By Rotimi Fasan
EVEN if it still continues with its destruction of properties and killings in different parts of the North in a mindless campaign of terror that is bound to end in its defeat, there is every indication that the terrorist group that has been hiding under the veneer of religion and avowed hatred of Western civilisation to commit unspeakable atrocities is running out of steam.
And nothing proves that more than their lame attempt at calling for a truce with Abuja and choosing Muhammadu Buhari, a retired General and former head of the junta that ousted the Shagari administration, to lead its peace talk with the government.
The confusion that has entered the operations of this group that is apparently now in factions united by their common blood lust manifests in the infighting that has seen them turn on one another with the various factions pointing accusing fingers at one another.
What the internal bickering has also revealed is the undercurrent of disagreement among Northern politicians, especially those in the North-Eastern states, as fuelling the activities of the terrorists.
Like in the case of the Niger-Delta where thugs and other criminal elements in the pay of politicians who abandoned them on getting into office turned the arms in their care to other criminal purposes while claiming to be fighting against the marginalisation of their region, the killer squads of politicians in the North are in the centre of the many terror attacks in the region.
The accusations and counter- accusation between Ahmad Khalifa Zanna, a serving senator, and Ali Modu Sheriff, a former governor of Borno State, following the arrest of Shuaibu Bama, allegedly in the house of Zanna, illustrates the point I’m driving at. Bama, a nephew of Zanna, is a confirmed member of the terror group in these parts of the country. While Mr. Sheriff identifies Zanna as a sponsor of the terror group, Zanna claims Sheriff is the owner of the house in which Bama was arrested and is a sponsor of the terror group.
The murder of Mohammed Shuwa, a retired General of the Nigerian Army and leader of one of the major parties in Borno, opens another dimension to the matter. In its call for peace, one of the demands of the terror group is that Ali Modu Sheriff be arrested and prosecuted- for what really?
It should be remembered that before now, there have been accusing fingers pointed at some politicians in the North-East on account of their questionable links to members of the terror group. Indeed a serving commissioner in one of those states was said to have been an active member of the group.
The tendency of some of these politicians to defend the activities of the terrorists or keep silent in the face of their murderous activities proves their link with the group. What remains to be seen is how Abuja responds to these developments.
From the foregoing, it should be clear things are fast falling apart in the camp of the terrorists.
They are in disarray and their call for peace is a way to prevent a disorderly retreat and give their activities a cover of respectability. Which should explain why they chose General Buhari as their representative in their proposed peace talk. There shouldn’t be any doubt about their intention which is to launder their tattered image. What they’ve presented to Buhari is a poisoned chalice. It’s, therefore, no surprise that the General has rebuffed the offer.
For one Buhari, far from his military antecedent, is now a practising politician, one who has thrice presented himself as presidential candidate, twice on the platform of his Congress for Progressive Change, a party with wide following in the North.
His apparently inflammatory comment after his last defeat by incumbent President Jonathan in the 2011 election was viewed as inciting as presumed followers of his party went on rampage in different parts of the North, killing and maiming in the name of defending their principal’s position.
Buhari then defended the right of the rampaging people to express their displeasure in a manner they thought fit. But many Nigerians saw this as unseemly defence of sectional interest which is unbecoming of a former head of state and one who still nurses the ambition of returning to the highest office in the land.
Thereafter Buhari kept his distance from the government, content to make periodic statements and observations on the administration- an attitude he took up following his first defeat by the PDP government under his former boss, General Obasanjo, in 2003 and the late Umar Yar’Adua in 2007. Beyond this, there has been nothing linking General Buhari directly to this or any terrorist group in the country.
General Buhari has not consciously presented himself as a champion of Northern interest but he exudes an attitude that gives him away not only as such but also as an Islamist with a fundamentalist bent. This reading of him might have led to his being chosen as spokesperson for the terrorists in their fire fighting talk with Abuja.
Yet, it can be said that for all his rigid and stern outlook on many issues, General Buhari remains a principled person who can be trusted to act on his beliefs. Should he find it necessary to support a terrorist group, he will very likely not hide his face in the cowardly manner of the terror group menacing the North. His choice by the terror group is certainly a slander in the circumstances before us.
For while he might give the group a respectable face, should he go ahead to speak for them, he would definitely have destroyed his record as a Nigerian leader and would be open for possible prosecution for aiding and abetting a terrorist group.
For a group that claims to act on principle then, is it not surprising that not one person has come out to openly identify with it? Even now that it proposes peace talks, it turns to others with no known links to it to speak on its behalf.
This is evidence, if no other, that this terror group has no coherent agenda beyond its obvious lust for anarchy.
It has no principle worthy of defence and must in the fashion of its cowardly leaders remain anonymous. It is a creation of politicians and once these criminally minded sponsors are identified and put in their proper place, far from civilised company, nobody would hear anything about the group again.
From the ANC to the PLO, the Taliban to Al-Qaida, armed groups with principles to defend, however wrongheaded, have not been afraid to show their face. Their leaders are known. This Nigerian group is the singular exception. Should Abuja take it up on its offer to talk peace, who will it be talking to?