Conflict Entrepreneurs and the Resurgence of Violence in North Eastern Nigeria – By Ahmad Hassan

Our counterinsurgency should be built on a long-range plan for a tactical action and response to violence and should combine offensive, defensive and stability operations...


Although the concept of “conflict entrepreneurship” has been used before now, especially after 1945. However, it gained popularity in recent times due to continuos analytical usage, especially in conflict ridden societies, Nigeria of course not an exception. Conflict entrepreneur refers to a group or individual who promote conflict for profit. They exist inside or outside government. Usually, a conflict entrepreneur engages in or directly benefit from illegal activity or activities that promote violence or threaten efforts and resolutions for good governance and socio-economic development.

North-eastern states of Nigeria (Adamawa, Bauchi, Borno, Taraba and Yobe) have been battling with the challenges of insurgency for 11 years now or thereabout with Borno, Adamawa and Yobe being the most hit and having the highest number of casualties as evident in the number of IDPs in the state. According UN Office on Humanitarian Affairs (2019), across the three most affected states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe (BAY), 7.1 million people are estimated to be in need of humanitarian assistance in 2019 out of the total population of 13.4 million. Over eighty per cent of internally displaced people are in Borno State, the epicenter of the crisis, and over sixty per cent are living in host communities, making it harder to access them with assistance and putting additional pressure on the already stretched resources of these communities. One in four of the internally displaced people are under five, and 80 per cent are women and children. However, some 1.6 million people have returned home since August 2015, indicating that conditions in some locations have improved.

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The improvements recorded in the fight against insurgency that saw some of the IDPs returning to their homes since 2015, cannot be exempted from the more general context of the concerted efforts of successive administrations in Nigeria since the beginning of the crisis and most especially the paradigm shift in the operational dynamics of the military since 2015. Although, there have been continued attacks on soft targets in the trouble areas in spite of the “technical decimation of the insurgents” by the military forces in the war front. However, the success recorded in recent years can be said to have been short-lived especially with the turn of events in the troubled areas since last week. What led to the sudden resurgence of the violence is one serious question in the mind of majority of Nigerians that is seriously begging for answers. Whether the answers will come soon or not, it is worth waiting for……. Even when the answers come, the need to question the answers is a moral responsibility on the shoulders of all Nigerians.

Further to above, the sudden resurgence of violence in the North-East, without a doubt, points to the existence, persistence and influence of conflict entrepreneurs. Every violent conflict has its beneficiaries. These beneficiaries are the people who hide behind iron masks to stoke the fire of violence; the secret players behind the scene; the evil hands hidden in velvet gloves waiting to pounce on any opportunity presented by war to make profit; the neutral shadow parties whose selfish interests must be satiated irrespective of whose ox is gored; unscrupulous businessmen whose unbridled quests for profit supersedes all other rational considerations – the war profiteers and instigators. This two sets of war mongers play mutually complementary roles in times of war; roles which ultimately defines and determines the dynamics and directions of most violent conflicts, at both their latent and manifest stages (Obuseh, 2014). Implicit in this is that, for a sudden resurgence of large scale violence of the nature recorded last week, it is obviously beyond the borders of hunches to say that the interest of the conflict entrepreneurs has been threatened and hence the sudden resurgence. At this juncture, while there have been rains of decomium on the inhuman activities of the insurgents and the conflict entrepreneurs, it is important to reiterate the fact that promoting violence in order to profit from them constitutes the greatest crimes against humanity. Those who engage in such criminally detestable acts must be discouraged, using all formal and progressive informal means available.

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The need for new approach and redirection in the fight against insurgency cannot be relegated at the moment. However, stakeholders in the drafting the new approach should take cognizance of the fact that conflict entrepreneurs often mobilize individuals through three general tactics: appeals to ethnic, religious, and/or ideological solidarity; patronage; and positive or negative promises regarding security. Attempts at alleviation should target converting militant groups into parties or other political actors that will still use tools of mobilization such as appeals to ideological solidarity, patronage, and promises of greater security, but in a non-violent way. More so, conflict entrepreneurs should be identified, labelled and graciously denied access to political and economic power especially in return for renunciation of violence. This has been a practice in most crisis ridden states, it should be discouraged. Again, the military’s counter insurgency approach needs a redefinition. Our counterinsurgency should be built on a long-range plan for a tactical action and response to violence and should combine offensive, defensive and stability operations. To achieve the appropriate ratio between these and accomplish unity of effort among diverse units and actors in the war front, the military must build long-term plans around the seven counterinsurgency lines of effort: establish civil security, establish civil control, support community forces, support to governance, restore essential services, support economic and infrastructure development, and conduct information engagement.

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No nation is an island on its own, thus; “We need to seek in others what we lack in ourselves”. The need to call on all international, continental, sub-continental organizations, in conjunction with national governments, to re-expedite more practical and far-reaching steps to check the greedy activities of individuals who gain from the pains, agony and discomfort of others.

Ahmad Hassan Ahmad writes from Gombe, can be reached via 08036569153.

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