Opinion

Tahir Sherrif: Northern Caliphate, Beyond The Political Frontline’s

As the 2015 elections draw closer, two of the major political parties in Nigeria have chosen to remain locked in the blame-game regarding the sponsors of the deadly group Boko-Haram. The recent move by Abubakar Shekau to create a northern caliphate is likely to sweep aside arguments regarding their origin and goal, replacing it with strong philosophical and theological debates by not only fundamentalists, traditionalists, modernists, and secularists in the region, but non-Muslims as well.

One of the oldest religious arguments will likely begin amongst scholars on the stand Shekau has taken and its implication for core and moderate Muslims in that axis. The group which was gaining momentum within small communities in Borno state while attempting to establish systems of governance such as imposing taxes and settling local disputes was forced to return to its guerilla warfare tactics after government forces stepped up its search and destroy activities against them when President Goodluck Jonathan declared a State of Emergency in May 2013, before this, the group had been listed as an international terrorist group and its strength placed between at over a thousand boots on the ground.

Fundamentalists who still do not adhere to violence as a form of establishing self-governance, such as those who rallied their support for a Sharia system of governance in January 2001 under former governor Ahmed Yerima of Zamfara state, witnessing its almost full enforcement in nine states (Zamfara, Kano, Sokoto, Katsina, Bauchi, Borno, Jigawa, Kebbi and Yobe states) and its partial application in three other states (Kaduna, Niger, and Gombe) may now be romancing at the possibility of applying force to acquire their objectives of a unified Sharia controlled region.

Of course Shekau has not exactly made clear his objectives as to creating a Caliphate, or who is to head such an entity as Khalifa should it exist, one thing is certain, neither old northern politicians forming an alliance with Southern compatriots nor the party which is in power currently will be a likely option should the tables turn in his tide. Whether both parties reach an agreement as to the origin and sponsors of the deadly group, through the eyes of a caliphate leader, both political parties are the bye-products of the un-Islamic systems present in the northern region which Shekau himself may have sought to wipe out.

While party members engage in translating national insecurity along political lines, producing new evidences in the blame-game, the situation is completely different at the grass-root level where scholars have become skeptical about the teachings to promote and residents mainly concerned with how an exit strategy is to be reached on the crisis, or whether it is finally time to forfeit it all and leave their homes.

With insecure borders, severe cases of human rights violations and IDPs reaching staggering amounts, the northern states under insurgency are not only becoming dysfunctional, but equally empty as well.

Although ideological and personal differences have existed amongst Muslim groups and Muslim scholars in Nigeria even before independence, under a caliphate system however, the tide is more likely to take a different turn, perhaps even a dangerous one. Before now, the attacks have been random, and targets almost evenly dispersed, but should a northern caliphate brewed from political violence begin to exist, it may do so with the condition that members of the current political set-up, sympathizers of democracy, and moderate Muslims as well will have to leave the state equally, or face violence themselves.

More troubling, if Shekau’s move is a replica of that by the ISIS in its goal to liberate its region from Western control, then the next fear is for moderates. For like the ISIS, such a move will entail keeping the Western world at bay, while weeding out the moderates and sympathizers. This threatens the unity of Nigeria as a country, but once again, like every action by the deadly group its first threat will be felt the most by Muslims in that region.

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Article written by Tahir Sherrif from Abuja

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