President Goodluck Jonathan calls them ghosts. But a French businessman and an Islamic activist are travelling down to Nigeria in April to meet leaders of the Islamic terror groups, the Boko Haram and Ansaru.
The man who has given himself the daring task is Rachid Nekazz, a flamboyant, handsome and a rich French businessman.
He plans to arrive Kano on 1 April, staying till 7 April before returning to France.
Nekazz puts his money where his mouth is; he is never scared to speak against the government or in favour of Muslims anywhere they are maltreated or subjected to ridicule.
He spends his personal money to travel from continent to continent advocating for Muslims’ religious and civil right.
The 41-year old is also popular for advocating women’s freedom to wear the nijab in Europe. He once pledged one million euros to pay fines of French Muslim women caught wearing the full veil.
Nekkaz believes that Boko Haram and Ansaru are organisations that advocate for the respect and dignity of African Muslims.
He likened the actions of the sects to that of the controversial American organisation, Black Panthers, during the 1960’s and 70’s. “With respect to the dignity of the Muslim people of Africa and of Nigeria, the actions of the Boko Haram and Ansaru organisations have definitely resulted in numerous repercussions in the international press since 2009,” he said.
He added that like “The Black Panthers of America made many key strategic errors in their time. Those errors have tainted not only their image, but that of Islam in and outside the US for the last 30 years.”
Nekkaz is optimistic that his trip to Nigeria next month will help leaders of the sect avoid the errors made by the Black Panthers in the US. “By discussing and helping their mission and their strategic choices in a way that would accomplish their local mission, while improving the image of Islam across the world,” he explained.
He also hopes to address the French hostage situation while he is Nigeria. In 2009, Nekkaz travelled with Jean-Bruno Roumegoux China in hopes of preventing the execution of 12 young Uyghurs, a Muslim minority in China living mainly in the region Xinjuang, in western China.
Nekkaz is the son of Algerian immigrants to France where he was born. He studied history of philosophy at the Sorbonne, France. He later made a fortune with an internet start-up but then diversified into real estate.
With real estate came politics and in 2007 he contested the French Presidential elections but failed to secure the 500 endorsements required. In the legislative elections of the same year, he founded his own party, standing in the 7th district of Seine-Saint-Denis and receiving only 156 votes, just over 0.5 per cent of the ballot. He unsuccessfully stood in 2008 for the municipal elections, promising €300 to every voter if elected.
He has had problems with the French government which includes two international tax audits and one week imprisonment for his political activism.
Egypt’s Cheikh Abou Ishaq, and Iran’s Ayatollah Safi are some of the world’s Muslim spiritual leaders that have celebrated Nekkaz for his actions and his advocacy for the rights of Muslim women in Europe.
In Nigeria he will meet with a different opposition. The Islamic sects are different from what Nekkaz has always fought for but it is not impossible that he could proffer some solution and reach an agreement with the sect leaders. A respite in the North will be a welcome idea.
Nekkaz is the author of Millenarium, a book of interviews with the leaders of the G7 countries (Clinton, Chirac, Blair…). The book is focused on the future of World Ethics, Human Rights, and Peace.
Despite his advocacy for women wearing the niqab, he does not support men to force their wives to wear it and stay at home.
“I’m in favour of a law to convict a husband who forces a woman to wear the niqab and who forces her to stay at home. But I’m also for a law that lets these women move freely in the streets, because freedom of movement, just like any freedom, is the most fundamental thing in a democracy. How can a woman truly integrate or find a job if her face is hidden?” he asked.