May 18, 2014
So would Western education be a good idea, at least in quite large parts of one of the countries, England, in which I happen to live. By the age of twelve the girls who come out of our local school look as though they aspire to prostitution at the cheaper end of the profession, while the boys at that age look as though they aspire to a life of crime. Not coincidentally, their level of educational achievement declines after that age: The longer they remain in school thereafter, the less they know.
Boko Haram itself, however, is not protesting against the abysmal academic standards in England and elsewhere in the Western world: it is protesting the very Westernization that it cannot expunge from its own hearts and lives. Its leader, after all, brandishes a weapon manufactured by Western technique (he is not going to defend himself against the authorities with a saber), and dresses in camouflage uniform to appear on video. A return to 7th century Arabia is not possible, but we are never more unreasonable or fanatical than in the pursuit of the impossible.
How did Boko Haram arm itself? I have no special insight into this question, though it would not altogether surprise me if some of its arms came from Libya soon after some of the Western powers had the brilliant idea of replacing Gaddafi after he had ceased to be a danger to them, except perhaps as a personal blackmailer to some of their leaders and former leaders. It was his overthrow that led to war in Mali, for example.
But perhaps a Libyan source was not necessary. When I was in Nigeria I was told that the police and army either rented out their arms by the night or sold them to armed robbers, that is to say to common criminals. Everything else was for sale too; ministers rented their offices to swindlers who pretended to be minister for a day so that they could extract sums from foreign businessmen as earnests for contracts that did not exist. At least half the medicines on sale in the country were fake. What was astonishing was not that things did not work well, but that they worked at all.
It is a common Nigerian saying that there is no such thing as an honest Nigerian. I did not find this to be so, at least in the dealings of Nigerians with me. But where there is gross corruption, there are people foolish enough to think that puritanism of one horrible kind or another is the solution to it. Not hope, but illusion springs eternal.