Saturday, 9 March 2013

Boko Haram: Inside the Mindset of a Nigerian Suicide Bomber

No one ever lacks a good reason for suicide. – Cesare Paverse

Until June 16, 2011 suicide bombing was a distant phenomena few ever thought could occur in this realm. The harsh economic climate and heated geo-political space notwithstanding, it is very rare to see Nigerians, a people widely adjudged as the happiest on the face of the earth, take their own lives. It was even more unimaginable that someday, a Nigerian irrespective of whatever influence, will devise violent and extreme actions capable of brutally terminating his life, and extending the same deadly gestures to those around him.
So when Umaru Abdulmutallab, a 22-year-old Nigerian from an affluent background attempted to become the country’s first suicide bomber on a US-bound flight on Christmas Day 2009, many among his compatriots questioned his nationality, others his sanity. 
Nigerians can’t be suicide bombers, it was reiterated.

Then the dreaded happened. Mohammed Manga, a 35-year-old Nigerian male, signed his name in the most gory of inks as the first suicide bomber ever to strike in the country. A recruit of extremist Islamic sect Boko Haram, Manga blew himself up in front of Nigeria’s police headquarters in Abuja, two and half years after Mutallab’s first unsuccessful attempt to set the record aboard the American airliner.

Here comes the multimillion dollar question, what could make a Nigerian volunteer to be a suicide bomber?
Could it be the prevailing unemployment situation in the country which has made the teeming able-bodied youths roaming the northern part of the country a potential breed for terror recruiters? Maybe it is the lure of a few thousand dollars that make potential volunteers throw reasons to the winds and get blown up. Perhaps it is in the hatred indoctrinated into these would-be suicide bombers by extremist Islamic preachers at an early age.

Like his counterparts in Arabia or elsewhere around the world, research has proven that money, education or the lack of both, is not a determinant factor that would either motivate or hinder a would be Nigerian suicide bomber. If it will be recalled, Abdulmutallab was from an illustrious home and had the best education money could offer. Mohammed Manga on the other hand was described as a fairly successful businessman.
In Robert Lamb’s How Suicide Bombers Work, both the glamorization of martyrdom and its establishment as a gateway to rewards in the afterlife are central, yet universal factors in the suicide bomber equation.
The glamorization of matyrdom is appealing to the often young and naive Nigerian suicide bomber, whose average age bracket is put between 18 – 24.  For this set of people, the thoughts that his name becomes immortal is overwhelming. The pride, prospect and glamour at the ‘sense of a holy mission’ is appealing, and this sadly, is a bait their manipulative handlers exploit to the fullest. 

‘A gateway to rewards in the afterlife’ should not be ruled out as a motivating factor for the Nigerian suicide bomber. The thoughts of seventy-two virgins for martyrs who paid the supreme price for fighting Allah’s cause is too strong to be relegated to the background. Likewise are the quests to avenge perceived political tyranny and economic imbalances. 

So how does the Nigerian suicide bomber justify the killings of innocent souls? Israeli psychologists eager to understand the mindset of militant Islamic extremists postulate that at this point in the mindset of the suicide bomber, no one perhaps except for members of his sect is innocent. He is not about killing the innocent, he is killing the enemy.


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