Thursday, November 22, 2012
Discourse 341: Who KIlled General Shuwa?
Discourse 341@@@ By Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde@@@ Who Killed General Shuwa?@@@ This article explores the possibility of another theory and calls for a panel of investigation into his death to be set up by the Federal Government.@@@ When the Nigerian Civil War veteran and hero, General Muhammadu Shuwa, was killed at his residence in Maiduguri on 2 November 2012, the official narrative implicated Boko Haram. Nobody expected a different version. Yet, many doubted the authenticity of the story. The truth, people believed, will unfold in the course of time.@@@ The doubt stemmed from a number of facts. First, General Shuwa did not have the credentials of would place him on the Boko Haram hit list. Not at all. He has distinguished himself by leading a quiet life among his people, far away from the Government Reserved Areas of Maiduguri, Kaduna, Lagos or Abuja. He lived in the neighbourhood of the less privileged where his relatives and commoners reside. This has enchanted him to everyone in the city. He does not comment on national issues or indulge in our corrupt and self-seeking politics. He does not go about begging Nigerian heads of state, presidents or governors. Like him or hate him, he was the quintessential elder statesman, a rare gem among his peers, many of whom returned from war to milk the country dry and sink it in the bloody sea of disintegrative politics after their enviable war records as champions of its unity. Even on the ongoing Boko Haram insurgency, Shuwa has not uttered a word in public. When all is considered, General Shuwa was one of the most ineligible victims of Boko Haram.@@@ The above could be dismissed as mere speculation by the authorities, but not after his brother shocked the public with graphic details of the scene of his assassination. What invites our minds to abandon the official tale of Boko Haram culpability is the unfortunate role the Nigerian military played - or failed to play - in aiding his assassination: its personnel failed to stop it when they were right there, on its spot. The assassins appeared, only two of them, before the armless old man, unexpectedly, when he was receiving a prayer from a passerby. Shouting Allahu Akbar, they gunned him down and kicked him to confirm that he was dead before walking away, laughing, not shouting Allahu Akbar anymore. His guards – some eight heavily armed soldiers – that were at the scene did not put up any resistance. They stayed put and watched the murder of the master they were sent to protect. Neither did they give the two assassins any chase. It is this dereliction of duty – a deliberate room for allow murder – that made the official narrative of ‘boko haram’ assassins an unpalatable pie to ingest.@@@ It did not take time before Boko Haram denied the charge of killing the General just as the Defence Headquarters was equally quick in denying the complicity of its agents. One question remains unanswered though: why did not the soldiers put any resistance?@@@ After following the activities of Boko Haram since it started its insurgency, I have learnt to concede it one thing: accepting its denial whenever it issues a disclaimer on any operation it did not undertake. Unfortunately, the world is reluctant to accord the Nigerian military the same veracity status because it has earned a notorious reputation of denying even the most obvious. Just last week when Reuters released a video of some Nigerian soldiers executing people on the street, the military spokesman instinctively denied the charge even before watching the video. Nigerian soldiers cannot do that, he said – that is all – and he expects the world to believe him. The people of Maiduguri, like those of Zaki Biam and Odi before them and, indeed, other Nigerians as well, will definitely find it difficult to swallow this claim.@@@ Horrendous things have been reported from Maiduguri in the last two years. Unarmed civilians are trapped in their neighbourhoods and killed by people wearing military uniforms. The military authorities denied carrying out the executions, as they denied the rapes that were reported by foreign media at the debut of their intervention in the conflict. Markets were burnt to ashes by armed men in uniforms. Ordinary citizens are subjected to a constant regime of harassment. Again and always, it is one denial after another from the Joint Task Force and the defence headquarters. Even where accounts were given by human right groups such as Human Rights Watch, the denial never ends.@@@ What the Nigerian military cannot deny is that these atrocities are happening in areas under its effective control and continuous surveillance. All roads leading to General Shuwa’s house have roadblocks manned by Nigerian soldiers. And so is his house to date. (One wonders what the soldiers are still doing there) Yet his assassins could comfortably scale through the roadblocks and kill the general right before the eyes of his military guards, unrestrained by their presence, unconstrained by their guns and superior demography of eight to two – and walk away laughing with impunity.@@@ I think the military authorities and the government should wake up and start exploring other possibilities that could be behind these atrocities, not least the possible involvement of some elements in the military in the death of General Shuwa. This is what many Nigerians are doing. The military can take exceptions to this inquisition only at the peril of totally losing the confidence of the Nigerian public. Given the variegated nature of its cultural composition and its factional history, it is naïve to think that every Nigerian soldier has shed off the garbage of ethnicity and history from his shoulders. They are human, after all. People are therefore asking whether Shuwa was a victim of some kind of vengeance. Does his civil war record leave an enduring bitterness in someone, for instance? They now ask these questions not only because of their sheer possibility but also because of the indifference that his guards showed during his murder.@@@ This strong speculation can only be dismissed after the government has carried out a thorough investigation into his murder, digging out the reasons for the nonchalance of his soldier guards and the identity of the real culprits. Anybody can shout Allahu Akbar as he shoots his victim to confuse his identity with that of Boko Haram, as did the Christian who attempted to burn his church in Calabar last year. Outright denial and pointing an accusing finger at Boko Haram alone will not suffice. It is either a rebuttal – denial backed with convincing evidence – or a revelation of the unalloyed truth. Anything short of that will continue to leave the gates of the rational mind open to all sorts of possibilities, including that of an attack from outside space.@@@ If the armed men that burn markets in Maiduguri, rape women, execute youths before the eyes of their parents in the middle of the night and kill war veterans like Shuwa are neither Nigerian soldiers nor Boko Haram, then could they be aliens from a neighbouring country – as Governor Jang often claim in his state – or some creatures from outside space? And who can save us from their wrath other than the Nigerian military? But the same military was at the spot where Shuwa was killed and its boys declined to put up any fight.@@@ It is not uncommon to find people expressing the view that Boko Haram or a part of its dimensions is nothing but an orchestration to destroy the North – its people and its economy. The circumstances of Shuwa’s death will definitely add fuel to the fire of this conspiracy theory. Only a full investigation by a body independent of the Nigerian military will discount it.@@@ Panel of Investigation@@@ In view of the above, I would like to raise two points in the concluding part of this article. One, there is the need for the federal government to investigate the death of General Shuwa. A panel should be set up under the chairmanship of a prudent, unbiased personality. Its members should include, among others, officials of the Borno State government, Borno Emirate Council, Borno Council of Elders, a representative of civil society and a veteran of the Civil War. This is a call that should be heard loudly coming from other civil war veterans, members of the Borno Elders Forum, the Arewa Consultative Forum and every champion of social justice.@@@ This matter must not be left in the hands of the defence headquarters. The military has already given its outcome that many of us are not satisfied with. It is hard to see it revoking that verdict and issuing a new ruling on the case. Since its personnel were involved – through negligence or connivance – the military as an institution has a case to answer before the panel. Government must not allow it to be a judge in its own cause.@@@ This investigation will not be of benefit to the relations of Shuwa alone. It is likely to unravel the identity of the mysterious soldiers who commit other atrocities in Borno and Yobe States that involved many innocent but less privileged Nigerians than Shuwa. The Nigerian military may also find the report important to its operations against Boko Haram.@@@ General Shuwa is dead. May God forgive him! The other point is that I would not like to accuse him of naivety at this moment when our prayer is all he needs. But I will dare suggest so for the benefit of others. A war for a general does not end with peace but with his death.@@@ With the death of Shuwa under questionable circumstances, we are challenged to review his status vis-à-vis his military career: Was he a hero of the war for Nigerian unity or its latest victim or both? Some would say he lived as a war hero and might have died as its victim forty-four years later.@@@ The controversy may never end until the truth is told. And the truth will always surface no matter how long it takes. We remain patient.@@@ 23 November 2012