Violent Extremism and the Way Forward
The scours of threat of violent extremism, political violent and conflict has for past decades become a global phenomenon because it has cut-across all the continents of the world. The entire globe (world) today is in a state of crisis, no part of the world is spared of the turbulence. These crisis situations are new in their patterns, implication and management. Before unravelling the details of this essay, it is pertinent to explain what violent extremism, political violence, and conflict connotes.
Violent extremism refers to the beliefs and action of people who support or use ideologically motivated violence to achieve radical ideological, religious or political views. E.g. Boko Haram Sects, Shiites e.c.t
However, political violence was viewed by Jeff fisher (2002) as ‘’any random or organized act that seeks to determine, delay, or otherwise influence an electoral or political process through threat, verbal intimidation, hate speech, disinformation, physical assault, forced protection, blackmail, destruction of property or assassination ‘’. Similarly, Isaac O. Albert (2007), professor of African history and peace studies at the university of Ibadan, defines political violence as ‘’all forms of organized acts or threats, physical, psychological, and structural aimed at intimidating, harming, or blackmailing a political stake holder before, during and after an election with a view of determining, delaying, or otherwise influencing an electoral process’’. For example, the 2003 Kaduna political violence in Nigeria.
The term conflict simply connotes the incompatibility of interests of two parties or groups. E.g. farmers/herdsmen conflict in northern Nigeria, and TV/Jukun conflict in Taraba state in Nigeria. There are many different kinds of violent extremism: religious, social, political, ideological etc. For the sake of clarity, the discourse of this essay is going to be domesticated and all the templates will be drawn in Nigeria. When talking or writing about interrogating or an analysis of current issues or theme relevant to the threat of violent extremism, political violence and conflict, one can never dodge from the below templates.
The Boko Haram insurgency, which was initially seen in security circles as a minor irritation in the North East, has escalated into a regional full-blown terrorism and violent extremism that no one envisaged. Even as this particular crisis appears to be de-escalating, other equally deadly ones and security threats are springing up in different parts of Nigeria. Previously intermittent clashes between herdsmen and farmers have assumed a new level of dimension, spread, sophistication and regularity. Kidnapping and hostage taking which were previously seen as one of the strategies employed by militant group for waging the Niger delta struggle in the south- south of Nigeria has now become a lucrative informal economy for crime syndicates and opportunistic criminals all over Nigeria. All these were unforeseen and responses to them have been reactive. In addition, the embers of old flames are beginning to smolder with the emergence of groups such as ‘’Niger delta avengers’’ whose attacks on critical national oil assets have opened up a new phase of crisis in the post-amnesty security environment in the Niger delta. The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and a faction of Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) rekindled the bitter memories of the Nigerian civil war. There is the resurgence of radical religious groups such as ‘’Nigerian Shiites ‘’ in the Northern Nigerian whose intransigence, disdain for laws of the land and constituted authorities, and allegiance to foreign flags and doctrines bring their members into frequent violent confrontations with security agencies. The Jos crisis which Emerged since the 1990s has become a terminal problem; while recent clashes in Benue and Nassarawa state shows that ethnic conflicts of the violent genre are once again in ascendancy.
The simultaneous nature of these crises and the fallouts of attempts to curtail them have opened up a new chapter in discourse of violent extremism, political violence and conflict globally. The above highlighted cases of Violent Extremism, Political Violence and Conflict like, Boko Haram insurgency, Shiites group, Jos crises, Kaduna 2003 and 2007 political violence, farmers/herds men conflict etc. have over the years attracted the international policy responses.
However, research and evidence base analyses by peace expertise or pundits could make a real contribution towards improving new trend of prevention of violent extremism. In order to curtail and prevent violent extremism in Nigeria and beyond, it is pertinent to nib the causes of the violent extremism at bud or while it is at sleeping phase. Base on my opinion, Violent Extremism can only be prevented if exclusion, inequality, marginalization, annihilation, presence of extremists charismatic religious leaders and dogmatic practices are thoroughly checked.
Most if not all violent extremism that occurred in Nigeria such as Boko Haram insurgency and Niger Delta menace was sparked as a result of marginalization and exclusion in the sharing formula of the national cake. Also, high poverty rate and illiteracy has led to the emergence of many Violent Extremism groups in Nigeria. However, as part of a response strategy, many countries like United States of America are committed towards serving as auxiliary towards the combat of Violent Extremism. Likewise many organizations and NGO’S inclusive have shown a greater role in the prevent response role though Nigeria being a sovereign nation has for long put in the mechanisms and machineries of law like armed forces and judiciary system to manage the curtailment of the response duty. For long, the synergy between socio-economic factor like religion, gender, education, institution and other factors like rule of law have intersected and is playing a crucial role towards managing Violent Extremism in Nigeria.
In conclusion, the intersection between socio-economic factor like religion, gender educational institution and other factors like governance, rule of law and security can either be used to prevent violent extremism or promote it, but it depends on the applicability of the factors and who apply it. Desmond Tutu once said ‘’religion can either be used to cut bread or stab some one’s head.