Nigeria: State Governors, Thuggery and Boko Haram
By Akukwe Obinna
There is no doubt that political thuggery is the root cause of escalation of Boko Haram terrorism. Recently the terrorist group gave conditions for ceasefire and talks with the Nigerian Government . Part of the conditions, according to their spokesman, Abu Ibn Abdulaziz, who spoke to newsmen in a telephone conference on the 1st of November in Maidugeri, Borno State Capital includes the arrest of former governor, Ali Modu Sheriff ‘’ if this former governor is arrested. This thing will end as we are highly offended with what happened three years ago’’ Three weeks earlier, JTF said in a statement that ‘’ a high profile Boko Haram commander , one Shuaibu Moammed Bama, who has been on the list of wanted terrorists…was arrested by task force troops in a serving senator’s house…’’ In his reaction, Senator Zanna, representing Borno Central replied that ‘’ they did not arrest him in my house, they went to my house but did not find him, and instead they arrested children in my house and put them inside hot sun and started beating them. And they asked them whether they know Shuaibu Bama, and one of the boys answered yes. He then took them to where they arrest Shuaibu Bama.’’ He insinuated that Bama was arrested in Senator Sheriff’s House and that the case was a deliberate frame-up. Senator Sheriff in his defense accused Senator Zanna of being a terrorist and according to the former governor ‘’ his obvious involvement with Boko Haram, given his past antecedence, where people fingered him as illegal importer of arms, via his Hajj-by-road fame’’.
It is obvious from the accusations and counter accusations that these politicians know more about Boko Haram than people think. These people have in the past sponsored armed terrorism against political opponents and the monster they created have terrorized the entire country, bringing Christians and Muslims to a state of hatred never experienced in history. The root cause of all these is political thuggery. The article below, first published by thenigerianvoice.com and thewillnigeria.com in 2011is still relevant in the face of the new realities and the conditions being given by the terrorists for ceasefire.
The recent upsurge in the activities of the Jam’atu Ahlis Sunna Ladda’awati wal-Jihad, a.k.a. Boko Haram has elicited a lot of provocative views across the nation. The heinous Christmas bombings in Suleija near Abuja, the killing of mourners from Igbo tribe in Mubi, and other provocations and murder all over the country are really signs of coming civil war if the government doesn’t nip it in the bud now. People erroneously accuse all Muslims of complicity in the activities of the sect without knowing that the factor that led to the emergence of the sect exists all over the country. There is no doubt that the remote cause of the Boko Haram’s uprising has to do with ignorance, illiteracy , poverty and the misuse of the privileges of western education by some elites in the north to impoverish their Muslim brothers. However, this impoverishment has been tolerated for almost fifty years of Nigerian Independence until something recently triggered the reaction.
The recent crisis was triggered by the usual use and dump manipulative tendencies of Nigerian politicians. The former Governor of Borno State Senator Ali Modu Sheriff recruited some members of the sect hitherto practicing their faith in relative peace, armed them and mobilized them as thugs to help him win re-election. The sect was promised a lot of spoils if the Governor is returned. Encouraged by the promise the sect was constituted into a group known as Ecomog which specialize in unleashing mayhem on political opponents, especially of the ruling PDP and helped secure second term victory for Sheriff. The Governor, just like his colleagues all over the country reneged on the promises to include them in power sharing. They were actually treated like lepers when the spoils of office were being distributed. The sect members saw those who did nothing to help retain the status quo now buying lands, building mansions, travelling for holidays abroad and cruising in the latest automobile while they were left to start life afresh. Of course, they reached the irrevocable conclusion that people who claim to have gone to school are all deceivers, thieves, looters, and betrayers. They then decided to fight western education vehemently and with the use of force.
Their campaign gained notoriety because they have excess arms in their possession obviously purchased with state funds. After successful rigging and thuggery operations no effort was made to retrieve the arms from the sect. With excess and idle munitions in the armoury the sect started a series of local attacks until fifth columnists infiltrated their ranks, gave them sophisticated trainings, funding and intelligence. Other State Governors did the same in their respective states. Odili sponsored cults in Rivers State, Chimaroke’s killer squad in Enugu State put the fear of hell into Abuja based political opponents and their sympathizers, Mbadinuju’s Bakassi was accused of killing the NBA chairman and wife in Onitsha,Anambra state—the public uproar against their murder cost him the next gubernatorial elections. Yuguda has his own Sara-Suka which he used against opponents in Bauchi State even in the recent past election; Danjuma Goje used a political thuggery group ‘Yan-Kalari’ against opponents in Gombe state. Alao Akala used NURTW touts he inherited from his political godfather Adedibu against opponents in Oyo State. Ibori in Delta State and Alameisigha in Bayelsa State all sponsored cults for electoral purposes. This use of thugs is the vogue among state governors, the only difference between them and Borno State is that either the ring leaders were personally settled at the expense of their followers or they were intimidated and blackmailed into submission by security agencies of the various states.
The use of armed intimidation against political opponents, the sponsor of various armed thuggery groups and the use of state armed apparatus to give them cover should be banned by the Federal Government. This kind of illegality that birthed Boko Haram exists all over the states. Governors sponsors thuggery group against political opponents, firearms are distributed indiscriminately and at the end of the day these arms are not accounted for. The people in possession of the arms turns to militants, insurgents, armed robbers, kidnappers, hired assassins. ritualists and other vices associated with force. It was after the 2003 elections that arms flowed towards Kogi axis and Lokoja –Okene road became a nightmare to night travellers till date due to constant daily armed robbery. After 2007 elections Argungu- Birnin Kebbi road in Kebbi state, Talata Mafara axis in Zamfara and Okigwe- Aba road in Abia State, Ajaokuta-Anyangba-Otukpa roadin Kogi/ Benue among others became danger zones even in broad daylight due to dare-devil robberies.
The Boko Haram leader could have turned his gang to armed robbers and hired assassins but he chose to give his group an ideological identification which definitely grew out of proportion when infiltrators and fifth columnists joined the rank. Governors of other states are as guilty as Ali Modu Sheriff in sponsoring armed gangs .The only difference is that the Borno own had a strange and dangerous twist.
President Jonathan should as a matter of urgency, policy and security stop state governors, ministers, senators and politicians from all over the country irrespective of party affiliations the use of any form of thuggery. This is to prevent the rise of another thuggery group from politicians capable of teaming up with Boko Haram to swallow Nigeria.