THE DYNAMICS OF BOKO HARAM FELLOWSHIP
Two days ago we delved into the ideology of Boko Haram and their revolt against Government entrenched corruption, man-made laws and westernization which they see as corrupting Muslims. In the thread of discussion, someone described it as “some sort of rejecting the “School Books Lies” and “western indecency”. But we saw some of his follies which started when he fell out with his tutors, and according to one comment “he should have been more open to wise counsels of clerics like late Sheikh Jaafar Adam and accept the path of dialogue and intense intellectual mobilization”. We also saw some of his intellectual deficiency in scrutinizing some scientific theories that led him, as someone commented “ to throw the baby and the bath water”. Today we will look at the complex makeup of his fellowship. For those who didn’t follow us two days ago, kindly refer to the part 1 of this write up titled THE ROOTS OF BOKO HARAM IDEOLOGY running currently on the I Am Almajiri page or on the wall of those who are currently tagged for this piece.
THE ALLIANCE OF ECOMOG AND ALI MODU SHERIFF
Known for his lavish generosity, the ex Governor of Borno state, Ali Modu Sheriff became popular among youths. Having realized their power, sheriff recruited, armed and sponsored these youths as his political thugs. These youth were mostly unemployed graduates, school drop outs, hoodlums and vagabonds that make a living carrying out assignment for power mongers. He used them to edge out Governor Mala Kachallah from the Government House in Maiduguri. These youths, called Ecomog defend the interest of any politician who paid their fees.
Ecomog could be traced to the era of SDP and were organized by former VP Atiku Abubakar. They bear different names such as Ecomog in Borno and Yobe state, Sara-Suka in Gombe state, Yan- Kallare in Bauchi state, Banu-Isra’il in Taraba state and Yan-Shinko in Adamawa state. The use of political thugs like ecomog is not peculiar to North-Eastern Nigeria but Nigeria as a whole. They execute criminal political activities similar to militia gangs in other parts of the country such as the ‘Bakasi Boys’ in Eastern Nigeria, the ‘Niger-Delta Defense Force’ in the Niger-Delta region, the Yan Gumurzu or Yan daba in Kano, the Odua Youth Movement among other. Despite guarantees and assurances from the Nigerian Police Force on security, these youths orchestrate all manner of political thuggery in the form of harassing opposition candidates, election rigging, turning away voters from polling, falsification of electoral register, assassination of political rivals and murder of innocent standby when they embark on their deadly activities. They used to undermine the conduction of free and fair election in the country and thus hinder smooth transition to good governance, All the major political parties in Borno State, including the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), had factions of ECOMOG that supported them because as one resident of Maiduguri said, “you can’t go to the stronghold of an opposition party without your own ECOMOG on ground to protect you.”
When the relationship between Sheriff and Ecomog went sour, some Borno PDP member took advantage of the situation to edge out ANNP by forming alliance with the Ecomog boys. During his interrogation with SSS, Ali konduga confesses that “Late Ambassador Pindar, a prominent PDP stepped in to sponsor Ecomog when relationship went sour with Modu sherrif . But when he got involved in an auto accident, which claimed his life, Senator Ali Ndume filled the vacuum left by Pindar. He was the one who composed threat text messages that we forwarded to prominent individual in order to frighten them so as to sway judgment in favour of PDP”.
THE ALLIANCE OF ECOMOG AND BOKO HARAM
Coincidentally Modu Sheriff’s ascension to power coincided with the period when Yusuf movement began to gain momentum in Maiduguri, and some of the Ecomog youths joined the movement. Ecomog activity thus began to take a religious dimension and so to strengthen his relationship with these youths, Ali Modu sheriff appointed one of the Ecomog leaders, Fuji Foi as commissioner for religious affair. Sheriff entered into a pact with them to implement Shari’ah rule in Borno State. Using their position with government, they became the mouthpiece of Boko Haram in mounting pressure on Ali modu sheriff to implement Shari’ah and when Sheriff failed in his promise, it led to a strain between them. The governor withdrew his financial sponsorship and began to disarm some of them. He relieved foi of his position as commissioner for religious affair. Mohammed Yusuf ordered Foi to resign from Sheriff’s cabinet and most other staff of the Religious Affairs Ministry brought by Foi left as well. The Yusufiyya began working to achieve Shari’ah rule through preaching.
INFILTRATION BY RENEGADE
When Muhammed yusuf began to get opposition from authorities for his radical preaching in public, Ali argued that the sect should embark on Hijra (migration), but late Yusuf declined and the two had a fierce disagreement. Ali proceeded to Kannamma and organizes a renegade group that was called the Taliban, although all effort to establish a link between it and the Taliban in Afghanistan proved abortive. Opposition from the local police in kannama led the renegade group to launch an insurgent attack on the police that resulted in the loss of many lives and properties in Kanamma and later in Gwoza in Borno State. Although this group fiercely disagreed with Yusuf, many of the escapees later returned to Yusuf and joined his movement when Ali died. (There is a theory that the renegade groups maybe part of Taliban and alqaeda that went into hiding in countries with porous border during the crack down on Alqaeda leaders).
EXPANSION OF FOLLOWERS
Yusuf’s preaching against societal ills and populist statements won the hearts of the people. At this stage, the organisation relied on donation from members. It was gathered that most people sold their belongings to contribute to the cause of implementation of Shari’ah that will save them from the clutches of western influences and domination. Members of prominent families from Borno and Yobe States reportedly join or later became sympathetic to his cause and supported it financially. He set up a religious complex, which included a mosque and an Islamic school. Many poor Muslim families from across Nigeria, as well as neighbouring countries, enrolled their children at the school.
Fuji Foi gave a large expanse of his land to the sect. It is on that land that Boko Haram had its huge farm that was a challenge to Borno State government’s agricultural policy. On this farm land, they farmed produced crops which were sold to members at subsidised rates. The sect warmed itself into the hearts of its members through its generous microfinance outfit giving out loans to its members under the Islamic banking scheme. Apart from the microfinance scheme, the sect offered financial assistance to members in dire need of funds; it sponsored the marriage of its members;
According to people in Maiduguri, Muhammad Yusuf and his members were regarded as the protectors of the ordinary people against powerful government officials so much so that there is no household that didn’t have a Boko Haram member in it. He was able to attract membership from the families of the high and mighty in Borno State. Infact, at a point, one of the sons of the former SSG in one of the State of the North East region was a member of this group. In Bauchi, Yobe, and Borno State, many young people dropped out of school, including university student to join them, workers including highly placed administrators and tertiary institution lecturers also joined them. Many youth separated from their families, while many people abandoned their jobs for the group. Despite the obvious opposition of the group to boko, the sect had members in secondary schools, higher institutions, government officials, even among businessmen.” The sect became entrenched in Borno, Yobe, Katsina, Kaduna, Bauchi, Gombe and Kano States, and were at the frontiers of neighboring countries.
The group continued to conduct its activity more or less peacefully during the initial seven years of its existence and they continued to criticize northern Muslims for participating in what he saw as illegitimate non Islamic state and preached the doctrine of withdrawal.
It maybe that Mohammed Yusuf never had any political alliance as is widely rumored. A source familiar with the history of Boko Haram and Ecomog said “how can they say he has any political alliance when it was just ahead of the 2003 election that he declared democracy as haram and dissuaded the people from voting”. Another resident told me this personally “Whoever said Mohammed Yusuf had political alliance is lying. The only link he had with the government was the government stooges aka Ecomog boys who joined his movement and became the representative of Boko Haram in calling for the implementation of Shari’ah.
It may also be possible that some of the Ecomog boys that allied with the movement continued to enjoy government patronage and sponsorship as Kodguga said during an interrogation “I am a Boko Haram member and I am their spokeman. They stopped me form being their spokeman because I relate with public officers”.
Let us not forget that some of these Ecomog boys were thugs and street urchins who may have shabby Islamic knowledge, if at all any, and may not have joined Yusuf’s movement with a genuine religious intents. It maybe just to keep with the current trend as Boko Haram came to be regarded as the “in thing” or may be for opportunism, waiting to go with yusuf if he succeeds and waiting to go with the government if he fails.
Let us also not forget the renegade who may be kaawarij, people with extreme and perverted ideology that do not hesitate to declare other Muslims as apostate or even killed them (as they have killed the Prophets companions in the past, and have killed prominent Islamic scholars in various part of the world and may be the ones that killed sheikh Jafar). I believe the infiltration of the movement by the renegades maybe the genesis of the misery and catastrophe we are witnessing today.
Yusuf’s obsessiveness may have made him to consciously or unconsciously overlook the dynamics of his membership and underestimate the excesses that were accruing in it, for the group expanded beyond a religious composition and became a complex mix of disgruntled people who have their axes to grind against the society for various reasons. He had the thugs with thugish and criminal element, the Islamic extremist with extreme and militant intent and the disgruntled individual with revolutionary intent.
The state of the northern youths today is a reflection of our collective wickedness, greed, selfishness, rape of public treasury and incompetence. Our negligence and indulgence in the cult of laziness, money worship and dependency on petro dollar is what we are reaping today. Our youths are without morals and without skills. The disease of ignorance, arrogance, vagabond, redundancy, perversion, drug abuse, thuggery, cult of violence and money worship is slowly becoming our status quos. We will continue to breed more Boko Harams and continue to stoop low to negotiate with them if we do not rise and purge ourselves of our ineptitude and lackadaisical attitude.
The punishment of one wrong doer can befall us all. Allah says:
- “And beware of the trial and discord that does not affect in particular only those amongst you who are wrongdoers.”[Qur’an 8:251}.
He also says
- “Evil has appeared on the land and the sea because of what the hands of men have earned. That Allah may make them taste a part of that which they have done, in order that they may turn back from disobedience.” (Quran 30:41)
The Prophet (SAW) said
- “When the people see an evil and they do not try to change it, then Allaah will cover them all with humiliation from Himself” (Abu Dawud) 4338.
And today we are humiliated. Shame on us!!!
(To be continued in shaa Allaah)
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