Opinion: The matter of senators and terrorists

by Theophilus Ilevbare

Our democracy must be nurtured in peace and tolerance, dialogue with the Boko Haram should be embraced with such tenets in mind. Dialogue with the sect should not be considered as a sign of weakness.

It all began in 2001 in Maiduguri by a certain Ustaz Mohammed Yusuf as a cell(unit), called Jama’atu Ahlis Sunnah Lidda’awati Wal Jihad better known as Boko Haram. Yusuf, there late leader was hostile to democracy and the secular education system vowing that “this war is yet to start and would continue for a long time”. Backed by the northern elite who under the pretext of sponsoring youngsters to study in the Middle East, sent them to terrorist training camps, a Boko Haram leader told Bashir Ibrahim Idris of RFI’s Hausa service at a time. Initially, the sect was entrenched in Borno, Yobe, Katsina, Kaduna, Bauchi, Gombe and Kano States but as of today, they have metarmorphorsed into a Terrorist group criss-crossing the 19 Northern states of the federation, as they match on slowly but steadily in their quest to occupy Nigeria, God forbid! Security operatives have resorted to killing civilians instead to make headlines, a burgeoning reputation that is making the JTF loose the counter-terrorism war faster than ever,  More worrisome is the religious colouration their attacks have taken, churches have become their strike point, a clear deviation from their agitation and mantra; western education is sin. A thorn in the flesh they have become to Nigeria what Al-Qaeda was to America and Europe during the loathed Osama Bin Laden era; threatening to tear the Nation apart, badly exposing the inadequacies of the Goodluck Jonathan led administration and the Security operatives to curb insurgencies that present themselves even in the crudest form.

The Joint Task Force (JTF) it is called, saddled with the onerous responsibilities of tackling the monstrous menace of Boko Haram. Amidst the killing of thirty young men last month and another forty publicly shot by the JTF, the Nigerian Military has been accused of extrajudicial killing. A resident banker in Maiduguri, Abubakar Mohammed said “whenever there is a bomb explosion, the security used to besiege the area and beat anyone found in their way. Some are killed in the process”.

Msheliza Dalwa in another troubled Northern state added “Many people have fled the area. I don’t have anywhere to go, but I could have left to escape from the attacks from two fronts; Boko Haram and the security forces”. Such is the Palpable fear and apprehension that have gripped residents of Northern states just as most residents have fled their homes, with many of them citing the need to ensure personal security and the fear of the unknown. Suspected civilians with any link should rather be arrested, tried and if found guilty made to face the full wrath of the law.

Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Azubuike Ihejirika recently asserted with such lacuna that Boko Haram has killed over 3,000 people since 1999, but failed to tell Nigerians how many of the Islamic fundamentalists his men have apprehended. His statement summarises the nature of counter-terrorism his men are waging. The JTF seem to have learnt nothing from the summary execution of the sect’s leader Muhammed Yusuf. An action that we still face the ripple effect till today. In other climes, such members are arrested and vital Intelligence is garnered. More so, a recent Amnesty International reports have accused the JTF of gross human rights violations.

The withdrawal of troops from the Northern States is not an option. A reappraisal of their strategy, tactics and Intel cannot be over emphasised.

Enter Senators Aliyu Ndume, Ahmad Zannah and Ali Modu Sheriff. The latter a former Governor of Boko Haram enclave Borno State, all alleged to have links with the sect, giving limps to rife rumours among cynics and critics that the Boko Haram has got backers in government. If President Goodluck could admit that his Government has been infiltrated by boko haram sponsors its only a matter of time before such persons are fully exposed.

At a court sitting, involving a case with Senator Muhammed Ndume, an Assistant Director with the SSS, James Ineh, told the court that Ndume gave the phone number of the Attorney General of the Federation, Mohammed Adoke, to the Boko Haram. The statement also said Mr Konduga, a former spokesman for the sect, had been behind threatening text messages sent to judges and politicians, which he said Mr Ndume had paid for. Embattled Senator Zanna  also confessed to SSS interrogators that he gave N1.5 million for Sallah rams to the sect members following their threat to launch an attack against him.

Frustrated by the Federal Government attempt to bungle the prosecution of Senator Ndume, Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court Abuja, said “the state is not ready to prosecute the accused person, I have always expressed my displeasure with regards to applications for adjournment of criminal cases”.

He continued “A trend one has noticed from the bench is that the state is always so anxious, perhaps too nervous, to arraign accused persons in high profile criminal cases such as this with a lot of media blitz, but when it gets to the nitty gritty of the real trial, the excitement and eagerness wanes”.

The statement by President Goodluck that Boko Haram and their sponsors are uncivilized is not enough, Nigerians expect a more decisive approach to tackle the Boko Haram insurgency.

Statesmen and eminent Nigerians have urged the FG to embrace dialogue. Former Head of State, Chief Ernest Shonekan encouraged the government to engage the sect in meaningful dialogue to bring to a halt the spate of violence.

Speaker of the House of Representatives Aminu Tambuwal said “I will encourage our leadership to engage the leadership of the sect in dialogue. Whatever will bring peace to this country, we should go for it.’

President Alassane Ouattara, of West African neighbour Cote d’Ivoire said emphatically “the only solution to the problem is dialogue. The Government should have a round table discussion with the leaders of the sect and find a lasting solution to the problem. Even wars between two countries is tackled with dialogue and this method should be used to solve the problem at hand”

Our democracy must be nurtured in peace and tolerance, dialogue with the Boko Haram should be embraced with such tenets in mind. Dialogue with the sect should not be considered as a sign of weakness.

The saga involving the three Senators in the unending Boko Haram story continues….

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Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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