Can Northern Leaders Sway Boko Haram? By Garba Shehu


Despite the trial of the police officers that shot and killed their founder, Mohammed Yusuf in 2009, the Haram militants appear ever determined to continue their campaign of terror. In fact, even the N100million naira compensation paid to the families of late Yusuf by the Borno State government recently didn’t sway the Haram sect from halting their violent and indiscriminate attacks on intended and unintended targets. The worst single case of human casualty was the recent Friday suicide bomb and gun attacks on police headquarters and other stations in Kano, which claimed almost 200 lives, including innocent passers-by and others caught up in the disaster. Kano State harbours the largest Muslim population in the North and is traditionally the centre of commerce. Yet this fact didn’t stop the Haram sect from carrying out their threats to attack Kano. The attack on Kano dealt a blow to the theory that only Christians are targets of Boko Haram. In fact, the Emir of Kano openly shed tears while receiving President Jonathan who paid a condolence visit to Kano State over the tragic incident.

With the deadly attack on Kano on a Friday by the renegade Islamic sect, it is curious why anyone should blame Northern leaders their alleged inability to halt the Haram terror campaigns. Despite the open condemnations of Haram activities by two former Heads of State such as General Babangida, General Buhari and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Southern leaders, particularly the Ijaw leaders, President Goodluck Jonathan’s tribesmen have continued to blame Northern political leaders their reluctance to persuade Haram to disarm. General Babangida openly said that no force can break up Nigeria, a reference to those who alleged that Boko Haram is a prelude to Nigeria’s disintegration in 2015. He was also responding to the Ijaw Youth Council which said that if President Jonathan is the last President of a united Nigeria, they didn’t bother!

Also, in his forceful response to the Haram attack on Kano, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar said the destruction of life under any guise was unacceptable and that any efforts to ruin Nigeria’s unity should be condemned by all.

The Boko Haram Muslim extremists are driven by the stubborn sentiment of martyrdom. How do you deal with anyone who is ready to die, someone who can deliberately ram a bomb-laden car into a target with the full knowledge that he will be destroyed along his targets? Martyrdom expels fear because death is a deterrent to those driven by these convictions. That is why the Boko Haram violent campaign is more complex than the insurrection in the Niger Delta. Boko Haram uses suicide bombers and snipers, making their methods of attacks relatively unknown in Nigeria. Despite the government’s attempt to infiltrate the sect and cause a split, with a view to weakening its structure and viability as a security challenge, the Boko Haram remains a potent and stubborn enemy of the state.

Is it fair to blame Northern leaders their “failure” to disarm this shadowy or invisible enemy of the state? With Atiku Abubakar, Babangida, General Buhari, General Gowon, Senate President David Mark and Speaker Aminu Tambuwal openly condemning the Boko Haram violence, how much more efforts can any fair-minded Nigerian expect from this totally embarrassed Northern leaders? The Sultan of Sokoto, the Council of Islamic Affairs and the Jama’atul Nasril Islam have also condemned the Boko Haram activities in the strongest language.

Yet, the Southern leaders assume that the Northern leaders have a quick-fix to the Boko Haram security challenge. In fact, Northern leaders are even more courageous in taking a stand against the Boko Haram than the Southern leaders’ half-hearted and timid position against the OPC, Niger Delta and MASSOB militants. Despite the campaign of economic sabotage and kidnapping for ransom as well the recent campaign for secession by the former Niger Delta militants, political leaders in the South timidly distanced themselves for criticizing them. In fact, at one point in their violent campaign, the former Niger Delta militants massacred 14 personnel during security operation. Despite the fact that kidnapping was outside the objectives of the struggle for resource control, the political leaders in the area openly identified with the “freedom fighters.” not aware of any sincere and open criticism against the ethnic cleansing atrocities of the OPC by any notable South-West political figure. Let us remind ourselves. The former Spokesman of President Olusegun Obasanjo, a week ago launched a blistering attack on Northern leaders accusing them of complicity in Boko Haram killings. Is there any record of Okupe at any time condemning the genocidal killing of Northerners by the OPC? It is also noteworthy that no Igbo leader of note was ever on record condemning the open campaign by MASSOB to breakup Nigeria. Can anyone specifically remind us of any such words that have ever been spoken by the respectable diplomat, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, who recently turned the heat on Northern political leaders over the Boko Haram?

It is the height of hypocrisy, therefore, to hold Northern leaders accountable for the deadly activities of Boko Haram. How would any reasonable Northern leader support the breakup of Nigeria? How can they protect their interests in a divided Nigeria? Boko Haram does not respect social or political institutions of control. If they do, it would have easier to start the process of dialogue and disarmament. The Northern political leaders are not even trusted by the group because the sect perceives them as part of the decadent society. What the Niger Delta and other Southern leaders are expecting from their counterparts from the North is a tall order. Pronouncing Northern leaders guilty for not containing Boko Haram is ridiculous. If the Southern leaders were in the shoes of Northern leaders, they would have sung a different tune. They would have discovered that the idea of a quick-fix to the security challenge is a mirage.

The message I want Nigerians to hear this week is that they have a President and Commander-in-Chief who has at his disposal the armed forces of the federation and all of the intelligence they can muster. It is this man’s constitutional duty to protect life and property and if that man thinks the heat is too much in the kitchen, he can get out. Those who say Northern leaders are responsible for ending this unwanted situation are just begging the issue. In reality, they are just making excuses for the failure of the government.

While the OPC, MASSOB and Niger Delta insurgents enjoy the support of their political leaders, the Northern political is in sympathy with the Boko Haram agenda, which include strict imposition of Shariah on a multi-religious country like Nigeria. They are aware of the impracticality of such ambition by the sect and would not have endorsed anything that can threaten the country’s unity. In contrast, the Niger Delta, South-West and South-East own and identify with the sectional agitations in their regions. Northern political leaders on the other hand don’t own the Boko Haram. Given the sophistication of their warfare and propaganda, Boko Haram may be a phantom of a major, major international conspiracy against the corporate entity, the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

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