INTERVIEW: Nigerian govt has failed to protect us against Boko Haram – Shehu of Bama

Shehu of Bama

“These are times of telling each other the home truth, which is that the Nigerian leadership has failed”.

The Bama Town in Borno has witnessed several attacks by Boko Haram insurgents in the past one year leading to the death of hundreds of people. The latest of the attacks happened on February 18.

The Boko Haram terrorists invaded the town, killed nearly 100 persons, burnt over a thousand houses, torched as much as 400 vehicles, and burnt the palace of the town’s traditional ruler, in an attack that left virtually all business outfits in the commercial town in complete ruins.

The traditional ruler of Bama, Kyari Ibrahim Ibn Elkanemi, often described as a humble and patient man, has become unhappy at the repeated attacks.

In this interview held at his burnt palace, the monarch blames the Federal Government of Nigeria for the spate of terrorism in Borno State.

PT: How was the February attack carried out?

Shehu: At about 4 a.m. , one of my village heads called and informed me that somebody from a far village called Gonikurmi sent a message to him that he saw a long convoy of vehicles and motorcycles moving through the bush and passing by their village towards Bama.

Immediately, I called one captain at the college side in Bama and informed him about what I was told. He equally confirmed to me that two members of the Youth-vigilante, called civilian-JTF, had already informed him about it too. I did not stop at that, I called a major at the army barracks here and also informed him.

I also tried getting across to the Brigade commander and the GOC but all their lines were not reachable. Just some 30 minutes later, somebody called me to alert me that they have set fire on the low-cost housing estate that is at the outskirts of Bama Town; and that the gunmen were heading towards the central town.

People were running helter-skelter, we heard sounds of gun shots, grenades and all. I was later called by some of my subjects to alert me that the four sides of the palace were surrounded by women and children wanting to come into the palace for safety. As we were considering how to safely let them in, the gunmen came to the palace area and when they saw that there were hundreds of women and children all over the palace premises and the main gate, they ordered them to vacate the place at once. They were busy shooting to scare them away, and it was after that they tried to break down the palace gate; which they did using heavy sounding explosives.

When they gained entrance into the palace, they sorted out some of the vehicles like the Hilux Pilot car used in my motorcade before they began to set the entire place on fire. They practically set ablaze virtually everything from the main gate building of the palace, the office and main palace hall. They burnt virtually over 30 cars both official and private parked within the palace. We were in the inner part of the palace, then we saw the upstairs office of the palace on fire, so we had to evacuate everyone including the women and children, the palace workers went into the innermost part of the palace where it was safer so that we won’t get suffocated by smoke or blistered by the heat of the fire. All the while there were shootings outside. They remained in the town up to around 12 noon, that was about eight hours, until when we started hearing the sound of the air force helicopter hovering; we also overheard them giving instruction and trying to shoot down the helicopter.

PT: What was the number of casualties?

Shehu: We tried as much as possible to gather all the dead bodies in front of the palace where they were to be given funeral prayers before taken to the cemetery for burial. But before the message could go round the town, many people in other parts of the town have since buried their dead relations. But in the central mosque here near the palace, I partook in the burial of 34 corpses. And after that many others were still buried.

Widows, Orphans, meet Borno governor shettima after Bama killings, Borno state
Widows, Orphans, meet Borno governor shettima after Bama killings, Borno state

Many people who did not see me before the burial and many who saw how the palace was destroyed were agitated and confused as they don’t know my where about. There was serious tension and concern about my whereabout, until I came out for the burial of the 34 persons, before tension simmered down.

PT: How did you survive the attack?

Shehu: Well that is by the grace of Allah and also part of my personal security arrangement. I don’t think I should discuss that for obvious reasons.

PT: How would you describe the attack and destruction on business areas?

Shehu: It was really an unfortunate development, to say the least. It was so sad that some two or three years ago, when fire gutted our main market, business activity was low until very recently when the state government came to the rescue of the people after a committee set up by the state government came to distribute N100 million to the affected traders, that business life picked up.

Bama, as you may know, has one of the largest markets in Borno State, and the entire town is strictly a business haven given the border areas we share with Cameroon. But with the attack by the Boko Haram insurgents, everything went to zero again; everything that is known as a business outfit here in Bama has been burnt to ash; when I say everything, I mean totally everything.

PT: What is the level of destruction?

Shehu: We are still compiling the official figure of the destruction; you know it was very massive, and Bama is such a large community. But the chairman of the Motor Parks here in Bama said in the four parks that were attacked, they have recorded a total of 116 vehicles of different kinds burnt completely. That is just the commercial vehicles. Then on the privately owned vehicles; virtually every house where the insurgents went and met vehicle, they set them ablaze. They did not spare any one they come across, including Keke-Napep that the poor struggling young men use to sustain their family. It was so sad.

PT: What was the response of the security agencies?

Shehu: Well, I will say the security agencies have tried their best. But if one is to rate their performance in this attack, I will say it was poor, not because they have failed as soldiers but because they
were ill-equipped to confront the Boko Haram gunmen. The soldiers were merely carrying AK-47, while the Boko Haram were armed with RPGs, Grenades, anti-Aircraft rifles and even Improvised Explosive Devices.

PT: What is your call to the Federal government?

SHEHU: My prayers are that all Nigerian leaders rise up and show responsibility. As it is presently, it seems everyone one is losing confidence in the leaders, and looking up to Almighty Allah who is the ultimate leader to take control. But these are times of telling each other the home truth, which is that the Nigerian leadership has failed. Every leader who is struggling to maintain his or her status quo at the neglect of the overall interest of the general populace should realise that one day the people will be forced to challenge.

For now the morale of the people is down on the trust they have for the president, the governors, the local government chairmen, and even us, the traditional rulers, because a system that was designed to protect them failed them. I repeat, the confidence our people are having on the President down to the local council officers is nil!

This is a call to the President, to the governors and the local government chairmen; we should fear nobody but Allah. The media should help to say the truth, which is bitter. The journalists should see this issue beyond saving his job or life, because the trouble in Nigeria today is beyond individual interest. We should desist from the politics of selfishness and money-grabbing at the expense of our collective security. With the trend of happenings in this country today, nobody is safe.

The government has failed; it is not protecting anything, and I have no reservation in saying this. It is constitutional responsibility of government to protect lives, but here lives are not protected at all. And the irony of the whole thing is that what is happening and being condoned by the government of Nigeria, can bring down the entire country within six months if it were in the other part of the country, because of the way and manner the people will react. And I know if it were to happen in the other part of Nigeria the government will react better than the way it is doing now. We now know it is because of our culture of patience, that we are being taken for granted. The Federal government is not really serious about tackling the Boko Haram insurgency. I realise this given some of the interactions I had with the soldiers who told me honestly that they have limitation in combating the insurgents; they said they are ill-equipped.

PT: What do you feel needs to be done urgently?

Shehu: The federal government and all relevant security chiefs should link with us at the grassroots for the real situation reports and analysis and desist from relying on the so-called concocted and arm-chair security reports that don’t reflect the true situation up here. They should reach out to us on ground, because we always have the real time security alert. But very unfortunately, it is as if the authorities have connived with the insurgents, all networks are not functioning during the attack and up to this present moment, as if we are not in Nigeria. We want to appeal to the government to immediately restore all networks in all crannies of Nigeria so that the people that are willing to reach out with relevant information can do so without difficulties.

It is an undisputable fact that these insurgents have established known camps around the forests within Borno state but the security agencies are always afraid to go there. And more unfortunately, our youth Civilian-JTF who are willing to lead in going there are even being discouraged by the soldiers. I have other suggestions that I need to oblige the federal government which I cannot make public, but if the government is very serious and open the door of advise I will be ready to talk to them one on one. But above all, I wish to state it clearly here without any fear of being challenged that I support the stand of the Governor of Borno state on what he said in Abuja last week Monday concerning the state of insecurity in Borno state and Nigeria as a whole.

To me, the governor is even being too diplomatic in his declaration, because he merely said half of what is happening.

So some persons down there in Abuja should not annoy us by defending his so-called political interest. It is amazing that somebody who has probably not visited Kano before, should sit in Abuja and be saying things he has no knowledge. If he wants to comment on Borno or the insecurity facing the North-East, he should come up here and appreciate what the people are facing before making rash comments.


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  • redeem

    1991 April In Katsina, several lives are lost. Shite sect in Katsina led by Malam Yahaya Yakubu stirs up trouble. At the end of April, in Tafawa Balewa (Bauchi State) over 200 lives are lost, and property and 20 churches are destroyed.* 1991 October 14- 15 . In Kano, the attempt of the Izala sect to stop Rev. Bonnke from preaching becomes violent Thousands of lives are lost and property destroyed. *1992 February 6th and then May 15-16 Zango Kataf, Zaria, Kaduna State Communal clash becomes a religious clash, with lives and property destroyed Funtua (Katsina State). Kalakato religious sect assaults a village head. 50 lives are lost and property destroyed .*2001 October 12-14 In Kano, there are anti-American riots, because of USA intervention in Afghanistan

    • Datti

      @redeem, what exactly are you trying to put across? Jonathan is Boko Haram main sponsor just like Abacha and Baimaiyi sponsored the series of bomb blasts in Lagos then. Remember Jona said there are BH members in his government so, you should know he uses BH, thru those people working with him, to cause mayhem so that attention could be diverted away from him when the heat is much. Watch out for more of this.

      • Olajide_Nigeria

        BH attack continues because people like you will not say the truth. How on earth will you say GEJ is sponsoring BH? BH is sponsored by religious fanatics. They are perverse, devilish, callous, wicked… We should all join mouth to condemn them.

      • redeem

        World Islamic Terror Preacher Given Visa To Visit Nigeria.
        [A MUST SHARE]

        **he was banned by Governments in UK, US, Australia, Germany, Kenya and other countries across the world.

        A renowned extremist and Islamic terror Preacher, Dr Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips who lives in Qatar has been issued a Nigerian Visa to visit and preach in the Country.

        Dr Ameenah Bilal Philips, a Muslim preacher was barred from entering many country as a result of his terror related activities according to information available to Hope For Nigeria.

        1] In 2007 Philips was banned from entering Australia on the advice of national security agencies, especially his support for extremist Islamic positions.
        2] In 2010 he was banned from entering the UK by British Government for holding “extremist views
        3] He was the lead preacher at the mosque where the Stockholm bomber, Taimour Abdulwahab al-Abdaly, (28) worships.
        4] In April 2011, Ameenah Bilal Philips was banned from re-entering Germany as persona non grata.
        5] In 2012, Ameenah Bilal Philips was banned from entering Kenya over possible terror links.
        6] Also Bilal Philips is on the United States of America blacklist that bans extremists.

        Terror Preacher, Ameenah Bilal, according to Hope For Nigeria, celebrated his Visa issuance with his followers on his facebook this morning, saying, “Al hamdu lillaah. I just got a visa for Nigeria and will be going there in a few days, in shaa allaah.
        So, I hope to see all my Nigerian brothers and sisters. Baarakallaahu feekum”. This is another boko haram in the making–tell us how he got his visa was it through sambo or dasuki

        Nigeria must revoke this terror preacher’s Visa. He should NOT be allowed into this country.

        • salako

          Why dont u ask u oga jona.

      • redeem

        u are sick period-its because of your fake satanic mode of thinking that made me post the comments above-where was buhari the leader of APC when kudirat was assassinated–and abiola her husband nabbed–where was he when late gani was put in jail in bauchi-for 10 months–the only slogan from APC is that Jonathan is clueless a dumbo-They are very empty upstairs-who knows about APC in Nigeria apart from d SW-and some few local areas in the fulani north? rather than work with ppl at the grass root level they are always on sharia reporters and PT another Yoruba medium to distort facts and disturb our peace-of mind–this was how buhari sold CPC via Sharia reporters until he failed- in 2011

        • Abdullah

          Redeem or Deri or whatever you call yourself, you are always whipping up anti-muslim passion everywhere,. Spreading hatred, promoting acrimony amongst the people. You hate Muslims with a passion, you hate hausa-fulani and yoruba because of their large Muslim population.
          You maliciously and falsely implicate Muslim northerners for the killing being metted out to their own kind in the process standing logic on its head even though it’s now obvious to all and sundry who is benefitting from this genocide.
          Insha Allah what goes around comes around and whoever contributed in which ever way in the shedding of the blood of the innocents will be adequately recompensed by Allah here in this world and ultimately on the day of Judgement which can’t be denied.

          • redeem

            shut up-i dont hate Muslims with a passion–as u claim–I speak hausa better than my holy dialect-in d Niger Delta-I have lived among fulanis and attended school with them-beyond that all i ask of them is to leave plateau state alone-stop the killings in boko haram-controlled areas in d north–and the niger delta–most of the killers in boko haram are tuaregs from the west african sub-region–In short fulanis-drawn from their scattered home base around west Africa-Most especially Sudan ati Somalia–how can u say u want to Islamize 9ja–and because of that u kill school kids-and u want me to support APC -buhari ati atiku-they have lost the battle already–the same people who killed abiola–hanged kensarowiwa ati kudirat–quietly arranged the murder of bola ige and put the blame on some unfocused yorubas- d SS supported the fulanis for over 40 yrs–now that its their turn to back Jonathan they are speaking kolkomodor-in different fulani tongues

  • Ubanka

    You are petty and naive,may be an imbecile to be talking like this. The only thing you say is our oil,our oil bla bla. Was your brother not elected by Nigerians from other parts of the country before he became the president of Federal republic of Nigeria ?Did he not take an oath to do justice to all manner of people and save lives and property of all Nigerians?pls stop being stupid.

  • Dan maikoko

    We are simply a backward nation. No nation on earth today shuts down communication networks for whatever reason. Communication is vital for the terrorist and for the government. Governments world wide have learnt that you can only shutdown your local networks which means the terrorists who have access to international global networks such as Thuraya will switch over and the only losers will be the people and the government. Its time we open up all networks. Its time we stop the illegal and stupid end of the month sanitation shutdown of the peoples fundamental right to move around. Its time we join the rest of humanity at least by looking at what we are doing and where else in the world it is done.

  • ayoyo

    The Federal Government cannot protect farmers and non Fulani from the atrocities of your kinsmen Fulani herdsmen

    • Nigerian

      How on earth did the Shehu of Bama become Fulani? This assertion justifies the Shehu, people who don’t know jack about Borno State make the loudest noise.

      • ayoyo

        stand corrected. Fulani are waging havoc on the people of the Northeast just as
        they are doing against the Middle Belt. I think the dilemma for non Fulani
        Muslims in Nigeria how to be “faithful” Muslims and not accept the
        leadership of Emir of Sokoto, head of Muslims in Nigeria. I can see Yoruba
        Muslims of the Southwest in the same situation. Will they do what is best
        interest of their people of follow the dictate of the

        Please read Promote Hausa Great Culture To Forge Peace, By Farouk Martins Aresa

  • Excisionist

    BLAME THE NSA, Colonel Dasuki (rtd)

    It is wrong to blame GEJ for the insecurity in the country, especially in the North East Zone. The national security adviser (NSA) has been mandated by the president to do all that is necessary to stop the mayhem. But is he loyal to the president or to the Northern Islamic Oligarchs? I doubt that he is loyal to the president.

    The NSA is Army Colonel Dasuki (rtd) whom I suspect is working for APC and Northern Islamists in a coordinated assult to make the president seem weak. It’s all part of the program to bring the presidency back to the Islamic North. In doing this they are willing to sacrifice the blood of innocent civilians, including innocent school children while their own children are safe abroad.

    How long will ordinary northerners stand this evil

    It is time to change the totaliy inept and compromised NSA Col. Dasuki. For his replacement the president may consider Great Ogboru, Colonel Anthony Nyiam (rtd) or Prof. Saliba Mukoro (Retired army Major).

    • Abdullah

      You are absolutely demented for your brain to conceive such thought.
      And I will rather blame General MINIMAH, since his assumption of office the genocide in the North East has terribly worsened.

      • Excisionist

        You are absolutely sound in your brain but please tell me who is doing the killing and destruction? Who created and who is sponsoring Boko Haram? Which zones are notorious for religious vuiolence? Which have been sending dead bodies down south many times a year for the past several decades?. Which have been persecuting and killing the Christians in their midst?

        Are you upset because it is now affecting you, the creators and sponsors of terrorism. Well, I believe that changing the NSA may address your concern better. I believe Great Ogboru, Colonel Anthony Nyiam (rtd) or Prof. Saliba Mukoro (Retired army Major) will make better NSA and bring about the final solution.

  • wrone

    It is sad that no matter the merit of any issue
    concerning our nation, there are many amongst us that tilt the discussion
    towards, and view things through the prism of, religion and/or ethnicity. What
    about common human decency of empathizing with your fellow human? A nation is
    like a living thing in which if an organ (part) is deceased then the whole is
    sick. You don’t stand back and celebrate when your neighbour’s home is on fire.

    Truth be told: I feel that the bulk of Nigerian leadership actually hate
    us and only tolerate us because without us they will not exist.