Politicisation of Boko Haram Insurgency, By Lai Mohammed

Lai Mohammed
Lai Mohammed

Being a presentation by Lai Mohammed, National Publicity Secretary, All Progressives Congress, APC, before the House of Commons, London, September 8.

I am here to share my personal thoughts and those of my party, the APC, on the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria. It is certainly apt to say this platform and audience provide auspicious opportunities to correct misinformation, half-truths and endemic political manipulation of the Boko Haram insurgency by our political opponents.

Since the formation of our party the All Progressives Congress (APC ) our political opponents have strenuously tried (but failed) to misinform Nigerians and the international community that the APC is linked to Boko Haram, claiming ‘our actions, utterances and body language’ supports or sympathises with Boko Haram

Of course, this deliberate political misinformation and manipulation continue to flounder and fail spectacularly, not least because successive events prove these claims to be hollow, but also that it is our political opponents who are playing a ‘Boko Haram Poker Game’.

In particular the PDP and anyone for that matter (including their hired American PR firm, Levick) have failed to produce any substantial and even anecdotal evidence linking the APC with Boko Haram!
Keen followers and watchers of Nigerian politics are well aware of recent revelations by Dr Stephen Davis, a renowned Australian hostage release negotiator hired by the Goodluck Jonathan government over the Chibok saga, who confirmed some few days back that indeed the sponsors of Boko Haram are nestled in the PDP and President Goodluck Jonathan government – in the persons of Alh. Ali Modu Sheriff (former governor of Borno state) and Major General Ihejirika (former Chief of Army Staff). The value of this revelation is hardly about its newness, but that it collaborates previous revelations, such as those by the former NSA (late Major General Azazi Owoeye) and even by President Goodluck Jonathan himself!
My task here is incomplete without providing this august gathering with logical, empirical and evidence-based explanation and accounts of goings-on about the Boko Haram ‘crises’ in Nigeria. I emphasize that Boko Haram is a “crises” because it is no longer a single event but multiple intertwined crises.

There is the crisis of Boko Haram violent attacks, but also crises of the PDP-President Jonathan inept mismanagement, crisis of Nigeria’s military response and operations, crisis of refugees and internal displacement, and a crisis of insecurity in general.

What I present here are hardly my and APC’s hunches or guess-estimates or attempts at political misinformation, but logical accounts, insights and information contained in open-source materials, thus verifiable. I proceed to share these important empirical account of events about Boko Haram as detailed in media reports, academic papers and research, and even from different sections of the Nigerian government under five main headings:
a. Origin of Boko Haram
b. The Politics of Boko Haram
c. Boko Haram and Resource Allocation
d. The Boko Haram Crisis and GEJ Security Spending Spree
e. New Thinking and Approaches to Ending Boko Haram: The APC’s Prescriptions.

A. The Origins of Boko Haram
When the sect “Nigerian Taliban” the precursor of today’s monster called Boko Haram, started off in 2002, it was another fringe sect along the same pattern of many before it, which started off under the cloak of religion but were in real sense, in response to the widespread poverty, deprivation and the injustice that have hallmarked post-independent Nigeria.

Before now, the most remembered, for the scale of its share brutality and mass killings, was the Maitaisine Crisis in the northern city of Kano that left thousands of people dead in 1980. A decisive response by the then Federal Government saw the crushing of the sect, which was fiercely anti-modernism. Maitaisine was the nickname of the sect founder, Mohammed Marwa, whose preaching attracted a huge number of youths, unemployed immigrants and others who felt that mainstream Muslim teachers were not doing enough for their communities.

By December 1980, the group had started launching attacks against other religious figures and the police, forcing the government to call in the military. In the ensuing clashes, about 5,000 people including the founder, died. But in the end the sect was dead and buried for good.

Fast forward to 2009, almost three decades later, Boko a Haram, a salafi-jihadi group that espouses messianic revivalism of Islamic religion and cultural practices ( sharia) and which translates literally as ” Western education forbidden” was in full swing and following in the path of the Maitaisine.

It is no use hiding the fact that the emergence of Boko Haram and its armed insurgency from 2009, has changed the political, economic, security and socio-cultural landscape of Nigeria.

But who and what is Boko Haram? Why and how did it come about?

Boko Haram’s original name is the Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad (People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet’s Teachings and Jihad) movement.

‘Boko Haram’ when translated literarily means ‘Western education’ (Boko) is forbidden (haram), however the group’s ideology transcends this to mean the rejection of western culture and civilization of which education is a vehicle for its transfer.

In recorded interviews by the BBC with the late founder of the group (Mohammed Yusuf), he stated that ‘western-styled education is mixed with issues that run contrary to our belief in Islam’ and ‘our land was an Islamic state before the colonial masters turned it to a Kafir (infidel) land. The current system is contrary to true Islamic belief’.

Another recorded interview with the group’s spokesperson clarified that ‘Boko Haram does not in anyway mean Western education is a sin…(It) actually means western civilization is forbidden. The difference is that while the first gives the impression that we are opposed to formal education coming from the West…which is not true…the second affirms our belief in the supremacy of Islamic culture, for culture is broader, it includes education but not determined by western education’.

The emergence of Boko Haram as a movement and the evolution of its armed insurgency could be divided into five phases:

Phase One
This pertains to the earliest recorded information about the group and its ideological foundation and organizational development as a movement. There is a loose consensus that Boko Haram is an offshoot of the Nigerian Taliban Movement that was first reported in media circles around 2001-02 (following the US-led NATO military campaign in Afghanistan), that the top leadership of the group were adherents of the Ibn Taymiyyah Sect.

The group relocated (undertook Hijra) from Maiduguri city (capital of Borno state) to a remote location in Yobe state (Kanama) in 2002 to establish its own community that was governed in accordance with strict Islamic law and culture (Sharia). Following disagreements and clashes with neighboring communities over fishing rights and police action between 2003 and 2004 the group was dislodged from Kanama and it relocated back to Maiduguri in 2004.

Phase Two
This chronicles the regrouping, activities and growth of the group between 2004 and 2009. Boko Haram’s relocation to Maiduguri in 2004 led to its creation of a new base (the Ibn Taymiyyah Masjid around the railway area, north of Maiduguri). The group is alleged to have got financial support from within and outside Nigeria with which it set up businesses and started providing welfare services to the hordes of jobless, homeless and illiterate young people in Maiduguri. Mohammed Yusuf’s recorded and live public preaching started circulating and attracting wide audience during this period. With this, the group’s membership grew astronomically and the profile of its leader (Mohammed Yusuf) increased to the extent that he was included in the Borno state committee of clerics following the introduction of Sharia Law.

A known senior member of Boko Haram, Late Boju Foi, was actually appointed a commissioner by former Governor Ali Modu Sheriff. This marked official and unofficial connections between the group and influential politicians and government functionaries that facilitated the flow of patronage, financial resources and immunity from police prosecution for Mohammed Yusuf (whenever he was arrested, he was promptly released based on intervention by influential politicians). The fact that Boko Haram became a magnet for thousands of youth made politicians on all sides to seek to use it for election purposes. Boko Haram thereafter began spreading to neighboring Yobe, Bauchi and Adamawa states.

Phase Three
This is where things started to fall apart between Boko Haram and politicians/government officials in Borno state.

Available reports point to some sort of disagreement between the group and some politicians following the 2007 elections (e.g. over monthly stipends payable to the group). This was followed by recurring clashes between Boko Haram members and the local police, especially over police harassment and arrest of Boko Haram members. One of such led to the massacre of over a dozen police officers in July 2009.

This triggered a large-scale security operation as ordered by President Yar’Adua in Borno, Yobe and Bauchi states. It is estimated that over 1000 suspected Boko Haram members were killed or summarily executed by security forces, including Mohammed Yusuf and his in-laws in this operation. In the aftermath of this crack down, some members of Boko Haram leadership escaped and regrouped outside Nigeria, and linked up with other Salafist groups in the Sahel.

Phase Four
This covers the ‘hardening’ of Boko Haram as it was transformed into an ultra-violent, insurgent Salafist group. Remnants of Boko Haram reportedly joined up with salafi-jihadi groups – such as the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) and Al Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) – and underwent insurgency trainings in jihadi camps in Northern Mali, and Mauritania. From September 2010, Boko Haram commenced violent attacks to mark the onset of the current insurgency. It started with high profile targets such as the Nigerian Police headquarters, United Nations country office, police and military facilities, prisons, mosques and churches, banks, schools, government offices, telecommunication masts, markets and lately local communities.

Phase Five
This covers recent dynamic of Boko Haram insurgency, including the emergence of splinter groups, and the sheer increase in the Boko Haram’s audacity, including the Chibok kidnappings (that internationalized the insurgency), the take-over of entire communities and towns and communities, and the declaration of a Caliphate. In short, the Boko Haram insurgency has changed from what it was before, and it is at its fiercest level, as yet.

B. The Politics of Boko Haram

I have carefully chronicled Boko Haram’s evolution to counteract the rationale of PDP-Jonathan Administration failed attempt at linking it to the APC.

What is the PDP’s logic and rationale for linking the APC with Boko Haram?

This is based on a faulty logic of presuming that the APC is a sectional (Northern), as opposed to a national political party, that the APC is made up predominantly of Muslims, that it is a Muslim/Islamic party; and therefore the APC must directly or indirectly support and sympathize with Boko Haram; and finally that Boko Haram is a Northern and Muslim plot to resist and challenge a Southerner-Christian Jonathan Presidency.

This faulty logic is inconsistent on several fronts.

First, Boko Haram climaxed during the reign of Late President Yar’Adua, hence could not be a Northern plot against a Southern-Christian president. The 2009 security operation which led to the death of over 1000 members of Boko Haram was ordered by a sitting Northern-Muslim president!

Second, it was the PDP, from 2009 till date that transformed Boko Haram from a movement into an insurgent group, from a moderate Sunni group to a Salafist-Jihadi franchise, from a local group with localized (socio-economic and cultural change) agenda to an international violent Jihadist group.

Third, while it is true the APC is the number one grassroots party across Northern Nigeria, but so also is the case in substantial parts of Southern Nigeria. The APC is a proper Pan-Nigerian party that reflects the ethno-religious and cultural diversities of Nigeria. The APC has functional structures across the 774 LGAs, and 36 states plus Abuja. As a matter of fact as of today APC has seven state governors from the Northern part of Nigeria and eight from the Southern part of the country.

Fourth, the APC is neither a Muslim nor a Christian political party. I make bold to say that it is impossible to have a religious political party in Nigeria because of the complex diversity in Nigeria. APC, like the PDP has Christian members across Northern Nigeria, and Muslim members across Southern Nigeria. Moreover, it is absurd to still think of Nigeria in a simplistic North equate Muslim, and South equate Christian prism.

Fifth, the APC is neither ashamed nor proud to acknowledge the socio-economic and political abyss that made the emergence of such a deadly and evil group like Boko Haram possible in the first place, and the crass leadership failures and ineptitude that transformed Boko Haram into a killing machine.

It is the APC’s acknowledgement of the underlining socio-economic and political conditions that is misinterpreted by the PDP as APC’s ‘sympathy’ for Boko Haram. The truth must be told, Boko Haram, similar to other ethno-political militias in post-1999 Nigeria, emerged against the backdrop of deepening poverty, social-economic deprivations, corruption, poor governance, police brutality and governance failures under the PDP since 1999. It is no coincidence that the northern half of Nigeria, including the northeast corner (Boko Haram base), are the poorest in the country.

A 2010 assessment by the National Bureau of Statistics reported the national poverty rate was 60.9 per cent, but it was 77.7 percent for the northwest and 76.3 per cent for northeast, compared with 59 per cent for the Southwest. The World Bank also noted that economic growth and opportunities were not equally shared by different parts of the country, that growth was fastest in southern and middle agroclimatic zones, with much slower growth in northern states. This has resulted in the largest number of poor people residing in the northern part of the country.

Sixth, Alh. Ali Modu Sherif, and all known persons directly or indirectly implicated in Boko Haram are members of the PDP or persons serving or with close ties to the Jonathan presidency.

Finally, the President Jonathan-PDP’s political manipulation of the Boko Haram has to be understood as part of its ‘poker-like’ calculus for clinging on to political power ahead of the 2015 elections.

How is the PDP doing and using this? In essence, how is the PDP benefitting politically from the Boko Haram insurgency?

This is in at least six ways:

I. The PDP is using the Boko Haram crises to launder the battered image of the Jonathan presidency by securing attendance and participation for President Goodluck at important international summits and meetings. Curiously, Boko Haram has now become a way of getting the international community to talk and meet with President Goodluck, and gain international media coverage.

II. The PDP is also using the Boko Haram crises, especially the #Bringbackourgirls campaign, to blackmail opposition groups, impose emergency rule in states and areas controlled by opposition political parties, harass and restrict media freedom (through military clampdowns), and for justifying illegal activities.

III. The Boko Haram crises is readily used by the PDP to rationalize the Jonathan Government’s abdication of its constitutional responsibilities, including visits and assistance to areas affected, effective response to kidnappings and abductions (e.g. the GEJ government was silent over the Chibok girls kidnaps for over 15 days).

IV. The declaration of emergency rule, massive increases in spending on security without correspondent impact, has become a political gimmick by the PDP – it is ever counted as the GEJ achievement in promoting peace and security.

V. The PDP is actively politicizing the declaration of emergency rule. For instance, the PDP government is ever quick to propose and declare emergency rule in areas controlled by opposition political parties, but not in PDP-controlled states even where the scale of violence, killings and destruction are similar. For example, despite incessant violence, killings, displacement and destruction in Taraba, Benue and Plateau (PDP controlled states), the PDP has been quick to discount the possibility of a full scale emergency rule, however it is quick to impose emergency rule in non-PDP states at the slightest episode of violence.

VI. Finally, the status quo favours the PDP and President GEJ. Why? Boko Haram affected areas and indeed the Northern region are APC strongholds, hence Boko Haram crises, the declaration of emergency rule and general atmosphere of insecurity in the North is likely to affect voting (low turnout due to displacement). There is already talk of cancelling elections in some areas in the Northeast, all plots designed to minimize President Jonathan-PDP electoral losses in the North and enhance the likelihood of a PDP victory.

C. The Boko Haram Crisis and GEJ security Spending Spree

One salient, yet under-reported and under-discussed issue is the incredible amount of Nigeria’s national income being expended, by the President Jonathan administration purportedly on combating Boko Haram in the last 5 budget years (since 2010). I will share the mind-boggling figures with you.

APC’s research on total security sector spending (covering Defence, Police, Office of National Security Adviser, Road Safety Corps, and security-related service-wide votes (e.g. on Amnesty Programme, internal security operations, etc.) is based on information contained in successive budget documents.

Year Amount (Naira) Dollar Value (@N165 = $1)
2014 1,174,897,477,334.00 7.12 billion
2013 1,178,832,576,309.00 7.14 billion
2012 1,154,857,159,110.00 6.99 billion
2011 1,080,894,801,178.00 6.55 billion
2010 836,016,773,836.00 5.07 billion
Total 5,425,498,787,767.00 32.88 billion

 

Why and what is important about these statistics?

a. On the average the Boko Haram Insurgency has fuelled increases in security spending to around 25% of annual federal government expenditure.

b. In light of the rebasing of Nigeria’s GDP (put at N80.3 trillion or $509.9 billion), the yearly average 2010-14 is $6.58 billion, is equal to 1.3% of GDP.

c. The total for the 5 budget years amounts to 6.5% of Nigeria GDP.

d. Most importantly, there appears to be nothing to show (commensurate) for the huge monies purportedly expended. There are recurring reports and stories in the media about how frontline troops and soldiers have inferior weapons and firepower compared to Boko Haram, and how Nigerian soldiers have been fleeing battlefields (into Cameroon), and communities and military barracks being easily overrun by Boko Haram fighters.This begs the questions about where and how is the money being spent? Is it truly spent on security? Is corruption taking place in security spending? What and where are the military hardware acquired? Who is supplying security equipment – manufacturers or third party agents?

D. Unanswered Questions and Puzzles about Boko Haram Insurgency
APC’s research and analysis of the Boko Haram insurgency has unearthed some intriguing puzzles that warrant serious attention.

Since 2011, President Goodluck Jonathan-PDP led government has increased security spending; declared and renewed emergency rule, issued propaganda claiming the capture and killing of Boko Haram members (including the leader Abubakar Shekau), destruction of Boko Haram camps, and countless assurances of improving security and winning the battle against Boko Haram.

Over the same period however, the empirical realities are that Boko Haram has become more daring and audacious in its attacks through:

a. Increase in the scale, number and spread of attacks, even against supposedly fortified military bases!

b. More Boko Haram killings and casualty levels among civilians and security personnel.

c. Rapid growing number of Nigerian Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and Refugees, now estimated by the UNHCR at over 600,000!

d. Increasing reports of mutinies and soldiers absconding (desertion) from battlefields.

e. Boko Haram declaration of a Caliphate.

The key issue in all of this is this – are all these mere empirical coincidence or statistical correlation OR are there genuine organic and logical connections (some form of action and reaction)? Certainly it is my and APC belief that there is a pull and effect logic at work. Put simply, President Jonathan’s handling of the Boko Haram insurgency has been a spectacular failure, and this is deliberate for political reasons. Where and even if the President Jonathan-PDP Administration may claim to know nothing about the origin of Boko Haram, it has actively sustained the crises, profiteering from it!

E. The Way Forward: APC’s Stand

The APC has consistently argued for New Thinking and alternative approaches to the Boko Haram crises. The five pillars of APC’s approach are:

i. Urgent formulation of a holistic Counter-Terrorism strategy that emphasizes the synergistic use of military, political and economic elements, and roles for civil society and other critical stakeholders.

ii. Political negotiation with Boko Haram. All recent cases of internal security challenges (militias. etc.), including the OPC, MEND, etc. across Nigeria have all been resolved through political negotiations of some sort. Boko Haram cannot be an exception.

iii. Planning and Investing for Peace through a Human Development Approach to address the socio-economic, governance and environmental conditions that gave rise to Boko Haram. Key here are youth development, employment and livelihoods, education, access to markets, revival of agriculture, etc. What is advocated is a serious and genuine consideration of socio-economic revival of the Northeast and other affected Northern areas, not the tokenistic (£7 million) gesture proposed by the Jonathan Administration

iv. Bring in the United Nations (and its specialised agencies), and mobilise local and international peacebuilding organisations to work with communities and groups affected by Boko Haram.

v. Security Sector Reform through a thorough National Security Review, New National Security Policy, and tailored institutional, legal and operational reforms and re-organisation of Nigeria’s security agencies. The Boko Haram crisis has exposed systemic failures in Nigeria’s national security system, and there is a rare opportunity to use this as the basis to transform Nigeria’s National Security architecture.

Conclusion

Unfortunately but truly, the Nigerian government had bungled the fight against Boko Haram. The government’s attempt to make political capital out of the insurgency has backfired.

The Boko Haram crisis and the Jonathan Administration’s response to it must be seen in the context of the 2015 general elections in Nigeria. The status quo favours the PDP and President Jonathan. Why? Because Boko Haram-affected areas and indeed the Northern region are opposition strongholds, hence the Administration is hoping – and perhaps secretly wishing that the Boko Haram crisis, the declaration of emergency rule and general atmosphere of insecurity in the North will lead to the cancellation of voting in some areas and limit voters’ turnout in general, a development which the PDP believes will minimize its electoral losses in the North and enhance the likelihood of a PDP victory.

Beyond that, reports from the grapevine is that the government is even trying to cash in on the worsening crisis to explore the possibility of delaying the elections and extending its tenure. It does not occur to them that the country must first survive for anyone to rule it.

Our worst fears were confirmed recently when the Australian hired by President Jonathan to help negotiate the release of the over 200 school girls named the President’s allies and members of the ruling PDP as the sponsors of Boko Haram. He said the Boko Haram commanders identified the men: Former Army Chief Azubuike Ihejirika and a former two time governor of Borno state Ali Modu Sheriff – among the sponsors of the sect.

Now that the cat has been let out of the bag and the real sponsors of Boko Haram have been exposed, we hope President Jonathan will summon the courage to do the right thing: Hand over the identified Boko Haram sponsors to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for investigation and prosecution.

There is no doubt that Boko Haram has committed crimes against humanity in its scorched-earth campaign against unarmed citizens, and the most appropriate body to investigate and try the sect’s sponsors is the ICC.

According to Article 17 of the Rome Statute that set up the ICC, and to which Nigeria is a signatory, the ICC is a court of last resort, expected to exercise its jurisdiction only if states themselves are unwilling or unable to genuinely investigate and prosecute international crimes.

In view of the fact that the alleged Boko Haram sponsors are either members of the ruling party or friends of the President, it is clear that the PDP led Federal government is unwilling and unable to try them.

As we all know if the funding of Boko Haram is not cut off, it will be difficult to defeat the sect.
I thank you most sincerely for your attention.

Lai Mohammed
National Publicity Secretary
All Progressives Congress, APC
London, September 8, 2014


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