The Once and Future Biafra? (Part 1)

In Nigeria,the war in the north against Christians continues to widen, with Christian girls kidnapped (and some used as sex slaves), Christian villages and churches destroyed, and Christians killed, by both the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram, which is largely made up of Hausa tribesmen, and by Fulani (Muslim)  herdsmen. Recently Vice President Yemi Osinbajo called on Muslims and Christians to unite against “radical Islamist terrorism,” stressing that it was a common enemy of all faiths. It was the usual hopeful hopeless call for the “real” Muslims to join forces with Christians against those Muslims who follow a “twisted creed”:

Osinbajo urged Christians and Muslims to unite against fanatics committed to a twisted creed, which exploited the tenets of Islam, poverty, and exclusion “to recruit men and women and use children to perpetuate the most heinous atrocities.”

The vice president spoke at the 2019 Nigerian Army Day Celebration and Combat Support Arms Training Week held at the Ikeja Cantonment, in Lagos. He said terrorists did not have responsible grievances and, therefore, no terms of reference for peace.

According to him, radical Islamic terrorism “is an evil that must be seen as the common enemy of all faiths, including Islam. As the president said, and I paraphrase, anyone who says Allahu Akbar and goes on to kill is either insane or dangerously ignorant of the tenets of Islam.”

Perhaps Osinbajo really believes that what is driving Muslim terrorists is not Islam but, rather, a “twisted creed” — that is, a distorted version of the real and peaceful Islam — derived from “tenets of Islam, poverty, and exclusion.” Let’s take those claims in reverse order. What “exclusion” is he referring to? Don’t Muslims in Nigeria participate fully in the political and economic life of the country? Some would argue that, given their numbers — Muslims are 48.3%, and Christians 49.2%, of the population, they are over-represented in the military and in the political class. Many of the upper officer corps are Muslims. Far from being “excluded” from political life, most of Nigeria’s presidents have been Muslims. It is true that Boko Haram discourages its members from engaging in politics, believing that any political system not based on Sharia should be rejected, but the vast majority of Muslims participate eagerly, hoping always to retain greater power for the Muslim half of the population.

As to poverty helping to explain Muslim terrorism, this is the same claim that used to be made about Muslim terrorists elsewhere — that “poverty” was a root cause of Islamic terrorism — but then researchers examining the data on captured and killed Jihadis discovered that the terrorists were both better educated, and better off economically, than the average Muslim. Bin Laden, the son of a Saudi billionaire, had a private fortune of tens of millions of dollars. Ayman Al-Zawihiri, his second in command, was a surgeon and scion of one of Egypt’s most prominent families. His grand-uncle was Azzam Pasha, the first Secretary-General of the Arab League. Mohamed “Mike” Hawash was earning $300,000 a year as an Intel engineer, living with his American wife and children, when he tried to travel to Asia to join up with Taliban terrorists. Major Nidal Hasan was earning $90,000 a year as an army doctor when he killed 13 of his fellow soldiers in a terrorist attack. Among the Muslims flocking to ISIS from Europe there have been many professionals — engineers, doctors, lawyers, computer specialists. The most famous of Nigerian would-be terrorists was Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the “Undeerwear Bomber,” whose father,  Alhaji Umaru Mutallab, was described by The Times in 2009 as being “one of the richest men in Africa.”

Which brings us to the “tenets of Islam” that have been distorted into a “twisted creed.” The Vice-President doesn’t tell us which “tenets of Islam” have been “twisted.” It is difficult to believe that he doesn’t know perfectly well what is in the Qur’an. In Nigeria, Christians in positions of power need to understand the Muslim belief system. He surely has read many of the 109 Qur’anic verses commanding Muslims to wage violent jihad, that is, to “kill” and to “fight” and to “smite at the necks of” and to “strike terror in the hearts of” non-Muslims. He also must know the verses describing non-Muslims as “the most vile of created beings” while Muslims are “the best of peoples.” But he prefers to look away, to choose to believe that Muslims themselves don’t believe these verses, that to take them seriously is to accept a “twisted creed” rather than the “real Islam.” For if Yemi Osinbajo were to be quite honest about the texts, and to recognize that many Qur’anic verses command terror attacks on Christians and other non-Muslims, could he dare to admit it openly? He would only enrage Muslims for telling the truth, and terrify many Christians,  who would be left only with the prospect of endless warfare, to defend themselves against the Jihadis. It’s understandable that this Nigerian politician, like so many political and media figures in the West, cannot allow himself to face the horrifying truth about Islam’s texts and teachings.

But he is whistling in the dark. And he is choosing to forget that there is a history here, that goes back half a century in Nigeria. It’s the history of a previous Jihad by northern Muslims, determined in 1967 to snuff out the young life of the newly-declared independent state of Biafra, where the Christians in southern Nigeria hoped to be free from Muslim persecution and pogroms. They lost their war for independence. That first Biafra War, and a possible second Biafra War, will be taken up tomorrow.

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