By Owei Lakemfa
AGAIN, we have lost hundreds of lives in the latest bloodbath in the name of religion. But how can we claim the moral high ground against blood thirsty religious fanatics like the Boko Haram when like them, theÂ security forces do not place a high value on human life? How do the security agencies conduct their operations in such a way that innocent citizensÂ flee from both them and the fanatics?
When asked in an interview in the Daily Trust of Monday July 27, 2009 why he and his followers wouldÂ not surrender to the authorities, the late leader of theÂ Boko Haram,Â Mohammed YusufÂ claimed that his members were simply being massacred and that giving themselves up will tantamount to committing suicide:
â€œI will not give myself up; if Allah wishes, they will arrest me. If Allah does not wish they will not arrest me. But I will never give up myself, not after 37 of my followers were killed in Bauchi. Is it right to kill them, is it right to shoot human beings …?
Therefore, if we give ourselves up or they get us or me, sure they will kill meâ€.
Two daysÂ after this interview, the Police announced that it had arrestedÂ Yusufâ€™s deputyÂ Abubakar Shikwa. Borno State Police Command spokesperson, ASP IsaÂ Azare said the suspect was undergoing interrogation. Two days later, Azare informed the nation that theÂ suspect had been killed in a â€œshoot outâ€ withÂ security men. If it was not obvious that the suspect had simply been murdered, then that of YusufÂ clearly makes the point.
On Thursday July 30, 2009, the Army announced that it had captured Yusuf at about 4.30pm.Colonel Ben Ahanotu who led the soldiers said that YusufÂ was arrested at his in-lawâ€™s house hiding amongst goats. He was handed over to the Police.
Soldiers and policemen in triumph fired into the air to celebrate Yusufâ€™s arrest. Subsequently, the press reported that the Boko Haram leader was paraded before them. He appeared unharmed. The State Commissioner of Police, Christopher Dega officially announced Yusufâ€™s arrest. By 8pm, Yusuf was dead; his body riddled with bullets. The Assistant Inspector General of Police in charge of Zone 12, Mr Moses Anegbode announced that Yusuf had been killed in a â€œshoot outâ€ with the Police.
This ridiculous claim assumes that Nigerians are fools; that we will believe that a man who was in Police custody moments before would have suddenly freed and armed himself and his followers and they would have engaged the security forces in a â€œshoot outâ€œ during whichÂ he was riddled with bullets.
In a country where a suspect is presumed innocent until proven guilty, why were the Boko Haram leaders murdered? It can of course be argued that the men were captured inÂ the act of rebellion, but is that why they were denied their day in court ? The holy books said even when God knew that Adam and Eve had eaten of the forbidden fruit, He still gave them the benefit of the doubt; he gave them the opportunity to defend themselves.
He asked Adam: â€œ Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat ?â€Â Adam pleaded guilty but blamed Eve, who in her defenceÂ blamed the serpent. It was after a fair trial the threesome were sentenced. If the Almighty can in the face of overwhelming evidence give us the benefit of doubt, who areÂ ordinary mortals to summarily execute suspects, especially under a government that proclaims the rule of law asÂ a cardinal principle.
Why was the police not interested inÂ fully interrogating the BokoÂ Haram leaders and what do they have to gain from such foul murders?Â Did the men possess embarrassing information and so it was necessary to quickly shut them up ?
It is embarrassing to be a Nigerian at this time when before the eyes of the world suspects canÂ be so casually executed; the impression is being given that we are a country of uncivilized people to whom the rule of law is alien. Yet this is a country which as far back as the 19th Century, had produced internationalÂ lawyers like Sir KitoyeÂ Ajasa.
In fact, the first Nigerian lawyer,Â ChristopherÂ AlexanderÂ Sapara â€“ Williams was called to the Bar at the Inner Temple, England on August 27, 1880, that is 229 years ago! So why are we being ridiculed before the international community as people who know nothing about law?
Then what do we make of state governments and security agenciesÂ who have been destroying the homes and property of the sect membersÂ even when such places are not battle grounds? Since this is neither justice nor is it based onÂ legal processes, are these revenge attacks or a display of impotence?
The security agencies in a self righteous manner claimed to have known of the existence of the groupÂ for over a decade, what in concrete terms did they do beyond blamingÂ faceless â€œauthoritiesâ€. Did they infiltrate the group as the Police did in the cases of Odozi Obodo and the Agbekoya in the 1960s?
WhyÂ were so many Nigerians willing converts of the sect? The basic answer is poverty.Â We have millions of children and youths with no education, apprenticeship,Â trade or skills and no hope. Our collective resources have been so mismanaged that we have no social security, no unemployment benefits andÂ for most of the population no access to basic needs, including food, shelterÂ or healthcare.
TheÂ point is that there can be no peace in such a system; unless the poor can take a nap, the rich cannot sleep a wink.