About two weeks after Nigeria’s secret police, the State Security Service [SSS], cleared a former Governor of Borno State, Ali Modu Sheriff, of any link to the extremist Boko Haram sect, PREMIUM TIMES has obtained a video suggesting that President Goodluck Jonathan is personally aware and strongly convinced of the former’s governor’s longstanding relationship with the founder of the sect.
In the video clip, shot in April 2013 during a visit he made to Borno state, Mr. Jonathan was heard describing Mr. Sheriff, who was then a member of the opposition All Progressives Congress [APC] as a “friend” of Mohammed Yusuf, the man who founded and led Boko Haram for years.
Mr. Yusuf died while in the custody of the Nigeria Police after he and a number of his followers were arrested following a bloody clash between the sect members and law enforcement.
During his visit to Borno that April 2013 to persuade Borno leaders and residents to accept a heightened military presence in the state until the insurgency is checked, Mr. Jonathan suggested that Boko Haram evolved, blossomed and took up arms against the Nigerian state during Mr. Sheriff’s reign as governor of the troubled North-East state.,
As commander-in-chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces, President Jonathan regularly has access to a multiplicity of security reports, and many believed he spoke from a position of knowledge at the time.
The video features the president, dressed in agbada and a cap, and clutching two microphones in his left hand while he addressed his audience, trying to defend the militarization of Borno and other states in the northeast region.
In his speech, Mr. Jonathan argued that the militarization of the region began after the crises that trailed the murder of the Boko Haram founder.
For a moment, the president could not remember the name of the slain Boko Haram leader and he called on the audience for help.
“Ehn ehn, what is the name of ehn ehn Governor Sheriff’s friend?” the president asked.
The audience clapped and laughed. Some echoed Yusuf!
“When Yusuf was killed, that was the beginning of the crisis…” the president continued his speech.
Mr. Yusuf was the founder of the Boko Haram sect. His extrajudicial murder in 2009 marked the beginning of the deadly insurgency that is now threatening the entire northeast region of Nigeria.
See full transcript of President Jonathan’s speech. Then watch the video after the transcript.
… Bunkers in Maiduguri or Borno state. Why should the bunkers come? Who wants to send bunkers to Borno state. There are too many APCs (armoured personnel carriers). Why should there be APCs in Borno state? Who wants to send APcs to Borno state? We are talking about soldiers.
There are some people even saying JTF should go. Who wants to spend money paying allowances of soldiers for God-sake. We need money for development.
If the circumstances that brought the soldiers are no longer there, that day, they will all leave. [Audience clap clap clap]
They were not in Borno state in 2001, 2002, 2003, up to 2009. Probably that is when ehnn this man was killed, and that was the beginning of crises.
Ehn ehn, what is the name of ehn ehn governor Sheriff’s friend? [Audience clapped, laughed and echoed Yusuf].
When Yusuf was killed, that was the beginning of the crisis…
A history : Ali Modu Sheriff and Boko Haram
Mr. Sheriff’s alleged link with Boko Haram dates back to his days as governor of Borno between 2003 and 2011.
Multiple security sources, politicians from his home state and residents of Borno claim Mr. Sheriff was close to the group and and its leadership, and indeed appointed a member of the sect to his cabinet as commissioner.
Recently, an Australian negotiator, working with the Nigerian government, Stephen Davis, also claimed that the sect’s top members told him Mr. Sheriff was a key sponsor of their activities.
On December 16, the SSS exonerated Mr. Sheriff after it paraded six men – including a former special assistant to current Borno State governor, Kashim Shettima. The SSS claimed the suspects admitted fabricating the scenarios the Australian negotiator relied on to make his claims.
A leaked security intelligence dispatch obtained by this newspaper also suggested Mr. Sheriff has link with the sect.
The memo claimed Mr. Sheriff personally oversaw the training and deployment of fighters from the Abeche region in Chad.
In Abeche, Mr. Sheriff operated from the lodge of the Chadian President, Idris Deby, the memo claimed.
After joining the Peoples Democratic Party [PDP] in July 2014, Mr. Sheriff became a close ally of President Jonathan, and top leaders of the ruling party. He now enjoys state protection.
Mr. Sheriff has consistently denied any link with the Boko Haram sect. But this new video may pose a fresh challenge in his bid to delink himself from the deadly sect, which now appears to have grown out of control.