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Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Boko Haram: Real leader unmasked
As infighting rages among members
THE alleged offer of peaceful resolution of Boko Haram terrorism in Nigeria has caused a major break-up of the fundamental Islamic sect even as the group tries to replace former Head of State, General Mohammed Buhari with a prominent Muslim leader Dr. Datti Ahmed who sources said is the real leader of Boko Haram.
It would be recalled that Boko Haram in a statement by one Abu Mohammed IbuAbdullaziz who claimed to be speaking on behalf of his self-acclaimed leader, Sheik Abubakar Shekau said Boko Haram was now ready to give peace a chance in Nigeria and requested that federal government negotiate with its allegedly appointed representative, General Mohammadu Buhari.
Abdulaziz said he had the mandate of Shekau to request the federal government to send its negotiation team who will now met a team to lead by Buhari. Other members of the Boko Haram team include, former governor of Yobe State now Senator Bukar Abba Ibrahim, first Nigerian Petroleum Minister Shettima Ali Mungono, chairman of the Presidential Committee on insecurity in the North-East, Ambassador Gaji Gatimari and other prominent members of the Borno Emirate to negotiate with federal government on the group's behalf.
However while some Nigerians were still contemplating the viability of the offer because of the untended previous offers, Buhari almost instantly denied being approached to lead any Boko Haram peace initiative and inferred that the whole talk about negotiation with federal government was a political gimmick spurned by members of the Jonathan administration. The Buhari camp even alleged that the former Head of State's name was being bandied as Boko Haram's representative in order to create a basis for possible treason charges against him.
According to a statement by the national secretary of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Engr. Buba Galadima, Buhari even claimed not to have heard about his alleged appointment by Boko Haram.
“He said the whole thing to him is just speculative and that since nobody has contacted him as a person for him to even know who is behind what, and what the motives of the whole exercise are, he would not speak to the press. Buhari said as an elder statesman and presidential candidate of CPC in 2011, he remains prayerful so that peace and tranquility can return to Nigeria,” Galadima said.
In a statement to further buttress the fear among his associates that he was probably being set up for arrest and treasonable trial, Rotimi Fashekun, CPC national publicity secretary lampooned President Goodluck Jonathan and PDP over the so called nomination of Buhari to hold Boko Haram peace talks.
Fashekun said Buhari's alleged nomination, “is the latest gambit in the desire of this organically corrupt PDP led federal government in diverting the attention of the unsuspecting Nigerian public from the on-going massive of their common patrimony without any scintilla of equivocation, General Muhammadu Buhari has never directly or remotely connected with any insurrection or insurgency against the Nigerian nation and her people.”
Fashekun accused PDP of being responsible for the growing insecurity in the country.
Meanwhile National Daily competent sources have disclosed that Boko Haram may have split into three factions as a result of fatigue, family pressures, and decline in donation from local and foreign sponsors, tireless anti-terrorism efforts of the Joint Task Force (JTF), disagreement between the original Boko Haram led by Late Ultaiz Mohammed Yusuf and new entrance. Sources also linked the Boko Haram internal feud to the bursting of the group's training camp in Niger Republic following a recent visit to that country by the National Security Adviser, Colonel Sambo Dasuki (rtd) and persistent power struggle over who is really the authentic leader of the group, Mohammed Yusuf's successor.
National Daily learned that the three groups that are now allegedly claiming to be the authentic Boko Haram include the original Yusuf followers, the economic Boko Haram (said to be interested in the acquisition of dubious wealth) and the political Boko Haram said consist of mostly politicians who are using the Boko Haram platform to further their political interest.
President Goodluck Jonathan recently alerted the nation about his concern that Boko Haram Islamic fundamentalist group may have infiltrated his administration. The president's concern about the involvement of politicians in Boko Haram was seemingly amplified by the former NSA, General Andrew Azazi.
Furthermore, the State Security Service (SSS), recently affirmed the complicity of the top echelon of the PDP leadership in Boko Haram activities saying that such occurrence threatens our nationhood.
The Boko Haram group is currently facing some serious crisis and is no longer as cohesive as before. The group has been seriously weakened and actually be looking for a credible way to surrender. Not all of the group leaders are happy with the statement linking Buhari with the so called peace talks.
This set of people believes that it is not an intelligent move because Buhari is still a politician aspiring for public office. They frowned that they were not contacted before such statement was issued. Some of Boko Haram's field Agents, that is, those who carry out their operations are showing serious signs of tiredness. They complain of pressures from family members and possibility of being crushed by the JTF. Some Boko Haram members are complaining bitterly of hunger as a result of lack of consistent funds and their inability to become gainfully employed for security reasons. The issue that nearly led to their killing each other, is the issue of who among those parading themselves is the real leader of Boko Haram.
Real Boko Haram
Many members of the original Boko Harm do not recognize Mallam Abubakar Shekau as their leader rather they claim that their leader is Dr. Ahmed Datti, a University of Ibadan trained physician who was once a presidential aspirant. This people said only Ahmed can negotiate on their behalf,” our source said.
This surprise claim seems to have been justified by the role of Dr. Ahmed on issues concerning Boko Haram and its relationship with the public. Dr. Ahmed is also said to be a very close friend of late Boko Haram founder, Mohammed Yusuf and was said to have been so pained by his killing that he almost wept. Ahmed is the president of the president of Supreme Council for Sharia, a group Boko Haram's founder, Yusuf was a prominent member before he was killed.
When President Jonathan said some time ago that the government was open to dialogue with Boko Haram but said the sect members were hidden and therefore direct talks was unlikely, our sources said, it was Dr. Ahmed who volunteered to fish out Boko Haram members and negotiate on their behalf.
“Dr. Ahmed was the one carrying messages back and forth between the federal government and Boko Haram,” one source said.
Ahmed himself was alleged to have said in those days that he and a colleague had met with Nigerian government officials at the highest level on March 5, 2011. We contacted the leadership of the sect and established from them that they were prepared to consider 'Sulhu' which means broad reconciliation “regarding the feud between them and the government.”
However, sources said that Dr. Ahmed decided to pull out of the negotiation because of media leakages. Dr. Ahmed is known by Muslims in Nigeria as the defender of the faith. He once said that he can go to any extent to defend Islam.
Ahmad also comes from the Genawa clan in Kano, noted that the clan has produced several other distinguished men like the late Malam Aminu Kano, the late Gen. Murtala Muhammed, First Republic Minister of Defence, Alhaji Inuwa Wada, and Justice Abubakar Bashir Wali, a foremost Kano lawyer, who was among the justices of the Supreme Court.
According to Mohammed, a medical doctor like Ahmad, “Ahmad was born in Kano and grew up in an area close to the palace of the Emir of Kano. His education started at the Native Authority Elementary School, the Kano City Boarding Primary School, from where he proceeded to the prestigious Barewa College, the College of Arts and Science in Zaria, which was later converted to the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), where he took a degree in medicine (MBBS) from the University of London.
“At the end of his stint as a House Officer, he was employed by the Northern Regional government and he worked in several parts of the North until he opened a clinic, Asmau Memorial Hospital, situated opposite Triumph Newspaper in Kano. He was later to transfer the ownership of the hospital to the Kano State government.
“Typical of his clan and most intellectuals from Kano, Ahmad was involved in public service like the Kano Leaders of Thought group after the 1966 coup and the Kano Foundation during the Second Republic. Deeply religious, Ahmad has been linked with at least two mosques, one is sited near the Bayero University, Kano (BUK) and the other situated in the Kano GRA, is called the Sheikh Umar Bin Khattab Mosque.
Ahmad is a regular face at the popular AlFurqan Mosque situated at the Nasarawa GRA, often frequented by the intelligentsia, technocrats and businessmen in Kano. The Medina-trained Sheikh Bashir Ali holds sway in the Mosque, where at a point, special Al-Qunut prayers were offered for the restoration of peace in Kano, an indication that he is more predisposed to peace than war, as is widely peddled by his adversaries.
When members of the aggrieved Jama'atul AhlusSunna Lid Da'awatis Jihad Boko Haram said they were more comfortable with him as the man to be trusted to negotiate on their behalf with the Federal Government, many peace-loving Nigerians heaved a sigh of relief.
Most people are usually drawn to Sheikh Ahmad because of his boundless energy, focus and attraction as a thoroughbred Muslim. It is said that he wears his love for Islam like a badge and that he is the most likely person that would go out of his way to ensure that no harm came the way of Muslims, particularly the northern Muslims.
Being branded a fanatic is a tag he will not so much rebuff as long as it is all about maintaining the sanctity of Islam and protecting the Muslim brotherhood. The Sheikh, a man of modest means lives in a bungalow at the Magwan axis of Kano metropolis. Not given to the extravagance and opulence associated with some of his ilk, Ahmad gave out his hospital, now a Urology centre, to the Kano State government for an undisclosed fee during the tenure of Ibrahim Shekarau.
Ahmed is a respected and influential preacher. President of the Supreme Council of Sharia Law in Nigeria (SCSN), the body behind the introduction of Sharia law in some northern states, he is respected as a man who understands the true tenets of Islam.
Over the years, Ahmad has shown that he can go to any length to defend Islam. In August 2001, he said that the SCSN would seek reprisals against the killing of northerners in the South. And when in October 2001, hundreds of southern Christians were killed in Kano, by Muslim rioters, it was alleged that Ahmed inspired them.
In 2002, in the wake of a Miss World pageant billed to hold in Abuja, a newspaper, in a bid to drum support for the pageant, made a comment that was deemed disrespectful to the Prophet Mohammed. Ahmad, alongside others, called on the Muslims Ummah to rise and defend the Islamic Faith.A bloody riot broke out thereafter in Kano and Kaduna; lives and properties were lost.
The medical practitioner is one that never shies away from any fight aimed at protecting his Muslim brothers, no matter the controversy.
In October 2003, the governors of Kano, Kaduna and Zamfara states ordered the stoppage of the polio immunisation pending when the vaccines were investigated and proven to be safe. The decision by the governors was predicated by well-grounded suspicions and rumours that the vaccine, which was rejected in the North, was contaminated and had become a tool to pursue the depopulation of Muslims in the three states, where the poliovirus was widespread then.
As the leader of the influential supreme council for Sharia in Nigeria (SCSN), Sheikh Ahmad, felt like all other concerned Muslims that there could be some truth in the claim as they ensured that Muslim faithful avoided the vaccine until there were contrary claims.
The Sheikh, who carved a niche for himself as a top physician from the Ibadan University, may have taken such position bearing in mind the fiasco from the trial of a new meningitis drug by US pharmaceutical giant, Pfizer in Kano in 1996, which ended up doing more harm than good for dozens of children that were administered with the drug.
Still in 2003, Ahmad said: “The council (SCSN) harboured strong reservations on the safety of our population not least because of our recent experience in the Pfizer scandal, when our people were used as guinea pigs with the approval of the Federal Ministry of Health and that of all the relevant United Nation agencies.”
His claims led to the suspension of the polio campaign. Other Muslim clerics elsewhere like in India and Pakistan followed Ahmad's lead.
It is difficult to say that Sheikh Ahmad doesn't care for the interest of his Muslim brothers because he is dedicated to making their lives better. At the height of the debate over the necessity of Jaiz Islamic Bank in the polity, it was not necessarily the arguments of the Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Malam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi that settled matters for the bank. The matter was settled when Sheikh Ahmad threatened that Muslims were ready to go to war if anybody stood on the way of the proposed non-interest banking. Since then, the voices of the opposition to the non-interest banking have faded.
Politics is a gray area for Ahmad because “many people don't associate him easily with the pursuit of elective political office considering his involvement in Islamic religious activities.”
But Mohammed a Second Republic lawmaker said: “Ideologically, he never belonged to the same party as his cousin, the late Aminu Kano, who founded the defunct Peoples Redemption Party (PRP). So it is safer to categorise him as a right or centre traditionalist, ideologically speaking.
“Like many members of his generation like the late Sunday Awoniyi, Adamu Ciroma, Comrade Uche Chukwumerije, who were in the University of Ibadan, Ahmad was and is still deeply interested in politics.
“Ahmad was a member of the Constitution Drafting Committee set up by the Late Gen. Murtala Mohammed and also a member of the Constituent Assembly under Sir Udo Udoma. He left the Constituent Assembly as a result of the controversial judgment of the election in the constituency that produced him Rano/Kura constituency in present day Kano.
“He was in the national movement that later metamorphosed into the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) and one of the leading presidential aspirants of the party along with Alhaji Shehu Shagari, and Yusuf Maitama Sule.
“At a point, Ahmad was touted as the possible successor of Obasanjo/Yar'Adua regime in 1979, but along the line, he fell out with the then Head of State, Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo. Also, the military establishment and their apologists from the North felt he was too independent minded and could not be trusted. That was why they gave the presidency to Shagari in 1979.
Perhaps there is something to say about his independence and opinion and his ability to generate controversy. According to Mohammed, “Datti Ahmad also disagreed with most of his friends, who had attended Barewa College and who later became members of the infamous group known as the Kaduna Mafia, even though from all indications, he had nothing to do with the group.”
Ahmad courted controversy when in 2004 after the Nigerian “Taliban” under the leadership of Aminu Tashen-Ilimi killed policemen in their insurgency, Ahmad said of them: “These are very sophisticated youth. They are not just the trash. I can understand why they did it. I'm not in a position to say whether I support it or not, but they must have their reasons.”
To date, Ahmad still leads the Supreme Council of Sharia Law and many allege that he appears to tacitly support acts of terrorism carried out by Islamists.
The dialogue with Boko Haram has stirred the kind of controversy that has dogged Datti Ahmad's paths. In an interview with The Guardian, the Special Adviser to the President (Media and Publicity) Dr. Reuben Abati said that even the spokespersons of the Boko Haram have admitted, that the group has mutated. “So it is not unusual that you will find a situation whereby a variant of the mutation may express a view that sounds like it's contradicting the other,” he added.
This observation prevailed as some members of the group denied any dialogue with government through Ahmad and that they even didn't know him. Meanwhile another group, probably the leadership of the “real Boko Haram,” confirmed a dialogue with the Federal Government.
Ahmad had on behalf of the SCSN proposed to President Jonathan to work out a confidential initiative for the Federal Government to dialogue with Boko Haram. The President's Principal Private Secretary, Ambassador Hassan Tukur was ordered to coordinate Ahmad's group, but the latter soon claimed that Tukur sabotaged the confidentiality of the process. The Ambassador denied the allegation.
Soon after, the Sheikh, unhappy with government officials, who failed to keep their own part of the bargain, stormed out of the deal. However, Sheikh Ahmad, who is known to be a man of few words might, with the renewed effort by the Northern Governors' Forum (NGF), can still be the man to broker peace between the Federal Government and members of the Boko Haram.