BOKO HARAM AGITATION IN ORDER-DOKUBO-ASARI
Leader of the Niger Delta Peoples Salvation Front (NDPSF), Alhaji Mujahid Dokubo-Asari, has said the agitation by the Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati wal-Jihad commonly referred to as Boko Haram, is in order.
Dokubo-Asari also said the war is not winnable, calling on the Boko Haram sect and the Federal Government to dialogue for the sake of peace.
'This war cannot be won. The government cannot win it, and the movement cannot win either. So, it is going to be a vicious circle, very vicious. Death, death, death on all sides! Soldiers will die, innocent Muslims will die.
In this thought-provoking interview with Sunday Sun, Dokubo-Asari further said there was nothing wrong in the sect's struggle.
He also took a look at the crisis hovering over the forthcoming Bayelsa State gubernatorial election, saying that the incumbent Governor, Timipre Sylva, is a total failure. Excerpts…
Agitation of the Boko Haram, which has led to loss of lives, is viewed in some quarters as against the candidacy of President Goodluck Jonathan. Do you share this view?
I want to say that as a Muslim and somebody, who at one time was close to principal actors of the movement, I just want to describe it as a Salafist movement. Salafia are people who follow the tradition, the strict tradition and strict letters of the Koran as interpreted by Prophet Mohammed by his explanations, his speeches and his actions when he was alive; and the belief that everybody must follow the tradition of the prophet to the letter, which is Islam.
For Boko Haram, I don't know whether there is any sect called Boko Haram that exists. I am not sure there is such a sect. Boko Haram is a derogatory term given to the people. It is not different from Christians saying that you must be born again. Boko is 'western civilization is repressible, western civilization is anti-values of the society in which members of this movement belong', which is true.
Western civilization is anti our way of life. And western civilization has not contributed anything other than consumption. Western civilization has not led to the production and enrichment of our culture, or of our knowledge or values in any way other than creating parasites. And any country, any civilization that wants to propagate itself, that wants to continue, must fight against the imposition of alien tradition on them.
Are you saying the sect's struggle is in order?
As far as I am concerned, there is nothing wrong in the movement's struggle to bring back, and to create a renaissance of the life of the people of their area.
Before the invasion of this part of the world, the area they are had two Islamic Sultanates: the Kanem Borno Empire and the Othmania Empire. These two empires were ruled under Islamic laws. You cannot say they are secular. What is secular? Who determines what is secular? Why should a law that is alien to people be imposed on them? Laws cannot develop in the air. Laws must take cognizance of the values of the people in every society; it forms the kernel of that society. So, as far as I am concerned, all those trumpeting secularism or no secularism are just playing pranks with the truth.
The values of the people over there include Islam, and it must be respected to the letter. And the people must have a choice of what they want, and as far as I am concerned, it is the government that instigated the crisis in the North. Not this government, but government is a continuous business. Government does not exist in a vacuum. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has ruled this country for 12 unbroken years and the PDP cannot say it is not responsible for criminalizing the movement in the North-West.
What you are saying is that the sect's struggle is not in any way connected to the candidacy of President Goodluck Jonathan?
No, no, no. When a struggle starts, you cannot control it. Like the Niger Delta struggle: we started, it was a moral struggle, it was a struggle for justice, but then, people like Henry Okah and several other criminals and gang groups came in, and because the government of Olusegun Obasanjo wanted to remove the moral platform on which we were fighting, they encouraged the growth of this counter revolutionary groups. So, if a group starts and it is not managed and contained, it leads to something else. Everybody has its own problem. Every people have their own problems. What is happening in most parts of Africa is that we are importing American and Zionist apartheid, Israeli problems into our life, into our body polity.
If Americans are being killed, what is the business of somebody in Buguma, where I come from, to care about the Americans? Do Americans care about somebody being killed in Buguma? Why should the government make a policy to protect the lives of Americans? If Americans are being killed, let them be killed. If there is a reason to kill Americans, let them be killed. If there is no reason to kill Americans… But we should not bring American problems as part of our problems. And that is what is happening. Instead of government to preserve and stabilize our country, it is busy fighting the American misguided and prejudiced war against Islam.
Look at what is happening! The people of Palestine want statehood. The hypocritical United States of America is opposed to it, but they are fighting for a regime change in Libya and Syria. Why? Because Syria is anti-Zionist state of Israel, and to protect it they must topple the regime in Syria. And then, the Government of Nigeria would now sacrifice the lives of our citizens for such hypocritical and evil states like the United States of America and Israel. So, that is what we are saying; there is double standard. The Nigerian government should leave American problem for America and face our problems.
Let's go back to the issue of Boko Haram. You said the sect's activism is in the right direction…
(Cuts in) Yes.
Is there any moral justification for the loss of lives recorded so far?
But if you kill somebody, the person has the right to kill you. The Nigerian government, outside the law, killed their leaders. They killed the leaders of this movement in public glare, executed them. There is a law. Are we living in the jungle that the whims and caprices of some people would now become the law of the land? The law says a man is innocent until he is convicted in a court of competent jurisdiction. Was that done for Yusuf? Was that done for the thousands of people murdered in broad daylight? No. So, if you sow to the wind, how are you not going to reap the whirlwind? And that is what is happening.
Can you compare the Boko Haram struggle to the one you once led in the Niger Delta?
There is no difference between our struggle and theirs. It is a struggle for self identity.
You never killed, but they are killing, what do you think?
The approaches might be different. There is no way you can be in the water and expect your clothes not to be soaked. If you get into water, your clothes will be soaked. If government's business is not to protect its citizens but to murder, maim and destroy the properties of our citizens, then that government has lost legitimacy. So, when Yar'Adua ordered that they should kill people… what government ought to do was to make peace. In 2002, were they carrying arms? We knew about them. And how this present crisis started? Helmet!
Wearing of helmet and not wearing helmet. Does that necessitate the killing of other people? Look, killing of innocent people is repressible and it is not acceptable anywhere. But when you make it necessary a people would have no other approach than to resort to self-help; that is it. What is happening is that government has provided an avenue where they cannot go to the government and the law enforcement agency for justice. They have to resort to self-help to protect themselves, because when the government said kill these people, we have passed judgment on them, like what America is doing by saying go kill Bin Laden and you call yourself a democratic state. Go and kill Gaddafi, go and kill Saddam Hussein. When there is a mindset of people playing God in government, going outside the law to commit atrocities, then the people have no any other option than to resort to self-help.
Don't you think this interview can set the government against you?
Whether the government is against me or not, that is none of my business. My business is that government should do the right thing. If Yusuf had killed people, then there are laws. Yusuf should be taken before the law and be put on trial, and if the law finds him guilty of killing, then he should be convicted. Not a president giving order and a police officer executing an unarmed man, who was even handcuffed and paraded in full glare of the public. So, as far as I am concerned as an individual, that does not justify it. That is not also justified under Islamic and moral laws, for a woman to take bombs and kill people who are not combatants. It is wrong. Whether it is done by the Joint Task Force (JTF), or by members of the movement, it is wrong, repressible and should be resisted. But two killings have been done. The government killed because it has the power. It also has the power of coercion, the power to sanction and the military might. And the small one is fighting back.
So, how do we stop it? The first step the government should take is to cease fire and try to identify individuals in this movement that can be dialogued with to see reason.
How do you see the intervention of former President Olusegun Obasanjo in this matter?
I think that even though I don't like the man, I have never liked him, but this was a step in the right direction and he should be encouraged. The people being killed are our brothers.
When you leave a situation unchecked and it continues to linger, even if it is an injury, it is a sore and will continue to fester until it becomes cancerous and difficult to heal. The tendency is that other interests will arise, other people with different ideology, different interest, will cash in on the situation, because the situation was not arrested on time. And when that happens, it becomes multi-faceted and hydra-headed whereby everybody would want to say I am part of the movement, while they are not.
They might be ideologically opposed, ideologically antagonistic to each other because this organization does not have a face. The leadership of this organization does not have a face and that is why it is very dangerous. For instance, when I was arrested and put in prison, a lot of people came claiming all sorts of things, and it became a big market the like Onitsha market. Nobody asked who came to the market or who left the market. So, it became open-ended and everybody got in. And that is why it is very dangerous. When there was a bomb explosion in Minna, somebody said it was Boko Haram. When there was one in Abuja, it was Boko Haram and when there was one in Port Harcourt, it was Boko Haram. So, who is Boko Haram?
What government needs to do is try as much as possible to dialogue with the different groups, identify different groups. Some of them were in prison with us and they are known. You bring in these people. Look, there is nobody that does not want peace. There is nobody who says I am a super man and I want to kill everybody. Life is precious to everybody. Life is very expensive, so nobody would say I want to die. It is very difficult. Let us be very realistic. Yes, if death comes, there is nothing you can do about it. Death will come but that I want to die, I must die, is a lie.
What I am trying to say is let the government act quickly.
And that is why even though I don't like this man, Olusegun Obasanjo, the step he took was in the right direction. The government should cash in on it. The government should get dividends from that visit even though those who do not want peace are trying to truncate it. That is why the government must resist and go headlong to get the peace, or else different interests would get in and might even be antagonistic to the leadership of the movement. A religious war is the most difficult war to win, because everyday it makes converts. You kill Osama Bin Laden; he is just one man. You kill Awal, he is just one man. The belief is this; that these people are anti-Islam and we must fight them. It is a duty. So, there is this madhi element, a messianic belief that has been sent by God to bring about change.
These are the issues and I think Jonathan will do well. That is why when Jonathan said I am not a Goliath, I am not a General, yes, he is not. A leader should be humane. A leader should not always be harsh. He should bring his people together. People might consider it as weakness, but I don't consider it so. He should be able to bring the people together and make peace. He should go the extra mile to make peace. I disapprove of bribing people in the name of amnesty, giving people bribe.
It is illegitimate, it is immoral and it is repressible. But the bribe was given so that oil can flow. So, this bribe can also be given so that peace can be restored, lives and property can be saved. That is the truth of the matter. There is no difference between those who were in the creeks killing and maiming people, looting peoples' properties, raping women on the streets. And everybody was lumped together and given a name, 'Niger Delta militants.' And they were given money; some of them who ought to be in prison, or dead, now have it the other way round. It is a precedent.
Whether we like it or not, Jonathan is the President of Nigeria. Even though I don't accept Nigeria as my country, I am bound by the international laws and conventions for now. So, as the President of Nigeria, what is good for the goose is also good for the gander. He should also give the same treatment to this group. Yes, people said there would be proliferation of demands, yes. But if you make the mistake by giving to some people, how would you not give to other people? We rejected the amnesty. We rejected it because it is illegal and immoral and we have committed no crime in doing what we were doing.
So, we went to court and rejected the amnesty. But I know that leaders of this movement can never accept bribe for amnesty except what they profess is different from what they are really doing. If they believe it is the correctness of belief in Islam that they are pursuing, they will not accept a bribe. But there is no alternative to peace. Peace must be. There are some people who are saying 'oh, they have given Niger Delta militants amnesty, give us too.' Some politicians have gotten into it, they want to manipulate, they want to eat the money; but I know the true members, the genuine Salafist will not trade their beliefs for money. What we are saying is for them to allow peace to reign. This war is not winnable. The government cannot win it and they cannot win either.
That's why I asked how do you justify the killing of innocent people?
But in war, people will die.
Suppose the president appoints you to make peace between government and the group, would you accept?
Very well, in any capacity to bring peace because I know these people. I was in prison with them. I know the name they are called is not what they are. When I was in Maiduguri, I met them. I met the leadership, I met Yusuf, I met some members of the organization both at Kuje Prison and at State Security Services (SSS) office. So, my willingness to serve in making peace is because I know them and I know that as a Muslim, I owe a duty towards anything that will stop what is not Islam.
Look, I am not an apologetic Muslim. I believe what Islam says about Jihad, but I believe the rules of Jihad are very clear. and these rules, if they are not there, there is no need for you to carry out Jihad.
The issue is this: let Jonathan be a peacemaker and look for peace, cultivate it, sustain it and when he leaves, let people say whatever they want to say. Let them call him any name, but he should deliver peace. Let the main push of Jonathan's government be the foundation that would safeguard the lives and property of the people who gave him the mandate to rule them.
Governorship election is coming up in Bayelsa State and it appears the presidency is ganging up against the incumbent. Is it true?
How would I know? I don't know.
But you are from the Niger Delta region, are you not?
I am not a member of PDP and I am not in anyway privy to what the presidency has decided to do.
I am sure you know the governor and the people of Bayelsa very well, don't you?
I am an Ijaw man and I know the governor. He is a failure. He is a total failure.
So, that means if the presidency is ganging up against him…
(Cuts in) I don't know about the presidency or what the presidency is doing. I cannot speak for the presidency. But, as for the governor, he is my friend, I know he is a failure and has not done well.
What are the things he had not done that makes him a failure in your view?
You go to Bayelsa and find out. You travel all over the world. The governor travels. Is what he sees outside that he put in place in Bayelsa? The resources of Bayelsa, Rivers State, Delta, and Akwa Ibom are enough to change the lives of the people. If Rivers, Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom and Delta cannot impact positively on their people, then what do we expect states like Abia and Imo to do with their lean resources? Or states like Osun, Ogun, Edo, Ekiti? What do we expect them to do? Rivers State's budget is more than the budget of six other states.
What is on the ground in Bayelsa? Look, whatever we have fought for, these so-called governors who never contributed anything, are the beneficiaries of our sacrifices. And instead of using this to the advantage of the people, they are busy plundering the resources of the people, diverting the resources to wasteful projects like the roller coaster this man, Rotimi Amaechi, is building in Rivers and he calls it mono rail.
Of what economic benefit is mono rail to the people of Rivers? Why do we always put up white elephant projects? Look, you should be interested in improving the economic well being of the people. And that is not done. The same thing is happening in Bayelsa. The same is also happening in Delta. It is only consumption. There is no production; no improvement of the quality of lives.
Are you saying nothing has changed in the whole of Niger Delta region, including Bayelsa?
I have not seen any change, because the amount of money that goes into the Niger Delta in relation to the development going on, there is nothing on ground.
What needs to be done to put the region in order?
As long as we have the type of constitution we have, as long as we continue to pretend; because when the foundation is weak and wobbling, the building cannot stand.
Any hope for the region?
The only hope is the convocation of a Sovereign National Conference. We should sit and restructure and agree that there should be a referendum so that we would not be talking about Boko Haram, the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), the Niger Delta People Volunteer Force (NDPVF), etc. We would all be at a conference with sovereign powers and decisions would be arrived at and this will be put into a referendum and the people will take a final decision.
If we have a truly whatever form of government we want, whatever way we want to run the country, whatever country that would evolve from the decision of a Sovereign National Conference, the right of the people to self-government, self-determination, the right to cessation should be clearly stated because there is no relationship between somebody in Sokoto and me, an Ijaw man in Buguma, or Gboama. There is no relationship whatsoever. We have no relationship because our ways of life are different. The food we eat is different, the climatic condition is different. So, you cannot build a country based on falsehood and force. Coercion! You coerce people to be in a country. That is not possible.
So, should the country be divided?
This will be a decision of the people. For me, yes, I would be very happy carrying my currency, carrying my flag and my children, singing my national anthem because, as far as I am concerned, let the people decide at a Sovereign National Conference so that these issues would be resolved. We are in a vicious circle. We keep postponing doomsday. And now, we have a problem. Look, a world that cannot be one, a religious war is unwinnable. The only country in the whole world that has tried to come out from a religious war is Lebanon. And how is it? Lebanon is now divided; the people have several governments inside one country.
So, in our own case, the only solution is to secede?
No. Why do you people have a narrow mindset? I said let the people sit down at a Sovereign National Conference and decisions from the conference be put to a referendum, and if the people decide, if the people of Kalabari decide that in 1893 they were independent and they want to continue to be independent, so be it. There is nothing like secession because the people were not consulted when Nigeria was tinkered together.
What is your personal solution to the myriads of problems facing us as a nation?
I have told you there is need for a conference. I believe I don't want to be a Nigerian. I want to be a Kalabari man, the way God created me. God is not a fool. God was not sleeping when he created me. He created me with all His full powers and everything. As God, He created and made me a Kalabari man, and put me in the region I belong to.
Queen Victoria and adventurers, who were going around stealing people's lands and all that, cannot change what God has made me. They cannot change me from being a Kalabari-Ijaw man to a Nigerian. No. It is against natural justice. The people must be consulted, but I am not the people. I cannot approximate to myself the collective duty of the people. That I cannot do. So, the only way the people can decide is to meet at a Sovereign National Conference. And if Kalabari people now say we were a kingdom, a flourishing kingdom and we want to go back, and they say how many Kalabari people are you representing, go to a referendum and they go to the kingdom of Kalabari and vote, and the people of Kalabari vote 60/40 and the referendum wins like in Eretria, so be it.