By Ochereome Nnanna
I AM amazed. I am disgusted. Somebody get me a bowl. I want to throw up. A group of Nigerians, under the pretext of propagating their own brand of the well respected religion of Islam, went on a killing spree without apparent provocation.
They attacked police stations and slaughtered policemen on lawful duty. The also pounced on innocent fellow citizens, subjecting them to forcible conversion into their own warped idea of Islam.
Those who refused to be so converted, like one Pastor George Orji of the Goodnews Church of Christ in Maiduguri, were slaughtered like sacrificial animals. There were probably as many Muslims as non-Muslims who fell under the assault of these terrorists. The Sultan of Sokoto and leader of the Nigerian Muslim community, Alhaji Saâ€™ad Abubakar III, has condemned them as â€œdevilishâ€.
From Bauchi, the mayhem spread to Borno, Yobe and Kano. Nigeria was so rattled that the President ordered the security agencies to come down heavily on this group, which went by the name: Boko Haram. Their grouse? They wanted to establish what they termed a pure Islamic order in which Western education would be outlawed. Reports had it that the security agencies were this time up to their sworn duties.
The Presidency and Governor Nmodu Sheriff of Borno State had been reportedly given as many as 17 security warnings that this group was poised to strike. The amount of arms and ammunition recovered from them clearly pointed to an elaborate preparation for an offensive of a large-scale nature, which could not have been put together overnight.
Within a few days of combined police and military operations, Boko Haram was comprehensively defeated. Its leader, Mohammed Yusuf, and one of its financiers, Buji Foi, who was once a commissioner in Borno State, were captured alive and later killed by security agencies. Since this took place, an uproar overtook the Nigerian landscape. Human rights groups cried blue murder.
Newspapers wrote editorials and newspaper columnists went gaga. Their gripe? Yusuf and his followers were now victims of human rights abuse! Yusufâ€™s â€œright to lifeâ€ was violated! He should have been kept alive to divulge his source of financial and logistical empowerment.
The Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) even tried to liken Boko Haram to the Niger Delta militants by saying they were fighting as a result of being deprived and badly governed. Oh yeah?
Yusuf â€˜s â€œright to lifeâ€ became so important that President Yarâ€™ Adua, who had ordered a maximum military campaign against the sect, quickly turned around and set up a panel to probe the circumstances of his killing. The human rights groups had argued that since Yusuf and Foi were captured alive and were in lawful custody of the state, they should have been brought to book through lawful process. Oh yeah? Very nice!
I have a question. How many of the members and leaders of such sects, who sprang up and attacked either non-Muslims or fellow Muslims or both in the past have been lawfully brought to book? Hardly does a year pass without religion-motivated attacks by Islamic groups taking place in the North. Police logic when they caught Yusuf was simple. This guy and his men killed our colleagues.
If we keep him, his followers might come in the night to try rescuing him and thereby inflict more casualties on us. Or he may be freed by some magistrates, who might be among their secret sponsors. They avenged their colleagues because they knew the law would not extract justice from these evil men. By todayâ€™s global standards, this is wrong. But the irony of the global standards is that it is more interested in the rights of the captured felon than in the rights of the innocent victims he violated.
The wages of sin is death. If you wilfully kill an innocent person you must pay with your own life. However, I do not share the motive that prompted Governor Sheriff to encourage the police to eliminate Yusuf and Foi while in custody because it was purely an act of hypocrisy aimed at a cover-up. By ignoring the security warnings, the Governor and the Presidency helped to incubate Boko Haram until they were prepared to levy war on Nigeria.
Here is food for thought. Yarâ€™ Adua, as the Governor of Katsina State, was one of the governors who introduced full-scale Sharia law in his state. Northern governors interpreted the Constitution as they wished and forcibly adopted the criminal aspect of Sharia law, just as Lagos State interpreted the Constitution and set up the 37 Local Council Development Areas, which Yarâ€™ Adua, as President, is fighting.
A victim of the Sharia law, Amina Lawal, a single lady who got pregnant, was sentenced to death by stoning on March 23, 2002. This brought the attention of the whole world on Nigeria negatively. Bowing to pressure, the highest Islamic court in Katsina eventually freed Miss Lawal.
Boko Haram is nothing less than a movement that sprung from the Sharia impetus. The difference was that they were a little more extremist and militant. The Sharia governors made the grounds fertile for this sect to flower. There must be others like Boko Haram but which are ignored because they are not yet ready to strike. President Yarâ€™ Adua and Governor Sheriff ignored the security reports because they had the necessary instinct to tolerate the danger the sect posed.
This country is being ruled by religious bigots and hypocrites. We saw Maitatsine in the 1980s. We experienced El Zakzaky in the 1990s. We have seen Mohammed Yusuf in the 2000s. Who shall we see in the 2100s?