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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

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Yuguda Dismisses Abbass over Facebook Post

Yuguda Dismisses Abbas over Facebook Post@@@ Yuguda, the Bauchi State governor, deserves to be on Guinness Book of Record for being the first known governor in the entire world to dismiss a civil servant over sharing a post on Facebook. This inglorious record was set yesterday, Monday 19 November, when Abbas who was until then on suspension formally received a termination letter from the office of the Head of Service. The letter read thus:@@@ TERMINATION OF APPOINTMENT@@@ I am directed to refer to the civil service commission's letter No. CSC/PRO/S/001/T.V dated 1st November 2012 to convey the commission's approval of your suspension and termination of appointment from Bauchi State Service with effect from 10th October, 2012 as your service is no longer required, please.@@@ Signed@@@ Ibrahim shehu@@@ For: Head of Service.@@@ The letter was expected given the vindictive nature of the regime, which, surprisingly, came to power partly as a result of the Yuguda's tales of victimization in the hands of his bosom friend and predecessor, Muazu. But it didn't take much time before the world came to know who is more quickly given to vendetta between the two.@@@ From the content of the letter, it appears that the government is trying to avoid controversy. Thus it failed to provide any reason for the termination other than the mere expression of discretion to keep or fire Abbas. It is however questionable whether under our civil service rules a termination can be slammed at any civil servant without resort to due process.@@@ Instead, he was gagged and kept under police detention for ten days before he was granted a bail by the court. The filing of his case before the court was itself dubious as it violated every letter and spirit of the penal code regarding defamation. It was, therefore, easy for the Nigerian Bar Association to throw spanners into the charges and the case was summarily terminated. Having failed in the courts, the administration is resorting to impunity and arbitrariness. Neither in court nor before the committee he appeared did anyone requested Abbas to provide any evidence to support the allegations on the post he copied from another page and shared. In law, such evidence provides a complete defense in any case of defamation. @@@ Bauchi State government is a public body that can be challenged before the appropriate court of law if it violates the rules that govern its operations. The attorneys of Abbas should explore the possibility of appeal. Doing so will greatly leap the cause of justice.@@@ The irony is that I have never seen where the government denied the allegations of corruption labelled against the governor in the Facebook post as the happenings are common knowledge in Bauchi. Neither did it challenge Abbas to provide any evidence. The world, however, will one day know who is telling the truth: Facebook or Yuguda. We are not in a hurry.@@@ I will still reiterate the advice I once gave to my brother Yuguda. He should shun injustice and vendetta. They are characteristics of a weak leader than cannot tolerate criticism. One expects that a person that will victimize someone for a simple Facebook posting will be strong enough to face Boko Haram. But Yuguda simply walked away from its threat to kill him and literally abandoned Bauchi for a hideout in Abuja. This is very much unlike Fulani. I hope he listens this time. It is just two years left before everything becomes history. Many before have come to Bauchi and left.@@@ As for Abbas, I will advise him to remain patient and steadfast. He should follow his case to its logical conclusion. As he does so, I hope the public will support him by expressing its sympathy and encouragement.@@@ Aliyu

Saturday, November 3, 2012

A Tribute to Dr. Ibrahim Waziri by Dr. F. B. Damagum

A Tribute to Dr. Ibrahim Waziri Dr. Fatima B. Damagum, a female classmate of a slained medical doctor in the Northeastern town of Potiskum, Northern Nigeria, recounts his virtues and laments his departure. It is a heart-touching account among hundreds of others in the ongoing Boko Haram crises that has ravaged that part of Nigeria. I remember a discussion I had with my kid’s nanny once. She was recounting the death of her son and how much of a good son he was, and finally she ended up with “Ai Allah ba ya barin nagari”, literarily meaning Allah (SWT) does not leave the good ones. (In actual sense it means, the good ones always die early). Apparently it is a common Hausa saying but having never heard it before and being a bit hot-headed, I immediately reprimanded her and told her not to utter those words again, preaching to her instead that everyone’s time of death was already written and we should not speak such blasphemy against our creator. As she could not argue with her employer and thinking I was more knowledgeable than her, she let the matter rest. I have since regretted the way I handled the situation. Since graduating from medical school in 2008, our class has experienced its share of death - Ahmad Yaqub and Ibrahim Ajiya Waziri. I am not ashamed (and I’m sure many will agree) to say that the two were the best in our class, not academically - though they were quite brainy - but, more importantly, in terms of character. They were good, morally upright, well read, serious minded, ambitious young men that any mother would be proud to call her sons. Ibrahim was the Amir of REMSA (Remedial Muslim Students Association) and Ahmad was Amir of both POMSSA (Part One Muslim Science Students Association) and NAMHS (National Muslim Health Students Association). Both of them are gone. I know it is customary to sing the praises of people after their death when in real life their faults were all people could see. But wallahi in the case of Ibrahim waziri, it is the golden truth. To put it plainly, he was a rare gem. After my move to Maiduguri after secondary school, I was opportune to be his neighbour on our street behind School of Nursing, Damboa Road; and after we both gained admission to study medicine in the same university we quickly became friends. He was smart, good-hearted and honest. But his best quality was how well he got on with people. He loved his mother dearly and doted on her. He was a bookworm and we used to tease him about being a suffer-head. He didn’t mind, his nose was too buried in his books to care. He would come over to our house and gist with my family members and even after I got married he would still go and keep my mother company. Ibrahim was the brother I never had. In our final year, we were required to pick a group with which we would spend 8 weeks in the village while we carried out final year project. Because the boys were twice our number, each group was to comprise of two girls and four boys, I immediately picked "Ibbi". The reason was simple: I felt safe with him. I can go on and on. Ibrahim was nice, very nice. How many guys do you know who sleep and tend to their mothers while on admission in a hospital? Ibrahim would go to classes during the day and sleep at night by her hospital bed whenever his diabetic mother was admitted. He changed her and tended to her every needs. She once confided in me that with him she didn’t miss not having a daughter. Meanwhile, in our street, he became everyone’s family physician. I have lost track of the number of times my mother would call him to attend to my sisters’ many ailments and he does it without any fuss or excuses. I remember quite vividly once when my mother was acutely ill and he was called at night to come and attend to her. Not only did he go, but he also took her to the hospital where he worked, admitted her, treated her and kept checking on her until she enquired if he was interested in one of my sisters! How many times did he give me a ride to and from school? How many times did my friends and I pile into his then Toyota in the early days of school when we went to the lab for gross anatomy or biochemistry practicals? How many messages have I had him deliver for me while I was staying in the hostel? He even gave me my first driving lesson! He was there at my wedding. He also there when I delivered my first son. Here, I seek the indulgence of my readers to recount his modesty. In his typical shy nature, he refused to enter the labour room, even though he was doing his Obstetrics and Gynaecology (O&G) rotation then as a House-officer. Instead, he preferred to sit at the nurses’ station where he could observe the happenings around me and at the same time respect my privacy as I laboured in pain. In addition to all these, Ibrahim was industrious. He was enterprising enough to rent a shop as a student and start a photocopying business while many of us were still living off our parents and feeling like kids. I received the news of Ibrahim Waziri’s demise on Saturday, the 20th of October 2012, with a shock, as if my whole world was shattered. A couple of months ago I was pleased when he informed me about his new appointment with the Federal Ministry of Health. After the customary orientation procedure in Abuja however, he was posted to Potiskum, Yobe state to work in the National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS) as he was an indigene of the state. He sent me a text message to that effect. I was appalled at first but immediately called and reassured him that it could be for the best and wished him well. Over the past few months, he would post pictures of the sorry state of some local government hospitals on Facebook and my classmates and I would discuss at length and lament over the decline of healthcare in our rural communities. I remember the way my hand shook when my husband broke the news of his death to me that morning. Ibrahim and his father were murdered and their bodies dumped unceremoniously somewhere on the outskirts of Potiskum. I can figure out death from from natural causes, illness or even an accident but I cannot understand the way my good Ibrahim died. Why? Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un! Unfortunately for me, I was on call that day and had to go to work. I tried to put on a bold face but I could not. I was a bundle of nerves, crying on the phone and messing up prescriptions and diagnosis. For the past couple of months, Maiduguri, Damturu and Potiskum have been under siege and residents have been caught in a crossfire between the alleged “Boko Haram” and the JTF. Therefore, the news of indiscriminate killings have reached us and sensitized us a little. But the truth is unless someone you really know is hurt you are not likely to feel the real weight of the sorrow. According to a report Ibrahim and his father were both kidnapped from their residence at about 1:30am after their house was pillaged and burnt. The two were then taken to a remote destination where they were killed and dumped. Some say they were shot; others claim they were slaughtered. But in the end, all that matters is that Ibrahim died because of his virtue: He refused to allow the gunmen to take his father away and, as a result, he too became a victim. Sometimes when I remember him, I shed silent tears of sorrow, sometimes, my body is seized by racking loud sobs of frustration and anger. Nobody deserves to die this way. I can only imagine what was going through their minds from the time they were seized to the time of they were killed. I cannot imagine the horror they endured. Allah ya isa! In Islam, we are taught to accept whatever happens to us as destiny and Allah’s will. With this understanding comes contentment and peace. What God has willed will always come to pass. Now I can reconcile with what my nanny said. “Allah ba ya barin nagari”. Ibrahim, I will miss you forever. No amount of prose will explain my heart, no poem can render my sorrow. Only a prayer can suffice: May Allah grant you Paradise. Amin.