A fresh perspective on finding solutions to the seemingly intractable challenge of violent religious extremism has been propounded by a Deputy Director and researcher at the National Defence College (NDC), Abuja, Dr. Yusuf Abubakar Mamud.
According to Mamud, his long years of research has proven that involving family units and religious leaders by government, security agencies and other stakeholders can help end the scourge of Boko Haram in Nigeria.
He stressed that this softer approach to preventing and countering extremism and terrorism can be implemented successfully alongside the military offensive and counter attacks.
Dr. Mamud captured his perspectives in a book – ‘In God’s Name We Fight: Embracing and Renouncing Violent Extremism’ – which he formally launches this week, together with another book on struggles and triumphs of the average Nigeria youth, which he titled: ‘Turning Forty’.
Addressing journalists in Abuja at the weekend ahead of the book launch, Dr. Mamud, who has been a researcher at the NDC for about 20 years, said his studies and experience prove that the family unit can be used well in tackling the ignorance which propels extremism.
“We must start from the family unit in a bid to stem the tide of violent extremism. This can produce evidence based response. The family is key to tackling violent extremism. Family must be at the heart of the solution.
“The hard military power approach is relevant, but afterwards we need to identify individual family groups and religious groups to ask pertinent questions. We should ask them for solutions not giving them our own, which may not be the best”, he stated.
Dr. Mamud advised that public preaching by clerics needs to be regulated and closely monitored by government and security agencies, while calling for an overhaul of the curriculum of military training manuals and processes to factor in family intervention and other relevant social indices.
Worried by the fact that young boys in the North where violent extremism is prevalent, need better parental monitoring to check them from being lured into crime, the author canvassed that certain conditions be attached to government’s social investment programmes – like restricting number of children for beneficiaries.
He equally expressed concern over the not so transparent roles of foreign donors and agencies, stressing that there currently may not be effective monitoring or supervision of these bodies by government institutions.
“We should be telling them what we want them to do for our people. There be shouldn’t be to much free hand for them to do whatever they want in our country”, said Dr. Mamud, who pointed out the grey areas result to the occasional friction between the agencies and security agencies.
Explaining his book, Dr. Mamud said he weaved his thoughts around a true-life story of a young undergraduate in a medical college who ended up as a Boko Haram fighter while searching to worship God on the campus of his institution.
He pointed out that the effort to get the young man off that destructive path was herculean but made easier and eventually successful when love, empathy and compassion were applied by his family to de-radicalise him and wean him off the influence of his religious mentors.
The academic followed up the story personally and conclusively till the young Boko Haram fighter was liberated and graduated as a neurosurgeon in a foreign university, with the intention to help less privileged Nigerians back home.
Mamud’s second book, ‘Turning Forty’ revolves around the struggles, disappointments and victories of the average young person as he or she approaches and turns 40 years of age in Nigeria.
He captures the joblessness that follow the high hopes in many instances as well as the parental and societal pressures that trail the average Nigerian youth even after going through higher education, which is touted as the key to a bright future.
“Part of my own success is putting this dilemma and experience in writing and present to the public. This book will encourage the youth to struggle more as their is light at of the tunnel.
“We should formalise vocational skills too, like having better formal training of mechanics and carpenters and other blue collar artisans. While we may not always have to blame the government, it is clear that we need better curricular in our educational institutions”, he said.