Thursday, July 24, 2014

Boko Haram and Capitalism

According to Human Rights Watch, in Nigeria, Boko Haram, the groups most people regard as a terrorist group, have killed in the last six months more than 2,053 civilians. Some people suggest that number has also been reached by the government of Goodluck Jonathan, who some say has killed as many people over the same period. Nigeria is the largest economy in Africa. It's the sixth-largest oil exporting country in the world. Why such chaos?

This video is well worth a watch

Baba Aye is a trade union educator and Deputy National Secretary of the Labour Party, is the National Convener of United Action for Democracy, the largest rights-based CSOs coalition in Nigeria. He has been very active over the past three decades in the various trenches of struggle for democratic rights and is the author of the book Era of Crises and Revolts: Perspectives for Workers and Youth.

Baba Aye: Boko Haram represents two contradictory developments, two contradictory phenomena. One is a reflection of the level of poverty, the level of disillusionment and discontent in the part of the country where you have--Boko Haram have their base. That is the northeast. The northeastern part of the country has the highest poverty rate in the country, the highest level of unemployment in the country, and you have the highest proportion of children of school age out of school, elementary school, in the world in the northeast. And that is one aspect of it. And Boko Haram feeds on this discontent. It taps into this disillusionment with the system.
The second part is this: it's also a reflection of elite politics played with the mask of ethnicity and religion, I mean, primordial sentiments, because while Boko Haram presented itself as some organization fighting against ostentatiousness, fighting against, I mean, Western civilization, in the sense of this being oppressive, so to speak, it also has close ties with ruling members of the state. And it's rather unfortunate, but it is understandable, because this is part of a pattern that goes back to the decolonization process in the country, where you found different sections of the elites playing up primordial cards so as to be able to win sections of the masses to their side as they battled amongst themselves for who gets the lion's share of access to the state treasury through access to state power....
...Were Boko Haram to be smashed today, a dozen Boko Harams would arise. As it is presently, you have three well-known splinter groups from Boko Haram, of which the larger of the other two smaller groups is Ansaru, which has targeted foreign nationals specifically, and with particular reference to French nationals. You have these. But in May you also had a totally unknown group in Niger state, which is in the northern region. So you have to situate Boko Haram within a bigger problem, and that problem as part of the dynamics of interclass power play based on interests, economic and political interest of the elites in the country feeding into mass poverty, disillusionment, and anger that is quite palpable not only in the northeastern part of the country but across the country as a whole....

....You have had an infinitesimal few, few, getting stupendously rich while poverty has has stalked the land, while poverty has become the lived realities of the bulk, the immense majority of the population. The percentage of people living below the poverty line as at last year, from the less statistics, official statistics, is 69.5, roughly 70 percent. This is up from 54 percent barely ten years back. So you have poverty increasing while a few, a few people, a few people--. In Nigeria you have, I mean, show rooms of Ferrari, of Lamborghinis. You have a few people that--. And that's the problem, that is the problem with the country, inequality.

The full interview and transcript can be accessed here 

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