THE decision of the Borno State Government to convert the home of Muhammad Yusuf, the late founder of Boko Haram into a museum is a welcome development. However, certain issues need to be put to rest in actualising this laudable project.
First, we must agree that the Boko Haram insurgency has become a big part of the history, not only of Borno State and the North East region but of the entire Nigerian nation and the Lake Chad sub-region. The insurgency started soon after its founder, Ustaz Muhammad Yusuf, was killed while in government security custody in Maiduguri on 30th May 2009.
Prior to this, Yusuf’s home served as the “Markaz” or meeting point of his radical Islamic sect, Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad (People committed to the propagation of the Prophet’s teaching and Jihad), which was later popularly known as Boko Haram, a group that abhors Western values, especially education.
It is a normal practice to build museums to commemorate important wars. The Boko Haram insurgency, certainly, is a major factor that has altered the history and development trajectory of the North East. Not only that, it has also added a new dimension to the thousand year-old history of Maiduguri and the defunct Kanem-Bornu Islamic empire.
The Boko Haram insurgency has claimed over 20,000 lives, rendered about five million people homeless, dumped about two million people in Internally-Displaced Persons (IDP) camps, made Boko Haram the third most murderous terrorist group in the world and cost billions of naira losses to the government and people of the North East and the Federal Government. Such a phenomenon definitely deserves a museum where the stories, facts and artefacts will be preserved and displayed for tourism and historical purposes.
We, however, caution that the Boko Haram insurgency must be totally stamped out before such a project is initiated. The rehabilitation of the people and restoration of good governance must be accorded top priority to win the people fully back. Otherwise, the terrorists might destroy the site.
Perhaps, another approach would be to preserve Ustaz Yusuf’s residence for future tourism, and take the museum elsewhere within Maiduguri, perhaps a fortified military zone. It is important to not only preserve the artefacts of the Boko Haram war, but also a memorial cenotaph displaying the names of soldiers and Civilian Joint Task Force (C-JTF) members who paid the supreme sacrifice while defending the nation against the insurgency should be erected.
If such a facility is put up in the late Yusuf’s former “Markaz”, future Boko Haram sympathisers might also see it as a desecration of their “spiritual headquarters” and make another dangerous issue out of it.
The museum is a welcome idea, but it must be handled with care.