Tuesday, February 27, 2024

The Shutting Down of Schools In Northern Nigeria Signals A Dangerous Future.

According to a report by the Punch Newspaper, there are now about 348 students currently held in captivity by bandits. Beyond the fact that these abductions have turned into a cash cow for these criminal elements, there is the uncomfortable feeling that a more sinister agenda is at play, which is the destruction of what is perceived to be representing “western civilization.”

Now that hundreds of schools are temporarily closed in the North-West (not to mention those already destroyed in the North-East), it would seem that the terrorists are succeeding in advancing their anti-westernization agenda. For many of the terrorist groups operating within the Sahel, western education is viewed as a tool for western domination and an extension of colonialism. As such, these groups have sought to organize a different kind of society by resorting to violent extremism – a society where what they consider the rightful teachings and doctrines of Islam will be the prevailing law.

Kirk Ross, author of The Islamic Movement, aptly describes the motivation of these terrorists’ groups (when they emerged in the Arab world and British-ruled India) as “a response to the dismal state of Muslim society in those countries: social injustice, rejection of traditional mores, acceptance of foreign domination and culture. It perceives the malaise of modern Muslim societies as having strayed from the “straight path” (as-sirat al-mustaqim) and the solution to all ills in return to the original mores of Islam.”

In other words, governing society by the teachings of Islam is not only an antidote for the ‘corruption’ of western civilization but more about dismantling the edifice of western superiority. Hence, this ideological struggle would ultimately pose a more significant threat to Nigeria’s corporate existence than the various separatists’ movements in the South-East and South-West. The lingering debate about how Nigeria can be best structured politically must therefore go beyond resolving the limitations of our constitution towards resolving the ideological contradiction of a secularist’s constitution with strong religious leanings.

To assume that the onslaught on educational institutions is a recent phenomenon championed by a fringe terrorist group in northern Nigeria is to excuse the role several notable and highly educated northern elites played in delegitimizing western education. It doesn’t seem to matter that these elites are beneficiaries of the very education system they have spent years criticizing and condemning. Their hypocrisy keeps them politically relevant and in control. To put it bluntly, Boko Haram or the other terror groups in the Sahel have neither assembled nor initiated this parade (i.e. the condemnation of western education). They have only seized it.

So, when Abubakar Shekau or some other terror leader says, “We will not allow adulterated conventional education (Boko) to replace Islamic teachings,” he isn’t saying anything very different from what a renowned northern scholar and politician once said when he argued “Western imperialism, of which the educational system is the most potent weapon, has gradually and subtly eroded and supplanted the values and ideals of our pre-colonial societies . . . [and] initiated us into virulent materialism which has since subverted our social morality, weakened our social fabric and crippled our socio-economic and political progress.

The only hope of escaping from this culture of corruption, decay, and mismanagement is by restoring our values and culture buried in the abandoned and forgotten history and culture of our pre-colonial societies. To dislodge the hegemony and monopoly of western liberalism and allow our own indigenous contributions to thoughts and ideas to compete favourably in our institutions of learning.”

As we routinely worry about the security of schools in the North and the millions paid in ransom, we must also fear that a radical Salafist ideology that makes no compromises about its stance on western education might be looking to fully exploit the current situation in Northern Nigeria for an even more sinister agenda.

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