Against the background of denials by high-ranking functionaries of the Muslim establishment in Nigeria that the Boko Haram insurgency is not a Muslim agenda, we owe it to ourselves and the world to set the record straight. In 2012, in a widely publicized video recording that is easily accessible on the internet, Abubakar Shekau, the late erstwhile leader of Boko Haram announced the mission statement of his sect. Among other things, he said “this war is not political. It is religious. It is between Muslims and unbelievers (arna). It will stop when Islamic religion is the determinant in governance in Nigeria or, in the alternative, when all fighters are annihilated and no one is left to continue the fight. I warn all Muslims at this juncture that any Muslim who assists an unbeliever in this war should consider himself dead.”
This mission statement explains why Muslim communities have been viciously attacked for having within them persons who served as informants to the authorities. While we appreciate the concern of well-meaning persons in Nigeria and world-wide over the fate of more than three hundred female students abducted from Government Secondary School in Chibok, Borno State, by the Boko Haram sect we want to draw the attention of the world to the fact that the abduction saga has become a distraction that has left our communities to free-pillaging and rampaging by Boko Haram.
These are the facts that happened in the past four weeks:
In Ataggara, Southern Senatorial Zone of Borno State, Boko Haram attacked and were repelled by the community. Community leaders went to Pulka, where a military formation exists, to report the attack and were assured that a unit would be drafted to the town to protect the people. The following day some people appeared in Nigeria Army issue in nine armoured personnel carriers bearing the colours and insignia of the Nigerian Army. They announced to the villagers that they had come to assess the security situation. When the people gathered to hear them, the men that came in armoured personnel carriers, and in Army uniform, opened fire and killed over two hundred and fifty men, women and children. Those who were able to take to their heels were pursued by the marauders into the bush and when they were caught up with, were either butchered with knives or shot to death. The survivors have taken refuge in Cameroun, or in friendly communities;
In Bokko Wizhe, four people died when Boko Haram terrorists opened fire indiscriminately in the predominantly Christian community. About two thousand survivors have fled to Cameroun and neighbouring states;
In Bokko Timta, about 1,500 Christians had to flee to Cameroun and other states in Nigeria after Boko Haram attacked their community;
In Kugyly, about 2,500 fled the village to Cameroun and other states in Nigeria after they were visited by Boko Haram;
In Ngoshe, 46 persons were killed by Boko Haram and more than 3,000 had to flee to Cameroun and other states in Nigeria. None of the houses and churches in the community escaped being torched;
In Gava, 26 persons were killed by Boko Haram. About 2,000 people fled to Cameroun and other states in Nigeria. All the houses and churches were burnt down;
In Amuda, 17 persons were murdered by Boko Haram and more than four thousand people fled to other places. The Village Head is, at present taking refuge in Nasarawa State;
In Halaghwa after an undetermined number of persons were killed by Boko Haram, about 500 persons from the community fled to Cameroun and another 2,000 fled to other states in Nigeria;
In Agapalawa, 15 persons were killed by Boko Haram and more than 4,000 had to flee to Cameroun;
In Ganjara, 46 persons were killed by Boko Haram and more than 2,500 fled to Cameroun;
In Jibrili, an undetermined number of people were killed by Boko Haram and Christian houses and churches burnt to the ground. The remnant of the people have fled to Cameroun;
In Zamgba, Boko Haram attacked and killed 13 people, and about 1,700 were forced to flee to Cameroun;
In Ashigashita, Boko Haram attacked and killed 10 people. The remnant of the community fled to Cameroun;
In Vale, Christians were completely chased out. Their belongings were looted by Boko Haram and their sympathizers;
In Kwadale, an undetermined number of persons were killed by Boko Haram and about 2,000 fled to Cameroun;
In Pulka, 30 persons were killed by Boko Haram, including the Village Head Mallam Ali Pulka. Many members of the community have fled to Cameroun leaving about 4,500;
In Kirawa, all the Christians fled to Cameroun after the village was taken over by Boko Haram;
In Chinene, Boko Haram killed 14 persons, more than 500 fled to Cameroun, about 1,000 fled to other states in Nigeria, while about 1,000 are still in the mountains as all motorable roads have been blocked by the sect;
In Arboko, more than 10 persons were killed by Boko Haram, all houses and churches razed to the ground, and about 2,000 have fled to Cameroun;
In Chikide, 2 persons were killed by Boko Haram, and about 1,500 have fled to Cameroun and other states in Nigeria;
In Barawa, more than 20 persons were killed by Boko Haram, and the community’s houses and churches burnt down. Survivors have fled to Cameroun, other states and the hills;
In Pege, Boko Haram killed five persons by Boko Haram, and about 1,000 members of the community have fled to Cameroun and other states in Nigeria;
In Kaghum, Boko Haram killed more than 20 persons by Boko Haram, and more than 3,000 members of the community have been forced to flee to Cameroun, other states in Nigeria and the hills;
In Angurva, an undetermined number of persons were killed by Boko Haram, and some 4,000 persons have fled to Cameroun;
In Baladigavuraza, Boko Haram killed 3 persons, about 2,000 persons fled to Cameroun and another 500 fled to other states in Nigeria;
In Kunde, some 7 persons were killed and the community’s houses and churches burnt. About 2,500 fled to Cameroun and the hills;
In the past fourteen days the following communities in Damboa Local Government area have been over-run by Boko Haram: Kwapchi; Shawa; Daku; Kwamjilari; Blakat 1; Blakat 2; Blakat 3; Mulgwe 1; Mulgwe 2; Mulgwe 3; Katsalabulari; Kulali 1; Kulali 2; Kuburuvhu; Kautivha; Izghe 1; Izghe 2; Izghe 3; Kaya 1; Kaya 2; Konchi;
Mbulakuduga (Alagamo) in Askira Uba Local Government Area was over-run within the same time frame;
Takulashi of Chibok Local Government Area was also over-run in the past few days.
In all the communities it has over-run, Boko Haram has removed the Nigerian national flag and hoisted its own flag, the flag of jihad.
We want to place on record that all the communities mentioned above are predominantly Christian. Why are we being attacked now? The answer lies in the result of the 2011 Presidential Election. It is on record that the Middle Belt, which the Southern Borno State Senatorial Zone is a bona fide part of, voted massively for President Goodluck Jonathan; a fact that enabled the sitting President to succeed at the polls in 2011. Going towards 2015, Boko Haram, on behalf of the oligarchic North, wants to decimate and displace our communities so that we would be less of a factor. Why is President Jonathan not instructing the military ro protect our communities? We are aware that the the Nigerian military is a deeply divided fighting force.
As the Ataggara case above illustrates, when some Muslim commanding officers and others receive reports from our communities, they pass such reports to Boko Haram who come in Nigerian Army issue uniforms to perpetrate pogroms in our communities.
Boko Haram has many atrociously wealthy sponsors on account of the fact that successive governments in Nigeria have always patronized Muslims to our exclusion. It is primitive capital that those Muslims have accumulated from the Nigerian state that they are deploying to decimate our populations. Our most profound prayer to President Jonathan, which we want other Nigerians and the international community to pressurize him to accede to, is that he should arm our communities. if we have access to arms and ammunition like Boko Haram, we would have a sporting chance of defending our lives, dependants and property. We would not run away from Boko Haram. Our President should please do this in good time before it is too late. We have a right to live in peace in our communities and to vote our choice without any fear, however we choose to do so in electoral contests in our country. That is an irreducible minimum for every citizen.
As communities in the defunct Northern Region we are not unaware of the inspiration of Boko Haram and their sponsors. It is no news that the average Northern Muslim thinks that Nigeria is his to dominate, and its riches his to dispense. In October 1960, the late Premier of the defunct Northern Region and Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello, had declared:
“The new nation called Nigeria should be an estate of our great-grandfather, Uthman Dan Fodio. We must ruthlessly prevent a change of power. We use the minorities of the North as willing tools and the South as a conquered territory and never allow them to rule over us, and never allow them to have control over their future.” (Parrot Newspaper, 12th Oct. 1960; republished on November 13, 2002, by the Tribune Newspaper, Ibadan.);
Before the late Sardauna made this very revealing statement, the Conference of Northern Chiefs, in response to a letter from the UK-based West African Students’ Union (WASU) to the Northern emirs asking them to support the constitutional evolution of Nigeria into an independent nation, had declared “holding this country together is not possible except by means of the religion of the Prophet. If they want political unity let them follow our religion.” (Obafemi Awolowo, Path to Nigerian Freedom, London: Faber and Faber, 1947, p.51.);
We recall that the Fulani Jihad failed woefully to Islamize our people in the 19th Century. We also recall that the Kanuri, who had been practising Islam for more than eight centuries before the Fulani Jihad, could not Islamize our people. Boko Haram seeks to succeed where their more illustrious ancestors failed.
If the Federal Government of Nigeria would not arm our communities to defend ourselves, the least it can do is not to stand in the way of other Nigerians and members of the international community who are so inclined to help arm our communities. Boko Haram, as its mission statement as espoused by the late Abubakar Shekau states, the only time it would be mollified is “….when Islamic religion is the determinant in governance in Nigeria or, in the alternative, when all fighters are annihilated and no one is left to continue the fight.”
Our people refuse to be forcibly Islamized. We, also, insist on making our own free choices. It is our belief that it is only on the basis of mutual respect that nations can be built. We would like to contribute our quota to building the Nigerian Federation into a nation and call on others to follow our peaceful path. But if the forces of evil insist on pursuing their present murderous course, our people will be forced to respond in kind and to meet force with force. The present path of violence by Boko Haram can only lead to destruction, Boko Haram’s destruction as well as others.
We thank you for giving us an ear.
Dr. Pogu Bitrus (of Chibok), Rev. Ibrahim Dauwa (of Gwoza) and Rev. James Yaga, JP (of Gwoza)