Terrorist with Kalashnikov


This is a combination of two words. ‘Boko’ which means the Western system of school in Hausa, and ‘Haram’ which is Arabic word meaning ‘forbidden sin’. Therefore, Boko Haram means ‘Western system of education is forbidden’. In recent times, members have named their point of congregations or strongholds Markas. Boko Haram is an off-shoot of Izalatul bid’a Wa-Ikamatul Sunna, which refers to peaceful Muslim brothers who embrace the sayings and deeds of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), but they do not believe in Boko Haram’s extreme doctrine and cut off from them after they came up with new ideas that deviated from conventional teachings of Islam and the sayings and deeds of the Prophet (PBUH). In 1992, Boko Haram took on a new identity and called themselves Ahalu Sunnah Waljama Hijrah, Yusufiyya (Boko Haram), moved away from the society and resided in the outskirts of town. According to them, the society was full of sin and therefore, deserved to be fought against, especially law enforcement and security agents.

While discussing the “Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads and Modernity”, Tariq (2002) dwelt extensively on Islam and the roots of Islamism, as well as the formation of Western attitudes toward the Arab and Muslim Worlds. Tariq (2002) opined that the political root of the present precarious state of Boko Haram insurgency the Nigerian society finds itself in today is as a result of what he described as the ‘clash of civilization’. Rival fundamentalisms -Islamism on one hand and imperialism on the other – are the forces directing much of the world today. He provided a historical context in which modern Islamism and imperialism arose while noting that the remarkable expansion of Islam in Asia and parts of Europe and subsequent decline of Islam and empires, he pointed out, was concomitant with a massive rise in the power of the West, women in Islam and Wahhabism. The role of political Islam, Tariq (2002) added, whether religious or political had greater influence in the separation of Pakistan from India. This separation and resultant fall out gave birth to Bangladesh, and the crisis over Kashmir incorporates elements of the background of imperialism.


Most parts of Nigeria, over the last ten years, have witnessed a growing sense of despondency and restlessness among the jobless youth. The emergence of Boko Haram came on the heels of the volatile activities in the Niger Delta region in the south-south which has been a trouble spot for quite some time, with violent militant groups, made up mostly of youths, kidnapping oil workers and attacking oil installations. There have also been incessant killings and destruction of properties in Plateau and Kaduna States, as a result of heightened ethnic and religious crises.

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As a social problem, the Boko Haram insurgency, in particular, has engaged the attention of the society in recent times and government has established a number of controls to try and curtail the excesses of the group, ranging from declarations of state of emergency, deployment of the military, house-to-house raids as well as mounting of security checkpoints at designated spots along major highways.


Boko Haram insurgency has become a threat to national security and socio-economic life in present-day Nigeria. The consequences of Boko Haram violent activities are weakening structures of the society and threatening the social well-being of the Nigerian people in an already overstretched and over-taxed country. The Boko Haram, then called Yusuffiya after its founding leader, Mohammed Yusuf, had established their stronghold popularly known as ‘Markas’ in Maiduguri the Borno State Capital since 1992 but gained notoriety in 2001. Boko Haram is a homegrown insurgency that rose from among the sect of Izalatul-Bidiya Waikamatu-Sunna founded in 1992 when Mohammed Yusuf the founding leader of Boko Haram came up with a synthesized and different interpretation of Islam which was vehemently rejected by the Izalatul-Bidiya Waikamatu-Sunna (Mustapher 2011).

It started as a group made up of perceived socially excluded, deprived and unemployed set of Islamic seminary students of late Mohammed Yusuf. Boko Haram in 1992 withdrew from the larger society, and established a camp in Kannamma Village of Yobe State and tagged themselves as Ahalya Sunnah Waljama Hijrah and/or the Nigerian ‘Taliban’ and launched several attacks on divisional police stations in January 1994. ‘Yusufiyya’ later transformed and embraced the most extreme and advanced teachings from Hijrah to Ahalul Sunnah Waljamali Daawati Wal-jihad with a significant number of members resigning themselves to fate and willing to die in planned attacks. Blum (2000) in his analysis of “The Invisible Killers” described the nature of suicide bombings by the Boko Haram as ‘involuntarily administered suicide’.

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Furthermore, in recent times, Boko Haram has been variously described as a hydra-headed monster that inflicts pain, with every attack, on the structure of the Nigerian society in what Blum (2000), in his assessment of the ‘periodic bombing’, referred to as ‘colossal collateral damage’. Boko Haram eventually waxed stronger and metamorphosed into a complicated phenomenon. The transformation that brought about the differentiation and integration of the. Boko Haram insurgency confirmed what Spencer, Simmel, Khaldum and Darwin (1968 [1859]) in the “Theory of Evolution” believed, and which was, supported by Durkheim (1965 [1912]). The sociological thoughts of the former described the phenomena of Boko Haram as ‘simple to complex and then later ‘mechanical to organic’. The Boko Haram, hitherto a relatively ‘simple’ and ‘mechanical’ group of socially excluded Islamic seminary students graduated to a violent, destructive, ‘complex’ and ‘organic’ one.

Boko Haram becoming so complex, defensive and offensive is due to what Tsetung (1972) in his study of the “Strategic Defensive and the Strategic Offensive in Guerrilla Warfare” described as fluidity of (the Boko Haram’s) operations, taking advantage of interior line as against the Nigerian military personnel’s exterior line operation. He also argued that there is geometric increase, that is, sudden rise and fall of Boko Haram’s base stations, indiscriminate recruitment of members regardless of background affiliation, sophistication of weapons, changing nature of trend and pattern of its operations and Boko Haram’s budding indigenous initiatives over the Nigerian military men of the joint task force deployed to restore peace in Borno State. These complexities suggest what Hoffer (2005) in his study of “the true believers” thought of the nature of mass movements describing it as the ‘inter-changeability of Boko Haram by substitution’ in support of the changing nature of the Boko Haram insurgency. Rahman (2012) argued and maintained that the United States of America (USA) disclosed that Boko Haram, Al-Shabab and Al-Qaeda had jointly established a complex network of swapping funds, ammunition and training of members.

Again, this is in Line with what Blum (2000) in his analysis of ‘Afghan-Terrorist’ referred to as ‘grand conspiracy’ between local/subsidiaries and parent headquarters beyond national borders. This assertion has also been reiterated by the notion that the Boko Haram is viewed as the ‘Third Grade Affiliate of Al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghrib (AQIM)’. Against this background, the USA on Friday, June 22nd 2012 designated three (3) top-ranking members of the Boko Haram namely: Abubakar Shakau, Abubakar Kambar Adam and Khalid Al-Bornowi as terrorists Misbahu (2012). The Boko Haram is also referred to as ‘Political Islamists’, Susan (2000), while discussing “fundamentalist language and political Islam” argued that they were politically constructed to carry the garb of the Muslim faithful and launch violent and well-coordinated attacks on people of other faiths and their centres with the sole motive of bastardising the name of Muslims whom Mamdani (2006) in his analysis of “Good Muslim Bad Muslim” referred to as ‘the good Muslims’ are perceived as ‘the bad Muslims’ in the eye of the society.

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Boko Haram is also labelled as an ‘instrument of political re-engineering’ being used by unscrupulous political elements to stage a proxy war in their quest for political power, thereby threatening government, institutions and targeted civilian populations in their insurgency to achieve their political end. The fact that Boko Haram emerged from a collapsed Borno Empire there is the notion that Boko Haram is viewed as an ‘instrument for resurrecting a dead empire’ by fighting to bring back the lost glory of that empire for which they remained the ‘residual fighters’. Others see the Boko Haram as ‘freedom fighters’ from the perspective of their frequent prison breaks and freeing of inmates. This view supported the work of Wicker (1975) who observed that injustice, inequality and dehumanization bred the crisis of Boko Horam insurgency which Nigeria is facing today. Wicker (1975) argued while analyzing ‘Crime and Punishment: The Case of Attica Prison Revolt’ in his analysis of “A time to Die” pointed out that the inmates of Attica Prison revolted because the system evolved into one of the most massive violations of human rights. The rebellion took hostages, and forced the authorities into four days of desperate negotiations, which he described as ‘the grim sign of our dark times’.

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