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RELIGION, VIOLENCE, POVERTY AND UNDERDEVELOPMENT IN WEST AFRICA: ISSUES AND CHALLENGES OF BOKO HARAM PHENOMENON IN NIGERIA
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Violent conflicts in emerging democracies or societies in transition threaten the stability of state governance institutions, which brings about insecurity of lives, property and deepens the vicious cycle of poverty and criminality in Africa. The first responsibility of any government is to provide security of lives and property. At no time since Nigeria’s civil war has the country witnessed the resurgence of violence and insecurity that claims hundreds of lives weekly. It is a sectarian insurgence of multiple dimensions. This article makes the case that Boko Haram is not just a religious phenomenon but a reflection of a so- cio-political, economic and ethnic problem caused by bad governance. As a result, Boko Haram has witnessed a cross-border influence and impact which has expanded its frontiers beyond Nigeria to neighboring countries in the West African region. The theoretical framework employed in this article posits that Boko Haram has its roots fundamentally in poverty caused by bad governance in the Northern Moslem bend, in Nigeria and the West African Region where corruption, human rights violations, marginalization of cultural, political and religious groups have created the situation whereby weak state structures have abysmally failed to deliver on the development promises made during elections. So the emergence of Nigeria’s Boko Haram violence, as a result of the street poverty and the rise of unemployed street beggars, popularly known as Almajiris, and their use for electoral and party violence, was encouraged by the neglect and abandonment of the masses by the governors and other elected leaders. The expansion and consolidation of the Boko Haram insurgence to other parts of the country and neighboring West African nations was made possible by the already existing failed state institutions, bad governance and corruption and the existing band of small criminal sectarian groups that depend upon their survival on aids from Al Quaeda, drug gangs and sea piracy. The religious dimension is a marginal factor fueled by fundamental socio-economic and political variables which have been thrown up in the first place by bad governance and leadership in Nigeria.
Keywords: Religion; Violence; Conflict; Poverty; Bad Governance; Weak Institutions and Underdevelopment