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Friday, January 27, 2012

Discourse 340. Weep not, Kano. Be Innovative

Discourse 340
By Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde

Weep Not, Kano. Be Innovative

The Kano bombings of Friday, 20 January 2012, could not have come as a surprise.

It is not the first time that Kano and Maiduguri would share the same fate. The early 1980s saw the Maitatsine religious crisis spread from Kano to Maiduguri, Gombe and Yola. This time, it reversed. Coming three decades later with its epicenter in Maiduguri, Boko Haram has spread to Kano.

The two are the most vibrant commercial cities in the far North. And not by coincidence, they are also the leading cities in Qur’anic tradition. Speaking in historical terms, they shared borders and there are large populations of Kanuri in the old Kano State. They are twins, you can say, in many respects.

While the people of Kano and indeed the entire country commiserate with the victims of the attack, and while the injured are still on hospital bed hoping for quick recovery, I feel not enough attention on the future is given in our commentaries. Will last Friday’s attack and its ongoing aftershocks be the last to visit Kano or will the second most populous city in the country share the fate of its twin sister?

The motive of Boko Haram and the reaction of government to the attacks suggest to me that Kano is likely to share the destiny of Maiduguri. More attacks should be expected. They are likely to come with no less, but if not more, degree of devastation. This is not a prayer but a prudent, albeit brutal, reading of the situation. It is the most likely scenario that needs to be prepared for or, if possible, avoided all together.

Boko Haram has given its reasons for the attack. It said it was predicated on the failure of the authorities to release innocent members of the sect detained from and after the 2009 crisis. Massive arrests, it said, took place in Wudil. Recently, also, added Boko Haram, many have been quietly arrested in the Kano itself without any trial.

The organization said it put off attacking the city many times before due to the intervention of some ulama it respects. But when neither of the demands was met, it ran out of patience and finally decided to go for what is correctly described as its biggest operation ever.

If previous arrests instigated the attack, as Boko Haram said, it will be difficult to see how the attack in itself would lead to amity with the government. Naturally, more arrests were made after the attack, and more will be made, in addition to a large dose, if not an overdose, of a cocktail of both preemptive and retributive measures. The killing of a Kantin Kwari merchant and his wife and the arrest of his children point at the extent that government would go with its policy of extermination, depicting another striking similarity with Maiduguri.

From experience, Boko Haram will not be cowed by such measures. They only serve to provoke it further. Unless a wiser approach is taken, last Friday's attack was the conjugation that will endlessly replicate the Maiduguri crisis DNA in Kano. I have not lost sight of the significance of the label given to the YouTube video released by its leader, Imam Abubakar Shekau, few hours ago: "Sako Game Da Harin Kano 1." In the caption is an implicit message that there might be Kano 2! The content of the video did not leave a better ground for hope either.

What should Kano resort to? Will it choose to depend on the overwhelmed federal government, in spite of the assurances of the new IGP, or would its leaders be innovative in following a complementary or, if need be, different path to peace?

Unlike Maiduguri, however, Kano has a small window of hope. If it is true that there are ulama in Kano who the sect hold at high esteem and whose reverence was instrumental in wading off earlier plans to attack the city, then the opportunity should be used to ensure that Kano is spared the crippling fate of Maiduguri.

In the pursuit of this goal, I advise that Kano must not solely rely on the federal government, whose extermination policy has only worsened matters nationwide. The Chief of Defence Staff just recently reiterated that government will not negotiate with Boko Haram. This high horse of government stupidity will not spare Kano the spectre of destruction that is staring at it. It will only destroy the city, to the delight of some.

The state government must quickly recruit the support of the Kano Emirate, the ulama of Kano as well as its businessmen to dialogue with the group. This should be done silently without courting publicity. Some non-Kano residents, like the Chief of Defence Staff, may think this is abominable. But think of it objectively. Is negotiation too big a price for peace and what it preserves of lives, property and businesses?

Let us examine the prospects of the government's military option briefly.

The most obvious thing that will happen is that the army will become increasingly drafted to Kano streets as the attacks continue. Their mandate will equally continue to expand, each time pouching from the authority of the state government, as we have seen in Plateau and Maiduguri, with state of emergency declared in all the local governments of the city.

The state will be spending chunks of its allocation to finance the military presence on its streets. It will be a web from which Kano will find difficult to extricate itself, moreso, when the misery of the city will mean a fortune for people who will exploit the situation to their advantage, diverting billions of security expenditure - which is a quarter of our federal budget - into their bank accounts.

The people who will suffer most will be the ordinary citizens whose businesses and livelihood will be impaired. When achaba is banned, for example, as in Maiduguri and Yobe state, a million commercial motorcyclists shuttling the streets of Kano will be jobless and their two million dependents will face serious hardships. And so with other businesses. The misery, in the end, will be unimaginable.

Markets, as it happened in Maiduguri, will also be at the risk of getting destroyed by fake soldiers who will cordon them, disperse their traders and set them ablaze immediately. Businessmen will be sent letters containing bullets demanding millions of naira or face death. Those who would like to cripple the long standing record of Kano's economic success will have a golden opportunity. They will carry their operations and push the blame to Boko Haram.

At home, families will be subjected to abuse. A single explosion will justify the ransacking of the entire neighbourhood by soldiers, killing the innocent, raping the women and shooting the men. Residents of the city will be forced to abandon it. Where will those millions go?

In the end Kano will be a ghost of its present state...if it solely relies on the federal government...if it commits the mistake of its twin sister, Maiduguri.

It must pursue a different path, wherever and whenever possible. It must not be overwhelmed by its tears, which at best preoccupies it with the past incident and prevents it from preparing for the future. But unlike Maiduguri, Kano must be ready to take its destiny in its own hands. Durkusawa wada ba gajiyawa ba ne.

As I was about to conclude this piece, Reuters reported that the President has confessed that the military option is not a solution, that his government is ready to dialogue if Boko Haram "will come out." Kano should not wait for Boko Haram to "come out" before it finds peace. It should take its own initiative. Who knows? Its effort, if it succeeds, may open the way for government to follow.

Finally, I hereby condole to the families of the victims that were killed and pray for fast recovery of all the injured.

Weep not, Kano. Your great people must take heart and take their destiny into their own hands.

As the poet al-Mutanabbi once put it, Innal 'azeema 'alal 'azeemi sabouru: Great people endure great calamity.

26 January 2012

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Who is Sending the Guns to Nigeria?

Who Is Sending The Guns to Nigeria

Dear reader,

Ordinarily, I wouldn't bother my readers with this disturbing material if not for two reasons.

One is the fast unfolding situation in the country and its current state of insecurity. I feel it is the responsibility of the press to inform Nigerians, as much as possible, such that the nation is either rescued by its vigilance or destroyed its complicity and inaction.

Two, its message is coming from a neutral source, from a foreigner who is not a native of Nigeria. With the umpire adjudged impartial, his verdict, even if it does not differ from ours, stands a better chance of acceptance.

Safe journey!


Who is sending the guns to Nigeria?
By Osae Brown

As Nigerians were on the street protesting over fuel subsidy removal, a British based man was being arraigned in UK over the shipping of 80,000 rifles and pistols and 32 million rounds of ammunition to Nigeria. The shipment included 40,000 AK47 assault rifles, 30,000 rifles and 10,000 9mm pistols.

According to a report by the BBC, the man whose name is Gary Hyde, shipped these huge arm cache without receiving permission from the relevant government department in the UK.

Read the remainder from the author at


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Discourse 339. Shocking: Jonathan Officially Concedes National Maritime Domain to Niger Delta Militants

Discourse 339
By Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde

Shocking: Jonathan Officially Concedes Security of Nigerian Maritime Domain to Niger Delta Militants

Someone should tell President Goodluck E. Jonathan to please go slow with his Ijaw Nation project. If it is destined to succeed, it will ultimately do without rushing too many things at the same time and causing grievous damage to the mechanics of the nation. Speed kills.

The latest move, among many, is that he has approved a memo that officially auctions our national maritime domain to a company that is alleged to belong to one of the leading Niger Delta Militants. Come with me.


To cut a long story short, I have quoted, ad verbatim, paragraph 14 of the memo that summarizes it. (Errors herein are not mine, please)

14. Council is, accordingly, invited to;

note that the principal objective of NIMASA’S activities is to ensure that safety and security of Shipping/Maritime Trade in a protected marine environment but Resource constraint has made it difficult for NIMASA to acquire the requisite Operational Platforms which are needed to effectively patrol and carry out surveillance of Nigeria’s entire coastline.

note that the Surveillance Operations will be carried out in collaboration with the Nigerian Navy in line with the existing Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between NIMASA and the Nigerian Navy under the Maritime Command and Structure;

note that the project is aimed at addressing the challenges in the Maritime Industry

(v) note that the scope of works covers Monitoring, Patrol, Enforcement of Conventions and Improvement of Revenue;

(vi) note that the Platform upon completion will enhance effective patrol and surveillance of Nigeria’s entire coastline to achieve total Maritime Domain Awareness

(vii) note that due National Security nature of the project, Direct Procurement was adopted to this procurement under the Public Procurement Act. Section 42 (1) f;

(viii) note that Due Process Guidelines, were followed and the ICRC has approved the PPP arrangement on a ‘no cure no pay’ basis in favour of Messrs Global West Vessel Specialist Nigeria Limited (GWVSL) with an initial investment in the sum of USD103,400,000.00 Dollar only. Inclusive of all taxes on a contractor financed Supply Operate and Transfer (SOT) Concession for a period of 10 years based on performance;

(ix) note that the BPP reviewed the procurement process and issued a Certificate of ‘No Objection’ for the Provision of Platforms for Tracking Ships and Cargoes, Enforcement of Regulatory Compliance and Surveillance of the Entire Nigerian maritime Domain for Ministry of Transport/Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, in favour of Messrs Global West Vessel Specialist Nigeria Limited (GWVSL), with an initial investment in the sum of USD103,400,000.00 Dollars only, on a contractor financed supply and Transfer (SOT) concession for a period of 10 years and renewable for further 2 terms of 5 years each based on performance as recommended by ICRC and no more to avoid undue monopoly of the service by Concessionaire;

(x) note that the projected amount accruable to government over the concession period will not be less than N124billion.

(xi) note that the President vide letter Ref. No. PRES/99/MT/61, 9th November, 2011 had granted anticipatory approval for the project;

(xii) note that the Attorney General of the Federation/Minister of Justice has reviewed and approved the Draft Agreement.

(xiii) note that this project is contractor financed and does not require any Government Appropriation.

(xiv) note that this project will create 1375 job opportunities to Nigerian professional and non-professionals directly and 1620 jobs indirectly; and

(xv) Ratify the Presidents anticipatory approval for the concessioning of the Provision of Security, Monitoring and Enforcement Operational Platforms on Nigerian Waters to Ministry of Transport/Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA). In favour of Messrs Global West Vessel Specialist Nigeria Limited (GWVSL), with an initial Investment of the sum of USD103,400,000.00 Dollars (One Hundred and Three Million, Four Hundred Thousand Dollars) only. Inclusive of all taxes on a Contractor-financed Supply Operate and Transfer (SOT) Concession over 10 years concession period and renewable for further 2 terms of 5 years based on performance. (End of memo.)

The Presidency sent the memo to the National Assembly last week requesting it to consider it in place of the earlier memo on coastal guards submitted by late President Umaru Musa Yar’adua. The essential difference between the two memos is that while Yar’adua envisaged an outfit that is composed by various agencies of government related to maritime functions, Jonathan's memo is contracting the job to a private company in spite the national security implications.

Given the tribal bias that President Jonathan has so far exhibited in his appointments, one could easily see that the expected jobs will largely, if not completely, be composed of Niger Deltan militants. This neatly fits into the Ijaw nation agenda. With the militants manning the maritime domain from Lagos to Calabar, anything can happen.

The promise of joint patrol and enforcement with the Nigerian Navy is mere sweet talk. We know how government agencies and officials subserviently relate to contractors, especially those appointed by the Presidency. The mention of NSA is even more laughable because, he, like the present MD of NIMASA – Mr. Ziakede P. Akpobolokemi – is also from the Niger Delta.

There is the fear among many Nigerians that Jonathan is working hard to secure the entire resources of the region in the hands of his Ijaw tribesmen. So-called ex-Militants are presently manning pipelines in the region.

Now, there are pertinent questions to ask about the contract:

When has Nigeria become so bankrupt that an organization like NIMASA that generates hundreds of millions of dollars annually would not be able to invest $103.4m on something as crucial as its infrastructure that is so essential to our national security?

The contract does not have a total cost. All we are told is that the initial investment would be $103.4million. How would a contractor commit himself to a contract that does not have a total cost?

Equally ambiguous is the benefit that will accrue to the federal government: “not less than N124billion above the existing earnings”, or less than $1billion over a period of ten years! This means in the absence of any sharing formula even if the contractor would pay the federal government only a billion dollars in ten years where he makes, say, $10 billion, he is deemed to have performed satisfactorily. This is dubious.

Who are the 1375 Nigerian professionals and 1620 non-professionals that are going to be employed by the company? No commitment to their composition is given in the memorandum whatsoever. One can clearly see a situation where the entire workforce would be made up of Niger Delta militants. There is nothing in the memorandum to ensure a national spread of the opportunities.

What happens if the contractor does not perform? Nothing except the phrase ‘no cure no pay.’

One really wonders how “the BPP reviewed the procurement process and issued Certificate of ‘No Objection’, and how the Attorney General of the Federation/Minister of Justice reviewed and approved the agreement.

Why would the President approve such a sensitive memo in anticipation without waiting for his Council?

Why the attempt to gain the approval of the National Assembly within a day without allowing members to study it?

Who are on the board of Messrs Global West Vessel Specialist Nigeria Limited? Many are saying that it belongs to Tampolo, the famous leader of one of Niger Delta militant factions.

Finally, we would ask: why is Jonathan walking so fast… why? Does not he have faith in the future of the nation, as did the Presidents before him?

What future role remains for the Nigerian military in the Niger Delta?

Will the National Assembly approve it this week after the failed attempt to smuggle it into its proceedings of last week?

You may ask your own questions, perhaps more crucial than mine. The answers, I assure you, would not be far-fetched.

Will the

22 January 2012

NPF, Forget Kabiru Sokoto

Short essay 24
By Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde

NPF, Forget Kabiru Sokoto

Kabiru Sokoto, who some people suspect is the second in command of Boko Haram, would hardly be in police custody again. The probability that he is dead already outweighs the lesser possibility that he has crossed to neighbouring countries.

By the time he was arrested, Kabiru was planning to leave Nigeria, according to reports. That means he has gauged that the country entirely was not safe enough for his abode.

His arrest has deprived him of all his travel documents. If they are not found with the police during the ongoing investigations, then it is a proof that his escape was organized from within the force headquarters. This is a veritable litmus test.

Without the passport in his hand, a neighbouring country would come to mind first. But there too the safety would only be temporary. The authorities there are also vigilant on Nigerian migrants. They were quickly alerted, so they will be on the watch under their strong francophone surveillance network.

How small could the world be sometimes!

I strongly feel that given the uncertainty of his safety even outside Nigerian borders, the best strategy to prevent Kabiru is to kill him immediately after his escape. The arrest of Kabiru must sent some hearts outside Boko Haram racing. His escape would not bring any solace to them unless he is totally put out of circulation.

This has happened to others before him in police custody. I doubt if the Boko Haram leader, Muhammad Yusuf, was killed out of vengeance by the police. Yusuf was killed in police cell shortly after he was visited by the then Borno State Governor, Ali Modu Sheriff. Except for the recorded interview that was on Youtube which mainly focused on the ideology of Boko Haram, there is no other record of his interrogation.

In the same manner, the greatest link between the group and the Borno State Governor was brutally severed. Papers reported that Mohammad Foi was arrested on his farm, bundled on a police patrol pick-up van, and taken to the government house in Maiduguri. He begged, in vain, to see the governor. He was immediately driven away to the Police Headquarters where he was gunned down as he was made to walk on the road before a cheering public.

Stories of such executions of senior Boko Haram members in custody are common. Why would Kabiru be an exception? The same brains that hatched the idea of his escape might not lose sight of the danger his life would pose. After all, in the hierarchy of lives in the group, it is difficult to see how those forces that did not spare Muhammad Yusuf would spare the life of Kabiru. It is safer to conclude that Kabiru is most likely lying in a grave somewhere in the Federal Capital Territory.

Moreover, Kabiru has shown discomforting indiscretion in his movements. If, as reports indicate, he knew he was pursued by security agents, how came he did not severe his SIM card from his phone or get rid of both such that he can disappear from the GPRS radar?

Many are suspicious of Zakari Biu, the Commissioner of Police in whose custody Kabiru disappeared. However, Ringim, who is set to be latest Inspector General of Police to be consumed by Boko Haram on that seat, seems to be innocent. If he were an accomplice, he would not have been a target that narrowly escaped death when his headquarters was bombed. He would not have arrested Kabiru in the first place and delightfully broke the news to the President.

I am not surprised that he has stayed put. After all, others caught in similar mess ought to have resigned before him. The Minister of Petroleum, Diezani, would have preceded him. Under her, a colossal N800billion in fuel subsidy alone was stolen last year. The President himself would have also resigned along with the National Security Adviser for showing the most dismal performance among those that occupied their positions in our history.

Asking Ringim (or is it Ring him?) to produce Kabiru within 24 hrs was a project not intended to succeed. And if Kabiru is dead, as he is most probably, Ringim can be assured that his days on that seat are numbered. Azazi may soon ring him to say your time is up.

22 January 2012

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Do Not Be Afraid, Bishop Kukah Appeals

Do Not be Afraid, Bishop Kukah Appeals

By Matthew Kukah

16 January 2012

ON Christmas day, a bomb exploded at St. Theresa's Catholic Church, Madalla, in Niger State, killing over thirty people and wounding a significant number of other innocent citizens who had come to worship their God as the first part of their Christmas celebrations.

Barely two days later, we heard of the tragic and mindless killings within a community in Ebonyi State in which over sixty people lost their lives with property worth millions of naira destroyed and hundreds of families displaced. In the midst of all this, on New Year's Day, the President announced the withdrawal of fuel subsidy and threw an already angry and frustrated nation into convulsion.

Right now, I feel like the friends of Job (Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar), who came to visit their sick friend and found the burden beyond comprehension. For, as we know, when they came and found Job in his condition, they spent seven days and seven nights, and uttered not a word (Job 2:13). Right now, no one can claim a full understanding of the state we are in. However, even if we cannot understand the issues of the moment, our faith compels us to understand that God's hand is in all this. The challenge is for us to have the patience to let His will be done.

The tragedy in Madalla was seen as a direct attack on Christians. When Boko Haram claimed responsibility, this line of argument seemed persuasive to those who believed that these merchants of death could be linked to the religion of Islam. Happily, prominent Muslims rose in unison to condemn this evil act and denounced both the perpetrators and their acts as being un-Islamic. All of this should cause us to pause and ponder about the nature of the force of evil that is in our midst and to appreciate the fact that contrary to popular thinking, we are not faced with a crisis or conflict between Christians and Muslims. Rather, like the friends of Job, we need to humbly appreciate the limits of our human understanding.

In the last few years, with the deepening crises in parts of Bauchi, Borno, Kaduna, and Plateau states, thanks to the international and national media, it has become fanciful to argue that we have crises between Christians and Muslims. Sadly, the knee-jerk reaction of some very uninformed religious leaders has lent credence to this false belief. To complicate matters, some of these religious leaders have continued to rally their members to defend themselves in a religious war. This has fed the propaganda of the notorious Boko Haram and hides the fact that this evil has crossed religious barriers. Let us take a few examples which, though still under investigation across the country, should call for restraint on our part.

Some time last year, a Christian woman went to her own parish Church in Bauchi and tried to set it ablaze. Again, recently, a man alleged to be a Christian, dressed as a Muslim, went to burn down a Church in Bayelsa. In Plateau State, a man purported to be a Christian was arrested while trying to bomb a Church. Armed men gunned down a group of Christians meeting in a Church and now it turned out that those who have been arrested and are under interrogation are in fact not Muslims and that the story is more of an internal crisis. In Zamfara State, 19 Muslims were killed. After investigation it was discovered that those who killed them were not Christians. Other similar incidents have occurred across the country.

Confusing debris

Clearly, these are very troubled times for our country. But they are also very promising times. I say so because amidst this confusing debris of hate, anger and frustration, we have had some very interesting dimensions. Nigeria is changing because Nigerians are taking back their country from the grip of marauders. These stories, few as they may be, are the beginning of our song of freedom. Christians are now publicly crossing the artificial lines created by falsehood and bigotry. Let us take a few examples of events in the last week alone: In Kano, amidst fears and threats of further attacks on Christians, a group of Muslims gathered round to protect Christians as they worshipped. In Minna and recently, in Lagos, the same thing repeated itself as Christians joined hands to protect Muslims as they prayed. In the last week, Christians and Muslims together in solidarity are protesting against bad governance and corruption beyond the falsehood of religion. Once freed from the grip of these dark forces, religion will be able to play its role as a force for harmony, truth and the common good.

Clearly, drawing from our experiences as Christians, we must note that God has a message for us in all this. To elicit what I consider to be the message, I will make reference to three lessons and I know there are far more. First, these times call for prayer. At the height of our confusion during the Abacha years, the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria composed two sets of prayers; one, Against Bribery and Corruption and second, for Nigeria in Distress. Millions of Catholics have continued to recite these prayers and we must remain relentless in the belief that God hears our prayers and that God's ways are not our ways. We know that our Muslim brethren and millions of other non-Christians feel the same and are also praying in a similar way for our country.

Two, these times call for solidarity of all people of faith. We are a nation of very strong believers and despite what anyone else may say, millions of our Christians and Muslims do take their religion very seriously. However, you might ask, if that is true, why do we have so many killings in the name of God and of religion?

We live in a state of ineffective law enforcement and tragic social conditions. Corruption has destroyed the fabric of our society. Its corrosive effect can be seen in the ruination of our lives and the decay in our society. The inability of the state to punish criminals as criminals has created the illusion that there is a conflict between Christians and Muslims. In fact, it would seem that many elements today are going to great extremes to pitch Christians against Muslims, and vice versa, so that our attention is taken away from the true source of our woes: corruption. As Nigerians, Christians and Muslims, we must stand together to ensure that our resources are well utilized for the common good. This is why, despite the hardships we must endure as a result of the strike, the Fuel Subsidy debate must be seen as the real dividend of democracy

Three, religious leaders across the faiths must indeed stand up together and face the challenge of the times by offering a leadership that focuses on our common humanity and common good rather than the insignificant issues that divide us. We therefore condemn in very strong terms the tendency by some religious leaders to play politics with the issues of our collective survival.

Religious leaders

Rather than rallying our people, some of our religious leaders have resorted to divisive utterances, wild allegations and insinuations against fellow adherents of other religions. In the last five or so days, text messages have been circulating across the country appealing to some of our worst demons We are told that many senior clerics either believed or encouraged the circulation of these divisive and false text messages. We must condemn this for what it is.

For those Christians who have reacted in fear, they require conversion. If we wait for these evil men or women to decide when we shall stand for Christ, then we have surrendered our soul to the devil. If we fear to stand up for Christ now, let us remember that He has already said: Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will acknowledge before my father in Heaven, Whoever denies me before others, I will deny him before my father in Heaven(Mt 10: 32).

Again, Jesus warns that rather than fear at times of uncertainty, adversity or upheavals, we should be confident. He said: When these things begin to take place, stand erect; hold your heads high, because your liberation is near at hand(Lk. 21: 28). Furthermore, St Paul has assured us that; If we die with Him, we shall live with Him. If we endure with Him, we shall reign with him( 2 Tim 2: 11-12). Surely, those who are asking us to go under our beds, to flee in the face of persecution must be reading a different Bible.

These are difficult times but they are also times of promise. Our country has turned its back on all forms of dictatorships. Our hands are on the plough and we are resolutely committed to democracy. Like a Catholic marriage, we may not be happy but we cannot contemplate a divorce. God does not make mistakes.

Although the freedom and growth promised by democracy are not here yet, we must remind ourselves that a better tomorrow is possible, a more united and peaceful Nigeria is possible. The challenges of the last few days have shown the resilience of our people and their commitment to democracy and a better life. We believe this is possible. The government must strive to earn the trust of our people. All sides must take lessons from the demonstrations and resolve to build a better and stronger nation.

Let us hold on to the words of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XV1 when he told the President, religious, traditional rulers and people of the Republic of Benin in the Presidential Palace on November 19: Do not cut off your peoples from their future by mutilating their present...There are too many scandals and injustices, too much corruption and greed, too many errors and lies, too much violence. All peoples desire to understand the political and economic choices which are made in their name; they wish to participate in good governance. No economic regime is ideal and no economic choice is neutral. But these must always serve the common good.

Kukah is the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese

Monday, January 16, 2012

Discourse 338. The New Challenges of Boko Haram

Discourse 338
By Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde

The New Challenges of Boko Haram

Within 48 hrs of publishing Jonathan and the Security of Nigerian Christians on the internet and a number of Nigerian newspapers and websites, Imam Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Jama’atu Ahlis Sunnah Lidda’wati wal Jihad – commonly called Boko Haram – released a video on Youtube describing the objectives of its mission.

I feel that both the international and local press have not done justice to the speech of the Imam. Though he has clearly given reasons behind their mission, everything was just reduced to “Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for attacking Christians in Nigeria”, without even stating the reasons.

Given the relevance of the group to our national security today, I think it is essential for the media to maintain a balance in its reporting of the group. This is not to say ‘five minutes for the Israelis and five minutes for the Palestinians”, but a coverage that ensures the message of each side is passed to readers in the most comprehensive form possible is desirable.

In following 'few' paragraphs, I set out to discuss the most essential points of Imam Shekau’s message – the category of Nigerians that the group is targeting and its reasons for doing so. Of course, he has raised some controversial matters in the province of contemporary Islamic jurisprudence just as there are also many things he did not say which we would love to hear from him directly. However, these are matters that can best be discussed separately at a later date, hopefully, by more capable minds than mine. As conclusion, the challenges the group posed by the group to government, Muslims and Christians are discussed.


The video, according to Imam Shekau, was essentially directed at three targets: President Jonathan, for whom the Boko Haram leader promised “more troubling times ahead”; the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) for its “vituperations” in the aftermath of the recent bombings; and, individuals opposed to the group including those that see it as a “cancer or disease among the people."

Imam Shekau was also clear on who the group regards as its enemies. First on the list was security personnels who the Imam charged with persecuting members of the group, including the cold blood murder of its leader in police custody, killing many of its members and eradication of its centres; two, Christians, for killing Muslims in various parts of the North in various religious and ethnic crisis that took place during the past two and a half decades; and, three, Muslim informants and moles, "yan chune", who assist the government to identify and kill its members. “Apart from these”, said the Boko Haram leader, “we have not targeted anyone.”

Let us discuss each of these targets separately.

Security Personnels

It is difficult for anyone to suggest an alternative to going underground for the group after the treatment meted it by the Yar’adua administration in 2009. Instead of abiding by rule of law, like arresting its leader and charging him - maximum - with treason, the authorities deliberately chose to provoke the group. The police killed a number of its members during a funeral procession on the flimsy ground of not using a helmet. To date, nothing was done to the culprits.

The group promised to retaliate after Ramadan in 2009. What happened after that Ramadan when the group protested at a police station in Bauchi did not actually necessitate an all-out war against it. Many groups have attacked the police before but they were handled by normal means without resorting to extreme measures like massacres. Let us not forget the “finish them” order that President Yar’adua gave to the security forces that morning when he was leaving for Brazil. In fact, he even timed it that by 4.00pm that day, the job must have been completed.

In Bauchi, it was estimated that over seventy members of the group were massacred at their centre behind the airport. Apparently, they were even unaware of the conflict at Dutsen Tanshi police station that started that morning. By evening, the state commissioner for special duties led a team of government agents that leveled the centre with bulldozers. Passengers at the Yankari Park in Bauchi also witnessed how eight unarmed members were arrested and killed instantly by soldiers as the were boarding a bus to Maiduguri. The governor, Isa Yuguda, would later claim credit for the “decisive way” in which his government dealt with the group in his state.

In Maiduguri, what happened was pretty clear. Government went for total extermination of the group without recourse to any due process. The world was witness to how their centre was leveled by soldiers; how Muhammad Yusuf, their leader, was executed; how Muhammad Foi, a former member of Sheriff’s cabinet, was executed on the street after his arrest; and how the police and the military went about killing anyone that resembled their members to the extent that people started shaving their beards en masse; etc. A senior police officer was reported in the press saying that he cannot guarantee the life of anyone wearing such features. So many were arrested along with their wives. They remain in prison to date without trial. Extermination is still the strategy of government in dealing with the group.

While some ulama that were in the good books of government justified the killings saying that the sect is Kharijite, the world condemned the actions. We wrote essays then condemning both the ulama and the authorities on the highhandedness they showed. The government apologized to the United Nations after it was condemned for the human right abuses, promising that it will bring the perpetrators to book. Actually, it did nothing. No disciplinary action was taken against anyone until when Boko Haram bombed the Police Headquarters in Abuja in 2010. Two police officers were then reportedly dismissed from service for the murder of the Boko Haram leader.

Boko Haram therefore was left with no option but to go underground. The group did exactly that. It took time to heal its wounds, regroup and re-strategize before returning to revenge what Imam Shekau described as the “the injustice meted against it.” To my understanding this is why he chose the following verses to open his Youtube video speech:

“Truly, God defends those who believe. Verily, God likes not any treacherous ingrate. Permission to fight is given to those who are fought against because they have been wronged, and, surely, God is able to give them victory. Those who have been expelled from their homes unjustly only because they said, Our Lord is God.”

The overwhelming opinion among Muslims then was that the group was indeed treated unjustly. Public commentators from the North openly accused Yar’adua of playing ‘Animal Farm’ with his brothers. The killing of Boko Haram members came just some few months after the President negotiated and granted a lucrative amnesty to more destructive militants in the oil rich Niger Delta.

Beneficiaries of the amnesty were placed under a welfare package and chunks of the federal government expenditure was sunk into the development of that region in addition to the ‘lion share’ that its state governments collect from statutory allocations, which is greater than the allocations of all the 19 northern states. In addition, they receive 13% of Nigerian revenue earnings. Finally, as it was clear in 2011, 86% of federal projects are now allocated to that region.

The result is peace.

However, for Boko Haram, the government chose to negotiate with bullets and bombs. It is not surprising, therefore, that the group replied it in its own language. In this context, one can easily understand its resort to violence as a means of survival.

If Yar’adua was wrong in treating Boko Haram in the 21st Century with the same strategy that Shagari and Buhari used to overcome Maitatsine in the 1980s, Jonathan did little to correct that mistake. He has not shown any interest in dialoguing with the group, so far. The group has many times cited this as another reason for continuing its struggle. Appeal to its members to put down its weapons and negotiate with government and they will rebut in this standard format: “How can we trust any negotiation with people who are amassing arsenal to attack us?”

All that Jonathan did was to constitute a committee to study the group and matters related to it. When it was insinuated that the mandate of the committee included negotiating with the group, the Secretary to the Federal Government quickly dismissed any such mandate. Months after the committee submitted its report, its recommendation for peaceful negotiation between government and the group continues to remain frozen.

The result is insecurity.

This is in sharp contrast to what happened to the October 1,2010 bombers. President Jonathan laboured hard in public to exonerate the perpetrators who claimed to belong to the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta. They said they did it; he said they didn't. Security officials told the nation that they have evidence linking Raymond Dokpesi, the presidential campaign manager of Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida and owner of AIT, to the attacks. Security agents quizzed Dokpesi and some arrests were made.

The media guru transferred his support to Jonathan and allowed his channel become the mouthpiece of the President. And behold, the bombing charges were forgotten! The last thing reported between Jonathan and Dokpesi ten days ago was that the latter was paid N1.3 billion for ‘services’ he rendered to the government!

Informants, Moles and Critics

When it reappeared in 2010, Boko Haram started to selectively kill people that assisted the authorities in identifying them. The initial victims were grassroots traditional rulers, the lawanis as they are called in Borno. After killing the first few, Boko Haram issued a warning that it will go after all those that aided the authorities in persecuting them. These included a number of ulama, traditional rulers, and the three governors of Borno, Gombe and Bauchi states. It demanded pubic apologies from the governors and got it from the last two. Though the group rejected the apology, it is yet to carry out its threat against the big three. Among the high profile killings made in this category were those of the junior brother to the Shehu of Borno, the state chairman of the ruling party in the state and its gubernatorial candidate during the last elections.

Immediately the group started its selective killings, the ulama realized their vulnerability and none of them dared again to condemn the group publicly or repeat to assign it the Kharijite nomenclature. At a point, Boko Haram also issued a warning that they will also go against anyone who publicly condemns its activities, including journalists who do not live by the ethics of their profession in reporting it's activities.

The government has been unable to protect its informants and other citizens from these attacks. This partially explains the silence of the Muslim community over Boko Haram. Generally, though, it could be argued that it has not been the tradition of communities in Nigeria to criticize their own militants. The Niger Delta and the killing of Muslims in Plateau and Kaduna States are the bad examples that readily come to mind.

While whoever decides to serve as an informant or a mole knows the risk he is taking, it is my opinion that the group has gone too far when it considered criticisms as attack. By so doing, though the group would gain the advantage of instilling fear in the population, it stands the chance of losing public sympathy and gaining the benefits of correction, or nasiha as it is called in Islam.

Islam, which the group is linking its cause to, is very wide and it could harbour a variety of opinions on the same issue. Throughout its history, given the diversity of their environment, Muslims have benefitted more than losing from such differences. Divergence of opinion is counted among the blessings of the ummah. And even great Caliphs like Umar welcome corrections by ordinary members of the society when they adopted policies that are contrary to the scripture.

Likewise, there could be many other interpretations to the Nigerian situation than Boko Haram’s and if the cause is truly for the common good of the people as Imam Shekau has said, the door of constructive criticism must remain open. In his video alone, there are a number of controversial issues on which many Muslims would beg to differ from Boko Haram: the status of Christianity, democracy, jihad, western education, etc. It is the right of the Muslim community to debate them publicly in light of its understanding of Islam and it is the right of Boko Haram to rebut such points with superior arguments or accept them at its pleasure.

Having made this observation, I must hasten to mention that debates on issues regarding Islam in Nigeria are very difficult even among Muslims in particular. What I have realized in the past thirty-five years is that some people are impatient, and many times unwilling, to listen to the other side. Immediately I differ with you in opinion, the first thing I do is brand you as heretic, infidel, blasphemous, or other similar dangerously derogatory names. End of discussion! (I have been awarded a number of those insignia whenever I express an opinion that is distasteful to some pious readers.) That is why in Muslims and Rule of Law in Nigeria (2009) I wrote strongly against the people who rushed to label Boko Haram as Kharijite. Others before them have been labeled with equally disastrous names, making it difficult for mutual understanding to be reached at on any single matter that arises.

The very day their massacre started in 2009, the Bauchi State government sought and obtained from the ulama in the town a fatwa which served as a license for authorities to kill Boko Haram members without recourse to justice. Only the most elderly sheikh in town opined differently, insisting that in Islam no soul should be killed without a ruling from a judge. That is why some of the ulama fled the country when Boko Haram staged a return the following year. The governor too has abandoned the Government House and practically relocated to Abuja since he received the death threat.

The reluctance of Boko Haram to intellectually engage this kind of ulama is therefore understandable. Yet, if it will look around well, it will see that not the entire ummah is a mouthpiece of government. There are hundreds of other ulama with whom it can engage constructively.


Up to last Christmas, Boko Haram has not clearly claimed attacking any church. As we tried to do above, it is possible to see the angle from which the group justifies its attack on security personnel, informants and the like. However, making targets of innocent Christians is extremely hard, if not impossible to reason with from the Islamic viewpoint. Justifiably, nothing has negatively affected public sympathy for the group like those attacks. The uproar that greeted the Christmas bombing among Muslims and Christians alike is a testimony to the prevailing repugnance.

But let us be fair and examine the reasons of Boko Haram first before we hang it. Imam Shekau based his justification on the brutal killings of Muslims in various incidents Kaduna and Plateau State since the Kafanchan crisis. He mentioned how Muslims were killed in the various crises, their women subjected to dehumanizing treatments, and so on. The acts, and worse ones, like the reported trafficking of children of victims and the sex-slavery of Muslim women, did not receive any condemnation from Christians or their leaders. Government also declined to prosecute perpetrators clearly identified by their victims, despite the availability of hardcore evidence like pictures, videos, etc. It was against this background that the Boko Haram leader rebuffed the protest of the CAN President, as he put it, “simply because of the few successes we recorded recently”, apparently referring to the Christmas bombings and those that followed in Gombe, Mubi and Yola.

There could be few Muslims who would concur with Shekau, privately arguing that reprisal attacks are the norm in Nigeria. Christians, they would argue, would know that if they continue to kill Muslims in their areas, there are now in place a set of Muslims that will revenge it. The overwhelming majority of Muslims, however, were disappointed with the claim. I, for example, was planning to visit Gombe, Yola and Mubi to investigate the recent attacks on Christians because of the widespread belief that those attacks could not have been the work of Muslims. As I reclined on bed to plan the trip that Wednesday, the BBC Hausa Service broke the news that Boko Haram has released a video claiming to target Christians in Nigeria. I became completely devastated.

Like most people, I have my reservations about the recent attacks on Christians in the Northeast. This is not like Jonathan's case of “they said we did it, he said they didn't.” There is evidence that implicates Christians in activities linked to Boko Haram. The SSS has shared some with the public. Some were reported caught attempting to burn churches. The latest is in police custody right now in Kaduna. The last person I spoke to in Yola regarding the bombings that took place there recently. He said, “we don’t have Boko Haram here; all we have are politicians who are using the bombings to canvass votes.” An article published today by the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, our respected brother Hasan Kukah, has listed such cases. Good progress.

Despite the above revelations, the speech of Imam Shekau must be given its due weight. We must be honest to say that Boko Haram has unequivocally declared Christians as targets of its attacks. Pure and simple. Whether the group carried all attacks on Christians or not is a matter that is open to debate, which like many, I thought the Imam would clarify himself. Unfortunately, he did not.

If I were a consultant to Boko Haram, I would have advised it against taking this measure on both religious and political grounds despite my appreciation of their concern over the atrocities repeatedly committed against Muslims in many communities in Plateau and Kaduna States.

From angle of religion, it would be quite easy to prove, using unquantifiable number of sources, that collective punishment to Christians in Nigeria is not in accordance with the letter and spirit of the Qur’an. It is haram. Period. If the group had taken the pain to investigate the people or the communities that perpetrated those atrocities against Muslims and directed its anger against them, that would have put its mission of revenge in a more proper context. But to hold a Christian in Niger, Borno, Yobe or Adamawa for the wrong done by some Christians in communities of Kaduna and Plateau state is a cause that is difficult to justify. Revenge in Islam, even where it is chosen by the victim over the preferred option of forgiveness, must be surgically precise to meet the requirement of Shariah.

Politically, I would continue with my advice, attacking Christians sends different messages, all negative to the image of the group. One, some may think that the group is losing in its battle against the Nigerian authorities. Two, that attacking armless and innocent Christian worshippers could be interpreted as going for easy targets, instead of the difficult ones, like the governors that the group threatened but, so far, let untargeted. Thirdly, it may also be seen as a cheap way of conscripting the entire Nigerian Muslim community into the conflict after the group failed to earn its support. In a nutshell, it is a political blunder that it should not have ventured into.

In any case, attacking Christians does not solve any problem since it exposes Muslims to retaliatory attacks in the communities where they are a minority, thus feeding the vicious mill of violence with the blood of innocent souls. It is doubtful if God would be pleased with such a bath.

Meanwhile, the attacks have introduced some favourable developments in Muslim-Christian relationship in the country. Muslim groups, in both Northern and Southwestern parts of the country, have started visiting Christians in Churches, expressing their support for living in their communities. Some have even taken the extra-measure to give protection to churches on Sunday. The awareness has visited many that some clerics on both sides of the divide who would not care to ignite a conflagration have stepped the boundary.


In his comment on my blog after reading Jonathan and the Security of Nigerian Christians, Dr. John H. Boer, a respectable Canadian missionary that lived in Nigeria for decades until recently, wrote the following few sentences, alerting us to the challenges ahead:

“Assuming your facts to be correct, this is a very interesting analysis. If your analysis is correct, Christians, along with government and Muslims, have a huge job to do, but everyone should start at home. I have circulated your article to a lot of Christians for their consideration. Da godiya da yawa.”

That was an apt observation from an elder. It is my firm belief that government must take the lead, while both Muslims and Christians address problems of relating with each other in their communities. Government must tackle Boko Haram, not by bullets and arrests, but by negotiation as advised by its committee on the conflict. Fortunately, unlike Niger Delta militants, the group is not after material benefit. There is no reason why the government cannot dialogue with it, given the resources at its disposal. There are sufficient ulama that understand its logic and may succeed in realigning its understanding with mainstream Islam. There are also sufficient members of the group at hand that the government can use to reach out to its leaders.

Government must be even-handed in the manner it treats different communities in Nigeria. Money for one, bullets for the other will not breed peace. Prosecution to this and support to that is the differential treatment that encourages violent reprisals.

Other matters are political and a common ground to handle them can easily be discovered. There is nothing, once said the UN Secretary-General after the bombing of UN headquarters in Abuja last year, which cannot be amicably resolved through dialogue. Despite the reputation of the source of that advice, the Nigerian government has shown little interest to take it.

Among the duties of the Christian community in Nigeria, from my Muslim point of view anyway, is appreciating the frustration of Muslims with the escalation of violence against them in minority communities in Plateau and Kaduna States in particular. Horrific crimes have been committed. Silence over such atrocities by Christians, their support for the perpetrators or their manipulation of public opinion in the Christian-dominated media to shift blame to the victims only generates anger and retaliations. These conflicts are basically ethnic and political, but a religious identity is recruited to augment support for them. No true Christian will commit them. But when CAN or Christians generally justify them or manipulate them against Muslim victims, that will cultivate a fertile ground for suspicion among Muslims.

The Muslim community has an equally daunting task before it. It requires a unified voice that can express its spiritual and political aspirations. JNI and SCIA cannot play this role since its members – mostly traditional rulers – are government employees, unlike what obtains in the South or among the Christian community in the country. The Sultan, by virtue of his office, for example, cannot employ the militant posture of the CAN President, neither could any Emir. The demand for such a voice in the past did not exist for the simple fact that governance was better and the Muslim community did not face the multifarious challenges confronting it today. Frustrations about ill-treatment of some Muslim communities, like those articulated by Imam Shekau, must not be left to sediment so hard until people resort to violence.

Jointly, Muslims and Christians, especially in the North, need to find a common ground for social interaction. The gap between them in is becoming too much wide for stability. To reduce mutual suspicion and build trust among members of the two communities, avenues must be created for such interaction at all levels and spheres of human activity. Interactions in schools, offices, parks, cafes, games, resorts, churches, mosques, festivals, parks, cinemas, town meetings, and, of course, homes can all be revived to achieve this goal as it used to be before the late 1970s.

Both Muslims and Christians need to check the activities of extremists among them, people – mainly youths – with a surplus zeal to serve God but with little appreciation of the complexity of life and of contemporary Nigeria and lacking the wisdom to see things in different shades. They need to be guided accordingly by leaders of their sects and relevant authorities. Otherwise, they will continue drifting away from the centre until they reach a point where they dream of a whole world drowned in an ocean of human blood. Certainly, this will not please God who has described Himself as the Most Merciful.

Finally, we must all keep our guard against corrupt politicians, people who for their irresistible penchant to loot our treasury are always ready to exploit our differences and foment communal misunderstandings that often translate into religious crises. Northerners are more susceptible to these homo-viruses than others because religion in the region is the cheapest and most inflammable vector at their disposal. From Borno to Kwara, the realization that we are destined to live together forever is sufficient to bring us together against the wish of many that would love to divide us for their own gain.

The government may today succeed in subduing Boko Haram by arms or negotiation. But unless we meet the above challenges, another group will prop up tomorrow, among Muslims or Christians, to face us, once more, with similar or greater challenges.

16 January 2012

Do Not Be Afraid, by Bishop Hasan Kukah

I have published on this blog an article written by the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, the renowned Bishop Hasan Kukah, which appeared on the same day as mine above. It makes an interesting reading, especially as it proves that reason, truth and courage have started to overide our sentiments as the country faces real threats of disintegration. The link:


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Discourse 337 Zanga Zanga

Discourse 336
By Dr. Aliyu Tilde

Zanga Zanga

This morning the Occupy Nigeria protests against fuel subsidy removal (FSR) entered its second day. It has been a resounding success. Never in the past fifty years of my life have I seen the country absolutely shut down by a consensus of its citizens like this. Nigerians have proved to the world, and convinced themselves now, that despite their differences they collectively harbour their country in their hearts. They are not ready to sacrifice their welfare at the altar of some meaningless ethnic differences. Bravo!

It is noteworthy to mention that the protest have so far claimed minimal casualties by Sub-Saharan standards. I was delighted that the security chiefs decided at their meeting last week that protesters should not be attacked by security forces. This indicates that we are making progress in our ascent on the barometer of human rights. We need to sustain it.

As we celebrate this success, it is pertinent to start applying our intellects to the fate of the process we gallantly started. It is important to foresee the obstacles that are likely to avert its success and leave us broken-hearted. What are the possible arsenals that government would deploy from its armoury and how do we immobilize them aground? Which natural and human forces can we count on and which ones do we protect ourselves against?


Having witnessed a number of protests in Nigeria before, a number of things naturally come into focus. The first is time. This is both an enemy and a friend. From my experience, the "fizzle out" doctrine of Obasanjo and Jonathan must be a phenomenon to conquer if the protests must succeed. Many things can push people to wear out and abandon the protests. Chief among them is the biting poverty especially among urban dwellers whose majority live on daily bread. Rural dwellers will also suffer because their produce cannot sell when market days do not hold. Their vegetables will rot and their animals will go for a pittance when urban dwellers do not mop them up on market days. As the food chain is severed, city dwellers will be hit hard with scarcity.

If workers of essential services that provide healthcare, water and electricity also join the strike, life of citizens will freeze. For how long can we survive such sub-zero temperatures when we are accustomed to the motherly tropical climate of Africa must presently be the subject of intense discussions in both government and labour circles. Known that they are bereft of any hibernation skills, Nigerians must find a way to prolong their survival under such a winter, while the government intensifies its effort to drop the temperature much farther as quick as possible to enable a lethal shock effect.

I was a lecturer in Sokoto when the Dasuki crisis of 1988 broke out. On the first afternoon, it seemed as if the masses in Sokoto town would sustain their resolve to success, no matter how long it will take. The atmosphere of dissent covered the city with its rare fragrance of freedom and defiance. How pleasant was its breathe it air and how beautiful was it to witness its scenes! But by the fourth day, empty of cash and foodstuff, the people were begging for the Sokoto Market open, grudgingly depositing their fate in God, trusting that He will judge in their favour in the next world. But God wished that Dasuki will remain the Sultan, and so he did, until when Abacha deposed him in 1996.

Each us therefore has the duty of managing his affairs to enable him, his family and, of course, other Nigerians to maintain the tempo of the protest until our goal is achieved. We must know that governments under such circumstances are aware that time is naturally on their side. So they wait, like vultures, for our energies to dissipate and for our patience to runout before they strike at the few survivors with brutal force or with offers that a demoralized labour will find difficult to turn down.

Here, in addition to advising Nigerians to store provisions and cash, Labour must be innovative in inventing means to keep us marching forward. To do this, it requires the fuel necessary to keep our engines running. Fortunately, social media is here to aid us. Let there be, for example, more revelations on government corruption, what is in its mind at any given moment and the devices it plans to employ to quell the protests. Let us know the division in its ranks. A mix of fact and propaganda and facts, if you like. The government has fed us on lies all along. We must work ahead of it. As I wrote this paragraph, the following text message came in coincidentally:

"Now available for sale in different sizes: bicycles, camels, horse and donkeys. We can also train and equip your dog, goat, ram,etc to carry u around. They all don't use fuel or gas. Visit us at our office. No. 1, Oil Subsidy Road. Alison Madueke Junction. Goodluck Close. Off Okonjo-Iweala Street, by Labaran Maku Avenue, Austin Aniwon Crescent, Sanusi Lamido Area, Abuja. Or call 080-GEJ/DAM P-ABUJA."

What a pleasant satire!

As found in other countries, the larger population should mobilize its singers to entertain its mind and instigate its writers to feed its resolve. Elders and our women must strike at the nerve of revolt in our youths and revive their African courage. For their personal aggrandizement and the neocolonial ends of their masters in the World Bank and IMF, few gangsters that have been sucking our blood must not be allowed to continue killing the African child and enslaving 164 million of its folk. This is an opportunity to break their shackles and end their misrule.

Once we can defeat time and sustain the protests, the government will be brought to its knees. This is the secret behind the success of the Arab Spring, when they confronted Pharoahs like Ben Ali, Mubarak and Gaddafi, professionals in tyranny, worse than the thieving rats that we call our leaders. The international community that Jonathan is so mindful of will then press him to yield yo our demands in the fear that he may lose the power all together. That is when time becomes our friend.


But the government is not likely to count on the passive effect of time alone. I have no doubt that it will attempt to use more active strategies.

Money, politics and religion will be recruited by government at will as potent agents of destabilizing the protests. Since the beginning of his tenure, President Jonathan has shown unprecedented readiness to disburse huge money to buy off his opponents, religious leaders and the parliament. In fact, this is the crux of the FSR. To partially finance his election campaigns, commentators have alleged that over N800 billion was stolen in the name of subsidy, causing the figure to jump from its traditional N300 billion annually.

An attempt will be made to buy the trade unions leaders or part of them. Mainstream religious leaders have already started a campaign to persuade their followers from future participation, as evidenced from a BBC Hausa interview with some leaders of Jammatu Nasril Islam and CAN last Saturday. The name of God will be invoked to anasthetise the population.

Likewise, there are allegations that the National Assembly has been compromised before it went on Christmas holiday. Part of the advanced payment, it is alleged, was the removal of Farida Waziri from the EFCC chair and the payment of N10 million to each senator and N5m to each member of the House of Representatives before the Christmas break. Though we may never know the truth about this, the silence of the parliamentarians, especially the senators, is surprising, given how they shouted down the President when he introduced the matter to them at a special dinner earlier in 2011.

Jonathan, his cabinet and the governors can also appeal to PDP sentiments among the population. They can create an atmosphere that will enable them claim that the opposition has hijacked the protests; that it is a subversive attempt to bring down the PDP government; etc. Organized labour and Nigerians in general must, therefore, be watchful of politicians that cannot resist the temptation of manipulating the protests to their ends.

Lastly, "Boko Haram" is a readily available tool. Mercenaries can be sent to kill worshippers in order to stir bad blood amongst us and divert our attention. Already serious questions are being raised about the identity of the people who carried out the recent attacks on Christians in the Northeastern towns of Gombe, Mubi and Yola. We hope the security agents will tell Nigerians the truth about them.


When push comes to shove, government will employ its security apparatus or thugs to stop the protests by blocking, intimidating and attacking civilians, not withstanding the resolve of the security chiefs not to deploy force. Protesters will be ready to remain peaceful, but violence can easily be instigated by hiring some agents to commit arson on government property, to engage the police in violence, etc. We have already witnessed the unfortunate incident at Government House Kano yesterday. Such attacks will provide government with the desired pretext to "retaliate" to "keep the peace", using live ammunition as they have done twice in Kano.

Whether the death of their countrymen would ignite the fear in Nigerians, persuading them to abandon the protest, or the blood of its martyrs would water the tree of their defiance is a quest that cannot be answered with any certainty now. The use of violence by government, however, is a possibility that is highly probable, especially with many Nigerian governors who have finished calculating how much they would loot from the FSR funds and who have so far shown zero degree of restraint in unleashing state apparatus of coercion against their citizens.


The most lethal weapon Nigerians can employ apart from hoarding its abour is to immobilize the security personnel upon which the government depends. Let us persuade soldiers, policemen, custom officers and immigration officials to side with us, their brothers and sisters. Once they refuse to be used by government, Jonathan will have no option but to concede to our demands. This responsibility does not rest with labour alone but with anyone among us who can reach out to someone among the security forces.

State of Emergency

Finally, a state of emergency will be the joker that the President will use, if all the above fail. We have seen how the PDP used curfew to rig elections in Kaduna and Bauchi States. The need to use it when the regime is under threat will be more compelling by a President that is deaf to the demand of his entire countrymen.


These are the challenges awaiting the protests that are currently dubbed "Occupy Nigeria" or Zanga Zanga in Hausa. Mentioning them here is not intended to discourage, but to remind us that the path to freedom has never been smooth for anyone throughout history. Freedom, the Americans say, is not free. Or as the late Sayid Qutb would put it, "the tree of a cause is watered by the blood of its martyrs."

10 January 2012

Monday, January 9, 2012

Discourse 336. Jonathan and the Security of Nigerian Christians

Discourse 336
By Dr. Aliyu Tilde

Jonathan and the Security of Christians in Nigeria

The latest revelation by the President of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Pastor Oritsejefor, calls for instant comment even as the country braces up for a shutdown by its labour unions tomorrow. I am afraid that this voice will be drowned in the sea of the ongoing protests on fuel subsidy removal. It is unfortunate that the nation has to face the two weighty issues simultaneously due to the incompetence of its leadership. The situation doesn’t allow us to sacrifice one for the sake of the other.

The CAN President addressed a press conference saying that Christians are “taking their fate in our hands”, that “we have decided to work out means to defend ourselves against these senseless killings.” This came in the aftermath of the killings of Christians in Gombe, Mubi and Yola during the past four days. Some, like Aljazeera, have already interpreted the statement as signaling an impending civil war in Nigeria.

It is difficult for anyone not to sympathize with the challenging position that religious leaders find themselves in Nigeria today. On the one hand, Christian leaders cannot be expected to keep mute while their followers are slaughtered. CAN leadership since Arch-Bishop Okogie has never hesitated to call for war at the slightest provocation. We heard it during the OIC, Sharia and Islamic Banking debates. These were mere policy issues. When the issue is that of attacking churches and killing Christians, one can expect another declaration of war from a leadership with such pedigree. Apparently, the government is lagging many kilometers behind Boko Haram. Who would justifiably expect Oritsejefor to keep quiet? He must say something.

On the other hand are Nigerian Muslims who are helpless in the situation are often accused by their Christians brothers of not doing much to stop the attacks by Boko Haram. They wonder what mere condemnation would do in the face of bullets and bombs. In fact, most Muslims whom I discussed the issue with hold the belief, like many of their leaders, that Boko Haram is a conspiracy against Islam and the Muslim North. As evidence, they do not hesitate to point accusing fingers at northern Christians known to have links with Boko Haram and the instances in which Christians were caught attempting to bomb churches. The arrest and interrogation of a Christian called Yakubu Bityong by the SSS on charges of financing Boko Haram also got the Muslims say, "Aha. You see?"

Another source of dilemma for Muslims is that these killings are happening unabated when the top echelon of the country’s security apparatus is dominated by Christians: The President and Commander-in-Chief or the Armed Forces, Goodluck Jonathan, is a Christian, just as are his Chief of Defence Staff, Chief of Army Staff, National Security Adviser and Director of State Security Services; only the Inspector General of Police and the Chiefs of Air and Naval Staff are Muslim, the last two having no direct relevance to the issue of Boko Haram. The Police chief has little to say since the army took over the fight against the group. In fact, he hardly say anything about Boko Haram since the bombings of his headquarters. Meet him on one to one, he speaks about the issue with his tongue in his cheek.

Muslims reason that if these people, on whose shoulders rests the entire security of the country, fail to discharge their constitutional responsibilities for reasons best known to them, how can the Sultan – the ceremonial leader of Muslims in Nigeria, for example, stop Boko Haram killings when he does not command a single soldier or superintend the security his ward? The Sultan and other Muslims can condemn Boko Haram saying that their actions are illegal, un-Islamic, etc., as they have done, but that has not and will not change anything. What will check Boko Haram is intelligence, weapons, police and security personnel and the will to deploy them.

Muslims will also not forget to cite the roles played by Muslim ex-Presidents and Heads of State in suppressing Muslim insurgency. President Shehu Shagari and Maj. General Muhammadu Buhari did not waste time in brutally dealing with Maitatsine in the early 1980s. Both Buhari and President Babangida arrested and jailed Ibrahim El-Zakzaky for preaching anti-government doctrines, even though he and his followers have never carried any weapon or attacked anyone. In fact, he was against the burning of Churches during the Kanfanchan crisis riots. Yet the government found it expedient to use the tribunal to jail him. In 2009 when Boko Haram made its first public outing in retaliation to the extrajudicial killings of their members by the police, President Yar’adua brutally repressed them. In both Bauchi and Maiduguri, they were massacred and their bases leveled instantly by bulldozers, acts that courted worldwide condemnation by human right groups.

However, the performance of Christian Presidents is a direct contradiction of the Muslim regarding religious insurgency and criminal activities. Boko Haram first surfaced as “Nigerian Taliban” during the era of President Olusegun Obasanjo, a self-confessed born-again Christian. He did practically nothing to stop them, so much so that the then Director of SSS, Mr. Gadzama, was baffled at how the administration was adamant in checking a group that was becoming increasingly armed. Instead, it is commonly known that the leader of Boko Haram, Muhammad Yusuf, was twice bailed by Professor Jerry Gana, an elder in CAN and a Minister under Obasanjo. To my knowledge, Gana has not denied the story.

Also, the person widely known to have links with the group during its formative stage, former Borno State Governor, Ali Modu Sheriff, was a lackey of Obasanjo. Just few minutes after he met the Boko Haram leader in police cell in 2009 where he spoke to him in his native Kanuri, the former was executed in cold blood by the police. That was just after another top Boko Haram member, Modu’s Commissioner for Religious Affairs was also gunned down by the police on the street to the loud ovation of the public.

After President Yar’adua, Jonathan continued with Obasanjo’s deficit of interest to check Boko Haram. It is unbelievable to see how a government in a digital age would fail to apprehend a few thousand insurgents and their leaders who are using GSM freely to coordinate their activities and communicate with local and international press; how it will fail to prosecute arrested members of the group; how it will refuse to apprehend its known sponsors and associates; etc. It must be noted that so far, of all the thousands arrested, only one person has been prosecuted. He was quickly given a laughable jail term of three years only. This kind of evidence goes a long way to prove that there is a deliberate attempt on the part government to sustain the crisis.

So if anybody is looking for where to place his blame, he should deposit it on the doorstep of the President. I have heard Serah Jibril, David Mark and CAN leadership accusing northern leaders of not being forthcoming in condemning Boko Haram, though they are equally silent on the war crimes committed by Christian militia in central Nigeria. Muslims complain that the Sallah massacre of Muslims at a prayer ground at the end of last Ramadan where their bodies were roasted and eaten by Christians before the very eyes of security agents did not attract any condemnation from Christian leaders, the Nigerian President, or the foreign leaders and press.

If the Christian leadership would be dispassionate, I think they should redirect their criticism at the President, instead of taking the simple path of blaming a helpless section of the Nigerian population. If he is incompetent, let them tell the world, as they would hastily do were he a Muslim President. They must hold him responsible for their insecurity.

Blaming Jonathan, however, is the last thing that CAN would do. Since he became President, he has come to rely on it for support in both politics and administration. It supported his candidature almost 100%. How would it in one breath celebrate his victory and in the next advocate his incompetence? CAN is also quick to come to his rescue on any national issue, no matter unpopular it may be. Some weeks ago, its chairman tried to rope in the Christian community into accepting the unpopular decision of removing fuel subsidy, saying that CAN was supportive of the move. It took a threat from the northern wing of the organization before he withdrew the statement, claiming that he was misquoted.

Jonathan on his part has expressed his gratitude in many ways. He has used the congregation of his church in Abuja to announce important policy statements of his administration and avail Nigerians of his mindset. Today, he made this startling revelation at the interdenominational church service to mark Armed Forces Remembrance day in Abuja:

"Some of them are in the executive arm of government, some of them are in the parliamentary/legislative arm of government while some of them are even in the judiciary.
Some are also in the armed forces, the police and other security agencies. Some continue to dip their hands and eat with you and you won't even know the person who will point a gun at you or plant a bomb behind your house."

Mhmm. Jonathan, the hostage of the invincible and omnipresent Boko Haram, is courting sympathy.

In fact, it was in the aftermath of its meeting with the President after the Christmas bombing at Suleja that CAN leadership threatened to retaliate, before it downgraded the posture to self-defence later.

Let us now examine the implication of CAN’s resort to self-defense. On the surface it loo unavoidable,but cut it deep, it is untenable.

Practically, it will require a massive militia and weapons to stem a credible defense against attack on its members. The problem is that we are talking of defending at least 65 million people. How would CAN go about this? How many hundreds of thousands of militia would it require? How many AK47s would it need?

I live in a predominantly Muslim village with only about 5% Christians. Their population has been dwindling since the beginning of the Jos crisis. Yet there are at least five churches. Each church would require at least 5 rifles to defend it against attack from gunmen, Boko Haram or otherwise. That means 25 rifles would be needed to be manned by a greater number of people. In addition, how would CAN protect them against bombs, for example? By acquiring bombs too?

Now, I guess that as the most religious country in the world, there could be about a million churches in Nigeria, some holding congregations of thousands of people at a time. How many rifles would be required nationwide to defend those churches: Five, ten, twenty million? How many youths will CAN need to defend them? In whose custody will the weapons be? From where will they get the money to purchase them? Will Jonathan provide it from the 2011 security vote that is about a trillion naira? Who will give them the permission to acquire the weapons in the first place? Again, the President?

And what happens on the other side of the divide? Would Muslims sit back and watch every church armed with weapons and militant youths without asking for the same concession to pile up arms against a possible attack by Christians? More than 90% of those killed by Boko Haram are Muslims. Would the President also allow Muslims to take up arms in self-defence?

It is here I see the call for self-defense by CAN as infeasible in any civilized society. Nigeria is not the only country where criminal gangs or religious extremists operate violence. But citizens hardly resort to self-help under circumstances like this. They will depend on government to provide such security. Taking the law into one’s hand by arming members of one’s group will logically lead to civil war in any society. That is how Aljazeerah reached its conclusion that Nigeria is heading towards a civil war. CAN, to the delight of many enemies of one Nigeria, will be starting a fire that it will not be able to quench. And if the intention of Boko Haram or whoever is bombing churches in Nigeria, having failed to get Muslims to support or join it, is to ignite a religious war in the country, then CAN would have easily aiding and abetting that objective.

So unless that is what the whole idea behind Boko Haram is intended for, CAN leadership should put Jonathan on the hot seat and hold him responsible for our insecurity. It owes the nation that responsibility since it is closer to the President than anyone. Instead of blaming Nigerian Muslims, it should press Jonathan to show resolve similar to that of the Muslim presidents we mentioned earlier. I have no doubt that the Nigerian Muslim community will support him overwhelmingly. I hereby ledge my support in advance.

Why is this happening to Nigeria? Perhaps an answer could be found in Part II of this series where we will survey the six or so hypotheses behind what can now be correctly termed as Boko Haram syndrome.

Until then, please join the labour to protest against the removal of fuel subsidy that will start tomorrow. And when you pray, please pray for a peaceful coexistence among the different peoples of Nigeria. Pray also for the President such that he wakes up from his slumber and lead us out of this mess, for the price of failure could be costly. We do not need a badluck. A good one is better.

8 January 2012

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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Short Essay 23. Fuel Subsidy: SLS, Please Stay Off Debate

By Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde

Fuel Subsidy: SLS, Please Stay Off Debate

It is difficult to justify the removal of this subsidy. Personally, i believe that the Nigerian government can afford the 220billion or so required to sustain it on behalf of its people. That is just about $1.4 billion or less, just a fraction of the commission (or earnings) it makes from oil companies annually. That the amount has reached over a trillion naira is not our fault, but that of the government that deliberately fails to carry out its responsibility of checkmating them.

Incidentally, two weeks ago I was listening to a friend from CBN who was trying to educate me on the necessity of removing the subsidy. In the end his explanation boiled down to the sad truth that people benefiting from the subsidy cannot be confronted by the government. They are big, he said.

I told him the government is not honest. I then asked him a simple question that sealed the discussion: "Kai Kabiru! If the government would appoint someone like Sanusi Lamido Sanusi to head the NNPC, will he be able to check this corruption and maintain the subsidy at the reasonable level of N200+ billion?" He said, "Yes, he can."

"In fact", he added, "the realization of the extent of extortion came when Sanusi started to question the storage capacities and other facilities of some oil companies whose claims were submitted to him for payment. Sanusi refused to pay them."

I said, "there you are. Let Jonathan be more courageous and have more Sanusis in government. If you want government to work, you must have corruption-free people in it. But removing the subsidy will definitely court trouble in this now highly inflammable country, so big that we cannot even imagine. Allah ya sauwake."

While we do that, we must keep vigil on some novice politicians that are now trying to ride on our anger to gain cheap popularity and access power. This is not about PDP. It is about our being. Other parties will do the same, given the antecedents of their leaders. Every past government since 1984 has visited us with its own version of heartless economic policies without consultation, leading to the ruin of so many homes forever. Though he is the present, Jonathan is not the first and if we will allow some manipulators power, he will certainly not be the last. The difference here is that, like citizens of the 21st century, we are now standing up to it, saying enough is enough.

Some of these politicians were the architects of World Bank sponsored privatization policies that were ill conceived and ill managed. They also designed the present deregulation in the early 2000s under Obasanjo in concert with Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. The records are there and the memory fresh. Like Jonathan today, they were deaf to the criticisms we wrote then. How would they gain our support today when we know they will do worse if allowed power again? They have written their records in our minds with indelible ink. They masterminded our present state of poverty and insecurity. Their children are abroad studying; ours are here wallowing at home. We will be reckless to trust them.

In fact, the mere participation of such politicians carries the fatal virus that will divide us, with the government and PDP members labeling it as a machination of the opposition. Then the government would buy some people to claim that Muslims and Northerners are plotting against their 'God-sent' Jonathan. In Nigeria there are always an infinite number of people that would swallow that argument, hook, line and sinker. At that point, many of us will withdraw and the government will have its way.

The labour is meeting today. Their resolution will determine when the real protests will start. This nonsense must stop.

I will appeal to Sanusi to please stay off this debate. Yesterday I travelled to Bauchi - a distance of just 100km - and had to use the fuel of N6,500.00 on the bus I carried my children back to school. This is madness and sheer wickedness. We the people are really angry. We can go to any length on this matter, and genuinely for that matter.

The only thing that would quench our fire is for the President to back down. Otherwise, we are ready to take the country high and wild. If this is a joke, please stop it SLS.  "The people are like a river," if I must borrow from the wisdom of al-Mutanabbi: "cross it when it is calm, but avoid it when it is violent."