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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.








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