BY MAHMOON BABA-AHMED
It is believed that peace will reign if on every garrulous mouth a padlock is hung. That is one sure way of restraining bad tongue from wicked utterances capable of causing mischief or deep disaffection among the people. In this country careless talks from sloppy mouths have degenerated into noisy affrays that led to ethnic and religious conflicts which are currently threatening to engulf the nation. The wave of terrorism sweeping across most parts of northern states and beyond has been borne by sharp disagreements arising from the upsurge of divergent interests. The emergence of Boko Haram religious sect is attributed to the consequential hostilities between opposing religious enthusiasts widely believed to be aided and abetted by ambitious politicians. What has therefore started as keen, but fanatical rivalry for coveted political posts in Borno State has now turned into a tedious and deadly confrontation between ferocious antagonists, and is still raging on unabated, leaving dreadful destruction in its wake.
Recently, the underlying wrangling between two political adversaries in Borno State was again brought to the fore when Senator Ahmed Zanna of the PDP and the former ANPP Governor of the state, Senator Modu Ali Sheriff were locked in resentful recriminations. Each of them was vehemently insisting that the other was responsible for the emergence of Boko Haram sect, and is occupying a special status in its hierarchy. Senator Zanna alleged that former Governor Sheriff was responsible for the extrajudicial execution of the sect’s supreme leader, Mohammed Yusuf, in the course of disgusting disturbances that left hundreds dead in July 2009.
It all started when Senator Zanna opened his mouth too wide to accuse the Joint Task Force (JTF), a body entrusted with the responsibility of securing the state of gross abuse of its powers and for persecuting the civilian population it was set up to protect. The Senator deposed that the people of Borno State would do better without the JTF which had killed more civilians than the fearful sect members. He therefore called for the withdrawal of the JTF as a prerequisite for the much needed peace to reign. Zanna’s grievances with the JTF was recently collaborated in a report by the Amnesty International, a human right group that visited Borno State between February and July this year for a first-hand assessment of the situation.
In what appeared to be a swift reaction to Zanna’s seemingly uncomplimentary remarks the JTF announced the capture of Modu Bama whom it described as dangerous offender it had since declared wanted and linked him to Senator Zanna. The security personnel declared that Modu Bama was captured in the house of Ahmed Zanna who vehemently denied that contention, pointing out that the arrest was actually made in one of the houses of Modu Sheriff, located in his neighbourhood.
Although Modu Sheriff was never invited to counter the grievous allegations labelled against him for authorizing the murder of Mohammed Yusuf and his links with Modu Bama, yet Ahmed Zanna was said to be seriously warned and discharged while the two of them were placed under strict surveillance. That might have put paid to the saga of the accusation and counter accusations, but the last has not been heard of the case which from all indications has not been laid to rest.
Interestingly, there are widespread speculations that the recent offer of ceasefire by a mysterious faction of the terrifying Boko Haram was a fallout of the conflict between the two politicians intended to divert attention from the grave accusation of extrajudicial killing labelled against Senator Ali Modu Sheriff. It was even rumoured that the assassination of General Mohammed Shuwa, disowned by yet another unknown faction of Boko Haram, was most likely related to the face-off.
Unfortunately such altercations and unnecessary feuds have continued to thrive in most parts of northern states without concrete steps taken by the perpetrators to recant. The net result has been the entrenchment of a regime of insecurity across a vast section of northern region characterised by recent upsurge in violent conflicts which reduced it to the shadow of its former self. Yet religious and political leaders in the North have continued to add insult to injury by uttering provocative statements capable of stirring disaffection and rancour among their followers. They have learnt nothing from the history of the acrimonious past when adherents of different religious groups engaged each other in ruinous hostilities.
Religious leaders have turned into prophets of doom, prophesying ominous moments for the country, condemning leaders of the other religion for what they wrongly assert as tendency to cherish terror unleashed by a group they failed to hold back.
As if the devastation visited on the north by series of social and political discontents are not enough, the leaders of the region are once again being persecuted, especially by mischievous clergymen and tribal bigots who contend that certain leaders are hiding under religion to oppress the people. Needless to say, care and absolute restraint must be employed in these difficult times while making comments because a careless tongue is worse than poisoned arrow.
Baba Ahmed is the publisher of Sawaba Magazine