“No one thinks of himself as a terrorist. Not even members of Boko Haram,” said Dr. Bukola Oyeniyi, assistant professor of history at Missouri State University.
Oyeniyi has spent the last 10 years researching the roots of terrorism in West Africa. Looking at the Latin root “terrorem,” which means to instill great fear or dread, and “terrere,” which means to fill with fear or to frighten, he defined terrorism to include individual, group and state activities.
“The definition is always what others do to us. It’s always going to be a guy or group on the other side of the street,” he said.
Although approximately 50 such agitators or groups exist in West Africa, Oyeniyi has written and presented extensively on Boko Haram, which has garnered much attention from the media since it was assembled in the early 2000s. According to Oyeniyi, this group is easier to study than most since the founder Muhammed Yusuf recorded sermons and distributed them widely in the form of CDs, DVDs and leaflets in the early 2000s.
“There are people who will come out boldly to address the public in the form of open air preaching. What are they agitating for? Their belief system,” Oyeniyi stated.
The initial sermons are contraband now, but founding members of Boko Haram can serve as a lead for Oyeniyi. These ex-members offer insights into what drives the agitators to don the suicide vest. Moreover, these former members also could bridge the gap to begin peaceful negotiations.
As a social historian, Oyeniyi looks for patterns within the movements of specific groups and traces the roots of the conflict. Tracing the trends, he is able to build a profile of what an agitator group looks like and what the likely outcomes could be. He begins to postulate: What are they really fighting for? How are they getting their training? Who are their allies? Who funds them? Then, he and his collaborators create suggestions and form conclusions that the government can work with to address the root of the issue.
For more information, contact Oyeniyi at 417-836-6959.