DESERT HERALD has been following the activities the Jama’a Ahlilsunnah Wal Da’a wati popularly called Boko Haram right from the onset. Spiritual leader and founder of the sect, late Muhammad Yusuf granted the paper his last interview on earth, before his killing under suspicious circumstances. Maryam Musa and the Editor-in-Chief of Society Watchdog magazine, Akubo Akubo recently engaged the publisher of the paper, who is also a prominent Nigerian activist and Journalist, Malam Tukur Mamu, the Dan Iyan Fika, on the emergence of the dreaded sect, its activities and why he believes the federal government under President Goodluck Jonathan cannot win the ‘war’ against Boko Haram without recourse to the remote causes of the problem. Also in the interview, Mamu had cause to provide what he called antidote to the current security crisis in the country and why security votes running into billions of naira, being appropriated by security chiefs, is only but conduit pipe to siphon public funds. A worried Mamu also gave insight into the politics behind the ‘war’ on Boko Haram and why those using it to benefit from security votes are opposed to any form of reconciliation with the sect. According to him, President Jonathan is under the siege of greedy and religiously biased security chiefs: hence his administration’s failure to contain the crisis. He also spoke extensively on burning national issues. Experts:
What is your dispassionate and in-depth analysis of what gave rise to Boko Haram insurgency in Northern Nigeria?
As far as I can recollect there is no newspaper in Nigeria that has reported Boko Haram than we have done at DESERT HERALD. We started even before Nigerians knew about the sect. We are the first to alert the nation about preparations by the sect to launch insurgency attack in the north through the first video interview with the current leader of the sect, Imam Abubakar Shekau in 2010 but the political leadership under Mr. Jonathan did not take us serious then. We repeated publication before the attack commence on the need to ensure justice to the families of those that were extra judiciously killed along with Muhammad Yusuf as a best form of averting any crisis that has today resulted to the Boko Haram insurgency but the government make no effort. I believe the emergence of Boko Haram is a result of injustice and corruption. Even though mistakes have been made by the government and the issue has been politicize, I initially offered myself to the SSS headquarters in Abuja to contribute the little we know in solving the crisis and to share our own experience about what we believe is the genesis of the Boko Haram uprising. As I stated earlier our report on Boko Haram started before most people got to hear about Boko Haram.
In fact, this is the first and last media that interviewed the late Mohammed Yusuf before he died (killed). We have been following Boko Haram since inception and up till this moment. What I want to say in summary is that Boko Haram group started peacefully. They started in a village of Kanama in Yobe State before the administration of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo landed offensive attack against them. Their unusual life style of living in the bush and excluding themselves from the ‘sins’ of this world was a source of concern to the then Obasanjo administration hence the offensive against them.
They moved from Kannama to Bama and Maiduguri in Borno State. At Kananma, they were not violent. The government was just not comfortable with their way of life. According to their belief, the society is consumed or filled with so many ills and atrocities and that they cannot live in this present day society so they went to the Sahara desert of Kananma in the bush and started living there. As they gathered there, the government became suspicious and decided to dispatch them using force.
Within that period the sect under the leadership of late Yusuf were peaceful in their conduct even though most Muslims including myself did not share in their ideology and understanding of Islam. The last interview I had with Mohammed Yusuf, I asked him that he and his people are saying Boko is Haram meaning Western education is forbidden. I told him that are you people not part and beneficiaries of this Western education especially considering the fact that you and your people use cars, communication gadgets to convey your messages, computers etc. What Mohammad Yusuf told me personally is that he has not said Western education is forbidden (Haram). He said his knowledge and understanding of Islam is that the religion forbids the mixing of boys and girls in the name of acquiring any form of education both Qur’anic and western education. And that a true Muslim will not believe or follow any man made constitution except the one ordained by Allah that is the holy Qur’an. He said his own form of teaching is against western education because it (western education) gives preference to manmade constitution than the Qur’an and that the orientation of modern and western oriented constitution is in many ways in conflict with the constitution of Allah (Qur’an).
That’s why according to him he declared such form and practice of western education where boys and girls in primary and nursery schools and adults in secondary and higher institutions of learning subjected in the same class and some times in the same seats as haram. He told me in the same interview that in their own schools with their own teachers they are teaching western education but strictly in Islamic form where girls and boys, women and men will not study in the same environment and that a female teacher will not be allow to teach boys and vice – visa. He also said that they don’t allow anything they believe is in conflict with the holy Qur’an like the national anthem or the recognition of maze or code of arm or national crest as a symbol of power and authority in such schools and that they considered any such conduct by the western oriented school as haram hence the name popularly promoted by the press as Boko Haram. That was what he told me in that interview and it was published in our previous editions in 2008, and 2009.
Another issue in my opinion is that there is political aspect to the conduct of the sect under Mohammed Yusuf. He has got large followers with unquestionable loyalty and if you like blind loyalty to him. They believe in his teachings and understanding of Islam. They are willing to carry to the later any instruction given by Yusuf and their numerical strength was a source of intimidation therefore politicians like ex-Governor Ali Sheriff solicited for the understanding of Yusuf for his selfish political ends. It is true that they are once very close but I cannot tell about the reported truce between them. Ali Sheriff’s crisis with Yusuf’s sect became manifest when he ban Achaba in Maiduguri and subjected all motor cycle users to be using crash helmet which the sect under Yusuf refused to comply. The operation flush Sheriff introduced to contain the insecurity in the state was used both as a tool of intimidating dissenting voices and as a conduit pipe of siphoning public resourses.
Again, it was their (Boko Haram) tradition that if one of them dies, they usually walk bare footed to graveyard they don’t go with cars to burial ground. In one of such encounters that triggered the violence, the Operation Flush Out accosted them and started shooting at them for failure to use helmets while on motor cycle. At the end of the encounter many of them were injured due to severe gun shots by the security forces under the Operation Flush. Yusuf claimed that despite what they did on the instruction of Sheriff the victims were left at their mercy and that they had to take them to UMTH and bear the expenses.
Yusuf demanded for unconditional apology to his people and for the government of Ali Sheriff to take full responsibility of the hospital bills but they got none from the arrogant Sheriff and instead the intimidation continues. That to my knowledge was what escalated the preventable crisis that later saw the extra judicial killing of Yusuf and many of the sect members. Even when the family of late Yusuf and his father in-law that was equally killed by the police got judgment in their favour and secured over N100 million compensation, Sheriff refused to comply with the court order thereby provoking those loyal to Yusuf. It was Governor Kashim Shettima who inherited the crisis from his boss that later paid the compensation.
In your understanding of Islam can the killing of anybody including innocent Christians and Muslims in the name of Jihad or revenge be justified in Islam?
You know I am not very much learned in Islam. I believe the Ulamas can provide more insight on that. But looking at it from Islamic point of view and with my little knowledge of Islam I believe there is nowhere in the holy Quran a Muslim is permitted to kill innocent people in the name of God, not even a non-Muslim. Muslim can only engage in war when they are attacked and under extreme circumstances and even at that I have not seen anywhere in the Qur’an that justified the type of killings we are seeing today in the name of Boko Haram.