Friday, November 28, 2014

WRITING BOKO HARAM


                                                                         Pastor Oritsejafor

The office of Senior Special Assistant (SSA) to the President on Islamic Affairs, Barrister Tahir Umar Tahir, and that of SSA  to the President on Christian Affairs organised a two-day roundtable meeting for special advisers on religious affairs from 36 states of the Federation and the FTC at the State House, with the theme: Towards Synergising and Interfacing in the Religious Sector for National Development. In his remarks as Father of the Day, His Eminence, the Sultan said, among other things:
“The fact that we are able to sit under one roof to discuss common issue, is a very big blessing from the Almighty. If He had willed otherwise, we would have been on the street slapping and fighting each other. But the fact that we are all here to talk on one particular issue means a very important step towards having peace and stability in our great country."
I cannot but agree with His Eminence on this one. If not for Allah’s intervention, we would have been goaded into war by certain members of both Muslim and Christian communities. Many of the ill feelings people have towards themselves because of religious bigotry stem from the unguarded and irresponsible utterances of certain people in the position to either misguide or guide their flock. One of such leaders is Pastor Oritsejafor of CAN who fancies himself as the mouthpiece cum champion of the Christian faith.
What he has done to alienate Christians to their Muslim brethren will take quite some time to undo. Of all leaders that CAN have elected in decades, he has proven to be the most confrontational and deliberately controversial. He seems to enjoy controversy.
The most recent one was the role he played in the over $9 million so-called arms deal; a deal that looks more like a covered up money laundering attempt the more you look at it. The truth must be said; no one should hide under the “anointing” to do as he pleases hoping no one will talk. This is the fellow who broke the country’s laws to ‘lease’ a private jet to another company which then rents it out to the Nigerian government which then gives a supposedly military contract to civilians to handle. 
Prominent human rights lawyers asked a series of questions on the matter at the time it was a front burner issue. Of course events have since helped push that into obscurity. No one remembers that Pastor Ayo would have probably been explaining to an unbiased security apparatus of government how his ‘private jet’ came into the employ of military contractors if not for the peculiar nature of our country.
The pastor had characteristically remarked that the Muslims have not been doing enough to stop Boko Haram. He has often been quoted as saying the Muslim leaders know the Boko Haram people but are not acting against them. That which he said, and which has been parroted by those who have not done their research and those blinded by bigotry, is mere fiction not supported by fact. 
In the event under discussion, Pastor Oritsejafor was also Father of the Day. His Eminence, the Ameerul Mu’mineen, Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar spoke first. “I agree with previous speakers,’ he said, ‘but I’d like to add some few remarks of mine, to substantiate and make what they have said stronger. Because it is when we speak that a lot of people listen. When I speak, most Muslims take that as a serious issue. When CAN President speaks, most Christians take that as a serious issue.

"There are no problems between Islam and Christianity, but if there are problems between Muslims and Christians they should be dealt with at that level. It is important for us to know that all our holy scriptures have portrayed that there are no problems between these great religions. 
“As Muslims we know what the Holy Qur’an says about the people of the Book. And so, I think, the Christians too should know a little bit about Islam and Muslims. That brings us to the issue to educating ourselves about our religions. For all the problems that have been besetting us in this country have been lack of proper knowledge about our religions. Of course, without education concerning religion, there will definitely not be trust and sincerity. 
“Where Muslims leaders make comments condemning the activities of some miscreants, terrorists and insurgents who wear the garb of Islam to commit crimes, and the Muslims in their majority say no, that is not Islam, and condemn that, but still, the same Muslims will be told that ‘you are not doing enough to bring an end to this problem’. I think that is very unfair.” 
There has been so much biased assessment of the efforts of Muslim leaders by those who say they represent the Christians. Incidentally, these people never speak in public when one of the adherents of their own faith commits heinous crimes. They seem to give tacit approval to such crimes. From looting the country to bombing our oil installations to other acts of brigandage, they are usually silent.
For the avoidance of doubt, I am a member of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), which draws its membership from all over Nigeria. I however do not hold brief for His Eminence the Sultan who is more than capable of defending himself from such petty allegations.  What I will not accept is for someone to throw into trashcan the hard work people are doing for political points.
There has been no time the Sultan has not come out to personally condemn what Boko Haram is doing since 2011. The two years before then, he had given instruction to the then Secretary-General NSCIA, late Dr. Adegbite, to issue press statements condemning Boko Haram and their sponsors. He instructed the JNI to similarly issue press statements condemning the madness from Boko Haram. He has been the target of the terrorists on account of that in the past. See, for example, this March 8, 2012 article titled, ‘Boko Haram targets Sultan of Sokoto’ 
For want of space, I cannot reproduce all the references to the Sultan’s interventions but let me quote just a few here. A diligent online search will definitely yield more results for those who want to know.
  1.  27 December 2011  Nigerian Islamic leaders, Sultan of Sokoto, condemn Boko Haram
2. February 6 2012.    ‘We Must End Boko Haram, Says Sultan of Sokoto’

3. May 9, 2013   ‘Sultan-Led Council Begs Boko Haram To Embrace Amnesty’

4. July 27, 2014 “A criminal is a criminal”: Sultan of Sokoto says Boko Haram shouldn’t be associated with Islam’

5. Saturday, 26 July 2014 ‘Sultan of Sokoto To Boko Haram: It's Delusional To Kill & Expect Paradise, Says Boko Haram Now a 'Franchise'’

These are just a few out of about 30 different references I could find in less than a day of casually combing the net for what the Sultan has said in the past on the deluded sect. To say the Sultan has not been talking about Boko Haram is intellectually lazy and outright dishonest.
The second charge is that the Muslim leaders have not been doing enough to stop Boko Haram. We ask the question, ‘What else do you expect from us that we are not doing?’ This is because at least 10 prominent Islamic scholars have been attacked and killed by Boko Haram for condemning their acts and educating their followers against the twisted ideology Shekau and his cohorts are peddling. Yet they have not done enough? Haba Pastor! 
People would be in prayer when Boko Haram would storm in, kill the Imam and storm out of the mosque. His crime was the last sermon he delivered where he urged people to shun Boko Haram. A man would go and report the strange activities of the sect members at a police station and be killed as he arrived his house. People soon learnt to shut their mouth and pray. There is no protection for anybody except the protection of Allah.
The Sultan, earlier this year ordered that all mosques in the country should invoke Allah’s wrath in each of the five daily prayers on Boko Haram, their sponsors and sympathisers. Many mosques are still complying until date. There are also the sensitization workshops, the denouncements in mosques where their Imam is still brave enough to condemn the group publicly.
His Eminence continued, “We have to tell ourselves the truth, because one of the greatest problems of this country is that we don’t tell ourselves the home truth. And we all know that in our religions we have been ordered to speak the truth even if it be against us, against our parents and near kindred. Therefore, if followers don’t tell leaders the truth, then we have a serious problem, because the leaders will assume that what they are doing is right.
“At our level of being the leaders of Islam in this country, we have tried so much. I want to underline the word ‘so much’; across this globe. There is nowhere I have not been to, to speak about peace and Islam.” 
Speaking of not doing enough, I advise the CAN leaders to throw that charge in the direction where it belongs - with the leadership of this country and its security operatives. No country that budgets in excess of a trillion naira on security should be said to have a poorly equipped army or air force.  The victories recorded by common hunters and civilians with crude weapons over Boko Haram have exposed the futility of the “we are poorly equipped” excuse that had become a chorus song with the military.
Trained officers and men of the Nigerian Army now desert military formations and poorly trained terrorists take over, only to show in the terrorists’ videos that the barracks actually had weapons but did not use them! Whole towns have been lost the same way! This is an area where the government is not doing enough and they should neither shift the responsibility to us nor use clerics that are close to them to do that dirty job.
Having said this, His Eminence must step up his game and inaugurate more committees of scholars to de-radicalize the gullible and hungry who seem to find solace in the unIslamic ideology of Boko Haram. 
The government should do more to protect those brave enough to defy the murderers. Sometime ago, some civilians helped the army to identify and arrest the members of the unIslamic sect. They were later murdered in large numbers. The feeling in those parts is that the government cannot or will not protect them.
The government should do more to restore hope and trust. As things stand now, many believe that the government itself is the main benefactor of Boko Haram and is in no hurry to see the insurgency end. They point to the allegations against people who were and remain very close to the president of being sponsors of Boko Haram. One of the individuals mentioned continues to enjoy an inexplicably heavy security protection that even the sitting governor of the state is denied.
Pastor Oritsejafor at the roundtable urged the Sultan to write Boko Haram the way he and other world Muslim leaders wrote ISIS lately. It would have been laughed off as another joke but for the person making that remark. He has serially insinuated that the Sultan knows Boko Haram in the past. It was not funny. Incidentally, this was the only thing the mainstream media reported from the meeting. They somehow managed to exclude the words of His Eminence, part of which I have quoted above.

Friday, November 21, 2014

SELF-DEFENCE





For people like me who grew up in places like Kaduna any news about fleeing Nigerian soldiers will be totally inconceivable. The Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA), before its relocation to the new site around Kaduna airport, was a stone’s throw from my family home in Unguwar Shanu where I spent the greater part of my youth. From our houses we could overhear voices of the cadets chanting military songs whenever they were out for fitness activities or other trainings. The zeal to join the NDA is in every young man, but that desire was stronger in youth from areas like Unguwar Shanu, Abakwa,  Kawo, Unguwar  Kanawa and Unguwar Sarki, because they see and admire the cadets as they move proudly in these places or during their parades. The only demarcation between us and the NDA was a deep ravine after which lay farmlands, a burial ground and a vast field for sporting activities for the military. During the annual NDA passing out ceremonies, we formed the majority of spectators due to our proximity to the Academy.

Thus we saw in these young officers of NDA self-confidence, security and great aplomb. Many youth from Kawo, Unguwar Shanu and Abakwa axis, like numberless others from every part of this country that share neighbourhood with the military, joined the Academy and are now officers in various military formations in Nigeria.

The people of Kaduna State, and myriad other Nigerians who live in crisis prone areas, be it religious, ethnic or political, have witnessed the other side of the military, which is brutality, fiendishness and extra-judicial killings. During the Kafanchan, Zagon Kataf and Shariah crises, to mention a few, we witnessed horrors of the gun in the hands of people deployed to bring the crisis under control, but who ended up shooting at sight every object, man or beast, indiscriminately. In such situations innocent people were killed by soldiers because they did not leave their shops before the sudden appearance of the armed men in uniform, or because  they dared to pray in the mosque in front of their houses. 

With this mixed feeling of both admiration and awe in our minds, we never thought that there would come a time when a dusty and dishevelled band like Boko Haram will make our armed forces turn their backs and flee. Are we living witnesses to reality or this is an orchestrated political design to achieve a contrived plan against certain parts of this country? If this is the reality on ground why is it possible for local hunters and vigilantes to succeed where our armed forces woefully failed? Could it be, as some have alluded, that this was a case of collusion? Did someone sell out for a pittance? Or are we churning out misfits from the NDA and the Army Depot? I think not. The military is now coopted into the local hunters league in the fight against Boko Haram. What a shame!

Wherever Boko Haram army approaches people disperse. They scatter in all directions. This hurried, improvised dispersal only reminds one of the Day of Judgement when ‘a man shall flee from his own brother, and from his mother and his father, and from his wife and his children. Each one of them, that Day, will have enough concern (of his own) to make him indifferent to the others.’ (Qu’raan 80, Abasa, 34-37)

We have heard tales of those lost in the bush, not knowing where exactly they were even though they had their mobile phone with them; communication eventually ceased as the battery of these devices ran out, and the people died of hunger, thirst and exhaustion. Wives had no contact with their husbands, children lost any trace of their parents; many only saw each other again at the refugee camps, or in the house of relatives in other cities or towns. Another case of internally displaced people!

The military is said to be among the fleeing flood of the frightened. Nothing remains but the aged and the sick who could not runaway. Boko Haram usually declares the ‘conquered’ town or city as part of the Islamic Khilaafah ,  christens it with a new appellation, (like Madinatul Islam), occupies the deserted dwellings of the people and shares of spoils unopposed.

                                                                     Emir Muhammad Sanusi II


Recently the emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, has called on the people to defend themselves against Boko Haram, and not to rely on any succour from the military who are sure to desert them and runway at the hour of need. The emir made the call during a weekly prayer session at the City Central Mosque, Kano. I listened to the recorded version of the speech which the emir presented in the Hausa language after an introduction in his well-articulated Arabic, and supporting each point with a succession of quotations from the Glorious Qur’an. 

My only concern was that His Royal Highness was carried away by the fact that majority of his immediate addressees in that mosque were Huffaaz (those who committed the entire Qur’an to memory), he did not translate any of the verses he copiously quoted. He took it for granted, I assume, that they know the meaning of the verses. He is, by the way, the only Emir I know in recent history that leads his subjects in the Jumu’ah prayers as should be.

Translating the verses would be better for two reasons - 1) in that mosque, there could possibly be people who are not as versed as the Huffaaz who formed the bulk of the audience, and, let us face it, not all Huffaaz know the meaning of what they have memorised of the Qur’an; 2) the emir’s message is now all over the world, because of its timeliness and relevance in the current situation of our country, in both print and electronic media, but not one of them, in either Nigeria or elsewhere, mentioned any of the supporting verses quoted in that speech. His Royal Highness will do well to translate whatever he quotes in Arabic in his future assemblies for the benefit of those who do not speak the language.

On fearlessness and gallantry, the emir urged imams, in their sermons and khutbah, to goad people to exhibit greatheartedness in answering the summon of the Qur’an at the period of confronting the enemy. He said, in such encounters, we shall suffer hurt, but we should remember that the enemy is not immune from hurt; that we should not be weakened by the exploits and apparent successes of the enemy in some cities. They will be short-lived according to the emir, because these verses have explained that - So lose not heart, nor fall into despair: For ye must gain mastery if ye are true in Faith. If a wound hath touched you, be sure a similar wound hath touched the others. Such days [of varying fortunes] We give to men and men by turns: that Allah may know those that believe, and that He may take to Himself from your ranks Martyr-witnesses [to Truth]. And Allah loveth not those that do wrong. (Aali ‘Imraan, 3:139 - 140) 

Emir Muhammadu Sanusi II stressed the need of conveying the message to the people in plain language during the Friday Sermon by imams. He said even in mosques where the Khutbah is not rendered in the Hausa language, the imam should mount the Minbar and deliver the message in Hausa so that the people will understand and prepare their response in confronting the enemy, in compliance with the Qur’anic directive - Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including steeds of war, to strike terror into [the hearts of] the enemies, of Allah and your enemies, and others besides, whom ye may not know, but whom Allah doth know. (Anfaal, 8:60)

The era of fear and desertion is over, the emir emphasised. He said the local hunters should see their skills as a gift from their Lord, and using that skill in repelling any aggression against the people shall be amply recompensed by their Maker. 

Boko Haram has taught us that fear of the gun is in our DNA, military or common civilian. People now know that security agencies and even the armed forces are not invincible and should not be so feared as to stop speaking out in the face of oppression. The fear of the uniform is fast diminishing as people are emboldened by what they see on YouTube of the sameness of both the Nigerian military and the hapless civilians fleeing from the insurgents, and the fact that local hunters could reclaim territories conquered by Boko Haram.

The inhabitants of Azare showed their mettle sometime ago when Boko Haram came calling. They bare had any weapon to speak of, but they repelled the murderers. The people of Ngala-Gumboru did the same and lately the brave hunters.

No matter how many official explanations we may get, it does not explain how a few poorly trained and poorly equipped rag tag of insurgents could route a bigger and better equipped army. We had been told that the army was less equipped than Boko Haram but the videos online show a different picture. 

Boko Haram was fighting in one video with about four machine gun-mounted trucks and two anti-aircraft guns. No armoured tanks, no serious artillery, just a few RPGs. They were attacking Giwa Barracks and in the video we could see that they took over the place and there was an armoured tank in the barracks. Almost all weapons recaptured by the hunters and vigilantes from Boko Haram belong to the Army. They left them behind at some point and fled. It is so sad!

Ambrose Redmoon said, “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear.” I want you and I to apply this in fighting this scourge that knows neither Muslim nor Christian. May Allah grant us the courage to do what is right and the strength to resist what is wrong.