A Father’s Uncommon Sacrifice ,By Dele Agekameh

agekameh 600Sometime last year, I wrote about how important it is to have more people willing to share information with security agencies in the fight against violence and terror in the northern part of the country. In that piece entitled: “Boko Haram and the North”, my argument was that one crucial missing factor that had been hindering the fight against violence, especially the sort of organised terror for which groups like the Boko Haram (and now, also, Ansaru) have become notorious for championing in the North, is the insistence of those with valuable knowledge about these groups to consciously shield their relatives and

friends purely on filial affinity. And as many commentators have noted, such primordial considerations need to change in the interest of peace and the poor, suffering people of the North.

So when, recently, I read the story of an anonymous, 60-year old man, of Kanuri descent, in Borno State, who reportedly handed over his son to members of the Joint Task Force, JTF, who are currently battling to flush out Boko Haram and other insurgents who have long held Borno State and many parts of the north-east of Nigeria by the jugular, I was, perhaps, like many other Nigerians, very impressed and hopeful that, at least, we are getting somewhere.

According to the widely-publicised report, a businessman in the Hausari Ward of Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, was said to have alleged that his son, a member of the deadly group, had participated in the killing of several people in Maiduguri and subsequently handed over the son to men of the JTF in his ward.

The son reportedly left the parent’s home a few months ago only to suddenly return home recently to plead with his father to allow him refuge from the current massive onslaught of security forces against the Boko Haram in Borno State, which is now under a state of emergency, alongside Yobe and Adamawa states.

Following the crackdown by the JTF, a fallout of the emergency declaration by President

Goodluck Jonathan on May 14, this year, members of the Boko Haram have been running for cover. Apart from the JTF, a group of youths under the aegis of Community Vigilance Group is also on the prowl, hunting down Boko Haram members, and in many instances, handling down instant death sentences in the form of jungle justice to whoever is caught. It is in the wake of these counter-insurgency moves that the young man reportedly ran back to the bosom of his father and confessed to how he had joined hands to kill people and loot banks, pleading with his father to shield him. But he met a brick wall as his principled father reportedly turned him down flatly. The old man was said to have told his son that it was against his conscience to keep a roving assassin, an armed robber and such a big security threat in his home. Pronto, the man approached the office of the JTF and told them of the criminal involvement of his son in serial killings and robbery. Some soldiers followed him home to arrest the son, but as fate would have it, the son tried to escape arrest and was shot dead.


‘If parents can put their feet down and dissuade their children from taking the easy route to sudden wealth and perdition, a greater percentage of the economic and social problems we now experience in Nigeria will be history’


Remarkably, in an affirmative demonstration of his unflagging will to live on the right path, not only did the man turn over his son to the authorities, he also had the fortitude to resist touching the ill-gotten wealth his son reportedly starched away near their home. The young man had revealed to the father and the family the location of two cars and millions of naira he had acquired from his association with Boko Haram’s activities. Impressively, the father declined to taint his Islamic faith by taking inheritance of assets he considers haram forbidden).

This is a remarkable story by all account. A story that, no doubt, demonstrates the true face of religious faith, the true face of Islam. It doubtlessly vindicates many of the moderate Muslims who have been trying to tell anyone that would listen that extremist groups like Boko Haram do not represent Islam. It is a story that is sure to add more volume to the voice of those Muslims whose voices have long been drowned out by the guns and bombs of radical,

violence-oriented Muslim groups and individuals like Boko Haram and their members. It is difficult to properly account for how far this might go in convincing doubters that Islam has no place for the likes of Boko Haram but what a bold statement in vindication of those who have continuously argued in defence of Islamic extremism.

Of course, this is not the first time a father would keep his paternal feeling from interfering with his judgment where terror and his son are concerned. In 2009, after Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s failed attempt to detonate a bomb on a flight to Boston, Massachusetts, in the United States of America, it later emerged that his father had, prior to the botched attempt, warned the authorities about the increasing extremist leaning of his son. Today, Abdulmutallab, has come to be known notoriously worldwide as “the underwear bomber” now in jail in America. One staggering discovery, all through the renewed offensive

against terror in the North-East in particular, is that the residents have been showing more bravery in exposing violent elements in their midst, even if these elements were family members. In many cases, the implications for the whistle blowers have been perilous. However, this un-named businessman’s case is without doubt at a different level. It is a heroic deed and sacrifice of highly uncommon extent for a parent to be so brave for the sake of his faith and the safety of others, to the detriment and even death of his own flesh and blood. This could rightly be christened: “A Brave Father’s Uncommon Sacrifice for Sanity”.

Still, maybe we should afford ourselves the right to tinker our praise for the old man in question with a slight dose of ‘practical pessimism’ here, for a combination of factors might have been responsible for his decision. So, maybe, we can look at this man’s act in a slightly different light. In this regard, perhaps we can be a little cynical and play the devil’s advocate by arguing that he might have acted more in self-preservation – that time-tested, time-proven golden rule in human existence – knowing fully the potential dire consequences for his son and the burden that might put on members of the family. Now, is it totally implausible to think that the man was merely trying to save his own neck from his son by resorting to that course of action? Let’s look at it this way: in April this year, the son was said to have threatened to kill the father shortly before he (the son) bolted out of home. He only came back to appease his father when he realised that he could no longer take the heat the JTF, with the help of members of the Youth Vigilance Group, was dishing out to him and his fellow terrorists at Boko Haram’s training camps in Kirenoa and Sambisa games reserve forests of the state.

Whatever the ‘permutation’, in the final analysis, especially in an increasingly materialistic 21st Century, when it seems that the values of altruism are becoming increasingly peripheral in the lives of many, we have to doff our hats to this brave man’s uncommon vote for faith, peace and sanity. Many people in his shoes in the past might have been tempted to look the other way and cover up their wards’ misdeeds for some selfish interests. Maybe, we should ask: How many Nigerians can go the whole hog to expose the nefarious activities of their
children or wards like this Kanuri businessman?

If parents can put their feet down and dissuade their children from taking the easy route to sudden wealth and perdition, a greater percentage of the economic and social problems we now experience in Nigeria will be history.

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