Gabriel’s is a PhD student of ethnomusicology and instructor of Islamic songs for several years at Kwara State University, located in northern Nigeria. He has taught, analyzed and interpreted the role that Islamic songs and poems play in the daily lives of Muslims in this part of the world. With recent observation, he has come to realize that some of these songs have formed a distinct part of the discourse around radical Islamic movements such as Boko Haram.
Gabriel Ojakovo’s PhD research examines the place of Hausa Islamic songs (nashīd) to promote Boko Haram ideologies and to counter it with the aim of promoting peace in Northern Nigeria. Like other militant movements (al-Shabaab, al-Qaeda), Boko Haram uses religious songs and poetry (The Burning Hellfire, and Nashīd of the Defiant) in different languages such as Arabic and Hausa, to propagate their ideology. These songs are used as media of recruitment, to lure young men into the movement. As the menace of the group continues to gain ground, several Hausa speaking musicians from countries such as Nigeria where Boko Haram operates have also employed songs as countermeasures, to challenge and deconstruct the ideologies of the militant movement.
In his research, Gabriel will investigate the context, history, and meaning of such songs and analyze the lyrics in the propagation of Boko Haram’s ideology, and to deconstruct it. Why and how have these songs been used? Do the anti-Boko Haram songs rely on the Sufi theme of love in the propagation of peace? Do anti-Boko Haram songs tackle the issues of kidnapping female school students and their recruitment into this extremist movement?
As part of his training, Gabriel was fully funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) to participate in the just concluded workshop on “Conceptualizing Sectarianization: Perspectives on the Dynamics of Ethno-Religious Difference in Studying the Middle East and North Africa”, held at the University of Bern, Switzerland, from September 6-8, 2018. In addition he presented a paper titled “Understanding the Jihadiyya Self: A study of Islamic Sectarian Nashīd in the Discourse of Boko Haram in Northern Nigeria”. In future, he is looking forward to publishing his research in this area.
Gabriel’s decision to be part of the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society, is to give him the opportunity to connect and share his research on terrorism in West Africa with Junior and Senior affiliates working on the same theme in different part of the world.