021 marks the twentieth anniversary of the infamous September 11 attacks, also known as the 9/11 attacks, were a series of airline hijackings and suicide attacks carried out in 2001 by 19 al-Qaeda (Islamic extremist group) affiliated militants against targets in the United States, and were the deadliest terrorist attacks on American soil in US history. The attacks on Washington, D.C. and New York City resulted in a large amount of death and destruction, and they sparked a massive counter-terrorism effort in the United States. In New York, 2,750 killed; Pentagon, 184; and Pennsylvania, 40 killed; while all 19 terrorists died alongside.
Not that the threat of terrorism had not existed in our world prior to September 11, 2001. Indeed, this monstrosity has been wreaking havoc since the nineteenth century and beyond. How many people remember the first terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on February 26, 1993, by Al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorists? This is only an illustration to show that the monster did not start sucking blood on September 11, 2001. But it was the tragedy of the World’s sole superpower at the height of her splendour as the master of the international arena in a world where the Cold War had ended in her favour being flattened by a seemingly motley group of young men that engraved September 11 (widely called “9/11”) into the collective psyche of the globe.
Terrorist forces have been on the march around the world since then, and Nigeria has not been spared. Nigeria has progressed from humble beginnings to become a prominent actor in the global war on terrorism. Nigeria was ranked third in this ‘league’ in the Global Terrorism Index for 2020, behind Afghanistan and Iraq. The research paints a somber picture of what terrorism has done to Nigeria since Boko Haram, an Islamic fundamentalist group, first appeared on the scene in the early 2000s.
Terrorism is difficult to comprehend. It is difficult to define the term in the first place. One person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter, according to a popular phrase. Personally, I do not subscribe to this viewpoint since examining the intentions of many of the men and women slaughtering and ravaging the world today reveals that they have little to do with the concept of freedom as it is commonly understood. For example, what kind of liberty are Boko Haram and ISWAP fighting for? They, at the absolute least religiously, nullify others’ freedom.
Individuals and organisations are labeled terrorists for self-serving reasons or to malign people whose loyalties run opposed to the ruling establishment. How many people remember Nelson Mandela being labeled a terrorist by the majority white South African government and its European and American backers? It was justified in their eyes: Mandela had snuck out of the racist enclave to found and lead the African National Congress’s fighting arm, which used bullets and bombs in the campaign against apartheid. The force was known as “Umkhonto we Sizwe,” which translates to “Spear of the Nation” in Xhosa. In the view of the current Nigerian government, the Indigenous People of Biafra is a terrorist organization, while the rampaging bandits in Zamfara and other Northern Nigerian states do not have this formal designation. Before September 11, Osama bin Laden and his ilk were not considered terrorists by the United States government because of their undeniable participation in battling the defunct Communist Soviet Union for invading Afghanistan. In America’s perspective, they were allies and freedom warriors.
Though my list is incomplete, I feel that these characteristics contribute to terrorism, particularly the type that the world has witnessed since 2001:
A skewed perspective of the world, particularly of people we consider to be our adversaries: Terrorist sponsors will never allow their followers to see the man behind the mask, lest they determine that their adversaries are also deserving of life and humanity.
The technology of violence is quite easily accessible.
The moderate elements of the two religions most closely linked to terrorism, Islam and Christianity, are unwilling or unable to speak out against their powerful extreme fringes, and in some cases, ineffectual.
A centuries-old conflict of civilizations has only intensified after the conclusion of the Cold War. In his 1996 book, ‘The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order,’ American political scientist Samuel Huntington introduced the concept. Simply expressed, the idea is that in the post-Cold War world, conflicts, clashes, and wars will arise from religious and cultural identities that transcend nations, boundaries, races, and so on. Islam and Christianity, right or wrong, have been in a violent fight for world dominion, especially when influenced by unscrupulous power-seekers. The Muslim world regards the Westerners and Jewish Israel as infidel barbarians who are trampling on their faith, territory, and oil. They have been rising to extract their pound of flesh since the end of the Cold War in 1991, when the Soviet Union fell apart. Even in Sub-Saharan Africa, where both religions are foreign to the people, the so-called clash of civilizations thrives.
Terrorism’s superstructure is made up of four layers:
The strategists: They deceive the recruits by putting holy texts on their heads and churning forth twisted philosophies. They determine the agenda, initiate and plan, and gather and coordinate resources. They could also sponsor or seek sponsorship for the operations. They are the so-called “messiahs” who wish to attack the “enemy.”
The financier: These are the wealthy individuals who direct their funds to causes that we may consider terrorist. Countries and institutions are frequently involved for strategic or commercial reasons. Simply put, they are the sponsors behind the terror, their resources are what is used to carry out these dastardly acts across the world.
The strikers: Suicide bombers, hijackers, and assassins are the public faces of terrorism. They are the ones who have had their minds manipulated. But do not assume they are all immature, illiterate, or impoverished. Almost all of the September 11 hijackers, for example, were males with a college education. Professionals were among the terrorists who attacked London in 2005. Despite the fact that most terrorist groups in Nigeria are hostile to educational aims, a sizable part of their backers and leadership cadres are educated and knowledgeable.
These people are driven by more than just twisted religious beliefs; have we considered political ideologies or a distorted knowledge of their history? The average Fulani terrorist (also known as bandits or herders by Nigerian authorities) believes that all of Nigeria’s lands belong to them historically, and that anyone who disagrees is deserving of murder; and psychological difficulties.
The people: Any anti-terrorist campaign that fails to address this layer will fail. There are ordinarily ordinary people who support terrorist groups in a variety of ways, from the United Kingdom to Indonesia to Nigeria. They applaud their “god” for any suicide assault on their “enemy.” They swear revenge on any moderate who tries to stop the killing. Unfortunately, the first and second tiers present the public with what they believe they desire or will solve their problems, when in truth, they are after their own evil goals. The drive for power, control, and dominance, as historians will tell you, has never ended.
The masses being subjected to extreme poverty and power-play by Nigeria’s ruling elites, who promote and manipulate religion and ethnicity, give further fuel to the terrorist inferno raging across the country. The yearning for a just world should guide everyone who wants to put an end to terrorism in our world more than any other tactic.