Saturday, March 31, 2018

Moghalu, Sowore, and the Diasporan Presidential Challenge

By Farooq Kperogi, Ph.D.

Kingsley Moghalu, former CBN deputy governor and professor of the practice at Tufts University in the US, and Omoyele Sowore, publisher of the New York-based SaharaReporters, have signaled their intention to run for the office of president of Nigeria. This is not an endorsement of any of them, but a reflection on the possibilities and hopes that they excite.

Given the tremendous excitement that their announcements are generating in Nigeria, especially among the youth, it’s worth giving a thought to who they are and what they might bring to the table should they get the chance to lead Nigeria.

Since at least the mid-2000s, Nigeria’s exilic elites, particularly in the United States, have forged lasting, internet-enabled transformative linkages with their homeland, the popularity and centrality of SaharaReporters in Nigeria’s media landscape being a prominent example of that. The entrance of two important voices in Nigeria’s US diaspora in next year’s presidential contest is a significant milestone that elevates this home-diaspora connection.

In his influential book titled Kinship and Diasporas in International Affairs, Professor Yossi Shain pointed out that people who deterritorialize from their home countries and reterritorialize in other countries actually only leave their home countries physically but not emotionally. He said diasporans think of themselves as being “outside the state but inside the people.” It is this notion of being “inside the people” even when physically separated from them that drives the participation of diasporan Nigerians in the affairs of their home country. This is the context of the foray of these two diasporans into Nigeria’s presidential contest.

 I have a fair amount of familiarity with both Moghalu, 55, and Sowore, 47. Although I have no informed opinion on Moghalu’s tenure as CBN’s deputy governor, I have interacted with him since his relocation to the US in the past couple of years. He is, without a doubt, one of the best brains Nigeria has produced. He has an impressive mastery of the political economy of development and has written well-received books and articles on the subject.

He also strikes me as a cosmopolitan, well-bred person who isn’t beholden to narrow, primordial loyalties, and who understands the complexities of Nigeria and the defining role leadership can and should play in managing national differences. He is energetic, passionate, and brims over with fresh, innovative ideas about governance and inclusive growth.

I’ve enjoyed reading his think pieces and penetrating insights on Nigerian politics and economy. Of course, based both on my personal biography and intellectual temperaments, I differ a bit with him on his prescriptions to get Nigeria out of the woods.

During one of our conversations, for instance, he said "some of the reforms required to sort out the challenge are likely, even if well executed, to still be unpopular—at least temporarily." I misinterpreted him, given his background as a central banker, as endorsing the familiar neoliberal policy prescriptions for developing countries that almost always consist in stripping the poor of government subsidies while leaving intact the often unearned perks and privileges of the ruling elites.
But he said I was mistaken. “I am neither a fan of the Washington Consensus nor the Beijing Consensus,” he told me. “My take is more pragmatic. We need our own consensus, but our leaders are so intellectually lazy that they do not even bother to engage the subject or bring in people who can lead that effort.”

You may quibble with his economic prescriptions, but you can’t deny that he is a deeply informed thinker who invests considerable intellectual energies in formulating his positions. His experience working with the United Nations—from where Sanusi Lamido Sanusi brought him to the Central Bank of Nigeria— which afforded him the opportunity to compare and contrast the economic systems of different countries of the world certainly redounds to his credentials.

Sowore may not have the intellectual sophistication of Moghalu, but what he lacks in erudition he makes up for in drive, enthusiasm, and consuming patriotic fervor. I first met Sowore at the University of Lagos in, I think, 1994 when he was president of the University of Lagos student union government. I saw him leading the public shaming of members of violent student gangs popularly known as “secret cults” in Nigerian universities, which didn’t exist at the Bayero University in Kano where I was an undergraduate at the time. His fearlessness in taking on these monsters of depravity head-on in broad daylight frankly unnerved me.

I met him again here in the US and have related with him robustly over the last decade. From his days as an uncompromising, principled, and intrepid student activist to his transition to prodemocracy activism against military totalitarianism to his transformational diasporan citizen media activism, he has remained uncommonly consistent. His passion to salvage Nigeria from the blight inflicted on it by successive leaders has never wavered.

While several former activists of our generation have retreated to their ethnic and religious cocoons, Sowore has never faltered in his pan-Nigerian nationalism. You may accuse him of activist exuberance, but you can’t question the genuineness of his patriotism.

The narrative that there are no credible alternatives to Buhari who aren’t tethered to the dark past is no longer tenable. My own hope is that people like Moghalu, Sowore, Dangiwa Umar (if he decides that he wants to participate in partisan politics), and others like them should form a united front and choose a person to serve as an alternative to APC and PDP candidates. They can’t afford to divide their votes. Doing so would give victory handily to the corrupt, visionless, and bankrupt gerontocrats who have stalled Nigeria’s growth since independence.

I had naively thought that Buhari would initiate the process toward Nigeria’s reclamation, but he is turning out to be worse than Jonathan in every index of governance. The government he heads is so unfathomably incompetent it's not even vaguely clued in on what path to tread to solve the country's unbearably enduring economic problems. It shouldn’t be rewarded with a second term unless Nigerians have a perverse taste for violent self-immolation.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Mixed Feelings about the Release of the Dapchi Schoolgirls

By Farooq Kperogi, Ph.D.
Twitter: @farooqkperogi

I am the father of three daughters, one of whom is a teenager. If I were to live in Dapchi, my daughter would attend the school the Dapchi girls were abducted from. So I can't imagine the unspeakable horrors the parents of the abducted girls lived with. The parent in me is at once ecstatic over the release of the girls and distraught over the death of five of them and the continued captivity of one of them.

More than that, though, I am also worried that while no amount of money is too big to secure the release of the girls, the financial negotiations that led to their release would strengthen Boko Haram to launch more daring abductions of schoolgirls. It’s not a question of if; it’s a question of when. This is a vicious cycle.

After the usual, predictable protestations from government officials to the effect that no ransom had been paid to the terrorists to secure the release of the girls, SaharaReporters disclosed on Wednesday that five million euros had been paid to the Al-Barnawi faction of Boko Haram. “But a source who also participated in the negotiations with Boko Haram that led to release of over 80 Chibok girls in 2017 told SaharaReporters that the federal government not only made the ransom payment of five million euros to the insurgents,” the paper wrote, adding that government “also exchanged some Boko Haram prisoners in return for the Dapchi girls.”

It’s easy to dismiss this as speculative or even made-up, but examples from the immediate past should give us cause for pause. For instance, the government had denied paying any money to the Abubakar Shekau faction of Boko Haram for the release of 80 Chibok girls, but Wall Street Journal’s explosive and exhaustive report of December 24, 2017 proved beyond all shadows of doubt that “Nigeria paid a secret ransom of €3 million to free some of the kidnapped schoolgirls.” Three million euros adds up to nearly 1.5 billion naira.

In another case, the BBC reported that the government paid a hefty ransom to Boko Haram. "The ransom was €2m. Boko Haram asked for euros. They chose the suspects and gave us the list of girls who would be freed,” BBC quoted a source as confiding in them.

It’s pointless recounting all the numerous credible revelations of ransom payments to Boko Haram by the government because it was the subject of my column two weeks ago, but the point being made is that Boko Haram is now better financed by the Nigerian government than our military is. And, as sure as tomorrow’s date, the terrorist group will continue to use the war chest handed to them by our government to unleash more terror, abduct more girls, and earn more money. It has become a profitable racket.

While it’s hard to make the case that money shouldn’t be paid to secure the release scared, innocent girls, it’s also good to remember that the money paid to secure the release of some girls will be used to abduct other girls and inflict harm on others. So ransom payment isn’t a sustainable strategy. Any country that purchases its peace will perpetually be indebted to war.

But more than that, Boko Haram is now winning the ideational war. For instance, reports said that when members of the group returned the Dapchi girls, they stayed for a bit and preached against girl-child education. They told the girls to never go to school again or risk abduction. In a region that desperately needs education, especially girl-child education, we’ve been set back by probably five decades. No responsible parents will send their daughters to school again. The girls’ life is infinitely more important than their education.

Similarly, Boko Haram is clearly now being unwittingly lionized, deodorized, decriminalized, and mainstreamed by the government. The photos and videos shared by the Daily Nigerian online newspaper of jubilant crowds cheering Boko Haram terrorists in Dapchi while the group freely hoists its flag is disconcerting. The terrorist group isn't just being financed by the Buhari government through handsome ransom payments; it is also being unintentionally glamorized. There is no bigger recruitment tool for the group than this. It’s a loud message that crime does pay.

In my April 13, 2013 column titled “Amnesty for Boko Haram or Pampering of Mass Murderers?” where I vigorously opposed calls by northern elders for the granting of “amnesty” to Boko Haram, I offered a short and long-term solution to the Boko Haram menace:

 “What ‘northern elders’ need to do, if they are REALLY interested in solving the Boko Haram problem, is help mobilize ideational resources to defeat the ideology that gives birth to and sustains groups like Boko Haram,” I wrote. “This is a long-term strategic initiative that will not yield immediate results, but that is worthwhile nonetheless. In the short-run, our security agencies need to be equipped with 21st century intelligence-gathering capabilities to confront and defeat these primitive monsters of depravity that have made life miserable for millions of innocent people.”

I still stand by this.

Elements of successful nations
Every modern, successful nation must have five core elements:

(1) economic justice so that even the weakest and the most vulnerable stratum of the society can live, not just survive

(2) social justice so that accidents of birth, geography, and religious beliefs aren’t permanent barriers to the prospects of upward social and economic mobility

(3) a responsible and sincere government that serves the people and not the other way round

(4) a critical and watchful media system that acts as the watchdog of the government and not the lapdog of the temporary occupants of power

(5) an educated, vigilant, and engaged citizenry who are not susceptible to cheap elite manipulation and narrow primordial loyalties.

A nation that has only the first two elements is a fragile nation. A nation with just one of these elements has no reason to exist. And a nation with not a single one of these five core elements is Nigeria.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Proposal for Secondary School Transcripts for University Admission

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

I was invited by the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) sometime ago to participate in a discussion on how to improve the university admission process in Nigeria. I couldn’t honor the invitation because of a schedule conflict. But here are the thoughts I would have shared if I had a chance to be at the discussion.

Nigeria’s education system is contemptuous of processes and obsessed with single-metric outcomes. That is why a brilliant, hardworking student who made consistently excellent grades in internal school exams but got stumped in their final O-level exams doesn’t stand a chance against a bad or mediocre student who somehow did well in the final O-level exam.  This fact distorts our appreciation of the true abilities of students.

At the moment, the most important criteria to adjudge students’ readiness for university education in Nigeria are grades from O-level exams and scores from the UTME. As I argued in a previous article, this is neither fair nor helpful.

So I am proposing a more process-driven alternative to adjudging student readiness for university education, and it’s a modified variant of the American system. It would be nice if student performance in the last three years of secondary school education is factored in admission decisions. That means senior secondary schools should have transcripts and Grade Point Averages. I am aware that some private secondary schools in Nigeria already have this, but this needs to be done nationwide.

To ensure the integrity of the process, at the end of every school term, secondary school principals should submit the records of student exams— from SS1 to SS3— to state ministries of education, the federal ministry of education (for federal secondary schools), and JAMB. At the end of three years, an academic transcript should be created with grade point averages for every student. There should be concordance between the transcripts in state ministries of education (and the federal ministry of education for federal secondary schools) and the transcripts in JAMB’s record.

Senior secondary school transcripts should then be used as one of the criteria for admission into universities, polytechnics, and other higher education institutions. There are many reasons why this is useful.

One, it ensures that the hard work—or lack thereof—that students invest—or fail to invest— in their senior secondary school education has real consequences. As it is now, most people don’t even remember the grades they made in their secondary school days. (Although I graduated from university more than two decades ago, I remember the grades I made in all my courses).

Second, knowing that their grades are being recorded and archived for purposes of admission into higher education institutions will inspire students to take their studies more seriously. Right now many students have no real motivation to excel in internal continuous assessment tests and end-of-term exams because results from these tests and exams are transitory and of no momentous consequence. Of course, I am not denying that there are students who are motivated to excel in spite of the low stakes in these internal exams, but more will be if they know that the consequences of the tests go beyond their schools.

Third, it helps to lessen the outsized importance attached to high-stakes, make-or-break assessments like the Senior School Certificate Exams and the UTME. Plus, being examined and graded by people who didn’t teach you has its down side, which can be offset by the kind of coursework-based assessment system I’m proposing.

In any case, when the 6-3-3-4 system was inaugurated in the 1980s, we were told that internal, school-administered continuous assessment tests would constitute at least 40 percent of Senior School Certificate Exams. As far as I am aware, that hasn’t happened, and I don’t know why.

Fourth, a de-emphasis on exam-based learning and an incorporation of coursework-based assessment of students will bring our students’ qualifications in line with international best practices. Secondary school students in the US, for instance, are issued high school diplomas at the end of their study. They also have transcripts and GPAs for the purposes of university admission. Universities use this in addition to scores from standardized university entrance tests, recommendation letters from former teachers, and personal essays.

The UK has also been tweaking its secondary school education to make it sensitive to the demands of the times. It transitioned from GCE Ordinary Level to the General Certificate of Secondary Education in 1988, and several reforms are still being proposed, including accepting science experiments in lieu of examination.

Finally, it gives university examination committees a broader view of candidates’ abilities and trajectories. A student with a superb secondary school transcript but a subpar SSCE result and a mediocre UTME score is probably the victim of disabling examination anxiety, that is, in the absence of other extenuating circumstances.

I know brilliant secondary school classmates who did poorly in the school certificate and university entrance exams because they were crippled by the dread of being graded by external examiners who didn’t teach or know them. Such students deserve an interview from admission committees, and the only way such students can be identified is if an internally administered coursework-based assessment system is instituted in secondary schools.

Like all solutions, this is isn’t foolproof. The first obvious problem is record keeping. The second is that some people can— and will— game the system. Teachers may be persuaded, coerced, or bribed to inflate grades if the grades are part of the criteria for university admission. But school certificate and UTME exams are also subject to abuse. There is no point giving examples of these abuses because everyone interested enough to read this article to this point knows what I am talking about.

Solutions are not abandoned because they are subject to abuse. Most importantly, giving this option a chance helps create a rich, diverse composite of criteria that can be used to determine the suitability of candidates for admission into universities, polytechnics, and other higher education institutions in a fair, just, and equitable manner.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Tragic Symbolic Blunders on Buhari’s National Sympathy Tour

By Farooq Kperogi, Ph.D.
Twitter: @farooqkperogi

The president’s reluctant decision to compensate for insensitively celebrating with his privileged friends in Kano who luxuriated in obscene opulence at a time the nation was (and still is) reeling from a string of horrendous sanguinary tragedies by visiting the nation’s hot spots has lost its symbolic worth for at least three reasons.

Symbolic gestures are appreciated only when they are not forced, when they are given willingly, or unexpectedly. That’s why people don’t appreciate birthday gifts from their significant others if the gifts are given only after they are demanded—or only after the givers are reminded. The value of the gifts isn’t in their monetary worth but in the thought that goes into buying and giving them unsolicited. It’s the same with symbolic presidential visits. Their value doesn’t lie in the immediate problems they solve because they don’t solve any problems; their value lies in their symbolism. So Buhari’s forced tour of the nation is actually symbolically worthless, but it’s at least better than his accustomed aloofness.

Nevertheless, the president appears to still be smarting from being forced to visit troubled spots in the nation. He said he should “not be expected to always go out to the field to make noise and insult the sensibility of Nigerians before it would be known that I am taking actions against the killings.” Fair enough. But does he have to attend wedding ceremonies of his elite friends even in moments of national catastrophes? Can't he be represented by a minister, the same way that he sends delegates to sites of national tragedies? Or is it only the tragedies of poor people that he doesn't have to personally attend to?

What is worse, though, is that the president is vitiating, even undermining, the whole point of the tour through his indelicate and unpresidential pronouncements in Taraba. The media reported him to have said that more people have been killed in Taraba than in Benue and Zamfara combined, adding he has a way of gathering his “own information on all the crises and killings in the country.” Exactly what purpose does this insensitive hierarchization of needless and avoidable bloodletting serve?

The president was clearly attempting to delegitimize the pains of the people of Benue and Zamfara. Nothing can be more painful than to have one’s pains made light of, especially by a person whose duty it is to comfort you. Even a single death is a tragedy whose horror shouldn’t be attenuated by odious comparisons. As Vice Chancellor of ABU, Professor Ango Abdullahi was viciously excoriated in the 1980s when he said “only two” student activists were killed by police bullets during a protest.

Buhari’s gaffe is even more egregious. He has sworn to protect all Nigerians irrespective of their ethnicity, religion, or state of origin. So why give more weight to one tragedy than others?
Already, this unwarranted presidential gradation of tragedies has rendered the president vulnerable to charges of ethnic partisanship—and for good reason. In tense moments like this, the president should be a consoler-in-chief. He shouldn’t be seen to be escalating conflicts by playing favorites.

Another tragic gaffe the president made was his insistence that he had fulfilled his campaign promise to secure the nation. “Today, even our worst enemy can attest to the fact that the APC-led federal government has done well in the area of security,” he said. “We have decimated Boko Haram, while the fight against corruption is going on well.” If government has “done well in the area of security,” why is the president on a tour of scenes of bloodletting? Why do we have more widespread bloodbaths in the nation now than at any time in recent memory?

A president who doesn’t see the contradiction in flaunting his “success” in security while on a forced sympathy tour of several parts of the country that are drenched in oceans of blood lives in an alternate universe. He is completely disconnected from reality. And that’s scary.

 I seriously doubt that Nigeria can survive a Buhari second term. The man simply doesn’t have the temperament, emotional maturity, and intellectual preparedness to govern a complex, multi-ethnic, and multi-religious country like Nigeria. Anyone who can’t see this is worse than blind.

Dapchi Girls: Buhari is Emboldening, Not Degrading, Boko Haram
The abduction of innocent school girls in Dapchi, Yobe State, is yet another evidence of the falsehood about Buhari’s “success” in downgrading Boko Haram. I have called out these lies several times in the past at the cost of inviting smears and ad hominem attacks on myself. But that’s an insignificant price to pay for standing for the truth.

Contrary to claims that his government has downgraded Boko Haram, Buhari is actually bolstering the group. For evidence, look at these facts:

As a reward for releasing 84 Chibok girls, the Buhari government paid Boko Haram a €3 million ransom, which adds up to more than 1.3 billion naira, according to the Wall Street Journal of December 4, 2017. "Several senior officials confirmed that the swap included the release of five captured militants and a total of three million euros, delivered in two drop-offs," the paper reported. "To a threadbare insurgency that had been driven into the mountains, the two payments in 2016 and 2017 represented a timely windfall. Since the insurgents collected their three million euros, some Nigerian officials say an army that had struggled to feed itself seems replenished."

Earlier in October 2016, the government paid the terrorist group what the London Guardian of October 14, 2016 called a “‘handsome ransom’ worth millions of dollars” in exchange for the release of 21 Chibok girls. “Millions of dollars” would add up to at least a billion naira. Again on February 11, 2018, the government paid Boko Haram an unspecified amount of money to free 13 hostages. In essence, Boko Haram now has a bigger, fiercer, more menacing war chest—financed from Nigeria’s public treasury— than the Nigerian military.

Meanwhile, Boko Haram’s ranks are being swelled by the same government. For instance, in addition to paying the group 705 million naira in 2017, five notoriously vicious Boko Haram commanders in the custody of Nigerian authorities were released. On January 15, 2018, the government freed 244 “repentant” Boko Haram members. How the hell did they know that they are “repentant”? And what does that even mean?  A few days ago. the government freed another 526 Boko Haram members, according to CNN. There’s more, but that’s what I remember for now. Feel free to add to this.

When you add this to the fact that on at least two occasions (according to BBC Hausa and Daily Trust), our foot soldiers who came close to capturing Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau were told to back off by unnamed honchos in Abuja, there is little doubt that the Buhari administration is an enabler of Boko Haram.

What’s even more tragic, though, is the utterly irresponsible propaganda the government spews about “technically” or “completely” defeating Boko Haram, which has anesthetized vulnerable people into a false sense of security and made them easy targets of the murderous, nihilistic terrorists.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

How Boko Haram’s Infighting, Not Government Policy, Degraded It

By Abdulbasit Kassim

The President Muhammad Buhari administration has advanced the narrative of “technically defeating,” “tactically defeating,” and “completely defeating” Boko Haram. As much as I will not necessarily want to tag the Buhari’s Boko Haram “success” as a myth, the “success narrative” has been blown out of proportion.

The decline of Boko Haram’s strength is not necessarily the result of proactive steps of the new administration or even the relocation of the command center to Maiduguri. Although the present administration would want to claim victory over Boko Haram for the recovery of territories previously annexed by the group, the fratricidal wars that started from the time of the Nigerian Taliban and the series of endogenous schisms that plagued the group did more damage than the salvos of the government.  

Even before the public disclosure of the mutual recrimination between the Abubakar Shekau/Man Chari and Abu Mus`ab al-Barnawi/Mamman Nur factions, Boko Haram was clearly heading towards a natural death on account of the group’s tactical disagreements over takfir (excommunication of Muslims) and the killing of Muslims; strategic disagreements between the group’s pragmatists and doctrinarians; rifts with al-Qaeda affiliates in the Islamic Maghreb; tense relations with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria; dissent over goals and views of the enemy; ideological competition with other Muslim actors; and a dwindling support base of fighters who are constantly befuddled by the faction to support at each epoch of the group’s schisms.

This piece only gives a broad overview of the internal debates and fratricidal wars plaguing Boko Haram. An in-depth examination of this issue can be found in my article titled “Boko Haram’s Internal Civil War: Stealth Takfir and Jihad as Recipes for Schism,” which will be published on March 15, 2018 as part of a volume titled, Boko Haram Beyond the Headlines: Analyses of Africa's Enduring Conflict.

The first schism evolved from the debate on the appropriate time to declare jihad and the necessity of establishing Islamic evidence (Iqāmat al-dalīl/al-ḥujja) on political rulers ruling with secular laws, and it took place between Muhammad Yusuf and Abu Abdurrahman Muhammad Ali al-Barnawi during the formative period of the Nigerian Taliban. Yusuf reasoned that by establishing Islamic evidence on the political rulers ruling with secular laws, it would attract a large followership and support communities that would be ideologically immune to the arguments put forth by the Salafi clerics in their defense of the political rulers.

These communities would then be better indoctrinated to fight jihad against the secular rulers. On the other hand, Ali argued that it is not obligatory to establish the Islamic evidence on the political rulers before declaring jihad against them because none of them can claim to be ignorant of God’s command to rule with His laws as opposed to secular laws.

The second schism took place between the followers of Abu Usama al-Ansari (Auwal Ibrahim Gombe) who later launched Ansaru in 2012 and the followers of Abubakar Shekau. The schisms covered the debate on the counter-productive strategy of targeting Muslim civilians especially those who participate in elections, Shekau’s uncompromising stance on al-`udhr bi-l-jahl (excuse of ignorance), Shekau’s excommunication of Muslims, Shekau’s demand for obligatory obedience, his refusal to permit his followers to travel to Somalia and Algeria without his permission, and his complete rejection of the group’s Consultative Council.

Even the mediation from Abu Hasan Rashid al-Bulaydi and Abu Abdalla al-Shinqiti of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb could not bring the two factions together. The first and second epoch of schisms did not claim many casualties within the group unlike the third epoch, which reached its peak during the current administration.

The third epoch of schism witnessed the killing of top commanders in the group, most of whom were killed for petty reasons or for insubordination. For example, Taasi'u 'Abu Zinira' who was  involved in the negotiation for Chibok girls was killed by Shekau; Mallam Abdulmalik, BH leader in Kaduna, was also killed; Abu Amr Falluja and Ba Gomna (a relative of Shekau) were killed (the latter was killed because he bought a house at Amchide in Cameroon); Mustapha Chad who was sanctioned by the US Treasury was killed; Kaka Allai who allegedly led the Monguno Barracks attack in 2013 was killed; Abu RPG was killed for backbiting; Abdullahi Hudu was killed for narrating a dream where Muhammad Yusuf told him to speak to Shekau to refrain from slave raiding; Adam Vitiri and many others too numerous to mention were all victims of the in-group fratricide.

This fratricide is akin to having a government that kills off all its major army generals. But the killings did not end there. In addition to the killings, they also leaked each other’s' secrets. The ideological friction leading to infighting and bloodshed between Abubakar Shekau and Abu Mus`ab al-Barnawi are informed by the following:

Both factions view political rulers, soldiers of the Nigerian Army, and members of the Civilian JTF as infidels. But Nur and Abu Mus`ab al-Barnawi do not excommunicate Muslims who do not view the actors above as infidels as long as they do not provide active and passive support for those actors in their war against Boko Haram. They excuse the Muslims until the “actions of unbelief” of the actors above have been clearly explained to Muslims.

According to Shekau’s interpretation, Nur and Abu Mus`ab al-Barnawi have also become infidels based on their position. The excommunication of Nur and Abu Mus`ab al-Barnawi is lawful in Shekau’s view based on the permissibility of ‘Takfīr al-Adhir’ (making takfīr on the one who gives the excuse of ignorance on an individual engaging in acts of polytheism).  Therefore, it is permissible to shed the blood of Nur and Abu Mus`ab al-Barnawi and those who follow them in ISWAP. It is also permissible to shed the blood of anyone who doubts the permissibility of killing Nur, Abu Mus`ab al-Barnawi, and their followers in ISWAP.

So Boko Haram has been weakened not only by government counterterrorism operations but also by their own squabbles and internal disputes. In view of these internal and potentially endless disputes, even without the salvos of the government, the group is eventually heading towards a natural death, but the course of the death changed with the dynamics that came with the payment of ransom for the release of the captives kidnapped by both factions of the group.

The extent to which the payment of ransom will alter the group’s operations is yet to be seen, but for the foreseeable future the internal civil war is nowhere near over. Our situation would have been worse today if not for the fratricide that wrecked the group to an unimaginable position.

Abdulbasit Kassim is a PhD student in the Department of Religion at Rice University, USA. He is the author of The Boko Haram Reader: From Nigerian Preachers to the Islamic State (co-authored with Michael Nwankpa) published by Hurst Publishers (April 2018) and Oxford University Press (July 2018). Follow him @ScholarAkassi1

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Bursting the Myth of Buhari's Boko Haram "Success"