The terror evoked by the complex narratives that surround Boko Haram is far more than the terror from the bombs Abubakar Shekau explodes and the terror in thousands of Nigerians killed by the insurgent group. The complexity of the knotty issues that surround the terror group demands more urgent need to untie them, far more than the actual war itself. It would seem that the moment Nigeria is able to decode the knotty and naughty narratives of Boko Haram, conquering these blood-thirsty hounds surrounding Abubakar Shekau would be a fait accompli.
The latest of those complex narratives is one spun by Ibrahim Gaidam, immediate past governor of Yobe State, who now represents Yobe East senatorial district in the National Assembly. Gaidam, last week on the floor of the Senate, sponsored a bill which the Upper Chamber Thursday began its deliberations. It was a bill seeking to have the Federal Government establish an agency for the rehabilitation, de-radicalization and integration of repentant Boko Haram insurgents into society.
The queer narratives surrounding Boko Haram are many and bear retelling. First, till today, nobody has been able to decode who exactly was responsible for and reason for the killing of its founder, Mohammed Yusuf, in 2009. Senator, and later Governor Ali Modu Sheriff of Borno, featured prominently in that narrative. Aside the Maitatsine uprising which reigned in the 1970s, through to 1985 and which took 4, 177 lives, no militant group in Nigeria, hiding under the cloak of religion, has been as sadistic as these Shekau-led militants. Founded in Maiduguri in 2002 by Yusuf, a Salafist cleric, Boko Haram, with its deep roots in Kanuri territory in northeastern Nigeria’s Borno State, began with a non-violent ideological drive of ensuring that all remnants of Western education were uprooted from the North. This ideology became hydra-headed with the mysterious elimination of Yusuf. This necessitated its being taken over by a far deadlier imp called Shekau. Since then, the insurgency has become a global concern, exterminating thousands of people, maiming several other thousands and rendering many other thousands homeless. Boko Haram has even gone a notch higher in sadism by maintaining ties with al-Qaeda’s North African branch called al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
The queer narratives of Boko Haram just began. From the body language and apparently, security reports received by President Goodluck Jonathan while in office, he was convinced that Boko Haram was a political weapon in the hands of the North. When the then General Muhammadu Buhari, an aspirant to the office of the Nigerian President, who was ostensibly getting frustrated about his repeated failure to clinch the Nigerian presidency, publicly harangued Jonathan for seeking to liquidate Boko Haram, the Boko Haram narrative reached its crescendo. Venting his spleen on the Jonathan offensive on the insurgents, Buhari had hectored that any attack on Boko Haram was an attack on the North. When Boko Haram later nominated him to negotiate with Nigeria, though he declined this offer, the narrative became, in the words of satirist Olatunji Dare, curious and curiouser.
Since Buhari assumed the Nigerian presidency however, whatever dalliance that existed between him and Boko Haram seems to have petered off. Shekau has unbowelled the president’s shrunken manhood by portraying him as lacking the gravitas to combat his deadliness. Conservative statistics would reveal that Shekau has drank more blood than he guzzled under the tip of the nose of Jonathan.
The President has also offered several contradictory, depthless and illogical rationalizations for the worsening spate of insurgency in the land. He once claimed that the insurgents were splinter groups from Muammar Ghadaffi’s Libya. He had said in April, 2018 in London, at a parley with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby: “The problem is even older than us. It has always been there, but now made worse by the influx of armed gunmen from the Sahel region into different parts of the West African sub-region. These gunmen were trained and armed by Muammar Gaddafi of Libya. When he was killed, the gunmen escaped with their arms. We encountered some of them fighting with Boko Haram.”
Yet, the Northeast has become a killing field, with the insurgents occasionally wiring up radicalized natives with explosives detonated in mosques and other places. In August, 2019, well-respected The Wall Street Journal had alleged that over 1,000 soldiers killed by Boko Haram on the battlefront were secretly buried in Maiduguri on the eve of President Muhammadu Buhari’s visit to Borno. Quoting military sources, the journal said army commanders secretly moved these soldiers’ corpses from a morgue to unmarked graves. The army flatly denied this allegation.
Of all the queer narratives from the Boko Haram insurgency, the most laughable is the latest from Geidam. Already, the Nigerian military is said to have latched on to this Geidam mindset. In January, the army said that about 608 repentant Boko Haram insurgents had begun what it called De-radicalisation, Rehabilitation and Reintegration (DRR) programme under in its Operation Safe Corridor in Malam-Sidi, Gombe State. The Defence Headquarters had also released some of these Boko Haram suspects. Acting Defence spokesman, Brig-Gen. Onyema Nwachukwu, last week claimed that the initiative was only targeted at the people he called “low-risk Boko Haram members, who were not captured during combat.” Already, about 1,400 ‘repentant’ Boko Haram suspects clamped in detention were recently released and “resettled into the society” by the military. However, feelers from soldiers at the war front indicated that they frown at this strategy of incorporating these cold-blooded murderers, who kill them mindlessly, into normal life. But if this military tactic was tragic, Geidam’s bill is a disaster.
Ali Ndume, former Senate Majority Leader, who represents a senatorial district under the violent suzerainty of Shekau, last month, articulated the disastrous pillaging of the Boko Haram on his constituency thus: “About 1.7 million people have been displaced in Borno alone. The value of the damage is about water, food and means of livelihood. The humanitarian crisis that is coming after the war may be more dangerous $9.6 billion in Borno alone. About 60,000 children are orphaned. Only God knows how many children are out of school, have no access to than the war itself. The insurgency is going into its 10th year. Some children haven’t been in school in the last 10 years and we know what that means.”
While government is bothered by and engrossed with the act of giving peace to the victimizer, it is less concerned by the agony and pains of the victims. Many of the Boko Haram victims who fled to Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps are ravaged by hunger, malnutrition, rape as well as hordes of other socio-economic vices. Rather than make life comfortable for them, the attention of government is on providing safe havens for their victimizers who maim and kill them.
When the Gaidam bill, suspected to have a high dosage of abetment by government, becomes an act, through his “National Agency for Education, Rehabilitation, De-radicalisation and Integration of Repentant Insurgents in Nigeria 2020, SB. 340,” those who kill and maim our children, wives and our acquaintances will expectedly draw salaries and emoluments from this agency. Sponsors of this bill most likely drew their proto-type from the Niger Delta militant rehabilitation strategy. They have forgotten that, while those Niger Delta militants have identifiable patrimony to the oil revenue that was their grouse, same cannot be said of many of these so-called Boko Haram ex-fighters, many of whom are Fulanis from neighbouring and far-flung African countries. What they probably have also forgotten is that, for this abiku child sired by these Islamicists and fundamentalists, our commonwealth that runs into billions of Naira are spent on procuring armaments to prosecute this Boko Haram war and hundreds of Southern Nigerian children in the army who are not privy to this perilous blood-sucking ideology, are daily wasted in the line of fire.
Even within the North, last year, a group of elders from Borno, spearheaded by ex-governor Kashim Shettima, deplored the move to establish an agency for the insurgents, labelling it a product of absence of thorough reflection. According to them, releasing purportedly repentant Boko Haram insurgents into the civilian population could be counterproductive.
The question to ask Geidam and sponsors of this Satanic bill is, what moral justification will Nigeria have to pardon hardened insurgents who have killed hundreds of our people, not to talk of deploying Nigeria’s resources to catering for them? Second, what exactly is repentance and at what point is it got? How do you know repentance when you see it and what guarantee do we have that the so-called repentant insurgents will not return to the vomit of their erstwhile terror group, with the aim of committing worse atrocities? With the shoddy and peremptory arrangements that have become posters of Nigerian government, will this rehabilitation not boomerang, siring more despicable hatred for Nigeria in the hearts of the so-called repentant insurgents?
We are aware that Boko Haram has become a multi-tier business model for many toads of war – apology to Eddy Iroh; the fat-epaulettes, big-brass military Generals and the upper echelon of government. We are aware that these people see Boko Haram as an opportunity to collect their own quota from the depthless well of Nigeria’s easy money, but they should not insult our collective intelligence by counting, as the Yoruba will say, our six-fingered hand in our very presence.
Still on the level of the incredulity of the Gaidam bill, during the tail end of the week, the latest news filtered in, indicating President Muhammadu Buhari’s attempt to continue to flower and flourish the looting trough welded together by the late military despot, General Sani Abacha. A report by Bloomberg agency said that the United States had raised an alarm about some subterranean activities of the Buhari government. US had alleged that the government was hindering its effort at recovering Abacha loots domiciled in the hands of a fellow graduate of the Abacha loot school, Kebbi State governor, Abubakar Bagudu. The US also alleged that Buhari had made up his mind to hand over $100 million of the stolen Abacha loot to Bagudu who had earlier been jailed for six months in America.
Now, apart from the fact that Abacha appointed him Chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund, (PTF) which was literally an alternate government at the time, no one can say for sure what twine binds Buhari and the late military despot together. Since his death in 1998, Buhari has carried his abiding friendship to this late friend of his to an absurd level. Granted that this is a measure of true friendship, it also conscripts and confers outlawry on the person demonstrating posthumous friendship to an outlaw. This is the cross Buhari carries.
Even when tomes of dollars he filched from the Nigerian treasury and stashed abroad, said to approximate about $5billion, are being repatriated home in tranches, Buhari still claims that Abacha didn’t loot the Nigerian treasury. Buhari has also blocked every attempt at erecting national crucifix to hang the infamous memory of this goggled General as a dis-advertisement to upcoming youths.
Now, it will appear that with Buhari, the more you look, the less you see. Why will a government live such a Janus-faced life? In one breath, the Buhari government claims to be cleaning the Augean stable and in another, it defecates on that same stable. My own fear is, we have been inundated with rumours of Buhari’s health challenge, thus raising rebuttable presumption that we are being administered by a surrogate in the person of the Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari. The leaked memo which went viral last week from the National Security Adviser, Babagana Mongono, is an indication that this surrogacy claim may be true after all. The real question is, does Buhari have the presence of mind to personally abet these incorrigible moral incongruences that have become the flagship of his government?
Makinde’s Auxiliary Error
Anyone who lived in Oyo State at a time when members of the road transport union called NURTW became law unto themselves, killing, maiming and making the state ungovernable, would applaud Governor Seyi Makinde for the recent Park Management initiative that was launched last week. It was a policy that, according to the cliché, thought out of the box. He appointed managers who would superintend over the running of motor parks in all the 33 local councils of the state and thus harvest estimated billions in the hands of these motor union kingpins. It is no hidden fact that these kingpins were buoyed in their outlawry by the unfunnelled cash in their hands, got from unilateral collection of fees.
However, the Makinde government hit its foot against the stone by its inclusion in the list of the managers the name of Lamidi Mukaila, a notorious outlaw who had recently been released from jail after serving out term for murder. He goes by the sobriquet, Auxiliary. By this decision, the Oyo government had harvested all the enemies of Auxiliary planted from his years of outlawry. More importantly, having built a name as government that walks on the path of rectitude, Oyo government shouldn’t be seen as walking on the path of same old politics of pandering to whims of uneducated and notorious leeches. These are people who have over the decades profited from the years of divisive politics by government runners.
Disgraceful Soundbites from the Palace
I have tried unsuccessfully not to lend a voice in the show of shame of the traditional institution in Yorubaland that is trending now, for two reasons. One is that, I am very close to many of the stakeholders of that institution. Second is that, lending a voice would be akin to washing the dirty linen of the hitherto revered institution in the public. But the truth is that, Obaship in Yorubaland is gradually going extinct. Today, it lacks regards, doesn’t command respect and it must shape up or be shoveled out of total reckoning.
The altercation between the Oluwo of Iwo, Oba Abdulrasheed and Agbowu of Ogbaagba, Oba Dhikrulai Akinropo is the proverbial last straw that has broken the camel’s back. It is such a disgraceful, disheartening and dispiriting act that should make every Yoruba sons and daughters cover their faces in shame. But it is a small manifestation of a larger rot that has assumed epidemic proportion.
The political class should be held responsible for this rot. Since we began to have fraudsters, identity thieves and persons of no identifiable pedigree as leaders of government, it was obvious that soon, they would infect the traditional institution with their virus. And they have. We must not shy away from admitting that bastards of Yorubaland are mostly on traditional stools today. 419ers, drug addicts and peddlers, voyeurs and perverts, evil merchants who will kill their fathers and rope their mothers for the murder, occupy the apere. They sell traditional lands at random and appear in demeaning and beggarly functions that they shouldn’t be seen at. They don’t even know the history of the traditional stool they occupy and are so averse to intellect that they don’t take time to study what their forefathers did or didn’t do. They are the mentees of the political bigwigs who themselves have no identity. Recently, the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, was so peeved by this descent that he announced that any Oba who clubs, eats in public and subverts what was known of the Obaship system in Yoruba land does not deserve the prostration of any Yoruba man.
Iwo is a great town with great sons and daughters. I remember a similar event as theirs that took place in Akure, Ondo State some years ago. Erstwhile Deji of Akure, Oba Adepoju Adesina, was alleged to have brawled in the public by beating up his wife. Akure people prevailed on government to depose him as brawling does not represent that great kingdom. Today, he is history. Iwo people are decent people. I knew that much while I was a pupil of Ajangbala DC Primary School in the early 1970s. The ball is in the court of the children of that famous river called Odo Oba.
Tope Alabi and Colour of God’s Dance
Traffic of comments on Tope Alabi, evangelist and Yoruba gospel singer’s dancing appearance at an event said to be her mother’s burial, has become huge. Alibi is held to be a moral example to thousands who saw her solemn songs as exampling moral authority. The viral comments made me to steal a glance at the video. Dressed in a Versace track suit-like trousers and a tiny top, the gospel singer waltzed her heaps in a manner of wayward girls called in boyish slang, Slay Mamas and made suggestive sexual gestures.
Commentators after commentators have crucified her as backsliding into “the world,” with many claiming that they wept profusely at this descent. Smart as those Christian pastors who legitimise every of their earthly misdeeds by citing instances in the Bible, Alabi was quoted to have claimed that she merely danced as Biblical David danced. The Bible had reported that, overjoyed, King David danced very abnormally, so much that his wife, Micah mocked him. Micah, said the Bible, as a result, was the only barren woman recorded in the Bible.
So, how should a Christian dance? Or, put differently, what is the acceptable model of a Christian dance? Many churches have today funki-vised, fuji-vised and Apala-rised Christian dance steps. So, if these dance steps are acceptable, what is wrong in prostitute dance steps, in case we accept that what Alabi danced was a prostitute’s dance step?
The dilemma in apportioning blame on the Alabi dance steps is same dilemma encountered centuries ago when Christianity and Islam intruded into the culture of the Yoruba people. The two religions were alien to this land and have caused culture clashes. Syncretism abounds in Yorubaland as a result of these clashes. How does the African waddle through the puddle of this clash?
Alabi’s dance is a manifestation of this clash. As far as I know, while Christianity has its songs, it doesn’t have own approved dance or dance steps. When you dance African dances to Christian liturgical worship, you are bound to record the clash and the backlash that a notable evangelist dancing like a Slay Mama is faced with today.
Mike Omoleye At 80
One of our forefathers in the pen-pushing profession, Chief Mike Omoleye, clocked 80 years on Jaunary, 26. Quiet and unassuming man that he is, this memorable day went without any celebration. But Omoleye, for those who know the history of this profession, is an icon who deserves our celebration. A veteran journalist and prolific author, Omoleye worked with the Morning Post, Sunday Post and Sketch newspapers before he established his own weekly newspaper which he called the Sunday Glory in the 1980s. He was a correspondent of the Post during the war where he interfaced with the major war heroes like General Benjamin Adekunle. He is also a die-hard Awoist. I sneak to Baba Omoleye’s home to drink from his trough of wisdom and of course, the oranges and other fruits he stuffs my car trunk with! This is wishing Baba a happy 80th birthday and many happy returns.
Festus Adedayo is an Ibadan-based journalist.