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Boko Haram: Who are they?
The religious sect, Boko Haram, appears to have laid a siege to the Northern part of Nigeria, especially the North East geo-political zone of the region. Aside mindless killings of innocent Nigerians, the sect’s members also carry out wanton destruction of property in a bid to make people in the zone embrace their views on Islamic religious code and western education. JAMES BWALA, in this report, examines the sect vis-a-vis its activities, members and sponsors.
THE fear of Boko Haram is, to state the fact, the beginning of wisdom in some states of the Northern part of Nigeria. The group, which parades religious extremists pushing for the enthronement of Sharia and abadonment of western education in the region, has always sent jitters down the spines of old and young in the North Eastern states of Borno, Bauchi, Yobe, Adamawa, Gombe and Taraba. Wherever the group operates, it often leaves behind sad stories and scary scenes of destruction, maiming and death.
In Borno, the stronghold of the group, many lives and property have been lost to guerrila-like attacks unleashed on the residents of the ancient town of Maiduguri by the sect since it began its operations a few years ago.
About 48 hours ago, the governorship candidate on the platform of All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Engineer Modu Fannami Gubio and six other persons, including the brother of the Borno State governor, Alhaji Goni Modu Sheriff, were killed by people suspected to be Boko Haram members. The deceased had just finished performing their Friday Juma’at prayer when the killers struck, thus throwing residents of Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, into confusion.
Miffed by the incessant killings masterminded by the sect, Sunday Tribune went to Maiduguri and other towns in Borno State and engaged residents of the towns on the supposed identity, origin and grievances of a group that has largely been linked with Al Qaeda.
“Boko Haram is purely a terrorist group,” claimed Habeeb Mosa, a pharmacist living in GRA, Maiduguri. He narrated to Sunday Tribune how the group attacked a police post in the town and killed all the five police officers on duty. They said they were not interested in western education and would want everybody to embrace Sharia. I’m not against Sharia because I’m a Muslim, but why must they force people to embrace their view,” he questioned.
According to the Borno State Police Commissioner, Mohammed Jinjiri Abubakar, “they are a group of miscreants using Islam as a cover-up and have succeeded in instilling fear in the minds of the people of the state to the extent that 90 per cent of Maiduguri residents are hesitant and fearful to provide information to the police on the hideouts and activities of the Boko Haram sect members.” The Commissioner maintained that the group had succeeded in cowing residents of the town, noting that the residents needed to come out of their shell and resist the sect, since its members resided in their midst.“We don’t have any magic wand to fight the armed sect members, as long as the residents are not willing to provide information on the sect members’ activities to our men and officers.”
The President General of the Igbo Welfare Association in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, Elder Nneka Okereke, said the sect members were some Muslims youths and hoodlums assembled by some religious fanatics to kill Igbos and destroy their businesses. He said “killings in recent weeks have taken a frightening dimension, in that armed gangs are selectively robbing and killing Igbos. Armed robberies and killings in the past three weeks have been selectively directed at Igbos and Igbo businesses. It is on record that from 28th of December, 2010 to 17th January, 2011, no fewer than five innocent Igbos have been killed in cold blood, while several others were shot and are still lying critically in the hospitals.”
Okereke further stated that within the same period, about 12 business premises owned by Igbos were selectively robbed at gun point. While some non Igbos met there were asked to leave before the harassment, robberies and killings were carried out.
For the Christian community, Boko Haram is a group of unidentified persons believed to have been brainwashed to annihilate Christians and non-Muslims to the extent that any Muslim who stands on their way is also destroyed because they believe they are fighting the cause of Allah.
While addresing newsmen at the CAN secretariat in Maiduguri recently, the CAN Chairman in the state, Rev. Yuguda Z. Mdurvwa, said the atrocities perpetrated by some groups of persons “who have taken upon themselves the responsibility of annihilating Christians in the state can no longer be condoned as enough is enough.”
He said while they had visited mayhem on Christians in Borno State, destroying churches and killing Christians, without any provocation whatsoever, Christians, though peaceful people, who believed in living peacefully with their neighbours as taught by the Holy Bible, failed to understand the failure of the security agencies in ensuring that lives and property were protected, and therefore, were no more prepared to look on while Christians would killed silently and churches destroyed.
Sunday Tribune also spoke with a cross section of people in Maiduguri on the activities of the group. Some of them said Boko Haram was a name given to the “Yusufiya Sect.” The sect, according to them, is now terrorizing the people of the state and is believed to be sponsored by highly placed politicians in the country, judging by their modus oparandi, which gives no doubt that politicians are using that name for cover to perpetrate evil in the state. According to them, with the rate at which they are now operating, people of Borno State prefer a state of emergency because the state government under Ali Sheriff has failed to provide adequate protection for them and the police have also failed in their duty to protect lives and property.
Sunday Tribune also recalled that Governor Sheriff, while shifting blame on the security operatives, described them as a bunch of criminals. He told newsmen that he heard of the plan to attack all the churches in Maiduguri on the eve of Christmas and as Chief Security Officer of the state, he informed all the chief security agents to station their men to protect lives and property, but unfortunately, they could not come in time to save the situation. Of course, the situation of things in Maiduguri is frightening, as the atmosphere in the town is very tense because of the many rumours making the round about Boko Haram.
When Sunday Tribune spoke with Mallam Tanko Karami, he said that Boko Haram or “Yusufiya Sect,” started as a movement in 2000. According to him, since inception, their goals and idealogy were made very clear to the people of the state. They hate any knowledge outside the teachings of the Holy Book. Their teachings are against the beliefs of other Muslims, especially the idea of acquiring western education and perhaps, some practices in governance.
No one can tell of their sources of income but they are believed to be sponsored by some highly placed individuals in the society and organizations, “which are also responsible for the increase in its members. They do not appreciate the positions of other Muslims and Christians who believe in western education,” he said.
“Some people see this group as a combination of drug addicts, vagabonds and intellectuals who want to seize power from politicians to install Islamic law,” said Aminat Sufiyat. Others said these people had made their intentions known several times that a time is coming that they would have to make a change in the country of how things were being run by government, and when the Borno State government introduced the motor vehicle law sometimes in 2009, they defied the law and several times had to clash with the authorities, and because they were left untouched, many joined the movement later,” he explained.
Sunday Tribune gathered that though members of the sect have Islamic background, they are preferably referred to as hoodlums. However, many Islamic clerics in Borno State have tried to educate followers of Islam on the teachings of the Boko Haram sect by critically looking at the teachings of Islam with regards to understanding the Holy Book and what Isalm said about western education. One of those, who took time to admonish Muslims in one of his lectures on the state-owned radio and television, Sheikh Saleh, who also emphasised the need for youths, especially students of tertiary institutions to embrace knowledge of Islam, noting that the religion has root in modern sciences, while acquisition of knowledge in those fields is incumbent and lawful for all practising Muslims.
According to him; “knowledge in Islam is divided into two and all are incumbent upon every Muslim to acquire. We have what is called Fardul Aiyn (general knowledge of individual on Islam) and fardul Kifaya (general knowledge about things in our environment). While the first teaches you what you should know about your religion, the other teaches Muslims to acquire knowledge in the field of Astronomy, Biology, Physics, Mathematics, Geology and so on”.
Against the teaching of the outlawed Boko Haram sect, Sheik Saleh noted that there was no knowledge that is beneficial to mankind that is forbidden for Muslims.
Sharing the view of the National Chairman of Fatawa Committee, another renowned Islamic scholar, Sheik Modu Mustapha, urged Muslims to imbibe the attitude of seeking knowledge both western and Islamic, emphasising that no knowledge would be beneficial without discipline and respect for constituted authorities.
According to him, Muslims must continue to work in unity and cohesion and avoid any act that could bring about division in the religion, even as he described Boko Haram as an example of lack of adequate knowledge of Islam. He also called on lecturers in universities and other institutions of higher learning to adopt some of the Islamic knowledge in the formulation of their curriculum.Share