Alhaji Umaru Duhu, Adamawa state chairman of the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, has risen in defense of former Borno state Governor, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, since the former was alleged to have links with the dreaded Islamic sect, Boko Haram. He spoke on the origin of the sect, and absolves his party man in this encounter with a group of journalists in Abuja. Excerpts:
The BOT chairman of your party, the ANPP, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff was alleged to be the master mind of Boko Haram. He has not personally made a public statement on that. Can you give us an insight into his thoughts?
It is rather unfortunate that the name of our respected party leader is being peddled as having links with the Boko Haram sect, even when it is common knowledge that he is the group’s number one target. The allegation is not a new thing. Some others have made futile attempts in the past to insinuate same. Senator Ali Modu Sheriff has not deemed it necessary to join issues with the embattled senator Ahmed Zannah, who has been ranting in the past few weeks, because he knows that, the man is only playing the ostrich. In the fullness of time, the truth about the whole matter will be known. The JTF which arrested the suspected king pin are in a better position to tell the world in whose house they made the arrest. I agree with you that Senator Ali Modu Sheriff has been on a virtual trial by the media over the issue of Boko Haram. I also agree that some people are bent on rubbishing his integrity, using the Boko Haram issue. I think it is rather unfortunate that people find it convenient to trivialize a very serious security challenge like Boko Haram by playing politics with it. Some are pointing accusing fingers at others instead of defending their culpability, any time our security operatives come near bursting the case. The Federal Government is not sleeping over the matter, and they have at their disposal very vital information on the matter, beyond what you and I have. The Inspector General of Police has said they are making investigations. I am aware the State Security service is doing its own part of the job. The JTF, who are on ground, may have their own findings, even as some citizens may volunteer facts. I am sure if we are patient enough, the real perpetrators may not have too long to hide from the hands of justice. But I want Nigerians to be fair to Ali Sheriff, by allowing security operatives to do the job, and not subject him to trial on the news waves or on the pages of newspapers.
As somebody close to Sheriff, would you say he is capable of supporting Boko Haram, and what becomes of his celebrated ECOMOG militia?
What many people do not tend to understand is that Boko Haram did not start during Ali Modu Sheriff’s tenure as Governor. It is a phenomenon that developed over time since around 1995. I have heard people propounding theories that, Boko Haram metamorphosed from local political militia. One needs to look at the sophistication and modus operandi of Boko Haram to know that it is one group that does not operate on frivolities. Unlike the political thugs, who are often ragtag, Boko Haram looks a more organized group. It has been easy distinguishing between Boko Haram and political assassinations because of the caliber of people being targeted. Ali Sheriff has lost his own blood brother, his cousin, three of his most intimate friends, his party men, the governorship candidate of his party and many other associates, while all those trying to link him up with the issue have not lost even the dogs in their houses. It is illogical to associate a man who from all ramifications is a victim with sponsorship of the same group that has traumatized him. I have a security report, which investigated the first crisis in 2009, under the chairmanship of Air Chief Marshall Paul Dike, the former Chief of Defense Staff, which completely exonerated Ali Sheriff. I also have the report of the Ambassador Gaji Galtimari committee, which investigated the same incident, in which the former governor was given a clean bill of health. It is therefore baffling, when laymen who do not necessary have adequate knowledge of the metamorphosis of the sect into a violent group, begin to make analysis and even apportion blames. Ali Sheriff does not have any fear of being investigated, whenever his attention is called on any particular issue, including the issue of Boko Haram. We should not crucify a man just because some other people detest him for whatever reasons. All those who investigated the matter are luckily still around, and they have not disowned the reports they made. I can confirm to you with authority that Ali Modu Sheriff is not capable of, and never masterminded Boko Haram. On the issue of the political thugs, I know that politics tend breed a lot of miscreants, who may parade themselves as belonging to a particular party or individual. At public functions, they shout all sorts of slogans and commit mischief. This is a common denominator in Nigerian politics. But sheriff has never supported any such acts. Those who claim to be his boys or claim to act on his instructions are on their own. If there are any evidences linking anybody with any crime, that person should answer for his sins, and not try to link same with Sheriff. This group, which you call ECOMOG, may be a coinage by some people, and if they exist, at all, they belong to that category.
We observe that, most of the people being killed are from a particular political party. Does this not connote more of political assassinations than Boko Haram?
I have said it before, that; there is more of politics in some of the cases than there were other crimes. We have to accept the reality of the existence of Boko Haram. But politics have overshadowed them, to the effect that, we now have Political assassinations and armed robbery, operating simultaneously with book Haram.So far, the ANPP in Borno state has suffered more casualties than all the others put together. As I speak with you, all those killed are of the ANPP; some of whom were closely related to Ali Sheriff. Only a few days ago, his closest ally, Alhaji Mustapha Floma was assassinated in cold blood. It is obvious that ANPP members are the targets of killings, and yet nobody wants to believe us, rather people tend to align with those who torment us, obviously to get even with sheriff, who is the leader of the party.
We understand Senator Ahmed Zannah has dragged the Federal Government and the JTF to court to clear his name. Do you think zannah has a case to answer?
It is left for the Federal Government to appropriately define the issues involved and address them. But it is rather amusing that the man is jumping the gun. No formal charges have been brought against him yet. It is rather curious that the man is getting jittery over the mere arrest of a suspect linked to him in his house. Like I said earlier, we should allow the security operatives to investigate, without any attempt to blackmail; cajole or intimidate them. Even the major suspect has not been charged to court yet, so I don’t see any reason why the senator is developing cold. Of course, if there is any misrepresentation, the government will apologize to him, if on the other hand he is found culpable, then he should carry his cross. The act of going to court, or crying wolf in the media, or even trying to implicate others cannot acquit him, rather it is the proof of innocence, and the onus is upon him to do so.
What would you say on the call by the Boko Haram sect that Ali Sheriff must be arrested as a pre-condition to cease fire?
In my understanding, they did not call for his arrest because he is their sponsor; rather it is to avenge the perceived wrongs he committed against them. It is common knowledge that he has been fighting a running battle with the group since 2009, when the crisis snowballed into violence. This call has been made before, and it is left to see the basis against which he will be arrested.