Fundamentalism; is ideological or religious intolerance. There is a clear demarcation between terrorism at an international level and the rise of fundamentalism in northern Nigeria as a region. There are many factors that led to the low level of tolerance and peace in this part of country. First is the problem of illiteracy. There is a low level of western education and as such, northerners are prone to getting involved in acts of violence. Secondly, there is a high level of ignorance, with people who have limited education and enlightenment; hence there is vulnerability to a distorted and misleading ideology, whether religious or political. There is also the problem of high level of poverty in the North, to the extent that people who decide to pick up arms in the name of faith think they have nothing to lose because they have kept nothing. There is a problem of impunity; the people that have perpetrated religious violence in the past were not properly punished for the act. Each time a religious crisis occurs, both Christian and Muslim organisations go to rescue their people and nobody is blamed. Negligence on the side of the security agencies had been a factor. There are individuals who have been sponsored overseas and there are no profiles or details of such individuals. The problem of failed leadership was a serious factor that compeled people to engage in crisis or terrorism. Successive governments failed to provide the atmosphere that would make every Nigerian have sufficient sense of hope. Fundamentalism has consequently been considered as an alternative to most of these problems.
An important factor which led to intolerance and insecurity has been the Almajiri system, where parents give out their children to religious scholars who have low level of education. This category of children grows up homeless, uneducated and vulnerable to dangerous ideas. Considering the development, foundation and strength of the Maitatsine group in the eighties and the Yusuf-led group, which sprung up about thirty years later, it is apparent that followership and strength is drawn from this kind of arrangement. And the failure of the government to implement the probe panel reports on past religious crises is responsible for the disposition of some people in the North to fundamentalism and terrorism.
Umar Farouk‘s case
Religious fundamentalism is often succinct that it creeps into the mind of those who are supposed to be moderate or otherwise. Umar Farouk’s case is a special one in the sense that terrorism will flourish if there are resources to back it up. Young people of rich parental background could exercise the privilege they have to take their own ideas to another level. The radical thought and the violence which people like Farouk Mutaliab attempted to perpetrate in United States was because he went to Yemen. For someone like him, he grew up in Kaduna which was a city that hardly knew religious tolerance. Since 1970, Kaduna as a state had recorded more than two dozen incidents that have consumed thousands of lives and brought about wanton destruction of property. So, he grew up in a city and society with very low level of tolerance and accommodation. Terrorism at the time of Abdulmutallab’s arrest was not the major problem in Nigeria and there were no cases in northern Nigeria. But there was a steady growth already and spread of fundamentalism. And it is this extremist philosophy and concept that have produced people that will take religious fundamentalism to another level. Umar Farouk was a product of the Nigerian leadership, also of an intolerant and negligent society[i].
[i] TheNews, January 11, 2010