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Borno elders and Boko Haram
ON April 22, 1900, French troops killed Rabah in the Battle of Kousseri and the people of Bornu could breathe fairly freely again. Rabah, an Arab from Sudan, had held Bornu in strangling servitude after defeating and killing Kyari, its ruler, in 1893. Rabah’s crushing victory buried the Bornu Empire.
Rabah killed a large number of the inhabitants of Kukawa, the capital, and then pillaged it, leaving orphan boys and girls to wander dazedly among the ruins. Rabah ruled Bornu for seven years and the people lived in constant fear, as they do today in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, and in many other places in Nigeria. Rabah spread terror, a precursor of Boko Haram.
Rabah dispensed justice with ghastly empiricism. When one of his soldiers denied the accusation made by a food seller that he refused to pay her after eating her rice, Rabah slit open the soldier’s stomach to determine his culpability. Rabah, it seems, had a macabre sense of humour, but Boko Haram members are humourless homicidal monsters.
Gazaragamu was Bornu’s capital in the early 19th century. It was captured by the Fulani on three different occasions but they were never able to hold it. The Fulani attacked Bornu after it sent troops to help Daura, Kano and Katsina, three prominent targets of the jihad. The troops were treacherously ambushed by Ardo Lerlima and this gave the Fulani hope that Bornu could be defeated.
Maiduguri is the modern capital of the Kanuri, but it was only a little bigger than a village when the British made it a military base in 1907. In July 2011, Borno elders called for the withdrawal of soldiers from Maiduguri, a Boko Haram enclave of terror since 2009. They claimed that the soldiers killed innocent people and raped women.
Boko Haram is still exploding bombs and employing the Kalashnikov in Maiduguri, but it has spread its tentacles of terror to some other parts of the North. It killed more than 100 people in Damaturu in November, bombed a Catholic Church in Madalla on Christmas Day, in which 43 people died, and drenched Kano in blood on January 20. The bomb and gun attacks killed 185 people, according to the police.
The terrorists stopped vehicles, took unhurried aim and shot the occupants. One man who was shot twice said it was a miracle he was alive. The terrorists were unchallenged in a city with thousands of troops and armed policemen.
The government does not appear to have a planned approach to Boko Haram’s sustained campaign of slaughter. The government is muddling along and many people are being horrifically murdered. Nigeria has been offered help by some countries that know how to give terrorists painful pause, but Borno elders have told the government to reject it. But Bornu sent troops to try to help Daura, Kano and Katsina in the war they had to fight against the Fulani.
The Borno elders say they are against the deployment of foreign troops in Nigeria, but the government has not asked for foreign troops, as far as I know. Nigeria needs advanced technology and not foreign troops to defeat Boko Haram.
The United States and Australia helped Indonesia catch the Bali bombers. Detachment 88 was set up after the Bali nightclub bombings in October 2002, which killed 202 foreigners. The two countries equipped Detachment 88 and four of the men involved in the bombings were executed. But Umar Patek, who made the devastating bombs and had a $1 million price on his head, eluded Detachment 88 and other security agencies for many years.
Patek was a long way from home when he was captured by Pakistani agents in Abbottabad on January 25, 2011. But the Pakistani authorities apparently did not know that Patek was Osama bin Laden’s near neighbour. The confession of a captured terrorist and technology-driven intelligence led the Americans to bin Laden and they took him out on May 1, 2011.
Patek is in custody in Indonesia after a smooth transfer from Pakistan. He has been in custody for months and will not be able to emulate the Nigerian Umar—Kabir Umar, also known as Kabir Sokoto—and do a disappearing act. It is only in Nigeria that some security agents perform diabolical tricks.
Another high-profile terrorist was captured in 2011, a Filipino by the name of Jal Idris. He is a member of Abu Sayyaf, an Islamic terrorist group responsible for many of the bombings and kidnappings in the Philippines. Abu Sayyaf wants medieval theocracy in the Mindanao area of the Philippines, which is also home to non-Muslims, and in a country of dominant Catholicism. The United States helps the Philippines with intelligence.
Thailand made concessions to the Islamic terrorists in Pattani, one of its provinces, but they have continued to attack policemen and soldiers. The Thai government has set up a special squad to destroy the terrorist vermin.
Boko Haram demanded severe punishment for those who killed Mohammed Yusuf, its leader, after his capture and the Nigerian government rushed to arraign some policemen for the crime. It is now conveniently forgotten by many people, especially the Borno elders, that Yusuf was not an innocent victim, that he and his men had slaughtered hundreds of people without provocation—one pastor was told that he would only be spared if he became a Muslim and he sang a Christian song while his throat was being cut—and that they took up arms against the State. However, his summary execution was barbaric, as I stated in the column published on August 7, 2009.
How many more will have to die before Boko Haram is satisfied that Yusuf has been avenged? Boko Haram will not stop the killings until it is crushed. Boko Haram obviously has wealthy backers: several bomb-rigged vehicles were discovered in Kano after the Friday massacre. It is believed the vehicles were bought by Boko Haram and the police may need to interview car dealers.
Abul Qaqa, the spokesman for Boko Haram, phones Nigerian journalists and foreign radio stations. It should be easy to locate his hideout even using the hardly top-drawer tools of the country’s intelligence agencies. A drone strike, even if Nigeria possesses such a weapon of terrifying precision, will merely silence a voice and not destroy the seeds of sectarian derangement. Rabah’s evil empire collapsed after his sons were killed in battle.
The Borno elders alleged that soldiers in Maiduguri were engaged in the ‘hanging, starving and shooting of innocent citizens in the so-called interrogation centres.’ These are terrible crimes if true and should be punished, but the Borno elders did not condemn the sickening outrage that killed 185 people in Kano on January 20.
Columnists should be rational and objective in discharging their duties. I suggest you read an article by Bishop Matthew Kukah in Leadership newspaper of 16 January, 2012. You could learn one or two things about being objective.
Nosa, in one of your columns in August 2011, you expressed your concern over the robust relationship between President Goodluck Jonathan and two African despots—Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Idris Deby of Chad—and today you are vindicated by the way our president imposed a new fuel regime on hapless Nigerians; and the military bravado he used in crushing the anti-fuel subsidy removal protest by the very Nigerians who voted him into power. Truly, power corrupts absolutely.
Adeyemi Agboola, 22 Adeyemi Street, Agege, Lagos
Jonathan should order the immediate withdrawal of soldiers from the streets of Lagos. I believe the advice to deploy them must have been given by northern Boko Haram sympathisers in his government. This may be revenge for the deployment of troops in some parts of the North and to destroy Jonathan’s popularity in the South-West. Tanks did not stop the Arab Spring movement as a deceitful person in the ministry of defence was saying.
Mike, Asaba, Delta State