It was a change to do a detailed interview about Boko Haram terrorist emergency with Enza Guccione, an Italian nun who has been living in Southern Nigeria for 18 years.
Sister Enza moved to Nigeria in 1996 and is currently looking after the community of Igbedor, a river island between Kogi State and Anambra State.
In 2009, sister Enza contributed to the creation of the Emmanuel Childrenland Nursery/Primary School in Igbedor, where about 400 children attend lessons. In the same year she and the bishop of Onitsha, Southern Nigeria, founded the NGO Emmanuel Family, aimed at providing humanitarian assistance to the people of Igbedor.
Drawing on her years of experience in the country, Sister Enza thinks Boko Haram is the result of Nigeria’s internal instability, politicians’ lack of effort to promote the country’s development and international interferences mostly originated by U.S. and European Union.
Sister Enza, how long have you been living in Nigeria and what do you there?
I have been living in Nigeria for 18 years. I dedicate myself to the care of Igbedor, a Niger’s river island between Kogi State and Anambra State. This island has been forgotten by the local government, by religious institutions (we are the only nuns who live on this island). The mission I run aims at alleviating people’s sufferings by improving education and the water system.
Here, there are about 5000 children, aged 0 to 12, according a 2005 census. There are no schools, no hospitals, no electricity and no drinkable water. The closest city is 4-5 hours by boat.
What is you personal experience of the Boko Haram’s insurgence in Northern Nigeria?
I am very sad due to Boko Haram ’s attacks, which cause the death of many innocents. They also cause political destabilisation in a country which is so rich of natural resources that could be compared (from an economical standpoint) to some Western countries.
Boko Haram’s civil war aims at sparking a religious war – as we are witnessing in Central African Republic’s conflict – are they succeeding? What is the position of the Catholic Church and other christian churches?
I don’t think the insurgents are engaging in a religious war. There are no Muslims taking up arms against Christians or vice-versa. Christians live together with the Muslim minority in the south-west of the country…days go by serenely.
Christians and Muslims live in the same cities, go to the same markets. Their children go to the same schools. The Church has not perceived any imminent danger to Christians. We are very sad due to the terrorism which keeps claiming innocent lives and tries to take control of the country.
If there was a religious war, Boko Haram would have focuses their attacks in the south-west of Nigeria, instead of the north, so close to Ciad, Niger and Cameroon – where the inhabitants are mainly Muslims.
Does Boko Haram receive support from the Muslim population?
There are Muslims in Igbedor, they do not approve Boko Haram’s attacks. They define the insurgents as “paid assassins” without any political or religious agenda. This is also what many Christians from Anambra e Kogi believe.
How do you explain that Boko Haram’s main victims are Muslim from Northern Nigeria?
I think it is just a case that Boko Haram is targeting the Muslim population who lives in the north. If there were Christians there, it would be the same. I think the insurgents are targeting the north because it is a strategic area for them to carry out the attacks and then escape near the borders with Chad, Niger and Cameroon, where it is difficult to locate them.
It is surprising to note that the areas where they stay are highly circumscribed. A few years ago the insurgents tried to reach Bayelsa, in the south, but militias from the Delta stopped them. Since then, they have been staying in the north-west of Nigeria.
How is daily life in the north, where people fear Boko Haram’s attacks?
Living in the south, I can only imagine how people live in the north. Their life is constantly threatened by a possible explosion which could happen any minute, in every place, especially in schools, at local markets, on the streets and even in religious places. This situation creates panic, diffidence, tensions, rebellions and aggressive behaviours between people who will try to protect themselves and will stop trusting others.
What are the dangers of associating Boko haram to Islam?
I think that associating Boko Haram to Islam gives strength to extremists: this gives them more attention and helps them to emerge as a power that has to be feared.
Can you confirm there are foreign jihadists inside Boko Haram?
Yes, I believe Boko Haram are foreign jihadists who are recruited and paid together with other Nigerians, who are used as informers.
According to American journalist Glen Ford, Boko Haram is just “a brand” used by almost 100 Islamist terror groups. Ford also thinks Boko Haram are supported by the US, France, the UK and by the Arab monarchies, to interfere with Nigeria’s economic and political life. Do you agree?
Boko Haram was defeated many years ago. It is now just a brand, behind which terrorism (Islamic and non) hides and tries to destabilise the country. This brand is supported by big world powers which provide weapons to terrorist who, otherwise, could not afford.
I am more than sure that behind all the wars in Africa, as in Latin America, there are world superpowers and their interest in natural resources available in such continents.
It is convenient that Africans kill each other while the West keeps stealing oil, diamonds, cobalt from them.
What do you think about the fact that Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan accepted the US’ help to find more than 200 missing girls and that, after more three motnhs, the girls have not yet been found and Boko Haram carried out another mass abduction of 91 people in some villages in Borno State between Thursday 19 June and Sunday 21 June?
I don’t know what led Jonathan to accept the US’ help to find the missing girls. In this situation of chaos, it is difficult for the president to understand the right thing to do, especially if he is alone.
I believe that the US, throughout history, have tried to dominate the whole world. If their strategic abilities and energies were used for good things – like to guarantee the world’s development – that would honour the US and would destroy any discrimination in favour of a more just world.
Unfortunately superpowers are like babies, they want to show up their skills and dominate the weak ones.
I think that only united Nigerians can free their nation from the current situation and from new forms of slavery.
I think the new attacks and kidnaps will end only if Jonathan is not re-elected and he is substituted by a president able to collaborate with the West, forgetting national interests.
This scenario, in my opinion, is “corruption” and innocent people will pay the price.
According to Glen Ford, the popular movement Bring Backs Our Girls – created by the missing girls’ parents – would have been just a local phenomenon, if American and French secret services had not helped raise awareness on the issue via social media. Do you agree with Ford’s view?
The popular movement of Bring Backs Our Girls is a phenomenon which led international media to focus on a case similar to other thousands which are left forgotten. I believe the movement was an excuse for the UN and France to go to Nigeria to follow their agenda, which will not benefit the kidnapped girls or Nigeria in general.
Their agenda will only safeguard the oil production which, at the moment, seems to be oriented towards China and India.
Western countries’ plans to counterfeit terrorism are opposed by Jonathan who showrf his will to collaborate, but has also stated that the cooperation with the West will terminate if national interests are undermined. What do you think about Jonathan’s stand?
I really admire President Jonathan Goodluck, who has been caught inside a crisis and has been left alone by other politicians who do not care about the development of Nigeria as a united group and not as many tribal groups with different religions.
I support the president’s decisions.
If the agreement with the UN and western countries such as France are not aimed at the wellness of the nation, they should be immediately ended.
Do you think the federal government is really incapable of defying Boko Haram and protecting its citizens?
The federal government can defy the rebels and terrorists – as in any other country in the world – only if there is a communal interest towards the development of Nigeria.
Unfortunately, one of the causes of terrorism is the widespread corruption of politicians that Western countries exploit for their own interests.
What do you think about the vigilantes groups, which include also female members, and which collaborate with the army? Are these groups formed by Christians or Muslims?
I think Muslims and Christian have nothing to do with this. The vigilante groups are formed by Nigerians who want peace and serenity in their villages, in their schools, in the whole nation.
The fact that they are Muslims or Christians does not make any difference.
There is a strange coincidence. Since Jonathan announced the government would put national interests before a possible cooperation with Western powers to defy terrorism, Boko Haram’s attacks have drastically increased throughout the country. How do you explain this?
Boko Haram’s leaders have only one aim: to take the lead of the country. If Jonathan shows his weakness, attacks will certainly increase to speed fear and confusion. Former president Obasanjo showed he was able to control Boko Haram, because his relationships with Western countries and the UN were going really well. It was during his post that Boko Haram’s former leader was killed and the terror group disintegrated.
What are the interactions between civil war, Boko Haram, Nigerian politic and oil production?
According to my opinion, Nigerian politics – famous for its great corruption – does not aim to promote the country’s development. Politicians’ only interest is to get rich by exploiting the country’s oil, in the south-west of Nigeria.
Thus, there is a continuous struggle to decide who owns this great natural resource. Terrorism and western countries are all part of this fight for the hegemony over oil production.
Do you think a majour collaboration between Goodluck Jonathan with Boko Haram ( for example the release of some Boko haram members who are currently in jail) will increase or decrease the attacks?
I think no. The negotiations based on the release of terrorists will not solve the case. It could lead to a temporary situation of calm during which further attacks will be planned.
I think that to defeat terrorism, leaders have to help build up a solid future for the nation, by aiming at providing education for everybody, creating jobs for the youths, using the country’s natural resources to help Nigerians without distinctions and guaranteeing the recognition of basic human rights to all the citizens.
Terrorism is usually generated when there are too many inequalities and forms of exploitation in a country. I think Boko Haram will stop only when politicians and authorities’ corruption will be dismantled.
Do you think there are concrete chances of a Western intervention against Boko Haram? Will this increase the risk of spreading the conflict further?
From past experiences (in Nigeria too), the Western military intervention will only bring confusion and will not solve anything. It seems a farce: like a dog who chases his tale.
Weapons call weapons and war, in any part of the world, has never brought progress and development.
What alternative solutions do you suggest?
I think the alternative solutions should start from the bottom: we must create different consciences which help defy tribal mentality. Tribalism creates divisions, we need people who feel as one population in one nation. This will help develop a sense of solidarity among people.
This is the way to defy political corruption and Nigerians will finally be able to enjoy honour, dignity and prestige….all things they deserve.
by Fulvio Beltrami & Ludovica Iaccino.