by drawing attention to a fight or struggle for national liberation” that they think the world has ignored. Nationalist terrorism can sometimes be difficult to define since many groups accused of terrorism and brutality insist that they are not terrorists but freedom fighters.
- b) Religious terrorists seek to use violence to further what they see as divinely commanded purposes. often targeting broad categories of foes in an attempt to bring about sweeping changes. Nearly half of the 28 known active international terrorist groups were religiously motivated. (see list below)
- c) State-sponsored terrorist groups are organizations deliberately used or supported by radical states as foreign policy tools. It is a cost-effective way of waging war covertly, through the use of surrogate warriors. Iran, Syria, Lebanon and Libya (under late Gadhafi) are states frequently accused of sponsoring foreign terrorist organizations.
- d) Left-wing terrorism —these are groups which aim to destroy capitalism and replace it with a communist or socialist regime. Because they claim to be “protectors” of the suffering masses, left-wing terrorists limit their use of violence to avoid hurting.