When a Nigerian newspaper (not Daily Independent) referred to the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) as a terrorist organisation in its November 7, 2017 edition, many people especially from that region flared up in a desperate attempt to reject the terrorism tag.
It was the first time a local newspaper would address the group, which has bombed major oil installations in the Niger Delta, as “terrorist” on its front cover, even when such declaration has not been formally made by a competent court of law or the Federal Government like was done in the case of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
IPOB, led by its now-fugitive leader, Nnamdi Kanu, was recently proscribed by an Abuja High court and designated as a terrorist organisation. Yet, so many influential Nigerians, including Prof Pat Utomi and Mr Mike Ozakhome (SAN) rejected the terrorist label, insisting that the secessionist movement is a non-violent, peaceful, freedom-fighting group, even when Nnamdi Kanu was threatening fire and brimstone, training and arming the youths with the intent of setting the nation on fire.
Unfortunately, the same people saying IPOB is not a terrorist group want the Federal Government to declare the Fulani herdsmen terrorists, like it did for Boko Haram, which has killed thousands of Nigerians (Muslims and non-Muslims), slaughtered dozens of Muslim clerics and burnt down places of worship (mosques and churches) since it embarked on campaigns to establish its phantom “Islamic State” in Nigeria.
Another group, the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), has also recently threatened to make Nigeria ungovernable if its demand to conduct a referendum in the South East was not heeded by the Federal Government. Yet, MASSOB has not been branded a terrorist organisation.
Only the uninitiated will be surprised by the recent submission of the US government that it does not see IPOB as a terrorist organisation. Who is unaware of the usual double standard that characterises the international relations of the superpowers, whose only interest is to set government and rebels against one another, particularly in the oil-producing countries? Who is unaware of the fact that the ultimate goal of the US in this context is merely to sell weapons?
Such hypocritical stand from a country like the US constitutes a morale booster for the members and financiers of the militant group, which also threatened to disrupt tomorrow, Saturday’s governorship election in Anambra State.
One then wonders why the US decided to support a group that has once been accused of spreading hate speeches against some sections of Nigeria. Despite several arrests made by security officials, the proscribed IPOB members have continued to threaten voters with the “vote and die” slogan, should they come out to vote in the Anambra election.
Of course, the US would not see IPOB as a terrorist organisation because it is not linked to Islam and Muslims. To many Americans, the word “terrorism” is synonymous with Islam and terrorism can only be committed by Muslims. Little wonder the US President is always too quick to call attacks allegedly carried out by supposed Muslims “acts of terror”, while describing attacks carried out by white supremacists as “acts of evil”.
Ironically, the US government also stands accused of international terrorism. In fact, many scholars and researchers, including the US linguist and philosopher, Noam Chomsky, have described the US as a leading terrorist state based on its deadly, CIA-run operations in different countries of the world. It is no more news that the US government heavily funded the Mujahideen in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union in the 70s. They were never terrorists when they were serving the interests of the American government. Same goes for the US-backed Contra rebels, who used terror tactics to fight the Nicaraguan government between 1981 and 1991.
President Trump admitted the US government’s support for terrorists when he announced early this year the plan to end the four-year covert CIA program arming and training terrorists fighting the embattled Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad since 2013. The US government might have or be about to halt its support for the rebels, but the Syrian civil war turned proxy-war between the US and Russia has led to the death of hundreds of thousands of Syrians.
The same President Trump who accused the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia of masterminding the 9/11 attacks during his 2015 election campaigns recently made a U-turn, and signed a whopping $110 billion arms deal with the oil-rich country. Isn’t that contradictory? And, one may ask; arms deal for what? To continue its failed war in Syria and fight “terrorist” entities – the US/Saudi’s perceived enemies in the Gulf. The game of blood has started in Yemen already, and may eventually move to Iran, Turkey or even Qatar (God forbid) following the controversial blockades on Doha since June, 2017.
Saudi Arabia, which recently embarked on its much vaunted “reformation” of the Holy Land, also allegedly financed the El-Sisi military coup that ousted Egypt’s first democratically elected President, Mohammed Morsi, who has been languishing in prison alongside thousands of members of the Ikhwanul Muslimeen (The Muslim Brotherhood) for years now.
Who is a terrorist?
This development brings to the fore the question of who a terrorist is and what terrorism is. Unfortunately, there is no universally agreed definition for the term. Like Mike German aptly opines in his book; “Thinking Like a Terrorist”, defining the term is “an exercise in futility”. He however stressed that “we know it (terrorism) when we see it.”
A Nigerian security expert, Abayomi Nurain Mumuni dedicated a whole chapter (about 11 pages) of his first book; “Global Terrorism and its Effects on Humanity” to defining the term “terrorism”. However, Mumuni also later admitted in his second book; “Demand by Terror” that seeking to evolve an acceptable definition of terrorism is indeed an exercise in futility!
He however said the inability to come up with a universally acceptable definition serves a good purpose as it leaves everyone concerned with the option of description rather than definition. It is much easier to describe events that agitate, cause fear or suffering and even terminate lives whenever and wherever they are experienced, without having to fit such into any particular theoretical definition.
What is terrorism to the US government might be or might not be same to the Nigerian government. This explains the reasons why the US and other Western nations do not consider IPOB a terrorist group, while according to Nigerian law, the group is now a terrorist organisation, because of its violent activities which create fear in the minds of innocent people. Few days ago, the proscribed group posted a 3-minute video online where it threatened President Buhari, and warned him not to step his feet on the soil of the South East, or ELSE HE WOULD NOT LEAVE THE REGION ALIVE (emphasis is mine). The activities of the Nigeria Delta Avengers (NDA) and the evasive Fulani herdsmen also fit into this mould.
The option of description rather than definition also reveals categories of terrorists such as Right Wing terrorists like Ku Klux Klan; Left Wing terrorists like the FARE; Pathological terrorists, who are closely related to Lone Wolf terrorists; the Cyber terrorists; Eco-terrorists; Religious terrorists such as Boko Haram and the LRA; and the Nationalist terrorists (where IPOB comes in because its applies the use of violence, provocative utterances and threats in demanding for the Biafra Republic).
The Right Wing “lone wolf” terrorists in Europe for instance killed and injured many more people than radical “Islamic terrorists” acting alone, according to the 2010-2014 Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) report on Countering Lone Actor Terrorism. In fact, so many countries are guilty of State Terrorism – systematic use of terror by a government in order to control its population – and directly or indirectly, many countries including the US government are culprits of this. Benjamin Netanyahu’s Israel is using the same tactics in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, Palestine, right under the watch of the US. What did they do to stop them? Absolutely nothing! Do you know Washington supports Israel’s atrocities in the region with more than $3 billion of military aid annually?
Till date, Saudi Arabia and Israel consider Palestine’s Hamas – the predominant freedom fighters in Palestine (a replica of South Africa’s ANC) – a terrorist organisation but countries like Qatar and Turkey do not buy into that narrative. This is based on the latters’ understanding of what the group stands for – defending the Masjid-il-Aqsa – the Muslims’ third holiest Mosque and liberating the people of Palestine. President Buhari’s administration has also on two occasions (2016 and 2017) at the United Nations called for the recognition of the Palestinian state being championed by the Hamas-led government in the Gaza Strip.
There are terrorists everywhere as identified in this article; the Fulani herdsmen, MASSOB and NDI threatening the peace of the nation are all criminals and should be dealt with for violating people’s fundamental human rights. However, it must be highlighted that agitation and the right to self-determination is permitted and agitators have the constitutional right to express their feelings about any government policy through lawful means and peaceful gatherings without any breach of public peace.
Terrorism knows no religion, race, colour or border. It could happen anywhere in the world and the perpetrators could be anybody, depending on their motivations. Hence, the world must come together to fight the hydra-headed monster called terrorism with sincerity and seriousness