Features

The Thrills, The Intrigues

. How the Shehu of Borno Organised a Successful

Sallah Durbar

By MOHAMMAD M. BILYAMINU

 

Perturbed by unending brutal and ruthless assaults on their persons, property and psyche, the residents of Maiduguri, Borno State, north east of Nigeria, have found themselves sandwiched between the “Devil and the Deep Blue Sea.” This has been made so by the macabre and grotesque selective killings by supposed members of the Ahl-al-Sunnat lid dawatti wal jihad, otherwise known as Boko Haram, on one hand, and the backlashes and concomitant effects of counter-insurgency by members of the Joint Task Force (JTF), codenamed Operation Restore Order, whose military personnel have been descending heavily on the hapless members of the populace, who are already on the receiving ends of their melancholic and hostile assaults-physically, psychologically and mentally. The fears of both the “Boko Haram” selective assassination of their “perceived and real “enemies”, and the reprisal JTF attacks, under the toga of “rapid response,” have now become pre-eminent and quite worrisome. The residents of Maiduguri, and lately Biu, in Biu Local Government, south of the state, are now literally walking corpses, because stray bullets, (friendly and hostile) have killed several innocent passers-by and on-lookers alike. So many victims, like Usman Adamu, a driver with one of the tertiary institutions in the state, were not that lucky because one of the explosive devices which went off near the St. Patrick Catholic Church, situated along Kiri Kasama road in July 2011 claimed his life and that of the motorcycle commercial rider, while they were passing along at the time of the heinous blast.

Many innocent persons had met their untimely deaths either in the hands of armed robbers, political assassins, peacekeeping soldiers or even from mistaken identities by the obstinate avengers, the “Boko Haram” members now on rampage. Although, the explosions have now abated in Maiduguri, not the same could be said about the serial killings which claimed the lives of some top politicians and ulama like Alhaji Lawan Yarayi, who was gunned down by unknown and unidentified persons in his home in August 2011, the killing of Nurudeen Algoni, a teacher at Federal Government College Maiduguri also in August, the killing of one Barrister Danjuma Modu and the Imam Idaini of Ngala-all in August during the Holy month of Ramadan. Another Banker, Abubakar Ibrahim, was shot at his House in Ngarannam and was fatally wounded while his wife, Yakaka, a staff of the Ministry of Finance, was not that lucky as she was shot and killed while struggling with one of the assailants who shot at her husband at point blank in her presence. The assailants had demanded for N3million from him and when he told them he had none, they shot him on the shoulder and scrolled a phone number in his wife’s set telling him to contact them the next day to be told where to take the N3million they had demanded for. Several neighbours spoken to said they suspected the “JTF” whose men were stationed very close to his house at the “Flour Mill junction”, about two hundred metres away.

As a matter of concern, several people in Maiduguri had told our reporter under cover that the JTF men engage in extortions and demands for briberies as these are common sights along the roads. Many had wondered how a suicide bomber was able to beat the tight ‘stop and search’ in the city to drive his Honda Accord car loaded with explosives to the police Headquarters with the intent to detonate and cause collateral damages in early August. The fact according to inside sources was that the security men were busy collecting their “tolls” of N50 to even bother to check the boots of his car which was why they did not do what was expected of them to forestall the “near massacre” at the headquarters of the police command where at the time more than one thousand youth had assembled to be screened for consideration as Inspectors. The JTF and police in the state, it has been discovered reportedly by the authorities, are not proactive. They still depend on the archaic and disgusting fire brigade approach to security matters, which does not help matters. The “rapid response” should be replaced with “proactive actions” whereby crime would be noticed before it happens and it is nipped in the bud even before devastating damages are caused to humanity and property, as done elsewhere in the world. It is, however, sad to note the security operatives prefer the obsolete and out-dated methods whereby suspects are arrested indiscriminately after each orgy of violent attack and interrogations, persecutions, prosecutions are later carried out belatedly. In most cases the real culprits are not those arrested after each criminal act, because they may have escaped at the time the arrests were effected, albeit reluctantly. It is time the security operatives are made to know that they have to rise to the current terrible security situation in the state and the country so that precious lives and public property could be safe-guarded through vigilance, circumspection, alertness, proactiveness and with eagle eyes, so that crime would be prevented rather than fought later. Counter-insurgency measures are not always result-oriented because they come after an act of violence had taken place anywhere. Let our security men learn to be alert and to prevent crimes from happening.

Meanwhile, there are growing anxieties, tension and concerns in the state due to assurances by one Abu Raka of the Yusufiya sect who spoke on behalf of Abu Zaid days before Sallah that after the UN House suicide attack, four more states would also have their own shares of what he called “Goron Sallah”. He did not specify or name the states. Meanwhile there is security presence all over Maiduguri as the JTF have intensified heavy patrols along the Highways with Armoury mounted with rapid firing machine guns, (RFMGS).

Coming at a time when the security problem was said to be abating and run-away residents are reportedly returning gradually, the near normalcy could once again be jeopardized due to probable confrontation between the extremists and the JTF anytime soon. The fears of the people are quite rational and plausible. Whenever two strong armed groups clash, it is the armless and defenceless ones that suffer.

Another problem militating against the smooth operations of the smooth-talking Governor is the insecurity being aggravated by the “Boko Haram” obstinacy to any meaningful dialogue. In fact without security there will not be good governance and stability anywhere. This is a major hurdle before Governor Kashim Shettima which must be crossed if he is to make any appreciable impact now or later, although he appears committed and dedicated to the cause of the people so far.

The streets of Maiduguri are now desolate and deserted in the absence of the busy Okada riders who were the major purveyors of people to and from work, and other places. Logistics have now been imperiled, as most people prefer not to hitch or ride in the few Keke NAPEP around town due to fear of risk of accidents and loss of limbs. More urban mass transit buses could do better than these killer tricycles on our highways. Governments need to also give emphasis on securing vehicular loans to civil servants that would be free from interests, and would be a revolving one so that transportation, which is one of our social and personal needs, would be attainable and affordable. Tricycles are a source of embarrassments to us as a nation that is rated sixth in OPEC and first in Africa in crude oil production and sales. The problem with us is, our governors and legislators are envious, greedy and selfish. They want to corner and usurp everything for themselves and there are some of the social inequities and injustices that make social malaise, like insurgency, militancy, child/human-trafficking, kidnapping, armed robbery to thrive and refuse to be surmounted. Good leaders with the interests of their people at heart should always take pride in providing security, welfare and good governance over and above personal aggrandizements, debauchery, greed and avarice.

Maiduguri needs to be liberated from the shackles of different kinds of fears, intimidations, threats and brigandage caused by insecurity issues which have taken over since 2009 when the first Boko Haram revolt broke out openly and which claimed hundreds of lives and destroyed public property worth billions of Naira.

The city is yet to get over this when it was engulfed in another fresh round of Guerilla warfare which the embattled outlawed sect resorted into. Many prominent community leaders, the ulama, top politicians of the ANPP and security personnel were systematically assassinated and are still counting. When will it end? No one can predict for now because the group had said there would be no dialogue but Jihad. Abu zaid had said that there would be no reconciliation either. The Federal and Borno State governments have been disturbed and worried. Even the Amb. Gaji Galtimari committee could not fathom or proffer a lasting solution to the quagmire. “We all know the personality of Galtimari and how close he is with erstwhile governor SAS; even the most recent committee chaired by Galtimari on the issue of Boko Haram was a clear handy work of SAS. Severally he has been used by SAS to deceive people by creating committees that have not yielded any importance. We can vividly recall Galtimari chaired committees like Administrative Committee on Investigation of 2009 Boko Haram crises in Maiduguri and committee on enhancement of efficiency in the public service of Borno State. Both committees were allocated huge amounts of money, but the finding was not yet visible, he is always being used as a conduit pipe and machine aimed at to deceive the citizens,” said a civil servant.

It is now a wild goose chase to recommend to government how to resolve the unending log jam and threat to our democracy which insecurity has caused so far across the nation. From Maiduguri to Bauchi, Kaduna, Sokoto, Tambuwal, Gombe, Abuja, Lagos, Kano there are either real or perceived threats of possible violent attacks by the radical Islamic group, who have so far remained truculent and defiant.

Somehow there are bound to be solutions in sight if the governments would take necessary measures by getting right people to serve as intermediaries rather than old foxes and jackals who have lost their integrity and respect among the recalcitrant. These young Islamists are Nigerians and some of them are well known but people are not ready to come forth with information because they are disgruntled with government, according to one Lawan Bura, who told our reporter that “since they live with you, it is only those who feel it that know it.”

“Get the right people on board and the solution is near because they can talk to the intransigents- who have lost confidence and trust in government officials and bureaucracy,” averred Abba Goni of Makera ward. Indeed, we all need to put our hands on deck to get to the bottom of the intractable problems of “Boko Haram,” said John-Bull, an Igbo trader in the post office area.

“The fact that most people have lost confidence in the security operatives, who have been gang-raping their girls, extorting their money, robbing them and snatching their cars at gun points, make them to ignore whatever calls to join forces to let the cats out of the bags and reveal the perpetrators behind the dastardly acts, some of whom are known in the society” noted Adamu Amos.

Sheer brute and ruthlessness would not solve the problem, but persuasion, diplomacy, patience, understanding and tolerance. Government should be seen as friendly and compassionate and not otherwise.

The successful durbar organised by the Shehu of Borno, Alh. (Dr) Abubakar Ibn Umar Garbai el-Kanemi during the last Sallah even though with the presence of tight security signifies that peace will indeed return to Maiduguri and other parts of the state. The Shehu according to many must be commended for promoting peace and encouraging dialogue with the Boko Haram sect and for accommodating all and sundry in the state. During the last historic durbar, it was done peacefully. The Shehu rode from the prayer ground in Ramat Square through Dandal way to Shehuri, where the sprawling palace stood, which served as the venue for the mini-durbar- where traditional title holders each saluted the Shehu in turns. The deputy governor represented Governor Kashim Shettima. It was colourful event full of splendor from all indications, according to our findings.

While efforts are being made to restore peace and order in Maiduguri, violence broke out in Bui town, following the reported killing of an army personnel attached to the battalion in Biu.

This  and others who came out on a shooting spree killing more than ten civilians at the last count-calm, Yusuf Adamu, told press men that the situation had been brought under control on Sunday 4 Sept 2011.

Elsewere in Maiduguri, especially in Gwange, Dala Alamderi, Goni Damagari, killings were reported on Sunday 4, September 2011, which were purposely carried out by unidentified gunmen. They forced the JTF to launch a man-hunt for members of the outlawed Boko Haram in Goni Damagari area, near the former Shiek ibn Taimiyah demolished headquarters of the sect. A house to house search was mounted and throughout Sunday from Saturday, 3 and 4 September, the whole neighbourhood was cordoned off and families were locked in while those locked in were not allowed out.

It has thus far become exceedingly difficult for Governor Kashim Shettima to settle down to real business of governance due to intractable challenges posed by civil unrests in Maiduguri even though he put effort in the area of human development so far, by paying the balance of CONTISS for tertiary institutions staff, reviewing upward the allowance of medical and other students, who were hitherto denied and ignored by his predecessor in office and Boss; Senator Sheriff. He has also approved the appointment of middle cadre staff in the hospitals across the state, redeployed former redundant staff of international hotel to other ministries who were not paid for over a year when he assumed office, paid their arrears, reviewed medical staff salaries as well as agreeing to pay the N18,000 minimum wage to the civil servants in Borno State, and to create jobs for the army of unemployed youths through agricultural empowerment.

Political observers and other residents interviewed reveal that if given the opportunity to settle down peacefully, Governor Shettima has got the magic wand and requisite intellectual fecundity to turn the fortunes of Borno State around-economically, socially and even politically. What, however, stands between him and these dreams include the restiveness in Maiduguri caused partly by some aggrieved fifth political columnists as well as criminals masquerading under the Boko Haram cover and the JTF who also are accused of excessive over-kill, recklessness, extortions and, robbery. Even though the JTF high command has repeatedly issued statements through the media that people should not give bribes to the JTF operatives, residents are afraid due to reprisals and uncertain effect of refusing to do as demanded. On Sunday, 4 September 2011, there were further reported cases of some persons in Gwange ward, Bulabulin, Ngarmnam and Simari, where an Islamic scholar was shot dead by unidentified assailants wielding Kalashnikov assault rifles, Ak 47. The murders were several, and some went unreported.

Similarly DESERT HERALD had also learnt that a very loud explosion has rocked the city of Maiduguri and its metropolis on Tuesday night at around 8pm and 10:30pm at different parts of the town.

The twin explosions, which were expected to be bombs, followed by sporadic gunshots, were first heard at around 8pm at Baga road close to the police area command at Ibrahim Taiwo, while the second explosion occurred a little distance from the Shehu’s palace.

When reporting to DESERT HERALD, Mustapha Gambo said the explosion was targeted at one politician whose house is close to the scene. He added that the explosion has caused several casualties and destruction of properties by the suspected members of the Ahlil sunnah lid da’awati wal jihad.

This is also incurring astronomical expenses for the state where millions are daily allocated as allowances for officers and men of the JTF. Some have even argued rightly or wrongly that the JTF in Borno is another conduit pipe to drain the state of much needed funds by both the incumbent and former Governors who are the major beneficiaries in the whole insecurity saga. Borno State has indeed suffered the consequences on the destruction, compensations and allowances since the outbreak of the renewed mayhem in early 2010, which has so far led to the death of hundreds of persons.

Prayers are meanwhile being said everyday in mosques and churches for Borno to be restored to its lost glory as a centre of peace and hospitality. The people fervently hope that one day the whole bloodbath would come to an end and become history, just as others before it.

On the average, Governor Shettima’s 100 days in office despite the insecurity challenges and issues of politics at the Election Petition Tribunal that also consumes his time and attention in order to retain his exalted seat, has witnessed considerable changes compared to the days of Ali Sheriff. If even the opportunity pundits averred, Shettima is capable of providing good governance to the state.