The Beginning

Boko Haram simply means, ‘Western Education is evil. No one is sure if it is an Arabic or Islamic phrase. It was coined by a fundamentalist Islamic group that is spreading violence and destruction in Nigeria through terrorism.

Their mission is not really clear.  At a time, since they unleashed violence on the people since 2009, they said they want Nigeria to be turned into an Islamic State. Government and citizens say this is not possible because Nigeria is a secular state made up Christians and Muslims of almost equal population. No one is sure of the actual official population figures because census figures do not record religious affiliation in Nigeria. Everything is mere guesswork. But each faith is claiming to be more in number.

The Islamic group emerged in 2009, but was fiercely crushed by government security forces and many of their members were killed. Others were tried and jailed. They went underground and re-grouped, and re-emerged spreading violence, death and destruction. It did not take time for the Nigerian and foreign governments to label it a terrorist group.

Their violence strategy is using suicide bombers to detonate bombs in places of worship (mostly churches), public buildings, markets, police stations, schools, motor parks, and other places where casualty figures can be high. It started with the bombing of a Catholic church in a semi-rural community near Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city. They even bombed The United Nations Building in Abuja.

The bomb blasts  soon spread to other parts of the country. Each time Boko Haram strikes, the casualties are many, the dead and wounded. Government condemns the attacks, sends condolence message to families of the dead and wounded, assures citizens of their safety and that security forces are on top of the situation, and bears the cost of treating the injured.

But Boko Haram became bolder as the months progressed, and quickly spread fear and pain all over the land, while business activities were crippled in the areas that are hot beds of their attacks. Their modus operandi is: They laden a motor vehicle with bombs; drive it to a busy spot where people converge and detonate the bomb killing the driver and passersby. Or the suicide bomber rams the vehicle into a building. It is such that the fear of this terrorist group is the beginning of wisdom as people have now become very security conscious in Nigeria. Every parked vehicle in a public place is an object of fear now.

The Boko Haram attacks have been largely in 3 states in North-East Nigeria namely; Bornu, Yobe, and Adamawa.. But Bornu is the worst hit. After repeated attacks of students in schools, the state government at a time, shut down all schools in the state. The initial attack of schools in the state started with a night raid where the terrorists killed many students who were asleep.

The group soon graduated into using gunmen on board moving vehicles and motor bikes to shoot indiscriminately at people in villages and rural markets. Government forces fought back inflicting casualties on the terrorists, and pushed them far away from cities. The terrorists retreated but did not give up. Any time, they are hit, they change strategy and tactics. They resorted to hit remote villages where they are no regular standing security forces on patrol. An uncontrollable mob has been unleashed on the people.

News of Boko Haram attacks quickly occupied prime time in radio and television news bulletins, and front pages of Nigerian tabloids. No day passes in Nigeria now without the gory stories of Boko Haram attacks in the Nigerian and social media.

Government security forces have gone full throttle in battling the Boko Haram violence, pushing them back to the borders of Nigeria with other African countries such as Cameroon in East Africa. Nigeria is a West African country.

The Siege…

Dateline … April 14, 2014… 11pm. Students of a girl’s secondary school in Chibok, a sleepy community in Bornu State, in North-East Nigeria, were sleeping after the day’s examination by final year students. The students are taking the West African School Certificate examinations currently going on in Nigeria.

They had retired to bed after preparing for the next day’s papers hoping to wake up and continue their examinations. These final year students were recalled to school after the sudden government closure of all schools in Borno state because of the terror and violence of the dreaded Islamic group, Boko Haram.

The girls came back to complete their secondary school education for which they had put in six years. The hopes and expectations of many of them are to take the terminal exams and move onto the next level of enrolling in universities and polytechnics in the next academic session come September, 2014. The teenage girls were fast asleep when some unwanted visitors arrived, unannounced.

Strange men, ostensibly terrorists, who have unleashed violence and terror on Nigerians, since 2009, killing thousands and destroying lives and property, sneaked into the unprotected school and went straight to the dormitories and roused the girls from sleep. The startled girls saw men in soldier’s uniform and wondered why they came at that hour.  They are terrorists but disguised themselves as soldiers apparently to confuse the girls and make their work easier.

“What is your mission?” the startled girls enquired.

“We are soldiers. We have come to rescue you from terrorists who are planning to storm this school. These terrorists are ravaging this state, killing people, and destroying property. We want to save you from imminent death. They want to destroy you all and the school.

The bewildered girls could not think clearly. Who sent these soldiers? Is the school authority aware? There were no available security men for the school? The matron of the school was away.

The terrorists turned ‘soldiers’ did meet any resistance. Some of the girls were not convinced but the terrorists whose mission was suspect to many of them, violently set the school building on fire; rounded up more than 230 girls; bundled them into the vehicles they mobilized, and drove into the darkness of the night. It was kidnap on a grand scale unheard of in the annals of violence and insecurity in Nigeria.

(4 June 2014)

Eric Okeke is a CSR specialist and strategist in brand marketing and mobilizing support for corporate and social issues. He is the brand storyteller, writer, speaker, author and media consultant, with training in chemistry, marketing and business journalism. As a business writer and speaker, he has recorded a good career in media consulting and journalism which he started at The Guardian, Lagos.

Eric’s communications niche is storytelling which he is now using to empower professionals and improve business returns in Nigeria. Email him at,, Tel +234 803 301 4609; +234 817 301 4609.

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