Sometime within the week, some shadowy character by the name Abu Mohammed Ibn Abdulazees, who claims to hold a prominent position within the ranks of the dreaded insurgents, Boko Haram, announced what he called a 'ceasefire'. He said he had sat with officials of the government in Borno state and had come to the conclusion that Muslims were also suffering under the sustained atmosphere of terror the sect had visited on residents of the state.
Ever since that purported ceasefire was announced my phone has been subjected to numerous calls from individuals who said they wanted to ask from me whether there was any credibility to this. At a stage, I feared that my modest handset would crash as the volume of calls increased. Then a myriad of emotions took over me. I was upset that people could not read between the lines.
The same thing that got me angry and upset however turned out to be the exact reason I decided to write this article. For, believe it, among those who called me were highly placed security officials, local and international journalists, diplomats and a wide range of highly-heeled people across Nigeria. Each enquirer desired to know from me whether truly this was coming from Boko Haram?
I therefore came to the conclusion that each of the individuals, particularly those in Nigeria, who called me wanted, not to experiment with their personal security but to assess correctly the real situation on the ground. In the course of one’s career in journalism one has maintained direct and open communication channel with the leadership of the Jama 'atu Ahlus-Sunnah Lidda'Awati Wal Jihad, known as Boko Haram for the professional purpose of reporting and keeping the public informed.
My recent conversation with this same sect’s leadership has highlighted a position that is consistent with the sect’s declarations on matters of ceasefire or dialogue in the past couple of years. Over the ceasefire matter, the leadership of the sect is actually miffed that a nation of the profile and magnitude of Nigeria’s, with the high level of intelligent people is being so easily taken by the latest official deceit, and nobody seems to be asking questions.
Initially what seems to bother the leadership of the sect is how to swiftly get its information distancing itself from the ceasefire announcement to its foot soldiers, having several months ago adopted the Taliban model of suspending issuing press releases anymore, as I learnt the sect has reached out to its members asking them not be distracted.
Just like Dr Chidi Amuta, correctly assessed in his “Engagement” column on ThisDay Newspaper last Tuesday, several layers of contractor businesses have erupted under the Boko Haram security sub-head. One has the strong sense though that all the hoopla about ceasefire and dialogue are offshoots of the same pecuniary motives rooted in this administration’s mindset. It appears that government and the security community are more interested in shadows and bubbles such as this decidedly false declaration of ceasefire by a suspect character than in substance and clear headed engagement.
Or how else could anyone explain the make-belief, swift resurrection of Presidential official ceremonies in Borno state marked by Vice President Namadi Sambo’s trip to Maiduguri, the first by any elected official in the Presidency since the escalation of violence. Evidently, this is intended as a Presidential celebration of some “worthy” achievement as well as a clear message to Nigerians that the country was rapidly returning to normalcy. We all pray it does. But one’s information points to a different reality.
That reality sadly is that there has hardly at anytime been a profound interest to engage the sect in spite of what is publicly declared by officials of government. What instead has featured prominently in the minds of official and security players is a obsession to create the impression that there exists a schism in the sect. Nothing has been spared by security agencies to build on that theory. Where and what constitute the evidence, you want to ask? Nothing, just that pecuniary desires are better fed if you create such a illusion and feed it consistently.
And so, the whole design about a ceasefire declared by one Abdulazees is the same bubble game. There’s nothing there. The only thing one sees there is danger. Nigerians are being given a false sense of rapprochement. The security foot soldiers that find themselves regularly at the war front are being fed with wrong information about the enemy. I am not an expert in deciphering what danger wrong information about the enemy may expose the troops to but I know enough about the leadership of the sect and its protocols to know that the so called Abdulazees is a grand fiction created by those who want to feather their personal nests.
The leadership of the sect has only acknowledged two attempts of dialogue through their rare YouTube appearances and press releases by Abubakar Shekau and Abul Qaqa respectively in the past. It was never by some fictitious character sauntering into the gilded meeting rooms of the Borno Government House with the governor and security officials in tow to discuss ceasefire. Imam Shekau, following the collapse of the two attempts has said that his religion does not allow him the luxury engaging with the same person who has betrayed twice. I know that the leadership of the sect will not declare a ceasefire unilaterally if it has not gotten assurances from its clear and undeniable sources that the President of Nigeria is willing to give a stamp of authority to its sustenance.
So who is Abdulazees? He once called my phone and introduced himself as a shura member in the sect, requesting that I convey some information to the media. I asked him just two questions, and he had no answer. For the benefit of those who desire accurate information the fable about second in command within the Boko Haram sect is just what it is, mere fable. The sect runs a council of leaders with the imam as the head. There is no second in command, and there has never been. It’s leadership model at that level can best be understood if I bring in the catholic group of cardinals. I am not sure there is a second in command to the catholic pope.
He refers to himself as the commander of Southern and Northern Borno and doubles as a second in command to the spiritual leader of Boko Haram. How can a commander of two districts in Borno serve as second in command of an organization that has active cells and presence in many parts of northern Nigeria and West Africa? He also categorically refers to himself as a member of Boko Haram. That was it. No member of that sect in any leadership position would refer to himself that way. In effect, one’s objective is to advise Nigerians to be vigilant and take their personal safety seriously because there yet exists no ceasefire.
Recently, one made suggestions to some of those in authority on clear ways to get the sect to the table so as to ease the protracted crisis and end the bloodletting, but apparently the suggestions fell on deaf ears probably because it called for clear accountable steps or that it contrasts with the pecuniary desires of individual contractors. As has been reiterated in the past, it will be difficult for the government to have any direct negotiations with the leadership of the sect because there is a missing element which is lack of confidence. Sadly, all those still playing at the table from the side of government are not interested in building confidence. Presently, government lacks the discipline and coherence required for this particular assignment.
Salkida can be reached at [email protected] gmail.com and @contactSalkida