MY ENCOUNTER WITH BOKO HARAM: ACADEMIC ENGAGEMENT MAKES DIALOGUE FEASIBLE

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BY BRIG GEN ABDULQADIR ABUBAKAR GUMI (Rtd)

INTRODUCTION

  1. A certain Senior University Lecturer (name withheld) who was mistaken for a rich man had his life spared by the Boko Haram (BH) between 20 April and 3 May 13 after his abduction the moment they (BH) realized that he was fluent in Arabic and Quranic studies. Eventually the lecturer was able to engage the group out there in Sambisa forest, on the ideology and sources of their beliefs and reliance on faith based dogma for the atrocities they commit willfully on human race. The dialogue speaks for itself and it contains most of the fundamental assumptions the Group rely upon for their warped and unguided interpretations of the Islamic sources. The Narration was published verbatim by the Desert Herald Weekly newspaper of 01 Jan 15 (week) under the caption Dialogue Is As Feasible’. The discourse covered the following among others:
  2. Bottom – Top versus Top – Bottom revivalist approach and a contrast with the Prophetic approach.
  3. Sinfulness or otherwise in western education versus universality/neutrality of knowledge worldwide.
  4. Concept of ‘Bana Alaye’ (Assistance For the sake of Allah) used to justify BH forcible seizure of peoples properties.
  5. Concept of Quranic ‘Let there be no compulsion in religion as the truth stands out clear from error’ and their warped interpretation of it.

Manifestly the problem between the two sides is half solved since the BH Group rely on the same sources of Islamic law accepted by the Senior Lecturer and indeed Muslims worldwide.  More interesting however is the fact that the Lecturer was able to, in no time, subdue their intellect with a profound impression that made them to obtain consent of their superior commanders to suspend his execution, delay his release for about 10 days during which they obtained more knowledge while he led them in congregational prayers. Admittedly however, he had to promise that he would quit Government employment before they let him go.

NARRATION IS SUPPOSED TO BE OFFICIAL RECORD

  1. The story of the Senior University Lecturer was though obtained from the Lecturer in due course of official engagement the record was lost along the line. But the BH situation has only worsened since then making it necessary to obtain another record for purposes of refreshing on ideas that are urgent to the best of fair comments. It is most expedient to continue to put pressure on the Federal Government to value the use of the Senior University Lecturer and his likes, too numerous to mention so as to academically engage the BH ideology or dogma for our common good. Conducive atmosphere or environment is required for the desired engagement as well as security for all participants to positively compliment efforts so far put in to the counter insurgency operations. Such a dialogue will automatically also suspend life and faith in their command structure, fighting spirit, morale and also save fresh recruitments of the vulnerable youth. How constructive is the counter insurgency activity when the group is physically exterminated under huge collateral loses when it can be averted by a simple forum made to challenge the basis of the Group and weaken its ideological hold on its followers. On the other hand, how can the insurgency even be wiped out when a few could after all still escape with the same negative idea and remain latent for another day’s run later in life.

JUDICIAL PROCESSES AND/OR THE PEACE KEEPING OPTIONS

  1. Judicial processes, adequately provided by the criminal justice system could have brought the BH and their dogma to its knees since they are largely Nigerians and subject to its laws but this would now seem late and difficult to reinitiate within the current war like situation. Dialogue therefore remains the next viable option if the war is to be properly won. The UN or other multinational or multifaceted peace keeping forces, by convention also favor dialogue when duly employed into foreign countries since issues of jurisdiction and subjectivity to local laws naturally pose a problem to them in foreign lands. They therefore either supervise a peace agreement or enforcement which is no more than to provide a secure environment where all parties feel comfortable to make their case for progress to be made in conflict resolution. Internal operations by own forces are certainly more deserving of this passionate approach than own operations in foreign conflicts. It is absurd in the first place to say that the insurgency has defied internal judicial solution for such a long period of the BH insurgency. Nevertheless, even with the judicial inadequacies, Nigeria and its Armed Forces are lucky to be acclaimed internal peace keepers to many successfully resolved conflicts around the Globe. If its Armed forces can offer mediation services under rules of minimum and limited force to foreign countries with warring factions why can’t it bring home such expertise between the larger conformist Nigerian Muslim community and its wayward BH faction ahead of the conventional war efforts that has so far proved less effective.

EDUCATION AS THE SARDAUNA SOLUTION

  1. The book ‘Where I Stand’ is most revealing of the background to all the narrations put forward on the BH character and methods. Sheikh Abubakar Gumi( of blessed memory), incidentally dedicated Chapter 11 ‘Bottom against the Top’ warning on the consequences of limited Islamic education in Northern Nigeria and how the public is extremely gullible to wanton ignorance 21 years before the Senior Lecturer would pose the same item to the BH. The most striking warning however appears in Chapter 7 of the book captioned “Sunset” where the author, while on pilgrimage to Makkah with the then Premier of Northern Nigeria the Sardauna of Sokoto (of blessed memory), called on the latter to view the sight of Nigerian pilgrims “throwing huge pieces of stone, shoes or whatever they could find around in the name of stoning the Devil. A few others had even mounted a small mound at the Jam rat (effigy symbol), hitting it with sticks and shouting insults against Satan at the same time”. This not only depicted the ignorance of the average Nigerian pilgrim over basic Islamic literacy and knowledge but also his tendency to fanatically believe in anything purported to be Islamic whether true or false. The Nigerian Muslim is too naive to be critical about source of or interpretation of Islamic sources provided they seem to come from Arabs or the Middle Eastern Islamic countries. What made the Sardauna a true leader was that he quickly appreciated the urgency in the promotion and establishment of structures that ensured propagation of Islam to correct the anomaly. His immediate reaction after the Incident was to hire 5 Islamic Scholars on monthly salary dedicated to Islamic propagation and this culminated into series of activities that gave birth to the setting up of the Jamaatu Nasril Islam. Nigerian pilgrims today rank near equal to those from other Muslim countries in Hajj performance. Thanks to sustained efforts and governmental support of the operations that ensured education and compliance with the Hajj code and ethics over time.
  2. The Sardauna efforts were however short lived to have made the desired impact on Muslim education in other areas. Imagine the Nigerian pilgrim of the time described in the book ‘Where I Stand’ with a one off hajj opportunity to strike at the Devil, being given an AK 47 and its ammunition instead of the pebbles for the jamarats/ theDevil. He is certain to purify himself and unleash the greatest of venom, and even wish to remove the Devil permanently as a barrier between his mortal self and the heaven once and for all. What a paradox that on return, according to Sheikh Gumi “the Sardauna ….came back to Kaduna to be greeted with the news that a large contingent of Gwoza people in Sardauna province had converted to Islam, through the hard work of the Waziri of Gwoza” That this Gwoza is the first appetite for the BH today, purportedly turning it into the capital of their contrived Islamic caliphate speaks volume of what really the grievances are. Is the BH ideology or anger not in reality demonstrating protest of neglect and wanton ignorance over the good that the Sardauna started but albeit left hanging and unaided since his demise? The persons who paved way for the Gwoza caliphate, either through neglect or some inadvertence, to easily obtain AK 47 and its pebbles, knowing full well that the adherents are no more than pupils in Islamic theology, picking Islamic education in inadequate, demeaning and substandard environment have done the opposite of what Sardauna and good compatriots would do to its ignorant people. Great scholars are now being lost to this indigent situation leaving the flock in a wild revenge and wanton outbursts of violence that knows no bounds. The recent show of performance by border countries of the North Eastern region indicate that supply of arms and ammunition to the BH was, though illicit, from largely local sources and armories. The disposition shown by the border countries seem to rule out any loose arrangement on their part or environment that could have been exploited for arms smuggle across the bordering States. It means that a greater demonstration of a more robust plan of action when built upon the missing link between the Sardauna initiative and existing traditional platforms on Islamic propagation would turn the table of conflict towards peace, commonality and progress in complimentary roles to the war efforts. These efforts can never be said to be late please.

THE HAJJ RITES OFFER ANOTHER NARRATION

  1. Interestingly the 2014 Hajj has provided an opportunity for another narration to the numerous others propounded. It afforded an opportunity to relate the Islamic Hajj rites with the current Nigerian situation. Mount Arafat Day offers a religious opportunity where prayers are believed to need no further climb upwards. A pilgrim is considered forgiven of his past sins and mistakes having attained the Arafat congregation successfully. At sun set of the Day the pilgrim is considered to have sum mounted all obstacles put in place by the Devil to counter the pilgrim’s intention, preparations and journey to Makkah to appreciate his Lord. It also means that the Devil, known for his illusiveness, had been subdued to a harmless state, exposed to the open as to virtually be considered visible with the naked eyes. The Jam rats, the symbols representing the physical sighting and subduing of the Devil, are therefore placed on the return passage between Mount Arafat and the Harem/Grand Mosque for a Pilgrim to raise 21 small pebbles and throw 7 each at the 3 jam rats. The pilgrim repeats the same throw in succession for the next 2 or three days, as the case may be, while performing other rites carried forward in the Hajj Period. On return back to his base after the Hajj, the pilgrim is believed to be as clean and sinless as on the day he was born, strong enough to again resist and keep the Devil, father of all sins and terror, who would have regained his illusive nature, at bay.
  2. The implication is farfetched that enmity and aggressiveness towards the Devil, who is guaranteed life until the end of time, should and need not go beyond the tiny pebble throw. Islam would seem to have recognized the natural passionate enmity towards the Devil to have provided for the symbolic throw albeit and only at a time he would have been defeated at Mount Arafat. Making the caste symbolic and only when the Devil appears weak and subdued diminishes the potency and relevance of any physical aggression as a solution to his wanton possession or intrusion into the privacy of souls. The simple exercise also demonstrates the futility in going beyond such to satisfy enmity instincts against him or any other enemy for that matter via a wild goose chase. Going beyond the throw of pebbles, therefore to demonstrate enmity against any other mortal or being further becomes too remote to reality of a sound religious solution to evil. The same mortal could only have been afflicted by the father of all evils ie the Shaitan who only springs back afterwards. The narration has simply left religion in the hand of its Owner just as its propagation no more beyond the obvious life and pattern of the Messenger of Allah swt. Islam is not an orphan as to require violence and extremism to promote it. Surah 6 vs 29 (Holy Quran) says “O mankind you are the needy towards Allah and Allah is the rich and self sustaining.) No true religion should require such if indeed the Lord oversees its prosperity. Any wild goose chase beyond the traditional dos and don’ts, orthodox and established pattern of keeping away from Devil through patience and perseverance known to the Muslim Umma from times immemorial can only consume victims upon victims while leaving out the main culprit Devil who is most deserving of blame for every terror and aggression. The Lord has reserved the punishment of the Devil to Himself alone and at his own time. Human terrorism and its manifestations in today’s modern presentations cannot but be alien to Islamic teachings. And as it is, the Umma is losing both the good and the bad without any preservation, restoration or restitution plan of action or prospects.

ISLAMIC SOURCES ARE DORMINANT TO A FAULT

  1. Islamic sources have widely enumerated the futility of exterminating evil as the Devil has been promised an extended life to the end times. Nay Islamic positions on war and its authorized limits must remain as constant as the immemorially constant procedures known to it over time in history and behavior. Innovations should rightly be ascribed to modernity and other non constant dogma prevalent elsewhere. Man is only required to worship and conform to Islam after seeing the light for his own salvation and that of his brethren who willfully accept to belong. Were the carriage of religion and its flourish left with mankind the prophets and the clergy would probably have been guaranteed long lives to ensure survival of faiths. The principle negates same futility in forceful conveyance of the message to unintended brethrens. Without any tangible self guarantee for paradise given by any Islamic source, it is most foolish for an individual to purify himself by guaranteeing it to himself through sending his own self to heaven as if another chance avails. Assuming his assumption is even right as to martyrdom of his suicide mission, who confirms that his intention, motive and sacrifice is admitted over there across the board.  Meanwhile Surah 35 vs 15 says “Whoever strives only strives for himself and Allah is self sufficient from his creations.  “
  2. It behooves that suicide as a practice is alien to Muslims and Muslim communities until the emergence of the strange modern terrorism ascribed to Islam. If suicide is ordinarily uncommon among Muslim communities all the while, how did it become its character over night in warfare? The search for the truth needs to be redirected elsewhere either to overzealous new converts who will not subject themselves to be tutored before claiming the right to lead and interpret Islam or the faithful left uneducated for too long as to have found something else to set them up. It is for this analogy that traditional Muslims must rise up to groom new converts in to Islam no matter the level of Western or other educational qualifications they have acquired before their conversion. Muslims must also take serious exceptions when asked to step aside by secular or non Muslim structures in the fight against terrorist activities carried out in the name of Islam. Such stepping aside only marginalizes the true teachings and sound character of a Muslim to oblivion. Consequently Islamic principles insist that converts and Muslims generally should be humble enough to respect the pattern of conveyance, practices and interpretations derived from earliest, inherited and established sources. Indications abound that Innovative interpretations could also have been introduced by sinister sources outside the Islamic fold to have helped the BH formed up their compulsive propagation methods. Considering the age brackets of the youth involved, it could be revealing to also explore the uses, availability and sources of illicit drugs and intoxicants in and around the infested areas along with the sources of arms and ammunition supply to the BH groups.

KSA ARMED FORCES ROLE AND THE HAJJ RITES NARRATIVE

  1. More astonishing to the description of Muslim terror on the Devil as composed in the Hajj rites above is the sight of the Kindom of Saudi Arabia (KSA)military being put to ensure that the Devil as symbolized by the jam rats is not abused with greater passion than ascribed by the Sharia law. It would seem there too that the Kingdom police have been overwhelmed by the passionate enmity against the Devil as to have made the KSA to hand over the operations to the military. The struggle for the pebble throwing used to be a herculean congregation that confirms many dead every year no matter the elaborate arrangements until their Army Engineers took it up. This year the KSA was able to construct a giant structure of six different entrances and exits as designed by their military, occupying three floors and different routes in and out to have overcome difficulties in the struggle for the congregational throw at the Devil. The military has solved the century old problem with the elaborate modern outfit that is obviously well funded and built with enough command discretionary powers to turn it around no matter the challenges.
  2. One could not hold his owe to see a Brig Gen in command of the Infantry soldiers, having successfully secured lives and the operations itself, yet having extra time to line up in files and be sprinkling ice water on worn out pilgrims who were passing to and fro under the scorching heat. Hardly does any death or injury now arise from the struggle to dispel at the symbolic sight of the Devil. Even the handicapped and the aged freely access the jam rats in convoys, packets or even unattended. This is bound to ensure harmony between military operations and civil cooperation even beyond the Hajj rites. The harmony that helps out to caste at the Devil is certain to also ward of all conflicts as all of it originate from the same Devil. It is a demonstration of how Military civic and civil cooperation is vital to all sustainable peace. Meanwhile I was only opportune to have observed and relate the Hajj experience because I was retired from the military last year. It is doubtful if any Nigerian soldier, airman or rating was able to make the hajj this year due to ban on leave and passes consequent upon the BH scourge and the attendant insecurity envisaged. The corresponding role of the KSA military in paving way for the Devil to be shown his worth and its collateral advantage to harmonious military -civil alliance against common identified enemy and source of all terror would have been an experience worth the while in our fight against the BH. Depending on the counter Insurgency narrative employed by the Government against BH, one would have thought that sending Nigerian soldiers to experience Hajj this time around would be integrated with the counter insurgency programme for its beneficial effect.

FUTILITY AND INEQUITTY IN SECULAR COUNTER NARRATIVES AGAINST THE BH

  1. Back home to the notorious BH saga, one is tempted to ask as to which ideological narration the Federal Government used or is using to counter the BH ideas. The military would seem to have adopted a tit for tat operational procedure as far as the mode of combat is concerned. Some unethical operational procedures can morally be defended when carried out by the military in retaliatory posture or in operational self defense mode. The use and abuse of the media by the BH in the operational psychology must equally be contained with similar posture no matter the distress to best practices. But what is the equivalent counter narrative used for the BH ideology itself? Can there be any counter narrative to the BH dogma better or more effective than the tested narratives of the likes of the Senior Lecturer (now in hiding)or late Sheikh Jaafar (of blessed memory)who blew the initial whistle to the authorities against the dangers posed by the Group. Late Albany in Zaria more recently and seemingly fell together with his own narrative. The irony in the war against BH is not primarily in the vulnerability and losses of those endowed with sound counter narratives but in the non adoption of either by the Government in its counter insurgency operations. No matter the secular disposition of Nigerian operatives, the Government cannot run away from taking up positive Muslim narratives in order to promote common good among Muslim groups and the nation in general. The Islamic sources are constant and efforts should be made in such a way that nothing or no one should take advantage of the situation to drive an entirely new objective to fill in the gap. The book ‘Where I Stand’ laid beautiful premise thus “there are no barriers really separating the various Muslim groups except those of ignorance.” {Epilogue pg 212}

CONCLUSION

  1. Could the Government have been fighting the BH all the while without a counter ideological narrative to sustain the operation against the BH? Can a secular narrative conjured by the security network, or exigently created, improve the success or retrogress the war against the Group that profess purely faith based objectives. Where and how involved are the official Nigerian Islamic heritage, the Penal codes, the home grown extant Sharia and its constitutional content, the Maliki law teachings within the Nigerian legal and educational systems from time immemorial, the Qadis and Grand Qadis of our justice system etc. How much have they been employed or adopted to counter the BH separatist dogma in complimentary role to the war effort? It is certain that exploits in this direction, and refreshing of those kept in limbo are key to the successful counter insurgency operations and what it takes to attain sustainable dialogue worth the while to end the BH crises.
  2. Any secular narrative outside the orthodox Islam known to Nigeria in official and cultural circle would certainly only trespass on the majority of Muslims who are conformists and law abiding. It is common knowledge that civilian and innocent casualty are in tons. While religion under our constitution must keep its bounds, secularity should also project to the extent that it does not encroach on the rights and liberties of recognized faiths and liberty of religions. Where as in the case of BH Islam is trespassed upon and Muslims forming the main complainants, the State can only use Islam at first instance to regain its liberty the while restitution is primarily to the established Muslim ideology and character. Use of any other idea, ideology or secular thoughts in the overall solution to the BH insurgency will only take the efforts so far put in to disarray thereby compounding the near catastrophe. A redirection of initiative towards the concept conversed above is certain to bring back instant results that have so far eluded the long drawn fight against the BH insurgency.

Brigadier General Barr AbdulQadir Abubakar Gumi (Rtd), Kaduna.

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