BOKO HARAM'S DIVIDED HOUSE
The Jama'atul Alsunnah lida awati wal Jihad famously known as Boko Haram, started its religious activities about a decade ago with little or no attention. The people of Borno never thought in their widest imagination that an Islamic sect that resolved to evolve an ideological position for itself could upset the system and cause a big stir one day.
Then addressed as Yusiffiya Movement, a name that derives its origin from the leader of the sect, Malam Mohammed Yusuf, the group's radical position was popularized through the teachings of its leader. 'It was one group, one principle and one intention,' says an Islamic scholar on condition of anonymity. The killing of Mohammed Yusuf changed the cause of the otherwise united group.
Sunday Sun gathered reliably, however, from top security chiefs in the state last year that the group was split into three units shortly after the killing of Yusuf. Sources claimed the sect could not find a better successor after the 2009 uprising. Shekau Bukar, who authorities claimed, had also been killed during the insurgence, was repeatedly taunted as the successor. It was gathered that Shekau was more popular among the younger sect members while a couple of the older ones allegedly saw him a little too extreme compared to Yusuf's quiet mien.
Many believe Shekau Bukar, alleged to be a non-Nigerian, was actually the brain behind the 2009 offensive carried out by the sect where about 400 people were killed. The Shekau followers, according to sources, had opted for the July 2009 attack while Yusuf was said to have pleaded for more time. 'We learnt that Yusuf was actually trying to pacify the members to delay the attack till the end of Ramadan but Shekau insisted it must be done because of the way the security agents dealt with their members,' another source claimed.
The Shekau group, it was gathered, was made up of young men between the ages of 20 and 30. The purported killing of Shekau by the police was said to have angered his men who allegedly vowed to avenge the killing of their commander.
But then, it was learnt that there were some members who shared from the radical but systematic approach of Mohammed Yusuf in the propagation of their brand of Islam. This group, being coordinated by one Mohammed Nur, grandson of a popular Islamic cleric in Borno, was favourably disposed to the dialogue option of the state government.
'They are not really interested in the continuation of this war and orgy of killings because they seem to have realized that innocent people are daily being affected while their aim of enthroning their type of government has not been achieved. This group is ready for dialogue any time, especially if the government is sincere and determined to pursue the amnesty agenda,' a senior government official disclosed.
Sunday Sun gathered that efforts were underway by a group of people including some reputable Islamic clerics in the state to persuade this group to finally accept government's dialogue offer. The men said to be working independent of government were said to have opened channels of communication with the sect members particularly the Mohammed Nur group to let peace return to the troubled state. 'Maybe government will then follow up the efforts of these wise men by reaching out to the sect members after unfolding its package for the amnesty agenda,' the source hinted.
Ironically, the third group which allegedly broke out of the Mohammed Nur group was yet to key into the amnesty offer. 'They are young men mostly from Niger and Chad as well as Maiduguri metropolis and Jere Local Government and they are drawn from the two groups; Shekau and Mohammed Nur,' says Ibrahim, who claimed to be a former follower of the late Mohammed Yusuf. Information pieced together shows that members of the third group whose present headship could not be ascertained at the time of filing this report resolved to separate their activities from the two other groups to carve a niche for themselves and negotiate the terms of their amnesty should the plan scale through.
In spite of their differences, Sunday Sun gathered that the sect is still united in fighting public institutions including its agents, security personnel and 'enemies of Islam' as enunciated in the reaction of Abu Zaid, who speaks on behalf of the three groups. No wonder, the sect had on several occasions through its releases denounced others like Usman Al-Zakhari and Abu Darda who earlier claimed to be speaking for the Jama'atul Alsunnah lida awati wal Jihad. It maintains that only Abu Zaid was authorized to speak.
Military sources claim the security apparatus in the state are already working on the purported division among the group to address the Boko Haram imbroglio. 'We are working on this clear division if there is truly anything like that but more importantly, we are moving towards the sponsors of the sect and it is going to help us a lot to resolve this problem so that peace can once again come back to Borno,' the military officer told Sunday Sun.
Saleh Dan Galadima, a public affairs commentator, described the Boko Haram phenomenon as an offshoot of unresolved religious fallouts and social crisis in the northern part of the country.
'Boko Haram ideology is quite in tandem with the ones expressed by late Mohammed Maitatsine, Kala Kato, and other fiery clerics whose teachings tended to derive strength from Hadith, much more than it does from the Holy Quran,' he said.
Saleh noted that the activities of the sect which started in December 2002 at Kannama in Yobe and later at Gwoza in Borno may not be tackled through the present military approach but by addressing the religious fallouts in the northern part of the country. The purported division among the sect members not withstanding, the bombing has continued unabated while residents continue to flee.