'TERRORISM CAN BRING DOWN NIGERIA'
The death of Al Quaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, has raised fears that the terrorist organisation would sustain reprisal attacks on targeted western countries. It is believed that African countries may not also be spared in such strikes. Kenya, for instance, has experienced terrorist attacks in the past.
In this interview, Dr. Dayo Ayoade, head, Department of Jurisprudence and International Law, alerted Nigerians to the fact that the country is doing nothing to check terrorism.
He explained why the US Navy SEALs that captured Osama bin Laden did not take him alive. He pointed out that bin Laden is not the first leader not to be buried in a grave, because to bury such personalities in a grave can be dangerous to humanity. He sited the example of Adolf Hitler, who has no grave because to bury him on a piece of land would give his followers a focal point.
Ayoade spoke on what he felt security agencies and government should do to check terrorism in Nigeria.
What do you think of the killing of Osama bin Laden by Navy Seals, a special branch of US army?
The news of the death of Osama was a shock to many people. It was a shock to many of his supporters and those he inspired as well as the general populace, especially the dramatic Navy SEAL team that led the raid in Pakistan.
What is the likely consequence of his death?
Well, in the short time, one would assume that his supporters would be feeling a lot of rage. There is the possibility of a strike against Western targets. I would also guess that Al Qeada and those allied to them that are working for them in Africa may also want to strike at western targets and even national and African targets. So, there is the potential for violence as a result of his death. He was more of a symbolic head. I don't think he was the chief organising officer of Al Quaeda. But as the inspiration for the group, it will chicken his supporters to make them hopefully more disorganized. My prayer is that they should be disorganized to afford the intelligence services the opportunity to get hold of them.
From what President Barrack Obama said, the US is determined to eliminate terrorist organizations, like Al Qaeda
Well, don't forget that the US looked for Osama bin Laden for over a decade. Since the attack on United States, he had been the number one public enemy on any watch list all around the world. He managed to evade justice for so long. But the good thing is that the US machinery worked for the US president. When he committed the atrocities, George Bush was in power and the change in administration did not change the determination of the American people or the American structure to still get hold of this man and bring him to justice.
Why do you think the US did not capture Osama alive for trial?
You see, a lot of speculations are on the Internet as to whether Osama was armed or not when he was shot dead. Well, you can't second-guess the Navy SEALs who had a very difficult job. This is the number one public enemy in the world. They had to get their target. As to why not get him alive, that can only be a matter of speculation. If we speculate that he was caught alive, what then is the next stage of the trial? You have to try him, perhaps, before a military tribunal or a court of law. You find that some of those (terrorists) that were captured under George Bush could not even be tried in New York. That is where they committed one of the symbolic atrocities ever known to mankind. You think of the razing of the World Trade Towers in US. You will see that they could not try them there. They had to take them to another place.
These terrorists have a lot of supporters and they are dangerous to deal with. In any case, the beginning of the trial may be turned to a showpiece where he uses that to further encourage supporters. A trial will only work when the perpetrator of the crime feels a sense of remorse. Over all, it may well be in the interest of Americans to ensure that he was dead.
How do US justify his burial in the sea?
Well, we do know that his body was handled according to Islamic rights and the American government have done the best they could for him. I will say that he is not the first terrorist leader or political leader who sometimes are denied a gravestone or denied burial on land. When you put people like that in a burial ground somewhere, you create a focal point for their supporters to come round. Adolf Hitler too does not have a gravestone, for this reason. This is because their supporters would come out and from beyond the grave keep instigating more and more violence. The best thing to do is to take care of the body in a way that the body does not present any particular focal point that can be worshipped. If his supporters like, they can go and worship the entire sea. But that is their business. It is more difficult to worship the entire sea than to worship a plot of land. You can bury him in any cemetery either in Saudi Arabia and I knew Saudi Arabia would not allow his body being brought back there because he had been disowned. So, where do you take his body? Is it Pakistan? The Pakistan government would not want him buried on their land, which could mean a location for springing further attacks on other countries. So, where do you take the body? So, I believe the American government made the right decision to bury him at sea.
What is the possible effect on African countries?
I will like to say that we Africans are sleeping easy on our beds. But we know that it is not as simple as that. He was just one of their leaders. He was an important leader. He was an inspiration and a focal point. He was a Jihadist. He was one of the brainwashed people who spread ideology of hate that has taken root in countries far away from the Middle East. If you come to a country like Nigeria, we see groups inspired by him and possibly founded by him. We see them being a nuisance. We know that Al Qaeda has carried out several attacks in Kenya. In East Africa, a lot of attacks occurred. In Nigeria, the local groups that are either inspired or funded by them have been making waves. I believe the death of their leader will lead to a lot of rage on their part. It may well inspire them to step up the attack against government targets. It may encourage them to attack the so-called unbelievers. Basically, what they try to instigate and what they unfortunately successfully did is to create a state of war between the Muslims and non-Muslims. This is not beneficial because vast majority of Muslims know that what he is preaching is not in accordance with the tenets of Islam, the Quran or known ideology. It is a pervasion of Islam.
Do you think the Nigerian security is doing enough to check terrorism?
I worry about the ability of the Nigerian secret services as well as the security agencies being able to tackle terrorism effectively. I don't believe terrorism is our number one agenda the way it should be. If we are not careful, terrorism will bring our country to its knees. We hear the beginning of the evil plan of terrorism growing very strongly in Nigeria. We've seen it in Borno, where the state government could barely tackle terrorism. You see all over parts of Nigeria and if we are not careful, it is something that will bring down the country.
When we talk of Boko Haram, all we talk about are people wielding AK 47 riding motorbike. There are many almajiris they can use for that dirty job. Who are their sponsors? Who are their financiers? Who are those supporting them financially, morally in the religious circle? It is when we can grab these people that we can begin to tackle terrorism. So far, not a single person has been convicted in Nigerian courts for terrorism as far as I can remember.
What law does Nigeria have against terrorism currently?
Nigeria has criminal laws against setting up of explosives. But these are general laws. These laws were not put in place to tackle terrorism. They are laws that deal with public disorder or those who are trying to destroy the Nigerian state. The difference between these laws and terrorist act is that the terrorist act will be a more organized approach and it is specifically targeting the perpetrators and their godfathers and their sources of fund.
So, there is a big gap between that reality and what we have now.
Are Al Qaeda and Boko Haram the same thing?
They are operating broadly on the same principles. As to whether money is coming directly from Al Qaeda, I cannot say, as I don't work in the security agencies. But we do know that international extremists are supportive of religious extremists in Nigeria. They provide them with the ideological backing, funding and material support such as guns and so forth. We all know what happened a few months ago when we saw many containers full of arms that they later said was destined to Gambia. How many of these have passed though our fingers and we didn't catch? This is the only one that we caught. We know, for a fact, that there is no doubt there are a lot of arms on our streets in our country, even if bringing in these arms from Benin and Niger Republic where there is constant strive. So, we are a leaking country, in terms of our border control. We are a leaking country in term of immigration. A lot of people from Niger and Child are coming here to fight and cause mayhem. Until there is punishment, terrorism will continue to grow.