Citizenship Education a Sure Way of Arresting Boko Haram in Nigeria



Today insurgency is considered as one of the major security challenges threatening the corporate existence of Nigerian state. A lot of resources both human and material running into millions of Naira are being destroyed due to the activities of the insurgents, most especially in the North-eastern part of the country. The problem has made significant number of children orphans and many women widows, while thousands of people are displaced as refugees in neighboring Cameroon and Niger republic. Unnecessary attacks on places of worship, suicide bombing, destruction of properties and attacks on security personnel and their stations are common. In other words, the problem has negatively affected the political and socio-economic arrangements of the nation. It has been argued that social and economic injustice, poor religious and moral education are the major causes of the insurgency in the country. In line with the aforementioned, this paper argues that Citizenship education becomes imperative as a strategy to address the problem, because the latter entails inculcation of patriotism and love for national unity and spirit of togetherness in the citizens; as well as making people to be aware of the society’s norms and values through value reorientation.

The problem is virtually affecting all sectors of the Nigerian society, including economic, social and political spheres. Many lives have been lost, private and public buildings have been destroyed while ideal socio- political relationships have been altered. Government at all levels is making various concerted efforts to address the menace, but the problem still persists. For example, apart from the regular regimental activities of the security agencies, several operational task forces are being put in place with the view to combat the problem. Despite the resources and various strategies adopted, lives and properties are continually being lost.

Consequently, scholars and other stake holders of security are of the view that since the current strategies of combating insurgency have not yielded the desire results, there is the need for more proactive measures. Specifically, people believe that self-centeredness and lack of patriotism of the insurgents, the security agencies and even the general public are the major precursors to the problem. Thus, Citizenship education which encompasses inculcation of patriotism and love for national unity and spirit of togetherness became imperative. Through conceptual and theoretical discussions, this paper argues that, by properly employing Citizenship education the problem of insurgency in the North eastern Nigeria could be reduced to a minimal level, if not brought to an end.


Citizenship education can be defined as educating children, from early childhood, to become clear-thinking and enlightened citizens who participate in decisions concerning society. ‘Society’ is here understood in the special sense of a nation with a circumscribed territory which is recognized as a state.

A knowledge of the nation’s institutions, and also an awareness that the rule of law applies to social and human relationships, obviously form part of any citizenship education course. Taken in this sense, citizenship education is based on the distinction between:

  • the individual as a subject of ethics and law, entitled to all the rights inherent in the human condition (human rights); and
  • the citizen – entitled to the civil and political rights recognized by the national constitution of the country concerned.

All human beings are both individuals and citizens of the society to which they belong. Therefore, human rights and citizen rights are interdependent.

Men, women and children all come into the world as individual human beings. Thanks to the immense historical conquest of human rights, we are equal, in rights and dignity, to all other human beings. When citizenship education has the purpose of ‘educating future citizens’ it must necessarily address children, young people and adults, who are living beings, having the status of human beings endowed with conscience and reason. It cannot, therefore, exclude consideration of individuals as subjects, each with individual characteristics.

Moreover, human rights include civil and political rights, the latter obviously relating to the rights and obligations of citizens. Thus a comprehensive human rights education takes account of citizenship, and considers that good citizenship is connected with human rights as a whole.

Conversely, citizenship education which trains ‘good’ citizens, i.e. citizens aware of the human and political issues at stake in their society or nation, requires from each citizen ethical and moral qualities. All forms of citizenship education inculcate (or aim at inculcating) respect for others and recognition of the equality of all human beings; and at combating all forms of discrimination (racist, gender-based, religious, etc.) by fostering a spirit of tolerance and peace among human beings.

Thus, when we speak of the purposes to be ascribed to either citizenship education (producing citizens with moral qualities) or human rights education (comprising a knowledge of the social and political rights of all human beings, and their recognition) we inevitably end up with the complementarity between citizenship and human rights.


The term insurgency has been conceptualized and explained by many scholars. Like other concepts in the social sciences, the understanding of the term is influenced by ideological stand of the individual viewing the issue. For instance, Sullivan (2002) sees insurgents as traditional rebels (terrorists) with political motives who exercise discrimination in the use of violence and seeking to exercise territorial control. Whatever explanation is given to the term, many scholars (e.g. Gurr (1989), Dyson (2001), Sullivan (2002)) believe that insurgency is a type of terrorism. Defining terrorism is yet another “overly complex” issue. There are so many though different definitions of the  term; for example, Sobel (1975), Krieger (1977), Lodge (1981), Friedlander (1981), Combs (2000), Simonsen and Spindlove (2004) and Giddens (2009) among many others.

However, in trying to do away with the complexity and problematic nature of defining terrorism, Bolz et al (2002) cited in Forst et al (2011) have identified certain features that happen to be common to all terrorist organizations to which insurgents groups by extension also possess. Thus, terrorists or insurgents use violence to persuade; they select targets for propaganda purposes and attack unprovokedly with the aim of gaining publicity with less risk. They also use foil to counter security measures, use threat, harassment and other forms of violence as tools not means to an end. Insurgents do not also discriminate women and children among their targets. While they employ “propaganda to maximize the effects of violence”, insurgents sanction members loyalty to their group alone (Forst et al, 2011).

Contemporary discussions on the state of Nigerian nation are filled with the issue of security problems. Specifically, insurgency in the name of Boko Haram, which is more pronounced in the North east of the country, is the most disturbing security problem to Nigerians particularly those in the Northern region. Comprising of Adamawa, Taraba, Borno, Yobe, Bauchi and Gombe states and numerous ethnic groups, the North eastern Nigeria was generally peaceful before the emergence of insurgent activities. But with initial root set in 1990 as an Islamic study group (Grobbelaar, n.d.) Boko Haram insurgents turned to violence in 2009 when its leader Mohammed Yusuf was killed by security operatives (Brimah and Adigun, 2013). Since then the group has bombed various private and government establishments, burned places of worship, killed indiscriminately many people including women and children across Nigeria. The activities of the group have displaced over 450,000 Nigerian internally, forcing children to withdraw from schools and productive men and women from active sociopolitical and economic activities (UN, 2014). Recent report by UN Humanitarian Organization has shown that the insurgents’ activities have made Nigeria among the top three in the list of countries losing people lives as a result of terrorists’ atrocities worldwide. According to Center for Democracy and Development (2014), Nigerian government has spent over 1 trillion Naira (more than 5 billion US Dollar), and has allocated another1 trillion Naira in 2013 and 2014 budgets respectively. The implication of this large spending is that more monies that can be invested to boost other socioeconomic sectors of the society are diverted to security efforts which experts argue is not yielding the desired results.

Apparently, all strategies to counter the insurgency problem have virtually failed as the spate of destructions and lost of lives are still alarming. Both the stick and the carrot have for the meantime failed. The military, who are at the forefront of the counter efforts, are not up to their task as many of them have recently decided to run for their lives into Cameroon, because according to them they are not given enough weapons to face the insurgents. The military are therefore demoralized making it difficult to stand to fight for the unity and peace of the country. This situation calls for urgent moral reinvigoration of the military so that they can become firm and stand for the nation no matter the situation.

The dialogue strategy, which is also very important in bringing the menace to the end, is still facing problem. The insurgents, though many of them are citizens of Nigeria, are not ready to sacrifice their personal and group interests for the peace and stability of the country. As insurgents their loyalty has been always to the group no any other authority or nation (Forst et al, 2011). Thus, they require a kind of education for them to succumb to the pressure to see to the fact that the unity of the nation is far better than their personal interests.


What is commonly understood as citizenship education is not an entirely new concept in Nigeria’s educational system, as the idea has always been part and parcel of the nation’s education curriculum in one form or another. Citizenship education is simply a kind of education which assists citizens to become actively involved in their own governance (Centre for Citizenship Education, 1991). It is thus not restricted to individuals involved in formal educational setting. The Federal Government of Nigeria states the essence of citizenship education:

“Citizenship education is geared towards helping Nigeria as a State to live in unity and harmony as one indivisible, indissoluble, democratic and sovereign nation forwarded on the principles of freedom, equality and practice” (FRN, 2004: p6). Thus, citizenship Education if effectively taught and disseminated can encourage the development of the individual into a sound and effective citizen as well as promote a full integration of the individual into the community ….” (FRN, 2004: p7).

Related to this, Jakayinfa et al (2010) added that Citizenship education involves the teaching of national values and consciousness from the foundation level, the national values of honesty, obedience, hard work, tolerance and faith which are germane to stabilizing national life are important for determining the development and progress of a nation (as) they regulate the life of the nation and project good image for the country. Moreover, it has to do with the promotion of knowledge system that could help to overcome physical, psychological and structural violence while at the same time ensuring justice (Mamman, 2010). It also involves teaching citizens how to play their Citizenship roles especially within the context and confines of nation and global citizenship (Centre for Citizenship Education, 1991). That is, it is concerned with how citizens exercise their rights as free human beings (Kerr et al, 2006). In this respect Citizenship education is the bedrock of national co-existence, values and identity in Nigeria.

Looking at variables that are responsible for insurgency in Norhteastern Nigeria, the current state of the fight against the problem and what Citizenship education entails, one could see the relevance of the latter in combating insurgency. Specifically, Citizenship Education can help in combating insurgency in Nigeria by playing the following roles:

1.         Citizenship education inculcates virtues of tolerance, cooperation, patriotism, selflessness, honesty, etc among the citizens. This demands the introduction of Citizenship education early in the children’s educational career. While value re-orientation programmes with youths (both at schools and places of work) as the main focus should be designed by Citizenship educators and pursued vigorously. This will help in no small measure to change or unlearn those negative impulses such as greed, religious extremism, and oppression. These negative impulses should be substituted with socially desirable behaviors and attitudes.

2.         Parents and heads of families should work hard to instill the under listed national values in the mind of their various family members;

a.         respect for human dignity and human rights

b.         respect for the rule of law

c.         the dignity of honest labour

d.         respect for the constituted authority

e.         the sense of national unity, pride and patriotism

f.          respect and appreciation of social justice

It should be stated that the above values are well recognised by religions practiced by Nigerians; they will therefore be well received by Nigerians if the cooperation of the honest religious leaders are sought and involved.

3.         Players at various levels of security agencies should recognized the values in Citizenship education and live up to their responsibilities. This will make the leaders in the agencies to be just in their leadership while the subordinates will become patriotic.

Mass media should be utilized to ensure the above measures work properly. Particularly, radio will help in reaching out to the insurgents who are in most cases remote and invincible.


Nigeria is facing one of the most serious security challenges in its history. The Boko Haram insurgency largely based in Northeastern Nigeria has negatively affected the region. Although in the Northeast, the problem has affected the nation’s socioeconomic and political activities. While government is doing a lot to curb the menace through various security efforts, the strategies so far adopted are not yielding desired results. Therefore, it is concluded that there is the need to adopt citizenship education strategy to solve the problem, since there is a gap in terms of civic knowledge among the insurgents, security personnel and the general public. This could be achieved through the use of mass media such as social networks and radio.


Bolz , al( 2002 ). The counter terrorism handbook: Tactics, Procedures, and Techniques (2nd Ed.). NY: CRC Press .

Brimah, P and Adigun, R. (2000). Perception of Boko Haram among Nigerians. Research Guild, Vol. 1, No 1, 2013

Center for Democracy and Development (2011). Beyond Numbers: the Real Cost of Boko Haram Insurgency. West Africa Insight, Volume 4 , No 2, May 2014 Edition.

Centre for Civic Education (1991). A framework Calabash. Centre for Civic Education, Abuja, Nigeria.

Combs , C.C . ( 2000 ). Terrorism in the twenty-first century (2nd Ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ : Prentice Hall

Federal Republic of Nigeria (2004). National Policy on Education Abuja. Abuja: NERDC Press.

Friedlander , R.A . ( 1981 ). Terrorism and the law: What price safety?Gaithersburg, MD : IACP .

Grobbelaar, A. (n.d.). The Evolution, Development and Influence of Boko Haram: A Critical Terrorism Study. Unpublished Part of Master’s Research Work.

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