"WR6_gUnUj-ztiW07KQcOCnTel9A"/> Notes From Atlanta: August 2020

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Young People Have Mentally Checked Out of Nigeria

 By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

Young people are traditionally associated with vim, vigor, enthusiasm, and idealism. They energize social movements, inspire revolts, and help shape the contours of the future. But I’ve noticed that in the last few years, the vast majority of the Nigerian youth have effectively dissociated mentally from Nigeria.

They have lost interest in the affairs of government, human rights, democracy, social justice, and other high-minded ideals. Entertainment, gossip, comedy, football, and petty fights on social media are now their escape from the strain and stress of life in Nigeria.

I started observing this from the quality and quantity of engagement with news on social media. I noticed that the typical average “like” and “share” (or “retweet”) counts for stories shared on social media by Nigeria’s most visible national news platforms are always in the ballpark of 800.

Really impactful political stories may sometimes get up to 5,000 likes, shares, or retweets. I have never seen a story shared by a conventional Nigerian news platform that has attracted up to 10,000 likes, shares, or retweets.

But comedies, gossip, entertainment pages, football replays, BBNaija, etc. consistently get hundreds of thousands of likes, shares, retweets, and comments. Trending topics on Nigerian social media also reveal this reality.

In offline Nigeria, the culture of civil rebellion against tyranny is virtually gone. Student union activism, which used to be the initiatory rite to social justice activism, has been dead for a while. That’s why Omoyele Sowore’s #RevolutionNow protests attracted only a handful of the Nigerian youth. Scores of young people who should join it accepted pittance from the government to counter it and to deride it on social media.

There are at least three reasons for the progressively alarming mental dissociation of the Nigerian youth from issues that will shape their collective futures whether or not they realize it. The first obvious reason is plain, old, shortsighted self-interestedness. Human beings are biochemically wired to seek pleasure and avoid pain.

Nigeria is a source of endless mental and emotional anguish. From the decay of infrastructure, to rising insecurity, to the expanding oceans of blood across the country, to the conscienceless theft of national resources by everyone in government, to intractable impunity and lawlessness by people who are tasked with making and enforcing the law, Nigeria inflicts pain—even on those of us who are not directly affected by the country’s dysfunction because we live abroad.

In light of the frustration and helplessness that this state of affairs inspires, many people, including the youth, choose to escape into mental universes that they can control, that can give them ephemeral joys and freedom from disabling anxieties. Unfortunately, mental escapes don’t solve problems; they only suspend them temporarily.

The second reason why vast swaths of young Nigerians are no longer animated by social justice issues is that they have very few people to look up to for inspiration. With a few exceptions, most of the people who used to be at the vanguard of social justice are now in bed with the Buhari regime, which is by far the most tyrannical, the most inept, and certainly the most unjust government since the restoration of civilian rule in 1999—and perhaps in the entire history of Nigeria.

 If there is any regime that deserves to be confronted by a sustained, organized, nationwide, pan-Nigerian civil insurrection, more than any in Nigeria’s history, it is the Buhari regime, but it is ironically the one that is mollycoddled and legitimized by hitherto professional activists.

Activists who are not openly in bed with the regime run with the hare and hunt with the hounds, and most people are smart enough to know this. I’ve had the opportunity to speak with some former activists who are now unabashed pro-regime apologists, and they’re united in saying that they don’t want to be condemned to being economically disadvantaged, perpetual agitators for justice and democracy while undeserving people benefit from their toil.

They said other people should take off from where they left off. But that is simplistic. Their betrayal of the cause they were famous for hasn’t only broken the intergenerational continuity of a long tradition that goes back to the anti-colonial struggles of yore; it has damaged the credibility of civil activism. It has now caused people to see civil society activists and insurrectionists as mercenary opportunists who are waiting for a chance to be noticed by the government and rewarded with an invitation to join the plunder of the nation’s resources.

The third reason for young Nigerians’ mental break from their country is the forlorn hope they nourish that they would relocate from the country to a more prosperous, more secure, and more welcoming country in the near future. Survey after survey consistently shows Nigeria as the country with the highest number of people who desire to leave their country for another country.

For example, in a March 27, 2019 survey, Pew Research Center found that, “In Nigeria, Africa’s most populated nation, nearly half… of adults say they plan to move to another country within five years, by far the highest share among 12 countries surveyed across four continents.”

People who are resigned to relocating to another country in the near future will have a weakened commitment to their country since they see themselves as sojourners in their own homes. But the truth is that only a small fraction of people who want to relocate to other countries will be successful. That means the blithe unconcern to the solvable problems of the country that prospective exiles show will ultimately be counterproductive.

As many people have already pointed out, the vast amounts of money being mindlessly looted now by Buhari and his gang of criminals is borrowed money that today’s disconnected youth will have to repay someday. The Buhari regime is literally stealing and mortgaging the future of Nigeria’s youth.

The youth must snap out of their lethargy and inertia and reclaim their country. It is not an option. It’s a dire existential imperative.

Buhari’s Nigeria as a Terrorcracy in Terroraria

The Head of the US Special Operations Command in Africa, Maj.-Gen. Dagvin Anderson, told reporters on August 6 that Al Qaeda terrorists are infiltrating Nigeria’s Northwest. That didn’t come to me as a surprise. The Buhari regime has worked very hard in the past few years to fertilize Nigeria’s social soil for the growth and flourishing of terrorism.

The regime has become the greatest boon to terrorism. When Boko Haram terrorists capture civilians and soldiers alive, they either murder them in cold blood or release them only when government pays a handsome ransom.

But when Nigerian soldiers capture Boko Haram terrorists alive, they "deradicalize," "rehabilitate" and "reintegrate" them at the cost of millions. In other words, they get rewarded when they defeat Nigeria and again get rewarded when Nigeria defeats them. They win heads or tails.

On August 5, the regime upped the ante of its pro-terrorism policies. It told distraught Borno communities that they must accept “radicalized, rehabilitated, and reintegrated” Boko Haram terrorists who murdered their loved ones or risk having them “go back to terrorism.”

Then it added this telling and ominous line: “The Buhari administration is a responsible one and is conscious of its duty to the state and society, and to the victims of terror as well as to those who inflicted these pains and losses on our people.”

 So the government has a duty to “those who inflicted these pains and losses on our people”? What sort of government has a duty to mass murderers but not to peaceful protesters who are always crushed with disproportionate force?

This is a regime of terrorists, by terrorists, and for terrorists. We might as well rename Nigeria Terroraria and the system it practices under Buhari terrorcracy.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

“De-radicalization” of Terrorists Doesn’t Work

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

The de-radicalization, rehabilitation, and reintegration of so-called repentant Boko Haram terrorists have emerged as one of the centerpieces of the Buhari regime’s governance, which is not surprising given that Buhari had said in the past that government-sanctioned retaliatory aggression against Boko Haram terrorists was an attack on the North.

 Every sober observer knows that de-radicalizing, rehabilitating, and reintegrating remorselessly bloodstained mass murderers into the very societies they drowned in oceans of blood—especially without compensating and mollifying the people they displaced, widowed, and orphaned— is a singularly wooden-headed policy.

But it helps, nonetheless, to look at evidence from research— and from the experiential data of societies that attempted to de-radicalize terrorists. Since Nigeria isn’t the only country that grapples with the question of what to do with— and to—nabbed terrorists, what can we learn from other countries?

The UK has a program that it calls “Desistance and Disengagement Programme,” which works to de-radicalize terrorists. The US state of Minnesota, which has a large number of Somali immigrants and a fair amount of domestic terrorism, also has a “Terrorism Disengagement and Deradicalization Program” designed to jolt terrorists back from the precipice of fatal extremism. So do many countries in Europe and Asia.

The data from the UK is mixed, but it nevertheless provides a cautionary tale for Nigeria. For example, three past beneficiaries of the country’s “Desistance and Disengagement Programme” went on to murder 24 people between 2017 and 2019 in the aftermath of their “deradicalization.” Other countries have similar experiences.

Deradicalization of terrorists is not always a failure, of course. According to the Business Insider, “Between 2001-2012, Malaysia put 154 extremists through deradicalization schemes. Of those, 148 had ‘successfully completed the de-radicalisation programme and were released, without later re-offending,’ the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence (ICSR) wrote in a 2012 paper.”

However, an emerging consensus is that because terrorists are often animated by a single-minded, tunnel vision of society, it is often impossible to be certain that a deradicalization program can reverse their predilection for violence. A 2019 research by the European Union's Radicalization Awareness Network, for instance, concluded that, "Even after the very best of prevention efforts, some individuals still go on to become (violent) extremists."

The Center for Research and Evidence on Security Threats (CREST) also said there is "limited evidence about what supports positive change, which makes it difficult to determine if an intervention's approach is likely to be successful."

Similarly, the UK’s Christopher Dean, a psychologist who created a deradicalization program called the Healthy Identity Intervention (HII), admitted that it’s difficult to be certain that a terrorist has been completely deradicalized. “People can get more reassured and confident about change and progress that people are making, but I think we have to be very careful about saying someone has totally changed or has been cured,” the Independent of the UK quoted him as saying.

I don’t know how Nigeria’s Boko Haram terrorists are being deradicalized and rehabilitated—and I hope someone will systematically study this—but the result of their work stares us in the face. Many of the so-called deradicalized and reintegrated Boko Haram terrorists actually only reintegrate to their former terror cells from where they murder soldiers and civilians alike.

On July 26, for example, a soldier fighting Boko Haram in Borno sent the following social media message that tugged at my heart strings: “Good evening sir. I'm presently in Monguno. I've been wanting to hint you on the recent happenings. During the last two attacks June and July (in Monguno), some of the so called rehabilitated Boko Haram guys- Non State Armed Groups (NSAG) joined their former colleagues in attacking the community and ran back to the BUSH with them. This is to say that the whole rehabitation [sic] narrative is a sham.”

Ali Ndume, who represents Borno South in the Senate, told ChannelsTV on July 30 that a recently “de-radicalized,” “rehabilitated,” and “reintegrated” Boko Haram terrorist murdered his father, stole his father’s cows, and vanished.

“Some of them that returned to Damboa, after two, three days, they disappeared,” he said. “I learnt reliably that even in the course of de-radicalisation, they said they are not willing to come to live with the infidels. This programme really needs to be looked into immediately. I am gathering information and position of my people and even go legal.”

Ndume’s observation has support in research. A German researcher by the name of Daniel Koehler who studied German neo-Nazis and terrorists inspired by religion found that, “The solitary problem for these individuals is always that there’s a global conspiracy against their race or religion; the solitary solution to such persecution is violence, with the goal of placing themselves and their group in control of a revamped society.”

They are not persuaded by moral or theological arguments, he said. He makes the case for “the careful reintroduction of problems and solutions into a radicalized person’s life, so that they can no longer devote all their mental energy to stewing over their paranoia.”

I doubt that the people who are tasked with the responsibility to “deradicalize” Boko Haram terrorists in Nigeria—if there are any, that is— have the intellectual resources to do what the German researcher suggested. How do the Boko Haram “deradicalizers” determine that “deradicalized” Boko Haram terrorists have “repented” and are ready to be unleashed to the societies they terrorized before their capture since even people who research the deradicalization of terrorists say no one can be certain that “deradicalized” terrorists won’t relapse to their old ways?

 Plus, people in the communities that the Nigerian government is reintegrating Boko Haram terrorists to don’t want these washed-up terrorists in their midst. Don’t the people’s opinions and preferences matter? TheCable of July 24 reported Borno residents to have told the government to integrate the terrorists back “to govt house or Aso Rock” instead of their communities.

The anger of the communities is understandable. While government is “reintegrating” terrorists, it is disintegrating the victims of the terrorists. While villainous Boko Haram terrorists are pampered, the surviving victims of Boko Haram’s murderous barbarism endure precarious existence in filthy, dangerous Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps.  It’s like they are being punished by the government for being victims of terrorists’ brutalities.

While Boko Haram terrorists are being treated with excessive indulgence, their victims in IDP camps are serially raped—both figuratively and literally. Babachir David Lawal stole millions from them, and he is still walking free. Umar Farouq Sadiya stole date palms (worth millions of naira) donated to them by Saudi Arabia. She has been rewarded with appointment as minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development. The cruel irony!

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), women in IDP camps in the Northeast “resort to transactional sex for survival.” Because of the unsanitary conditions of the IDPs, there are periodic outbreaks of cholera that kill scores of people. Plus, even in their state of helplessness, they are still subject to episodic Boko Haram murders.

When a Nigerian Airforce jet bombed an IDP camp in Rann, Borno State, on January 17, 2017 in error, which caused the death of at least 115 people, Buhari didn’t find it worth his while to console them, much less visit them. About three months later, on March 22, 2017, Boko Haram bombed another IDP camp in the Muna Garage area of Maiduguri. Again, there was insouciant silence from the same government that is bending over backwards to please Boko Haram terrorists.

Obviously, the Buhari regime rewards and celebrates homicidal outlaws. Its message to Nigerians is unmistakably this: if they want to be taken seriously and indulged by government, they should be organized, vicious mass murderers.

Boko Haram Rewarded When They Defeat-- and Are Defeated by--Nigeria

First posted on Facebook August 1, 2020

When Boko Haram terrorists capture civilians and soldiers alive, they either murder them in cold blood or release them only when government pays a handsome ransom.

But when Nigerian soldiers capture Boko Haram terrorists alive, they "deradicalize," "rehabilitate" and "integrate" them at the cost of millions. 

In other words, they get rewarded when they defeat Nigeria and again get rewarded when Nigeria defeats them. They win heads or tails. That's so bizarre and twisted!