POLITICS AND INTRIGUES OF BOKO HARAM
Before now, Nigerians were generally seen as lily-livered, people who are afraid to die. In fact, the common joke among Nigerian comedians was that no Nigerian would ever volunteer for suicide bombing mission because, in their thinking, an average Nigerian loves to 'enjoy life.'
Even after a young Nigerian, Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, attempted the unthinkable on December 25, 2009, in an effort to blow-up a Detroit-bound aircraft with 289 persons on board, not a few queried his 'Nigerianness.' But all that changed on June 16, 2011 when a 'fairly well-to-do businessman,' Mohammed Manga, 35, volunteered for a suicide mission. In the end, although the Nigeria Police headquarters in Abuja was bombed, with Manga dying in the process, the Islamist sect, Jama'atu Ahl-Sunnati Lil Da'awati wal Jihad, otherwise known as Boko Haram, missed its target, who incidentally was the Inspector-General of Police, Hafiz Ringim.
Ringim had during a visit to Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, boasted that the days of Boko Haram were numbered, promising to wipe the sect out the surface of the earth in no distant time. The suicide mission of June 16 was therefore to put the IGP on notice that he probably did not know what he was dealing with. Barely two months after on August 26, another suicide bomber, from the same group, attacked the United Nations building in Abuja, killing no fewer than 25 persons.
Apart from the series of explosions in Jos, Borno and Kaduna states, and probably the failed suicide bomb attempt on the Borno State Police headquarters, in which only the suicide bomber died, records show that only two suicide bombings have so far been successful.
However, if the claim of the group is anything to go by, there are still about 97 other 'trained suicide bombers' waiting to take their turn. According to it, about 100 persons had been trained to carry out suicide bombings in the country.
Regardless, it has been explosion galore in most parts of the North, specifically Jos, Maiduguri, Bauchi, Suleja and Kaduna as well as the Federal Capital Territory.
Politics of war against Boko Haram
The outgoing year further exposed some of the intrigues and politics that underlined the supposed war being waged by security agencies against the Boko Haram sect. Prominent among these was the sudden appearance of a supposedly self-confessed Boko Haram kingpin identified as Ali Tishau on one of the prominent television stations in Nigeria. He had among other things claimed that he co-founded Boko Haram. But any discerning Nigerian, who watched the interview, will not only immediately discover that it was an 'arranged' show, but could also tell at once that the Benue-born Tishau was being economical with the truth with some of his claims.
Barely 24 hours after his appearance, Boko Haram issued a statement disowning Tishau and claimed that he was a State Security Service man planted on the group but who bolted away immediately he noticed his game was up. As if to confirm the claim of the group, the SSS, the Army and the Police engaged in a blame game over the controversial release of Tishau from custody. Till date neither the police nor the army has made full disclosure on Tishau while the Presidency and the National Security Adviser's office also pretended as if nothing happened and have kept mum on the matter.
Arraignment of Senator Ndume
Barely two months after the intrigues that dogged the sudden appearance and disappearance of Tishau, Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume was picked up by the SSS on the allegation that he was one of the sponsors of the sect. His arrest followed the confession of a now convicted erstwhile spokesman of the sect, Ali Sanda Umar Konduga otherwise known as Usman AI- Zawahiri.
Ndume is a PDP Senator representing Borno South Senatorial District. He was in the House of Representatives from 2003 to 2011 on the platform of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) before pitching tent against the acclaimed 'godfather' of Borno politics and former governor, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff.
When he left the ANPP, shortly before the 2011 elections, Sheriff, had boasted publicly that 'we have been assisting him since 2003, (on) the platform of the ANPP, to win elections. It is now that he (Ndume) will certainly taste the bitterness of Borno politics, and I am confident that even if my shoes contested with him, he would not win. I assure you.'
But Ndume dismissed his threat with a wave of the hand, insisting that Sheriff's eight-year rule was not only wasteful but also laid the foundation for the security challenges facing the state.
In the end however, Ndume not only trounced Sheriff's preferred candidate at the poll by over 12,000 votes, Sheriff's dream of returning to the Senate after eight years as governor was aborted by a relatively unknown PDP politician in the state.
Interestingly, shortly before Ndume's arrest, the ANPP government in Borno claimed that in one of the Boko Haram strikes in the state, the insignia of one of the political parties was tied round one of the motorcycles used by the militant Islamic sect.
Ndume was member of the seven-man Ambassador Gaji Galtimari-led committee set up President Goodluck Jonathan investigate the spate of insecurity in northern Nigeria, with specific reference to the Boko Haram crisis. What many did not however know was that Galtimari is one of the elders in the state sympathetic to the Sheriff administration while it lasted.
Even though the committee's mandate did not include negotiating with Boko Haram, it made some 'dubious' recommendations that gave the impression it actually met with the sect members. Once the sect disowned the committee's recommendations, especially the one that had to do with the sect's alleged preparedness to dialogue and negotiation with the federal government through prominent Nigerians like the Sultan of Sokoto, Ndume granted an interview that gave the impression that as a member of the committee, he went out of his way to reach out to some members of the group in the course of the committee's work. In the said interview, he painted a picture that gave him away as one man that truly knows something about the operations of Boko Haram and who was prepared to be a go-between the sect and the federal government. His arrest and subsequent detention did not therefore come to many as a surprise.
He is facing a four-count charge of 'hoarding information on planned terror attacks and providing logistics' to the erstwhile spokesman of the sect, Ali Konduga.
Is Konduga insane?
Being a PDP Senator, the Borno chapter of the party appears desperate to redeem the party's image of being labelled a terrorist sponsor. It did everything to do that, first by addressing a press conference in Abuja, where the party chairman pointedly accused the immediate past governor of the state as being the brain behind the establishment of Boko Haram.
As if that was not enough, the party again sponsored the father of Konduga to Abuja, with a view to discrediting the confessional statement made by his son. The older Konduga claimed the erstwhile Boko Haram spokesman was indeed insane, insisting that he may have taken after the mother, who had similar ailment. But he addressed the conference with the state PDP chairman sitting by his side. However, anyone who had met Konduga would not require any medical certificate to know that the young man is indeed sane.
The Kaduna bomb explosion drama
Three weeks after the December 7 bomb blast that killed no fewer than 12 persons, no group has claimed responsibility for the attack. The police insist it was a gas explosion, but when journalists met the Commissioner of Police, Bala Magaji Nasarawa, he said his men were still investigating the incident. However, the same police boss was said to have briefed the governor on the day of the incident that it was an explosion from a gas cylinder. Ironically, the blast occurred barely 24 hours after the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) gathered prominent Northerners, including the Vice President, Senate President and 11 governors to discuss how to restore peace and unity in the region.
Some of the survivors told journalists that they saw two men on a motorcycle and as they tried to find their way, they noticed smoke oozing out of the 'bag' they were carrying and a loud noise followed. Traders in the area insisted it was a bomb explosion.
As if to confirm their claim, when the governor visited the place the next day, the Senator representing the area the incident took place, General Mohammed Saleh (rtd), himself a former General Officer Commanding (GOC), disclosed that 'it is an explosive from my professional point of view; it is not gas. Gas cylinder doesn't have that power. Honestly, from my experience, as an engineer and a military officer, I am sure this (explosion) is not (from) a gas cylinder.'
Highpoint of Boko Haram attacks
One of the highpoints of the sect's attacks in the year under review was the attempt by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to broker peace between it and the federal government. Obasanjo had visited the families of late Mohammed Yusuf and widows of other members of the group and was to feed President Jonathan back on the outcome of the peace meeting. But he had hardly returned from the trip when his host and eldest son of late Yusuf's father in-law, Baba Kura Alhaji Fugu, was murdered in broad daylight.
Although the sect denied complicity in the killing of the younger Fugu, nothing has been heard of the peace move, including the threat from the sect to avenge the assassination, just to prove that it knew nothing about his death.
From December 31, 2010 to the time of filing this report, the group has carried out 27 bomb attacks. And the number could increase with the threat to carry out more bombings before the year runs out.