The Nigerian youth and fight against terrorism

(By Somadina Ibe-Ojiludu, OFM Cap)

Every sane person agrees that no meaningful development can take place in such an atmosphere of insecurity.  One wonders how much of investments Borno and Yobe states in North-East Nigeria have attracted since the beginning of the terrorist campaign in the area.  What one sees instead is the withdrawal of businesses, and this only yields further poverty in an area already impoverished.  Such poverty makes the land more fertile for recruitment into terrorist activities which will further worsen the security situation.  We see thus a dangerous perpetual cycle. Is there any role for the youth in checkmating terrorism?

WHO ever imagined 15 years ago that Nigeria would today be a hot bed for terrorism? The situation is so serious today that a simple googling of ‘Nigeria’ mostly yields frightening uncomplimentary news results.  These feed international public opinion.  Interactions with non-Nigerians show how the country is negatively viewed.  For them, Nigeria is – to borrow from the Biblical book of Numbers (13: 32) – ‘a country that consumes its inhabitants’, a land flowing with violence and blood.  Many of them consider all living in Nigeria great.  Of course, they are right: imagine ordinarily surviving in such a violent environment!

The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) was founded in 1964 by the Arab League for ‘the liberation of Palestine’.  The Arab league, obviously, did not classify it as a terrorist group.  But PLO undertook some armed struggle against Israel.  Thus, the United States and Israel viewed it as a terrorist group until 1991 during the famous Madrid Conference.  The conference aimed at brokering peace not only between Israel and Palestine but also between Israel and her Arab neighbours.  What of the now-revered Nelson Mandela?  With his activities and membership of African National Congress (ANC), was he a terrorist?  Among the South Africans, one’s answer to this was/is coloured by one’s membership of any of the sides in the apartheid environment.  Back home here in Nigeria: few years ago, we experienced the activities of the Niger Delta militants.  Principally, they targeted oil installations and kidnapped those with link to oil exploration.  Perhaps only a few from the Niger Delta region or oil producing states agreed to dub these ‘terrorism’.  But it was exactly that in newspapers and magazines in the Americas and Europe and in the minds of quite a substantial number outside the area.

The above shows that defining ‘terrorism’ is a difficult task.  What a group considers a terrorist act is viewed as a legitimate arm struggle by another.  ‘Terrorism’ is a highly politically charged term.  Thus, finding a generally accepted definition has eluded the most august of academic communities.  Even the United Nations has no internationally agreed definition of terrorism.  Yet, we all know that ‘terrorism’ comes from the French ‘terrorisme’ which is rooted in or derived from the Latin terrere.  Terrere, according to Casselles’ Latin Dictionary means ‘to frighten, to terrify’.

The above brief etymological highlight shows that any activity which intentionally threatens people is terrorist.  Inflicting physical or mental wound, killing and indeed any action that would further a ‘reign’ of terror are employed by the terrorist.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church, therefore, rightly says that ‘Terrorism threatens wounds and kills indiscriminately’.  Yes, terrorist activities are indiscriminate.  They often target places that attract normal day to day activities: Churches, mosques, markets, car parks, restaurants, schools, buses, aircrafts etc.

Every sane person agrees that no meaningful development can take place in such an atmosphere of insecurity.  One wonders how much of investments Borno and Yobe states in North-East Nigeria have attracted since the beginning of the terrorist campaign in the area.  What one sees instead is the withdrawal of businesses, and this only yields further poverty in an area already impoverished.  Such poverty makes the land more fertile for recruitment into terrorist activities which will further worsen the security situation.  We see thus a dangerous perpetual cycle. Is there any role for the youth in checkmating terrorism?

The youths cannot, like Pontius Pilate at Christ’s trial, wash away their hands, thus throwing the responsibility on the government’s shoulders.  It is often very easy to put every blame on the government.  Please, get this writer right: No one is here denying that the most fundamental function of every government is security of life.  Freedom of movement, freedom of worship/conscience, right to descent housing, right to being fed and fed well etc are all dependent on life.  Only a living person enjoys these rights. Thus, securing life is the number one duty of the government.  But this is not an invitation to complacency on the part of the youth.

All over the world, terrorism appears youth-dominated.  And this is largely because of the juvenility factor in propelling violent-oriented activities.  Old people do not usually fight!  By practising true religion, the youth begins to see terrorism as less attractive.  The society, therefore, needs religion.  As a matter of fact, most of the laws followed in the society today are based on religious principles.  This writer is not ignorant of the hackneyed belief of some that religion does not necessarily make one good in the society.  But there is no much scholarly dissent that religion has provided many of the principles upon which good laws are based. The logical conclusion from the above is that today’s society could be different without religion.

Since many of today’s good laws are based on religion, a deep religious inclination would naturally breed respect for laws of decent living in the society.  Many of these laws discourage violent tendencies.  Venerated saints of the Catholic Church, for example: St Francis of Assisi, St Anthony of Padua, St Clare etc, are so venerated because of their practice of love, among other virtues, to a heroic height.  A youth who practises true religion, therefore, is a model and preacher of good neighbourly love.

Also, we are in an era of youth-led digital revolution.  The Internet and social networking apps are the platforms for expressing this revolution.  New found expressions like facebooking, tweeting, blogging, emailing etc are pointers that the world would not remain like it was 15 to 20 years ago.  The correct use of these modern social communication media by the youths would go a long way in the building of bridges among people.  This reduces communication gap arising from different leanings, thus making resorting to violence a remote possibility.  Through the digital world, therefore, the youth can build a culture of tolerance.

In addition, the Internet and digital social networking are modern squares for marketing products and services.  This explains, for example, the rise in online trading.  But the Internet and social networking apps can also be channels for ‘marketing’ ideas.    According to a popular saying, ideas rule the world.  By constantly offering ideas of peace, tolerance, love etc in the digital environment, the youth can really transform the society.  It is enough to think of the success – in terms of increase in demand for goods/services – of the repetitive pattern of advertising jingles in the world of commerce.

It is, therefore, clear that the Nigerian youth is far from being passive in the campaign against terrorism.  He has a role in making our society an oasis of peace and security.  God save Nigeria!

• Ibe-Ojiludu, OFM Cap, a Catholic Priest of the Capuchin Franciscan Order, wrote from 3 Junction, Nkwele Ezunaka, Anambra State.

 

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