The man widely accused of founding extremist sect Boko Haram, Ali Modu Sheriff, has announced his preparedness to face justice if found guilty.
Mr. Sheriff, a former governor of Borno State where Boko Haram is based, spoke days after a government-appointed negotiator, accused him of being a sponsor of the deadly group.
The negotiator, Stephen Davis, an Australian, also accused a former army chief, Azubuike Iherijirika, of supporting the group.
Mr. Sheriff said he is prepared to face prosecution if it is proven that he is one of the sponsors of the extremist sect, responsible for the deaths of more than 12,000.
He described the allegations as political and vowed to take legal action against the Australian, commissioned by the Nigerian government to help rescue more than 200 schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram militants April 14.
“I have no association with any terrorists anywhere,” Mr. Sheriff said. “I have never met the group. I cannot be a sponsor of a group I have not met before. I don’t have foot soldiers, as they alleged.”
Following Mr. Davis’ allegations, Nigerian activists and lawyers have urged the federal government to immediately investigate the claims and prosecute Messrs Sheriff and Ihejirika.
On Tuesday, the All Progressives Congress, APC, the main opposition party, urged the Nigerian government to hand the former governor and the former army chief over to the International Criminal Court, ICC, for prosecution.
At a press conference Wednesday, Mr. Sheriff accused the Australian of defending the APC.
“The posers here are: why was the face of the said Davis not shown in all three interviews he granted? Of what particular interest has the said Davis in the politics of Nigeria that he rose in defence of prominent APC leaders? Is the Australian a negotiator, an investigator, or an anti-graft agent, a reporter, a judge or a mere gadfly?”
He accused the party of moving against him because he defected from the APC to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
“My defection from the APC seemed to have galvanised my detractors who have converted the matter into a political weapon,” he said.
“Even as the brain behind the whole charade, the APC in its seeming desperation to retain my membership went rather too far in its political mudslinging. I consider it most uncharitable for the party, to use me as an alibi for the obvious culpability of some of its members.”
Mr. Sheriff, also a former senator, described the outpouring of reactions over the allegations by Mr. Davis as “embarrassing and misdirected”.
“As you all are aware, my name is being mentioned for obvious political reasons as a culprit over the unfortunate happenings in Borno state and some parts of the country, especially from the 2009 Boko Haram episode to date,” he said.
“I must say that I have been utterly embarrassed by some of the negative comments, insinuations and unfounded accusations which were clearly misdirected, narrow and mischievous.
“Ordinarily, I would have continued in my silence, but the smear campaign seems to be assuming a life of its own with the recent purported interview granted by a supposed Australian, Stephen Davis, whose identity remains suspect,” Mr. Sheriff said.
He denied ever knowing or meeting the late founder of Boko Haram, Mohammed Yusuf, until his arrest by the soldiers.
He said Mr. Yusuf was appointed as a member of the Borno State Sharia Law implementation committee by the government that preceded his own.
“If indeed there was an agreement between the sect and my predecessor on the issue of Sharia implementation, I am not aware of it. Let me state categorically at this point that I do not share the ideology of the Boko Haram sect, which is against western education, western culture and modern science,” he said.
The former governor said he has been one of the biggest victims of Boko Haram.
“I was a target of Boko Haram during my time because I refused to abdicate my responsibility,” he said.
“For the records, the late leader of Boko Haram, Mohammed Yusuf, once named me, Umaru Yar’Adua and some other leaders as targets. He boasted he would deal with all of us,” he said.
“Those linking me with the sect are either ignorant or completely out for mischief. The sect has become captive of political forces and used for settling political scores.
“The fact that one of my commissioners, Buji Koi was named as member of the group does not make me a member. It doesn’t make sense. I leave the rest for Nigerians to judge whether it is a crime to do good to all men,” he said.