Boko Haram and threat to nationhood

(By Francis Ogunbowale)

However, we should not make a mistake of dismissing Stephen Davis allegation. Government should investigate and check the accounts of the duo both in Nigeria and abroad with much skill and dexterity and let Nigerians know if there has been terrorist infilteration. Nigerian sovereignty has never been under this much threat before. There is need to encourage dialogue among leading citizens to ensure one Nigeria. The consensus at the National Conference is that we have a lot to gain if we remain as one Nigeria

Sometimes in August 2014, Dr Stephen Davies, the Australian Hostage Negotiator, dropped a bomb shell when he granted an interview to Arise TV and indicted former Governor Ali Modu Sheriff and former Chief Army Staff, General Ihejerika, as the sponsors of the deadly Boko Haram insurgents in Nigeria. It would be recalled that Boko Haram, aka, Jama’at Ahl us-Sunnah li’d-Dawah wa’l-Jihad, i.e., Group of the People of Sunnah for Preaching & Struggle, was founded by Imam Muhammad Yusuf, who had followed muslim brotherhood-‘Yan brothers’, under Ibraheem az-Zakzaky. The sect believes that democracy conflicts with islam and that western education is ‘haram’ (not good & forbidden). To them, it was established by the colonialists for the purpose of serving their selfish interest. They believe that as a SAVED sect, they need to revive the spirit of jihad.

The present leader of the Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, alias Darul Tawheed (the abode of monotheism), who survived gun shot in 2009 as a result of armed confrontation with Nigerian government, succeeded Muhammad Yusuf who was allegedly killed in 2009 by the Nigerian government. To date, the group, just like the ISIS Insurgents in Lybia and Syria has unleashed so much terror on children, women and innocent civilians. In fact the sovereignty of the Nigerian State, is currently being threatened. The group started with the attacks on the United Nations office in Abuja, then the Police Headquarters, then This Day Publishing House in Abuja, then the catholic church in Madalla, Niger State, then bomb blasts in Kano, Maiduguri, Sokoto, Yanyan Market in Abuja and the abduction of about 200 school girls in Chibok Village. Despite the intervention and collaboration of US, UK and other Foreign Forces with the Nigerian government, Boko Haram sect has been able to capture Gwoza, Buni, Yadi, Gamboru Ngala, Damboa, Marte, Bama, Bara, Bauki, Gulak, Dikwa, Madagali, Michika and Uba town in Adamawa State, with the ambition of over-running Maiduguri, capital of Borno State, within a very short time. In fact the casualty figure so far, is believed to be more than the one recorded during the Nigerian civil war.

However, so many issues arose from the supposed exposition of Stephen Davies. First, why did Stephen Davis wait till now before his exposition? Second, what does Davies stand to gain from this exposition? Third, Is Davies under threat of the Boko Haram, now believed to be strongly affiliated to al’Qaida group, to further throw banters to the Nigerian government, to divert its attention, while they make further deadly plans? Four, why Ali Modu Sheriff and General Ihejirika, a Christian, who spent the most part of his career fighting Boko Haram and not other people? Five, why should security agencies briskly come out in the defence of these personalities without any further proper investigation of the accounts of these personalities through forensic and financial experts?

Stephen Davis should be highly suspected for breaking the rules of confidentiality and neutrality of a third party negotiator, by using the media to publicize his findings and delaying from April when he allegedly got the information and till this crucial period of September 2014, when the sovereignty of the nation is being threatened. Did Stephen Davis have any issue with the government or the named persons, as a result of the DEAL to negotiate with the sect? What are the credentials of Stephen Davis? Rev. Dr. Stephen Davis is believed to be 63 years old from Australia and he is Canon Emeritus at Coventry Cathedral in UK and Associate of the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. He had the credentials of having worked for two former presidents, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and Umaru Musa Yar’adua, during the Niger Delta militancy. But the bombshell of Stephen Davis only portrayed him as an International ‘strawman’, rather than a hostage negotiator. Stephen Davis needs to be investigated whether he is not affiliated with the terrorist group and whether he was not just under a spell, to play a script for the terrorist group. The choice of Ali Modu Sherrif and General Ihejirika is somewhat surprising. Perhaps Stephen Davis had unresolved differences with these two personalities, which if investigated may not be unrelated with money and he chose this method to attempt to damage their reputation.

However, the quick defence of the State Security Service (SSS) few days after the allegation of Stephen Davis, against Ali Modu Sherriff and General Ihejirika, was not only hasty but raised suspicion on the part of the SSS. While Ali Modu Sheriff appeared to be so roughened by Stephen Davis allegation, and he quickly addressed a press conference to debunk them, General Ihejirika, on his part, absorbed the shock better, while he analyzed the spurious allegation in such an intellectual manner that only a fool would believe the white man. But the truth is this, there is need for further thorough investigation of these duo and following Femi Fani Kayode, culprits should consequently be ‘captured, caged, flogged and brought to justice’.

At the local scene, Ali Modu sheriff, had been accused of appointing one Alhaji Buji Foi, an acclaimed Boko Haram leader, as Commissioner for Religious Affairs, when he was governor. Although this is not enough to conclude he was a financier of the Boko Haram, it is enough to further ask some questions and make enquiries into his local and foreign accounts. It will be recalled that Boko Haram is an offshoot of the machinery set by the politicians during the 2003 general elections in Nigeria. However Boko Haram sect may not be sustained from funds of wealthy Nigerian individuals alone, but funds from the al’Qa’idah, having been affiliated to it, direct looting of banks during attacks and overrunning of villages for food stuff, for consumption in Sambisa forest.

Some people have traced the origin of Boko Haram to 2003, when there was armed confrontation between the sect and the police in the Kannama village in Gaidam, near Niger State. The crisis escalated when the followers of Mohammed Yusuf went for a funeral on motor cycles without wearing helmets and the Special Joint Task Forces of government clashed with them and about 4 of them died. Mohammed Yusuf was reported to have lodged a written complaint to the Federal government and threatened that if he received no reply within 40 days, ‘jihad operations would begin which only Allah would be able to stop’ It was reported that the Federal government did not respond, hence, the crisis that started from one sunday all through to Thursday and the attack on police stations in Jigawa, Yobe, Wudil in Kano and Maiduguri. About 700 police men and 3,500 people were reportedly killed. While Mohammed Yusuf lost his life in the process, the current leader Abubakar Shekau sustained a gun shot injury in the thigh and was believed to have died until 2010 when he re-emerged and proclaimed himself the new leader.

But, Boko Haram activities truly started by Senator Ahmed Yerima Sani when as governor of Zamfara state, he promised to embark on a jihad to all parts of the dynasty of Usman Dan Fodio, namely Bauchi, Gombe, Adamawa, Taraba, Yobe and Borno States and mobilize them for the adoption of sharia as a legal system. To start with, Ahmed Yerima Sani launched sharia, an islamic legal system, as state law, on the 27th October, 1999 in Zamfara State, which had about 10,000 Christians and 40 churches. Before then, it would be recalled, sharia which was part of the penal code law applicable in the whole of Northern Nigeria, was only limited to personal laws such as marriage, GIFT, will and succession.

Although, the state had a short gain of getting about N500 Million interest free loan from Industrial Development Bank (IDB) for developmental projects, adoption of sharia also motivated notable Islamic groups (including Mohammed Yusuf) to demand for implementation of sharia and declaration of Arabic in Nigeria. They also demanded for declaration of Friday as a holiday to enable moslems attend Juma’at prayers as early as possible, declaration of hijra as work free day and recognition and treatment of Islamic Aid Groups like the Red Cross Society. In Zamfara, Buba Bello Kare Jangedi who was alleged to always steal cows by using charms was convicted, sentenced by the Alkali court and was taken to Talata Marafa where medical personnel in the presence of the Chief Physician to the governor supervised the amputation of his limb after sedating him (Guardian March 29, 2000 pg. 8). Before then, one Dan Tanin who was found beating his wife was fined N50,000 or an option of forcefully removing a tooth from his mouth. Another woman was given haddy lashing for riding okada (motor cycle). About 19 Northern Governors promised to harmonise the sharia legal system with the penal code while the Fatwa Committee comprising of Northern Emirs and the Ulama,, raised a 30-Man panel to advise it on the application of sharia code, given the controversy it has generated.

The problem of Boko Haram and the attendant highest level of blood letting, would have been averted if the leaders had taken the right step at that time. The Federal Government waited until Jangedi’s limb was severed and the bloody clash between the rival Christian groups and the moslem youths who had stormed the street of Kaduna pressing the State House of Assembly to pass the bill on the introduction of Sharia in the State, had resulted in several killings of southerners and retaliatory killings of northerners from the East. That was when the Council of State met and resolved that the adoption of sharia should be shelved for the mean time.

Even this did not go down well with former leaders like Alhaji Shehu Shagari, who argued that it was unconstitutional for the Council of State which is merely an advisory body to call for the suspension of sharia in a state and General Mohammadu Buhari who stated that the resolution was a mere fabrication as it was not discussed at all at the Council of State meeting. General Buhari was also reported to have said in 2001 that he wanted ‘…to spread sharia all over the country and queried why Christians should be concerned ‘…when muslims chop off the limbs of one another in accordance with their divine law’. Not until the emergence of deadly Boko Haram and the attendant killings and horrors through out the north, northern leaders pretended as if it was a northern problem and spoke no evil against it.

At that time, the position of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) was not well known. This is because, when Mr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN) through Huri-Laws, an NGO filed a suit against Zamfara government and asked the court to declare that the adoption of sharia in Zamfara is illegal and unconstitutional and asked Citizen Jangedi to seek legal redress in court, NBA’s position was that the ‘..sharia …has been so politicized that …resort to court…would place the court dangerously in a no WIN position where its decision one way or the other would hardly command acceptance.. such decision would be branded as one influenced by the religious belief of the deciding judges’. The NBA however advised that no one should endanger the judiciary which has remained the single uniting institution in Nigeria’s body politics in our time (Guardian March 23). Perhaps NBA was right, but a court action would have elucidated the problem and the political class may have been forced to find a permanent and lasting solution to any attempt to adopt a state religion in Nigeria.

However, we should not make a mistake of dismissing Stephen Davis allegation. Government should investigate and check the accounts of the duo both in Nigeria and abroad with much skill and dexterity and let Nigerians know if there has been terrorist infilteration. Nigerian sovereignty has never been under this much threat before. There is need to encourage dialogue among leading citizens to ensure one Nigeria. The consensus at the National Conference is that we have a lot to gain if we remain as one Nigeria. Although, democracy gives room for individual freedom and liberty, just like the Ulama has said, the affair of da’wah needs wisdom and good preaching and not the manhaj of violence and language of arms of the Boko Haram.

Right now there is no end in sight. The Chibok girls are still in captivity. About 13 villages have been captured by the Boko Haram, with many more in sight. Bama Village has fallen into the hands of the insurgents. The children both boys and girls, recruited as foot soldiers and as suicide bombers, are engaged in archery and weight lifting, walking distances and performing para-military drills in the savannah and desert, in preparation for a grand show down. That is why the resolve of the youths in Maiduguri, to storm the sambisa forest and fight only with ‘gora’ (stick & local arms), (Punch 5, September 2014) where about 480 soldiers who were armed to their teeth had succumbed to the fire power of the Boko Haram, and strayed to Cameroon, is ill advised.

Francis Ogunbowale is a Lagos Attorney.

Source: DailyPost

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