Bombs, Boko Horror and Angry Bishops By Aisha Yolah

Just before midnight on Tuesday this week I received a phone call from a former boss and journalist colleague. He currently works with one of the newest ground-breaking weekly publications of our time. He was worried.

What he called the ‘agenda setting’ for breaking up the country using that recurring call (I call it, threat) of a Sovereign National Conference (SNC) has started in earnest, he said. He insisted I look for a copy of that day’s The Punch newspaper for a better understanding of what he was talking about. Not only were ‘forces’ bent on causing the disintegration of this great and suffering country, they were prepared to back down only if their principal gets tenure elongation. His grim advice? Get ready for chaos.

Tenure elongation. The SNC threat. All very familiar if we cast our mind back to Cartelopia’s quasi –military regimes of 1999-2007 and before to 1986 through to 1998. This time there are new elements. What again you might ask (as we say in Nigeria)? Why, this time it’s not just armed robbery across the nation or on again, off again insurgency in the Niger Delta. This time we are dealing with other (additional) threats – Boko Horror, Bombs and angry Bishops.

This is not a good time for us and that is saying a whole lot.

Since the coming of Jonah, Cartelopia’s soldier of good fortune and current Prime Minister (PM), things have transformed indeed. In April 2010 he promised that his focus would be ‘on electoral reform, delivering peace dividends to the Niger Delta and the rest of the country, and standing strong on our resolve against corruption’.

How hollow that all sounds today. The Niger Delta may be a little quieter – though pipelines are still going up in flames occasionally and kidnapping has remained a major source of ‘employment’. And our incredible 2011 General elections have been internationally hailed. Nationals however seem to be far less effusive than foreigners; as though there were something that only sons of the soil can really understand. A cynical resignation has taken hold. Even the most enthusiastic supporters of the PM keep insisting lamely, that there are ‘no perfect elections’.

The still unpunished and inexplicable logistics disaster that greeted the first day of the general elections was the beginning of our electoral undoing, in my view. The achievements of a fairly good voter register were rubbished by its virtual non-utilisation in the voting proper. Then the integrity of the electoral process as it unfolded with Police chief routinely contradicting the Elections chief, sinister technical errors bobbing up from nowhere, left many of us shaking our heads.

It’s all history now, swept under the carpet along with news of already tired elections tribunals and uncooperative electoral officials. Add to this waves of violent protest which strangely and rather too suddenly disintegrated into pogroms against whole communities and Cartelopia’s complete undoing begins to manifest. Those of us on the ground… as elections observers, as members of the development community without the luxury of foreign citizenships or homes abroad, sensed many things just did not gel. From strange election results to fratricidal killings that were selectively reported by most national and downplayed by international media, we were left worried and apprehensive. Something just was not right.

Through this thread of events as a long subsisting sectarian war in Central province simmered and a newer two year -old insurgency in North- East province began to explode, the affable and good natured PM seemed oblivious. He visited Central province during the electioneering campaign but made little mention of the routine killings that had been taking place… It was backslapping and celebration.

As for North-east province (where prior to October 1st  2010, no  bombs had ever exploded) hundreds were being  daily killed, innocents, police officers, soldiers and politicians had been gunned down by ‘unknown’ Boko Horror gunmen. Our jolly PM has never thought it worth his while to visit there. One is tempted to ask today especially if perhaps the North East province is not part of his constituency. As one newspaper put it an ‘unofficial state of emergency’ currently exists there, as an exodus of students, ‘non-indigenes’ and others from all over the country continues – my home province of Kano evacuated all its students last week. And he continues to say practically nothing.

Since the bombs started to go off on October 1st at the hands of people our PM said he knew we have had countless exploding, maiming and obliterating at will, in the Federal capital, and at least two nearby provinces. Unlike that seminal October 1st one – all the rest have been attributed to a nameless, faceless and essentially leaderless Boko Horror terrorist group. We are told they are the same Muslim group that operated peacefully since 2003 in the North East province under the watch of one notable governor.

To say it is all unsettling, illogical and frightening is another understatement. In spite of our PMs cocksure bravado since October 1st – no- one, I repeat , no-one has been charged, and prosecuted to conclusion- whether in the name of ‘foreign terrorists’ (not MEND of course) or the ghostly – Muslim- Boko Horror. Hundreds have been arrested and locked them up without charge, but that is another story.

There is also a Sheikh Albani from Zaria province who was arrested in early June and charged with masterminding a pre-election bomb which killed one bomber only. That bomb left a fellow ‘bomber’ alive to tell his story conveniently from his hospital bed to a satellite TV channel and selected newspapers. He told reporters how he and his colleague had been given the bomb by an Arab man. Some versions said it was Osama Bin Laden himself. Since then nothing more has been heard from this witness and ostensible criminal. Rather, months later, a very dark skinned African, Sheik Albani was arrested and locked up for weeks. He was finally released on bail due to complete lack of evidence to connect him with this ‘bombing’ on June 22nd only to be promptly re-arrested outside the premises. He was (re-)arraigned on June 23rd on charges – wait for it- of illegal possession of firearms! Since then he has finally been granted actual bail.

My concern is that it turns out that this Sheikh also happens to be one cleric who is reported to have raised alarm over the strange preaching of the long-dead leader of Boko Horror. He unlike another even more renowned, respected and revered scholar Sheikh Jafar Adam, who fought the extremist strands of Boko Horror, is however, still alive…

Meanwhile the strangest part of this story is that according to reports- the only bomber survivor so far known to us all, thanks to that TV footage is now nowhere to be found..! Indeed! The man who so volubly told his story of Arabs- read Muslims-  and Osamas prowling our country as we went  to vote, has disappeared! Go figure.

And so we come to the third arm of our unfolding nightmare: The angry, angry bishops who have been calling for the resignation of the country’s central bank governor. In an almost surreal turn of events we find that Cartelopia is now gripped by the desire of a vocal few to deprive ‘fellow’ compatriots of the opportunity to set up an additional system of banking and finance that has been on the cards for at least ten years. It is system which has become a part of the global financial landscape since the 1970s. It is known as Islamic finance.

They cry foul. And have been joined by a (once) respected National Bar Association (NBA). Does it matter that the head of the NBA is also an honorary adviser to the affable PM?  Ask them what they mean by the Islamisation of the country with its- at ‘least 50%’ Christian community and you might not get a cogent answer. Instead they reply by threatening SNC…fire and brimstone. Of course as the imminent ‘break-up’ of the country is posited on our cyber forums (because of Islamic finance??) and the hysterics continue –one man remains silent: our ever affable PM. As my colleagues and I continue to agonise, maybe he had better start talking.

Yolah, a development economist, journalist and public affairs analyst writes from Abuja.







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  • El-Shuaib Mukhtar


  • Felix

    do u kill innocent humans because u want to attract the attention of the president?. Did the killings by moslems sect in the north start with jonathan-what about the beheading of Gideon Akaluka? This is how most of you Fulanis behave when not in power. U bevave like a bull in a china shop! Why was Abiola and his wife Kudirat killed by the Fulanis in the North? How old were you when Maitasine killed over 4,000 nigerians. When BH threw bombs into the Bayero univerty chapel were u on holidays? Prior to the riot Buhari ordered his men to lynch an lyncable being in the north-the call to kill during the post election riot came from Mosque-who challenged buhari then-which moslem leader has come out to condemn BH?. Who did when british and Italian national were killed in sokoto. Have fulanis elders given thought to Jos-where they now claim they have been for over a 1,000 yrs. Where do the fuel scammers come from-you must be this (money na hand back na ground) type of loose women in the north-in search of an extra suitor-cause most of u can never be statisfied even by the abina of a horse

    • tmotmo

      Some of your figures are not correct, and where they are close to been correct, they are irrelevant to discussion at hand. To show your biasness and bigotry, no comment from you on the 3rd issue by the writer(i.e. Angry Bishops on islamic finance/banking).
      I will conclude on you by saying “Poor thinking poor nation”.

  • Clayboots

    Sovereign National Conference (SNC) is the best thing for this country now. let people bring whatever they have to the centre. If you will bring borko haram to the centre, fine and good. Some people have conteneously steal Nigeria wealth and turn around to use it against the country

  • Oluremi Olu

    Those who created the country that is today referred to as Nigeria created it on a patently false assumption. They assumed that a tabula rasa existed on the ground prior to her creation. Based on this false assumption , they proceeded to draw lines on the map, which lumped together strange boat fellows, some with their heads in, and paddles aligned towards, rowing into the fourteenth century; while, others were earnestly wishing to row fast in the opposite direction. Nigeria was never created to serve, in the short or long term, interests of nationhood; but rather, those of imperialist expansion and economic exploitation. Hence, it was never ruled, ab initio, in any manner that serves the interests of nationhood. Thus, divide and rule, which is still very sadly with us, and manipulation, nay rigging, of the system in favour of their collaborators and protégés were the order. Therefore, at “independence” the colonialists naturally handed over the country to their collaborators and cleverly covered their backs by ensuring that volumes of records detailing their actions were classified for one hundred years; over, three times the statutory prohibition period under their own oath of secrecy for public servants. Given the circumstances of her birth and being a contraption of exploitative convenience, now converted into a nation, by fiat, its life will naturally start to unravel. This is what accounts for the condition of the contemporary Nigerian state. And, this is why we need a Sovereign National Conference (SNC) of ethnic nationalities, to sit down and discuss our problems and fashion a way out of them. Granted that a break up of Nigeria is a possible outcome of an SNC; it must, however, be pointed out that no country, repeat no country or union, has an absolute right to exist, for ever. A country has a right to exist only to the extent that she is serving the interests of her citizens; when it ceases to do so, she loses all legitimate right to exist. There is nothing sacrosanct about the Nigerian union that it cannot be broken up, after all no one, living or dead, in that space was consulted before the creation of the union. Even the United Kingdom (UK), the country which created Nigeria, does not take her union for granted. The UK is made up of four ethnic nationalities – the English, Irish, Scots and Welsh. Three of these ethnic nationalities have nationalist parties, who have as a permanent clause in their electoral manifesto, the intention of pulling their various regions out of the UK. The Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) is the most far travelled along this irredentist route , as she will soon be holding a referendum to sound out the opinions of the Scots on pulling Scotland out of the union.
    It is common knowledge that Nigeria is a special case; because, for example, what works well and peaceably elsewhere fails upon being introduced into the Nigerian space. Hence, while Islamic Finance might be a part of the World economic system, and should normally not raise eyebrows when introduced anywhere on the globe, the Nigerian situation is different. The recent Boko Haram outrages, their manifesto, the seeming complacency and denial of northern leaders from all walks, sometimes bothering on tacit approval; has created such a charged religious atmosphere that anything linked with Islam, no matter how ostensibly beneficial, will attract suspicion from the Bishop, or indeed any Christian. Therefore, in railing at the Bishop, the writer is either being downrightly mischievous or ignorant in their argument.

  • Eustace

    this guy should not be addressed as a development economist.It is a mockery of Economics.Maybe he should be designated to wrote propaganda columns! but never in New York times or the Economist.