Globalization of the Radical Islamist Terrorism and the Boko Haram in Nigeria

скачать Автор: Eyesan, Solomon - подписаться на статьи автора
Журнал: Journal of Globalization Studies. Volume 11, Number 1 / May 2020 - подписаться на статьи журнала


The Nigerian Society is engulfed by acts of terrorism by the Boko Haram group that has been carrying its activities through bomb attacks and kidnapping. This new phenomenon has become a major concern not only for the Nigerians but also for the global community. The rate of terrorist attacks across the globe is increasingly worrisome. The shock caused by the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack brought to the open the global nature of terrorism. Globalization has contributed greatly to the globalization of radical Islamist terrorist organizations and this is seen as a serious threat to world security. This threat is real because of the spread and interconnectivity of terror groups around the world: ISIS1 in Eastern Syria, al-Shabab in Somalia, al Qaeda2 in Maghreb, and Boko Haram in Northern Nigeria. The recent declaration of allegiance by the Boko Haram group to the ISIS, its sophisticated weaponry, its root in radical Islamism has brought to bear the globalization of the group and the place of Nigeria in the global terrorism network. This paper examines global terrorism and the globalization of Boko Haram radical Islamist terrorist group. We propose Dewey's democracy as a system of values that can help mitigate terrorism in Nigeria.

Keywords: terrorism, globalization, terror, democracy, Islamism, Boko Haram.

Solomon Eyesa, Nnamdi Azikiwe Uiniversity, Awka more


Globalization has contributed greatly to the development and progress of the human race. However, in recent years scholars and nations have started to be worried about the true nature and notion of globalization, and its effects on some global issues like terrorism. The September 11, 2001 attack on the Twin Towers in New York and Pentagon building in Washington brought to the open the global nature of terrorism and the place of globalization as a possible enabler of international terrorism. The response was ‘a war on terror against groups defined as a murderous, oppressive, violent and hateful, whose Islamic radicalism is fingered as responsible for the attack and seen as threat to peace, security and prosperity of global community’ (Oviasogie 2013: 20). Since then, several radical terrorist groups have emerged and some of them like al Qaeda, Boko Haram, al Shabab, and ISIS have taken a global dimension in their operations thereby making terrorism a global issue. This study examines the global nature of terrorism and the globalization of radical Islamist terrorism. Some of the questions that triggered this study are: What is terrorism? What is globalization? What is international terrorism? What are the causes of international terrorism? Does globalization propel global terrorism and to what extent? Has terrorism become a global phenomenon, and to what extent?

Conceptualizing Terrorism

There is no generally accepted academic definition of terrorism, and this is due to the controversial nature of the concept and the fact that the discipline of terrorism research is relatively young. The term ‘terrorism’ is not unique to the modern period. It dates back to the eighteenth century. Terrorism comes from the French word ‘terrorisme’ and originally referred specifically to the state of terrorism as practiced by the French government during the 1793–1794 reign of terror. The Latin word ‘terrere’ means ‘to frighten or scare’. It was first used in France during the rule of terror days. It was referred to as state terrorism. This, according to Kolawole Ogunboyede in his article Terrorism and Democratic Governance in Nigeria, connotes bloody repression by government agents directed primarily at the non-arm bearing masses. Essentially, the most pervasive feature of state terrorism is that, people are detained arbitrarily and usually have no right to judicial process and protection. Other attributes of state terrorism include summary trials and extra-judicial killings, beatings, torture and death squads by shooting at sight (Ogunboyede 2014: 36).

Terrorism is difficult to define and conceptualize. It covers different kinds of activities. In addition, ‘this is the reason why it has being said that one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter’ (Ibid.). However, some scholars like Paul Johnson have traced the intellectual background of terrorism to Fanon. Fanon's idea of violence, it is believed, gave rise to the modern notion of terrorism as a revolutionary and liberating activity. For Fanon, violence can be used as a tool for liberating and cleansing oneself or a group from the chains of oppression and domination. Hence, terrorism has been described variously as both ‘…a tactic and strategy; a crime and a holy duty; a justified reaction to oppression and inexcusable abomination’ (Ibid.). Merrick Yamamoto describes terrorism as a form of political violence; that is violence used for a political purpose. ‘Political’, he opined, can be described as ‘concerned with government, the state, or politics and political violence is used to try to obtain some kind of political change, or to prevent political change’ (Yamamoto 2015: 1). Other forms of political violence include war, civil war, military strikes, ethnic conflict, genocide, etc. It must be stated that it is hard to differentiate one form of political violence from the other. However, according to Yamamoto, ‘what sets terrorism apart from almost all other forms of political violence is how terrorism “operates”’ (Yamamoto 2015: 1). Almost all other forms of political violence operate in the same faction. But in terrorism, ‘the attackers use violence against one set of targets (the targets of violence) as a means to get other targets – the third party targets such as groups, government, organizations, and individuals – to take actions that will help averse a political goal’ (Yamamoto 2015: 1). In corroborating this point, the United States Department of Defense define terrorism as ‘the calculated use of unlawful violence or threat of violence to inculcate fear; intended to coerce or to intimidate government or societies in the pursuit of goals that are generally political, religious, or ideological(Zumve 2013: 125).

Furthermore, there are some key features of every instance of terrorism. In every instance of terrorism, there must and there is always some terrifying act. It always connotes fear and terror. It is the fear that until and unless the attacker's demands and wishes are carried there will be some unimaginable and unacceptable consequences. It therefore means that the direct targets are not the primary target of terrorists attack. Thus, we can opine that terrorism is a way and means of communication. Thus, terrorists do not primarily aim at the physical but on the psychological effect of their attack. Terrorism uses a strategy that primarily relies on the symbolic strength of the act. The use of terror serves not primarily the purpose of fighting, injuring or destroying the opponent. Rather, its primary purpose lies in the conveying of messages to the target audience(s) (Bockstette 2008: 8).

Other features and characteristics of terrorism are non-state actor – that is a private group or a clandestine state agent, violence, or the threat of violence that is premeditated, unlawful and random/symbolic. In addition, terrorist attacks use violence and the threat of violence against non-combatants and property. Terrorist attacks are intended to affect third parties and elicit responses from them to advance political, ideological or religious goals. Further, terrorist attacks use mechanisms such as coercion, intimidation, provocation, and inspiration to try to elicit desired responses from third parties. To this end, there are various types of terrorism. Wilkinson writing identified other types of terrorist groups. According to him, we have ‘Ethno-nationalist groups, that is, those identified by ethnicity and political motivation; Ideological terrorist groups – this includes terrorist groups that want to create a state based on an ideology (e.g., a communist state); the religious – political groups such as the Boko Haram sect in Nigeria, which aims to create an Islamic republic’ (Zumve 2013: 126). Another identified type of terrorism is international terrorism. This happens when ‘a terrorist act in a particular country encompasses victims, targets, institutions, government, or citizens of another country’ (Iviarquardt et al. 2018).

From the forgoing, it is obvious that terrorism causes a lot of harm to man. However, it depends on which angle one is looking at it. Morally speaking, can a terrorist act be justified? Is it ethically right to use terror, violence as a means of achieving some group's desires and demands in a state? These questions are important because of the nature of terrorism. Scholars have given different and conflicting answers to the above questions and as such, there is no single answer. Accordingly, coming from the utilitarian angle, an action is right if it will bring about the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people. Does an act of terrorism bring about the greatest good to the greatest number of people that suffer from it? The answer is no, because terrorist activities result in the death of many. Terrorist act does not benefit the people. It only benefits the interests of the few. Even from the Kantian lens, terrorism cannot be justified, as it cannot be universalized.

The Concept of Globalization

The concept of globalization has attracted great scholarly-theoretical and practical attention since the latter part of the twentieth century. Such theoretical and practical references have showed the degree to which globalization depicts the collapse of traditional territorial boundaries and the interconnectedness of man in the universe and the integration of nations. The concept of globalization is a plausible development that we live in a world that is always yearning for justice, fairness, social order, equality and integration. The push for globalization was triggered by the increase in global capital, technological developments, changes in Information and Communication Technology (ICT), inter-dependence in world economic relations, changes in international transportation and migration. Thus, there is a bridge of the gap between peoples and nations of the world, thereby bringing people and countries closer.

Globalization is a phenomenon that has security, socio-political and cultural dimensions. To this end, different scholars have given several definitions of globalization. Birch asserts that globalization is (1) a growing concern and international action about environmental problems of global significance; (2) the growth of a world market as the consequence of lower, transport costs and the wide spread reduction of custom duties; (3) the establishment of international courts to protect human rights; (4) the trend that liberal governments, or coalitions therefore should have the right, or the duty to intervene in the internal affairs of other states; and (5) the growth of worldwide means of communication leading to the possibility of the globalization of culture (Birch 2000: 31).

In Dukor's view, ‘globalization is a practical and philosophical concept of economic integration, information and communication highways, justice and fairness for mankind under the aegis of the United Nations and the concept of man as an end in himself’ (Dukor 2008: 17). Princova also defines globalization as ‘an irreversible process presented by the huge international market, the information revolution, and the universal advocacy of human rights, global cultural industry, and polycentric international politics with the impact on the everyday life of people’ (Princova 2010: 131). In sum, there seems to be consensus that ‘globalization is enabling each of us to reach around the world farther, faster, deeper and cheaper than ever before and it is enabling the world to reach into each of us farther, faster, deeper and cheaper than ever before’ (Friedman 2001).

Globalization and Terrorism

Terrorism in recent years has taken a global dimension and some scholars have attributed this to globalization. Thus, some believe that international terrorism is ‘an instrument of the weak against the strong, the minority against the strong, and the minority against the majority’ (Grinin et al. 2019: 110). Some others believe, with reasons, that terrorist organizations carry out their attacks because of their view that globalization is ‘harmful to them and their communities culturally’ (Jakeeyremdy 2011).

As a trend globalization is a welcome development due to the advantages that it brings especially in the area of trade, communication, transportation, economic integration and technological developments. However, it also came with some pitfalls and this is manifested in acts of violence across the globe. Hence, one negative effect of globalization is radical Islamist terrorism that is a global phenomenon. For Cronin, ‘this current wave of international terrorism, characterized by unpredictable and unprecedented threats from non-state actors, not only is a reaction to globalization, but facilitated by it…’ (Cronin 2003: 30–58). The point is that most international terrorist groups claim to be opposed to globalization, the imposition of globalization on their states and other perceived injustice. On the other hand, they make use of technological developments in carrying out their acts in the international scene, thereby effectively making globalization a propeller and catalyst to international terrorism.

One major driver of globalization that is a catalyst to international terrorism is ICT advancements. Technology has made the act of terrorism transcend national boundaries in terms of the means, which they are accomplished, their targets, or the location in which the terrorists operate. The invention of smartphones, the Internet and other fast means of communication has made it easier for terror groups to communicate faster and more effectively. In fact, ICT innovations have collapsed the distance barrier between countries and groups. Terrorists use the media for their propaganda, for wide spread recruitment and publicizing their activities thereby gaining a wide audience. For instance, the Boko Haram terrorist group uploads videos of its activities online and they upload videos aimed at sending clear warnings and demands to state actors. In the area of technology, international terrorists groups have and are taking advantage of some of the technological inventions to carry out their nefarious activities across the globe. One good example is the dynamite that was meant for industrial use by the developers, but is now used by terrorists as a weapon of mass destruction. Further, advancement in transportation is another driver of globalization that is aiding international terrorism. The development of faster means of transportation makes it easier for terror groups to move faster and freely without many barriers. In addition, terrorist groups now turn some of these transportation innovations into weapons of destruction. A good example is the September 11, 2001 on the Twin Towers in New York and Pentagon building in Washington. The perpetrators hijacked four planes and converted them to deadly weapons for the attack.

Free press is another driver of globalization that terrorists tend to take advantage of in spreading fear and publicizing their propaganda. In alluding to this, Erica asserts that, Press freedom may have an additional positive causal effect on terrorism… without media coverage, terrorist groups are essentially obsolete. Widespread fear and panic are fundamental elements of terrorist strategy. Because free press exists in most democracies, terrorists have increased incentives to grow in, move to, and conduct their violence within such countries (Erica 2006: 6).

For Hamilton, ‘free press virtually guarantees the intense publicity that is often one of the terrorist's main tactical objectives’ (Hamilton 2017: 40). No wonder Margaret Thatcher referred to the press as the ‘oxygen’ for terrorists. Press freedom is a deadly tool used by terrorists groups all over the world.

Globalization of the Radical Islamist Terrorism

There exist quite a number of terror groups around the world. Most, if not all, have religious undertone. The religion that is always associated with this global menace is Islam. Thus, there exist a number of radical Islamist terrorist groups operating around the globe. However, some scholars are of the view that Islam, as a religion has nothing to do with violence or terrorism. This set of persons believes, with reasons that ‘hiding behind the façade of religion to perpetrate dastardly acts of killing and maiming innocent people is not Islamic as the face of religion abhors such atrocities… Islam is a religion of peace’ (Salawu 2015: 660).

In the last two decades, the world has watched in total shock at the emergence and spread of terrorist groups like ISIS, al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, etc. These groups are all radical Islamist terrorist groups operating from mostly Islamic dominated areas, though having an international network. It should be noted that ‘radicalism is an integral part of the broad current, unpleasant and dangerous; it is, but a natural offshoot in the development of Islamism’ (Grinin et al. 2019: 2) However, Islamism is not synonymous with terrorism. Hence, Hooper is of the view that Islamism is a ‘political movement that favors reordering government and society in accordance with laws prescribed by Islam’ (Hooper 2015). Islamism as an ideology and movement is not violent in nature or put differently is not identical with terrorism, but its radical type is. This is not new because ‘any teaching, belief system or ideology, always has a radical wing, if it has enough followers’ (Grinin et al. 2019: 2) and Islamism does. To this end, radical Islamism ‘aspires to a forcible transformation of society on the basis of Islamism’ (Ibid.: 45). So what led to the rise of radical Islamist terrorism?

One major factor that led to the emergence and spread of radical Islamist terrorism is the attempt by world powers to impose and establish democracy in failed states or states with extreme weak statehood. Establishment of democracy is not the issue but the undignified manner it is done; through intervention and the foreign sponsor of overthrowing a government. Grinin opines that ‘the destruction of strong albeit authoritarian regimes under the flag of establishing democracy is one of the most important conditions for the growth of terrorism and radicalism’ (Grinin et al. 2019: 4). The emergence and global spread of groups like al-Qaeda, ISIS, and Taliban was and is a response to such perceived injustice. In fact, the overthrown of strong secular leaders in Libya, Egypt, Yemen (as well as a vigorous attempt to overthrow the Syrian regime) only increased the rampage of radical Islamism in its most brutal and cruel forms, the most extremist and radical Islamism, the synonym of which is the radical Islamist terrorism’ (Ibid.: 94).

Consequently, it led to the springing up of Islamist terrorist groups like ISIS and others. In recent years and decades, radical Islamist terrorism has taken a global dimension and has become a global threat to the existence, peace and security of man. The September 11, 2001 attack, the 2004 Madrid bombing, and the July 7, 2005 London bombing are all indications of the global threat of terrorism. However, it was the September 11 attack on the Twin Towers and Pentagon that brought to the open a general recognition that terrorism is a deadly global phenomenon that required urgent attention. The way the attack was carried out shows the global nature of radical Islamic terrorism. The perpetrator ‘were members of al Qaeda, a non-state group, and the attackers hijacked four planes, crushing two into the world trade center in New York City, and one into pentagon in Washington, the fourth into the ground in Pennsylvania’ (Yamamoto 2015: 1).

The September 11 attack clearly shows the effective, but dangerous role of ICT in the execution of terrorist attacks. As stated earlier, the press is the ‘oxygen’ for terrorists. The attack was well-planned knowing well that attack of such magnitude would definitely receive global reportage. Another aspect of this attack is the level and nature of communication used. It was clearly a conversion of drivers of globalization for cruel terrorist attacks. Cross-border communication was triggered aided by the evolution in technology. Further, the 9/11 attack was a clear revolt and rejection of globalization by the radical Islamic group. As a reason for the deadly attack, ‘al Qaeda advanced American foreign policy, as a result of which, it claimed, the Muslims in the Middle East were suffering and dying’ (Grinin et al. 2019: 92). The attack was symbolic: the world trade center symbolized economy, and the target of the fourth plane was likely the politically symbolic White House.

Globalization of the Boko Haram Islamist Group in Nigeria

Terrorism all over the world and in particular Nigeria is an enigma of some sort. It is arguably one of, if not the major problem facing the country. Terrorist attacks in Nigeria have led to the death of thousands of people and the destruction of properties. Its effect on the economy and internal peace is alarming to say the least. The group that has brought this inhuman terror to Nigeria is the Boko Haram. To understand the international dimension of this group will require a historical examination of its emergence and subsequent spread to Chad, Niger, Northern Cameroon and its allegiance to foreign Islamist terrorist organizations like ISIL.

The exact date of the emergence of the Boko Haram sect is mired in controversy with conflicting dates given by scholars. Thus, ‘Boko Haram's origin is nebulous, but can be faintly back dated to 1995 under one Lawan Abubakar but surfaced prominently in 2002 with the emergence of Mohammed Yosuf who was killed extra judicially by the police in 2009 (Kehinde and Mobuogwu 2015: 31). Historically, the Boko Haram group is known by the Nigerian state to have existed since 1995 under the name of Ahlusunna wal'jama ah hijra. According to Oviasogie, ‘the sect has subsequently flourished under various names like the Nigerian Taliban, Yusufiyyah sect, and Boko Haram (literally meaning ‘western education is a sin’)’ (Oviasogie 2013: 25). As the name indicates, the group is opposed to what it perceives as western-based penetration that acts as threat to orthodox values, and customs among Muslims in the northern part of Nigeria. The ideology of the group is rooted in the practice of orthodox Islam. Orthodox Islam in their belief and interpretation abhors western education and western system of administration. To this end, we can assert that Western domination, push for globalization contributed to the emergence of the Boko Haram group. The emergence of this terrorist group is synonymous with that of other foreign radical Islamist terrorist groups, especially in their rejection of the Western penetration. Thus, ‘…Muslim criticism of the west and denial of all things western, even curses against it became one of the ideological pillars of Islamism (especially its radical varieties)’ (Grinin et al. 2019: 72).

The first time Boko Haram took up arms against state security apparatus was in 2003 when it strongly attacked police stations and government buildings in Yobe state killing several people and destroying properties. Such attacks were also carried out in Bama and Gworza police stations in Borno state. Since then, the sect's activities have spread to five northern states, namely Borno, Yobe, Bauchi, Taraba and Kano. This group is as deadly as the devil. No wonder, it has overtaken ISIL as the most deadly terrorist group in the world.

Terrorism all over the world is politically and religiously charged. The sect's acclaimed philosophy is rooted in the practice of orthodox Islam that they believe is against anything western. Politically, the goal of Boko Haram is to create Islamic state in the 12 northern states of Nigeria, with the plan of subsequent spreading to the rest of the country. It is a form of extreme Islamic fundamentalism. The ‘Boko Haram violence has been in the main motivated by the sect's dichotomization between secularism and Islamic values’ (Okoli and Philip 2014: 43). Hence, the members of the sect are of the view that the elements of western education system are in conflict with the fundamentals of Islam. Xan opines that, he (Yusuf) did not want mixed schools, or the teaching of evolution in schools. He wanted children to have more time to study their religion. Democracy is also alien to him because he succinctly stated that he will not support a government whose constitution was not based on the Koran (Okoli and Philip 2014: 43).

However, some scholars are skeptical as to the claim that Boko Haram was founded on strict Islamic ideology. This is because of the group's use of extreme violence as a means of social change. This skepticism is based on their argument that there is nothing Islamic in killing innocent people. It is a fact that the victims of Boko Haram attacks are Christians and Muslims. As such, one begins to wonder which particular religion the group is fighting for. Because of this, some researchers think that ‘there is an underlying political agenda to this terror campaign, which is seen as a part of an orchestrated attempt to destabilize the government of Nigeria.’(Salawu 2015: 660). But if one is to accept the above view, the question would be, which political divide is responsible for this? This all-important question arises because of the fact that Boko Haram even before now carried out attacks under the administration of Goodluck Jonathan, and now that there is a new administration from a former opposition party, the group has not stopped in its attacks and bombings. However, without throwing away the possibility of a political angle to the Boko Haram issue, we note that ‘…radicalism is an integral part of the broad current, unpleasant and dangerous, it is, but a natural offshoot in the development of Islamism. Islamism is not identical or synonymous with terrorism.

On the socio-economic angle, Boko Haram to an extent is a product of wide-spread social economic factors like poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, ethnicity, corruption, etc. As expressed by Nchi, ‘poverty and ignorance are fertilizers for insurgency anywhere and in any age. When they combine and cloak themselves in religious, ethnic, or other partisan robes, they become ready incentive for the most brutal and reckless violence’ (Okoli and Adeoti 2015: 43). A very large percentage of those living in the northern part of Nigeria are poor. Thus, in corroborating this view, the then governor of central bank of Nigeria, Prof. Charles Soludu expressed that persistent high levels of poverty in the country had become a northern phenomenon. According to Desmond Tutu, Kim Dae-Jung and Oscar Arias Sanchez during December 2001 gathering of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates in Oslo, Norway, the causes of terrorism lied in poverty, inequality and the absence of social justice in the developing world. One may ask, is poverty a recent problem? Has poverty or poor people not been in Nigeria for ages? It might be true that poverty has been with people for ages, however, the poverty rate has increased over the years and the northern part of Nigeria, which is worst hit by the menace of terrorism, comprises the poorest states in Nigeria. It was observed that of the ten states with the highest incidence of poverty eight were in the far northern zone. These include Jigawa with 97 per cent; Kebbi 89.7 per cent; Kogi 86.6 per cent; Bauchi 86.8 per cent; Kwara 85.2 per cent; Yobe 83.3 per cent; Zamfara 80.7 per cent; Gombe 77 per cent; Sokoto 76.8 per cent; and Adamawa 71.7 per cent (Ayegba: 95).

Corruption is another factor that has made terrorism to thrive in Nigeria. According to a Nigerian journalist that has access to some senior Boko Haram leaders, corruption became the catalyst for Boko Haram. Mohammed Yusuf, the group first leader would have found it difficult to gain many of these people (terrorists) if he was operating in a functional state. But his teaching was easily accepted because the environment, injustices made it fertile for his ideology to grow fast, very fast, likes wildfire (Zumve 2013: 128).

The point is that ‘terrorism and radical Islamism are particularly fueled when two factors coincide: the low level of population's general culture platform (e.g., low literacy levels) and the low level of political culture in the societies with weak statehood traditions’ (Grinin et al. 2019: 4).

Further, the Boko Haram problem though localized (operating in Nigeria and West Africa) but also has a foreign dimension. The international dimension of this deadly group is been aided by globalization especially in the area of communication and technology. This has made it possible for the group to spread their activities to some African countries and to cross-network other foreign terrorist organizations globally. The Boko Haram ‘has international connections to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Al-Shabaab, the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Affrica (MUJAO), Mokhtar Belmokhtar's factions, and other militant groups outside Nigeria’ (Wikipedia). On March 7, 2015, its leader Abubakar Shekau pledged allegiance to ISIL through an audio message posted on Boko Haram's Twitter handle. To confirm and cement their foreign ties, Abu Mohammad al Adnani, ISIL's spokesperson on 12 March, 2015 released an audio tape in which he welcomed the pledge of allegiance, and described the development as an expansion of the group's caliphate to West Africa. The group now receives financial support and trainings from foreign terrorist organizations. Consequently, the group is part of a global radical Islamist network working together to carry out deadly attacks across the globe. Thus, the Boko Haram's link with Al-Qaeda and ISIL has made it grow beyond its domestic base/influence thereby enthroned as a global terrorist group. In fact, the Global Terrorism Index ranked the group as the world's deadliest terror organization in 2015.

The Boko Haram group has wasted tens of thousands of lives and destroyed properties worth millions of dollars. The group boasts of sophisticated weaponry and this is due to its link to larger body of foreign terrorist organizations. According to one of its leaders, Mallam Sanni Umaru, ‘Boko Haram is just a version of Al-Qaeda’ and has ‘started a Jihad in Nigeria’ (Viasogie 2013: 26). This allegiance, interaction, and interconnectedness of terror organizations have solidified the view that terrorism is now
a global issue. With the aid of technology terror groups are more than before, able to network in carrying out deadly attacks in foreign lands. In the case of Boko Haram, the level of sophistication in their attacks has lent voice to its link to other radical Islamist terrorist organizations. In the area of funding for its activities, it was observed that the group occasionally carries out bank robbery as a means of getting funds. However, Boko Haram's allegiance to other international terror groups has added another source of funds as the group now gets financial support from their foreign allies. The interconnectedness and interconnectivity of globalization via technological innovations makes it easily possible for financial inflow across the world.

In August 2013, the group bombed the United Nations (UN) building in Abuja leaving several casualties. Prior to this event, the group had attacked the Abuja police headquarters. The method of suicide bombing used in the two attacks was new in Nigeria. In Africa, al-Shabaab in Somalia has the record of been the only group to have used such method in its operations. This is another pointer to the link between these organizations. One of the deadly attacks of Boko Haram that really got the attention of the international community is the April 14 kidnapping of 276 female students in Chibok, Nigeria.

The physical location of Nigeria is another factor that has contributed to the spread of this terror group. Nigeria is strategically located in Western part of Africa sharing borders with Chad, Niger and Northern Cameroon thereby making the inflow of people, weapons and equipment easy for Boko Haram because of the porous borderlines between Nigeria and these countries. Thus, the group has taken advantage by spreading to these countries. Some of the weapons used by the Boko Haram are smuggled through Chad. On 22 March 2019, Boko Haram fighters killed at least 23 Chadian soldiers overnight in what was viewed as the deadliest-ever attack in Chad by the radical Islamist group. Just recently, on 25 March 2019 the Boko Haram group killed 13 soldiers and wounded many. Sahara reporters informed that ‘the soldiers were moving along Gwooza Yamteke road in Gwoza Local Government Area when a militant operational truck stepped on an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) buried underneath the road and destroyed the truck beyond repairs’ (Sahara Reporters… 2019). According to Chishti, the ‘globalization that has made terrorism what it is today is the integration of countries into the world economy through increased trade, investment, short-term capital flows and international migration of skilled and unskilled labour’ (Chishti 2002: 227). This aspect of globalization has made it possible for Boko Haram terrorist organization to receive financial aid, trainings, and weapons from other international terror groups thereby cementing its globalization. Hence, the activities of the Boko Haram pose a serious threat not just to Nigeria, Africa but also to the international community.   

Mitigating Terrorism in Nigeria through the Deweyan Lens

Dewey's democracy as a possible solution to terrorism in Nigeria must be understood from his philosophical view on the value of human life. As a pragmatist, Dewey was concerned with building a humane society and redefining the value of human life. His quest for peaceful co-existence and social order led him to formulate an idea of democracy that is founded on a high and positive value of human life. As such, for Dewey, the value of life has to do with the respect for human life and dignity. Thus, Dewey advocated for a progressive and optimistic view of human life. His quest for human value is important given the nature and problem of terrorism. In this light, Dewey's philosophy of democracy emphasizes positive values such as dialogue, cooperation, sharing, equality, deliberation, education and participation. As an advocate of democracy, Dewey advocated for an encompassing idea of democracy as against the narrow conceptions before him. It is a new approach of viewing democracy and that is democracy as a social ideal. Meaning there are core important values to be adhered to in democracy. Thus, Dewey opined that a society is made up of individuals with their different interest and aspirations. However, for the progress of the state and for peace to reign, there is need for cooperation and mutual interest among individuals and groups. Hence, Dewey's idea of democracy is based on the principle of community.

The idea of community is one major principle that can help in addressing the problem of terrorism in Nigeria. It is related to the communalistic nature of traditional African society. African communalism is based on the notion of community living. Thus, Dewey opined, ‘man's very existence depends on associated activity, inasmuch as each human being is born an infant… immature, helpless, and dependent upon the activities of others. That many of these dependent beings survive is proof that others in some measure look out for them... human beings are associated, then in virtue of their very structure’ (Horwitz 1987: 859). Proposing this as a solution, Dewey affirms that unless local community life can be restored the public cannot adequately solve its most urgent problems; to find and identify itself. But if it be re-established, it will manifest a fullness, variety, and freedom of possession and enjoyment of meanings and goods unknown in the contiguous associations of the past. For it will be alive and flexible as well as stable, responsive to the complex worldwide scene in which it is enmeshed. While local, it will not be isolated (Fott 2009: 13).

It is the consciousness that I am part of a community, and that it is only in/through the community that my individuality can be fully expressed. To this end, C. B Okolo opined, ‘another method advocated by Nyerere for bringing about socialism is the principle of cooperation and cooperative living… People must work together cooperatively for the common good rather than competitively for individual gain’ (Okolo 1993: 36). It is a view of individuals relationally; a relation in which the well-being of the individual is tied to the well-being of the whole. This communalistic view is the contrast of the individualistic nature of this twenty-first century way of living in Nigeria. This way of living is the root cause of corruption in Nigeria. This in turn, has brought poverty and illiteracy to the land. The lack or absence of this communitarian oneness and unity is one of the root causes of corruption and terrorism. On the other hand, communalism is the contrast of the isolated and self-seeking nature of terrorist groups like Boko Haram. By this, we mean that their vision is not that of the community, but that of few individuals. The non-communitarian nature of terrorists groups can be understood against the backdrop of their intellectual origin. The intellectual origin of terrorism is rooted in Fanon's idea of violence as a revolutionary and cleansing tool against injustice and oppression. This is an extreme method of achieving one's goals and objectives. Moreover, such is against the principles of cooperation, oneness and deliberation, which are the hallmarks of community living. The lack of this community way of living has contributed to the growth and spread of terrorism in Nigeria. Consequently, it is the conviction of this paper that through cooperation and the ‘I am because we are’ consciousness, some of the causal factors responsible for the increase and growth of terrorist activities would be reduced. This is because terrorist groups use violence as a means of solving political and social problems. However, no matter the argument in support of such violent acts, it is a known fact that violence cannot permanently solve human problems. Instead, it will worsen the already bad situation. To this extent, Lawrence C. Hamilton and James D. Hamilton in their article ‘Dynamics of Terrorism’ affirm that, ‘terrorism is usually unsuccessful in bringing about the social changes sought by the terrorists, and it has good chance of making those changes far more difficult to attain. Thus, the best option is through non-violent methods of conflict resolution’ (Hamilton and Hamilton 1983: 41). This is what Dewey's communitarian values attempt to accomplish.

Hence, democracy involves participation, and deliberation; it involves the participation of every individual in a state in the running of the society. Democracy gives the individual the opportunity to share his opinion on national issues. It does not give room for exclusion of individuals based on ethnicity, religion or party. For when an individual or group is excluded from participating in the society, they are devoid of the opportunity to contribute to things that affect them, and this could lead to unlawful violence and vices such as terrorism. Terrorist groups are often isolated groups working against the interests of the majority of the state; this is in conflict with the spirit of dialogue, tolerance, and associated living. Hence, democracy is a deliberative form of government in as much as it brings to the open the free political deliberation on conflicting interests. Through deliberations, conflicts are discussed and resolved. This deliberative method of problem solving will go a long way in solving the problem of terrorism in the present-day Nigeria.

Implied in Dewey's democracy is the notion of dialogue, which is founded on human dignity and respect for the other. This is the opposite of the activities of the Boko Haram group. The use of unlawful violence, which has led to the death of thousands of persons, is against the concept and spirit of dialogue. In fact, it shows the lack of respect for human dignity. Terrorism is a manifestation of the unwillingness of terrorists to follow the path of dialogue: this unwillingness to dialogue is against the spirit of community living. Thus, to solve the problem of terrorism in Nigeria, dialogue should be employed. There must be a genuine respect for other members of the society and genuine interest in deliberative discourse in respective of our differences in terms of religion, tribe and race. In line with this, Richard Rorty suggests that democracy consists of ‘the ability to see more and more traditional differences – tribe, religion, race, customs, and the like – as unimportant, and the ability to think of people widely different from ourselves as included in the range of us’ (Rorty 1989: 192). This respect for others is a communitarian virtue that springs from mutual interest as opposed to self-centeredness that is characteristic of terrorist organizations.

Furthermore, the problem of terrorism in Nigeria must be addressed from the point of education. According to Dewey, education is the key to the success of democracy. If that is true, then the lack of education will lead to the failure of democracy. One of the main causes of terrorism in the northern part of Nigeria is the lack of education. This can be easily seen in the fact that the most poverty stricken and illiterate states are in the far north. The level of poverty in the north is so high and alarming that the then governor of central bank of Nigeria branded the persistent high level of poverty in the country as a ‘Northern phenomenon’: it was observed that of the ten states with the highest incidence of poverty, eight were in the far northern zone. These include: Jigawa, with 97 % of its people classified as living in poverty, Kebbi, 89.7 %; Kogi, 86.6 %; Bauchi, 86.3 %; Kwara, 85.2 %; Yobe, 83.3 %; Zamfara, 80.7 %; Gombe, 77 %; Sokoto, 76.8 %; and Adamawa, 71.7 %’ (Ayegba 2015). In Borno state, the birth place of Boko Haram,’ 83 % of young people are illiterate; 48.5 % of children do not go to school (Agbiboa 2013).

Consequently, ‘if you link a lack of education and attendant lack of opportunities to a high male youth population, you can imagine that some areas are actually a breeding ground for terrorism’ (Agbiboa 2013). The lack of education can lead to so many societal ills. No wonder a very high percentage of those recruited and radicalized by the Boko Haram group are illiterates. Most of them do not understand the immediate and long-term consequences of their actions. These young illiterate terrorists are ruled by emotions and sentiments, and not by the critical part of their being, which education helps to unlock. Education brings about the refinement of the mind. A refined mind will do more good to the society than harm. This element of democracy as advocated by Dewey is highly needed in Nigeria: given the fact that most youths radicalized by terrorist groups are uneducated, and as such, lacks the deliberative and participatory mind-set needed in civil societies. Accordingly, it is the conviction of this paper that for the society to reap the seed of education, which will bring about a more peaceful and humane society, there is need for the teaching of core democratic and humanistic values at the level of the family and school. Thus, for Dewey, a society which makes provision for participation in its good of all its members on equal terms and which secures flexible readjustment of its institutions through interaction of the different forms of associated life is in so far democratic. Such a society must have a type of education which gives individuals a personal interest in social relationships and control, and the habits of mind which secure social changes without introducing disorder (Dewey 1916: 99).

Consequently, to solve the problem of terrorism in Nigeria, education should be employed as a vital tool for human development. In the words of Lipsit, ‘education presumably broadens men's outlook, enables them to understand the need for norms of tolerance, restrains them adhering to extreme and monistic doctrines, and increases their capacity to make rational electoral choices’ (Acemoglu 2005: 44). To this end, there is the urgent need for an educational revolution in the northern part of Nigeria.

Another important thought that is implicit in Dewey's democracy, which will help in solving terrorism in Nigeria, is the idea of leadership. The place of right leadership cannot be over-emphasized in democracy because they represent the people. To sustain democracy and safeguard it from terrorism, there is an urgent need for a pragmatic leadership structure at all levels of government in Nigeria; leaders that will bring about an inclusive government, thereby bringing about a balanced polity and justice for all; leaders that will think about the people they represent and not just themselves. This last point is very important because, many of the causes of terrorism in Nigeria are socio-economic (poverty, corruption, inequality, illiteracy, etc.). These problems are the results of the oppression and inequalities of the system. Corruption is the result of selfish thinking which in turn triggers state failure. Consequently, the widespread terrorist activities in Nigeria, arises according to Mu'azu ‘from its failure to meet its obligation to its citizens and the general view that state policies are crafted and implemented to advance private interests’ (Maiangwa 2012: 41). Consequently, when those in leadership positions start leading and taking decision based on what the people approved, it will lead to less terrorist attacks. For this, Dewey opines that the ‘state apparatus has to be determined as the political, executing institution of the “common will”’ (Axel and Farrell 1998: 777). The governmental apparatus must be seen and act genuinely as the ‘eye’ of the political community. Hence, ‘instead of limiting the participatory activity of citizens to the function of periodically legitimating the state's exercise of power, their activity is to be a permanent matter embodied in the democratic public sphere and should be understood as the source of all political decision making processes’ (Axel and Farrell 1998: 763). However, this can only be possible if the citizenry and leaders are enlightened and educated. Hence, Jean Jacques Rousseau is of the view that ‘until men become intelligent, cities will not cease from ill’ (Simon and Schusiem 1964: 293). For Dewey, democracy rests on an epistemic condition, that is, the free circulation of information and knowledge enabling individuals to participate in public affairs. Conflicts are resolved through genuine deliberation and dialogue, and not through unlawful violence: as been used by terrorists in Nigeria.


Terrorism has become a global phenomenon and a threat to world security. The issue of Boko Haram terrorism in Nigeria though a localized one in the initial stage, it has now taken an international dimension especially with its link to other big foreign terror groups. This has increased their capacity to carry out dangerous attacks. Though terrorist organizations across the world and the Boko Haram in particular have reasons for doing what they do, however, we posit that no reason is justifiable in the killing of lives. Thus, we propose a humanistic approach to resolving conflicts. It is this ethical humanism that is based on cooperation, commitment to community interest, enlightened participation and respect for human life; that will bring about the mitigation of terrorism in Nigeria. To this end, it is the conviction of this paper that a humanistic approach to issues is the way to go globally and locally.


1 The activity of this organization is banned in Russian Federation – Editor's note.

2 The activity of this organization is banned in Russian Federation – Editor's note.


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