Boko Haram: The crucial options before Jonathan —Gowon
VIOLENCE linked to Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati Wal-Jihad, known by its Hausa name, Boko Har?m, and with foothold in north eastern Nigeria, north Cameroon and Niger Republic, has left at least 12,000 people dead, 8,000 people crippled while several thousands have been displaced.
Founded by a former Borno State native, Alhaji Mohammed Yusuf, in 2002, the organization seeks to establish a “pure” Islamic state ruled, thus an end to what it deems as the westernization of Nigeria.
Nigerian Muslim leaders have condemned the group and its ideology.
Chairman of Northern Governors’ Forum and governor of Niger State, Dr. Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu, said, “Islam is known to be a religion of peace and does not accept violence and crime in any form” and that Boko Har?m does not represent Islam.
In a similar development, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’adu Abubakar III, the spiritual leader of Nigerian Muslims, called the sect “anti-Islamic” and “an embarrassment to Islam”.
The Coalition of Muslim Clerics in Nigeria (CMCN) the Islamist group’s members to disarm and embrace peace. Boko Haram has ignored these appeals and intensified its terror campaign giving rise to the speculation that either the military is ill-equipped to stop it or the group has infiltrated the rank and file of the armed forces.
The abduction of over 200 schoolgirls from Government Girls Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State and the interception of about 33 mini-buses in Abia State suspected to be carrying hundreds of the Islamist group’s members have necessitated concerned Nigerians committing time and resources to seek peace in the nation and suggesting ways to put an end to the Boko Haram terror.
Mr. Zanna Bukar Mustapha, who owns a Maiduguri-based foundation, The Future Prowess, said leaders of Boko Haram belong to a movement with headquarters in the Islamic holy land and the best way to end the insurgency therefore is to involve clerics from Saudi Arabia.
He is sceptical about the involvement of the US and other western powers in the attempt to end the insurgency.
The best way to end the terror, he said, is to bring clerics from outside Nigeria “who are of the same faith, who may have a better understanding of the faith which the insurgents believe in, so that they can sit with them”.
Mustapha explained, “These clerics can find a way of engaging them, not with arms but academically, because they have very superior arguments in judgment, in knowledge and in what the doctrine stands for.
“Muhammed Yusuf, (Abubakar) Shekau and all the rest are of the movement. And when you talk of the movement, you have to go to Saudi Arabia to get them. When you get them, you can find an international organization to organize advanced contact that will bring the movement’s members in Saudi Arabia to go to the prisons and meet the insurgents held by the Federal Government.
A former Head of State and convener of Nigeria Prays, General Yakubu Gowon (rtd), likened the Boko Haram terror to the Nigerian Civil War of 6 July 1967 – 15 January 1970, when several Nigerians, even in the military, believed that the war ,which claimed over one million lives, would end within 48 hours, but that was not to be.
One of such military officers who believed that Nigeria could overrun Biafra within 48 hours was Gen. Hassan Katsina. Addressing newsmen in Lagos, Gowon urged Nigerians, especially opposition politicians who use every opportunity to berate President Goodluck Jonathan’s handling of the security threat, to “remember the problem we had during the civil war”. The war time Nigeria leader went on: “Of course, everybody was saying they were expecting it to be resolved within 48 hours. Gen Hassan said that we were going to finish it in 48 hours.
”Of course there’s nobody who is responsible who won’t feel concerned about the problems we are having in the country presently; especially the security problems. No matter how weak the opposition is, you can be rest assured that it takes a very long time before we are able to resolve the problem”.
He, however, assured that the president is doing everything he could. “Of course he’s had some disappointment from what we’ve had either because of lack of expertise from the security forces to deal with the situation; but one thing I know is that we who are the good will overcome the evil that is there at the moment. And I want to assure the people of Nigeria that the president has to employ all manner of methods of dealing with it.
”Yes, you use force where it is necessary, but you also use diplomacy where it is also possible to resolve the issue,” Gowon said, adding that he was in Kano where the state government was organizing separate interactive sessions with Christian leaders, pastors, bishos, as well as did the same thing with the Muslim.
”So they approached us (Nigeria Prays) if we could do the same thing for the Christian group but I said I would prefer that we have the meeting of the two religious groups: Islam and Christianity, so that if we couls frankly talk to each other in order to deal with this particular problem because the problem that we found is that the group that is terrorizing the rest of the country do it in the name of Islam. The Islam that we have in the country, in the north or in the west or in any other part of the country, certainly, will not contribute to the very hostile activity that this other group is doing,” the former leader stated.
‘Giving Islam a bad name’
He enjoined Muslim leaders to be more proactive, saying: “I think they are giving Islam a very bad name and image, and it is the duty of the Muslim brothers to do something about it. If we can join hands together to see if we can convince the other group that what they are doing is not in the interest of Islam or in the interest of the country, they should think of their approach. So all sorts of efforts are being made at various levels: at the heads of state level, at the state level, religious level to stop terror.”
The only thing we must try not to do, Gowon pointed out, is to take this problem as a political issue because, once you do that, you will be making a mistake and creating problems for the whole country. So it must not be politicized. “For example, the case of the Chibok girls, it is very sad that some people are trying to use it to blame the president that he is doing nothing about it and they are trying to use politics in order to denigrate the president. It could happen from the other side; and I can assure you that it is wrong if anybody from the other side is criticizing the leadership in that role”, the former Head of State said.
”Let us look at this thing together in the interest of the country. Let us not look at it as a religious thing, let us not look at it as a political thing but as a problem that affects all of us. And we must all put our heads together in order to deal with that particular problem”.
Speaking earlier in the same vein after receiving an award from the Bible Society of Nigeria, National President of Christian Association, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, who expressed joy at the award, said it’s good if outsiders honour “but when your own people honor you, it means a lot more because it’s much more difficult for your own people to recognize anything to honoring you because they are your people”.
Oritsejafor used the opportunity to appeal to Muslim leaders to engage the insurgents to bring about the unity and peace that our founding fathers fought for. According to him, Ramadan is one of the pillars of the Islamic faith, and “I want to believe that it is a season that they value so much. And if they value it, then we also value it with them. I think it is a good time for us to make a passionate appeal to them in love.
”We cannot be against them. They are our brothers. We must work together to make this nation great. We must work together. We don’t have a choice, God put us here together. But at the same time, one of the things that we must do in Nigeria is to tell the truth no matter how painful it sounds. Truth is always the best. The bible says you can’t work against the truth, you can only work for the truth. And what is the truth?
”Boko Haram is an ideology; look at what has happened in Iraq, now an Islamic state has been declared. That is exactly what a lot of these groups are doing all over the world. That’s their aim. This is the first one they have come out to actualize. And that is the aim of Boko Haram, to declare an Islamic state”.
He maintained that but for God, and the gallant Nigerian military, they would have done it in Borno State. “They would have declared Borno an Islamic state by now and from there it will be a base to launch out. But somehow they’ve not been able to do it and that’s the annoyance that they have because that’s what they want to do”, the CAN leader said.
‘Solution lies with three groups’
”That is why we are appealing that just telling us that they are not Muslims is not good enough because it is the Quran they use, they quote it all the time. So you have to match it with a superior ideology of argument. It has been taken to an intellectual level and, from what I hear, they love to discuss the Quran, they love to discuss the doctrines in the Quran. I don’t know anything about the Quran, they won’t listen to me.
So we are appealing to Muslim clerics, Muslim traditional rulers, and Muslim political leaders. These three groups should come together and look at all these doctrines and pick amongst them those that these boys respect because they know them and still respect some of them. Pick them and send them to these people so that they can sit with them and openly, prayerfully, by superior argument begin to change their mind.
”I met a group in Abuja who were sharing something with me, they said that there’s one Muslim leader, he’s late now, that when Muhammed Yusuf was still the leader, he sent for him and he came to meet him in Kaduna and he was asking him saying ‘which is the Haram? Is it the language? Are you saying now that other languages are inferior to Kanuri because you are Kanuri?’
He said, ‘what about the SUV you drove to me meet here, is that Haram? What about the gold wristwatch you are wearing, is that Haram?’ And he began to show him some of these things. According to what they told me, they said when he finished, he begged the cleric saying ‘I’m so sorry, please forgive me. I will go back and try and convince my people’.
”Obviously, Yusuf didn’t succeed in convincing his Boko Haram members but you can see that by superior argument, the Muslim leader was able to calm him down. I believe that there are those of them who can do it. If they do that, we will be heading towards solution to this problem.
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