Even the Boko Haram group knows that former head of state, Gen Muhammadu Buhari, is an honourable man, and thus named him in the list of those they wanted to lead the dialogue between them and the Federal Government. Buhari is popularly called Mai Gaskiya in the northern part of the country (meaning honest man, or man of integrity), and with all its anarchist inclinations, even Boko Haram knows it. Here’s a man of integrity, a honest man, who only needs to say the word, and we can take it to the bank. But do some Nigerians know?
With amusement, I watched some small-minded people rejoice and exult at the nomination of Buhari by Boko Haram, since they interpret it to mean that the Daura-born former head of state is one of the sponsors of the insurgent group. How shallow. Vacuous. Even asinine.
Without any shred of evidence, some Nigerians have simply decided to dub Buhari a Muslim bigot, and every attempt to convince them otherwise has been like water off a duck’s back. Tell them Buhari’s personal driver and cook are Christians, it falls on deaf ears. Add to it that one of the people Buhari respects most in the country is Gen. Theophilus Danjuma, a Christian, former Chief of Army Staff, and later Defence Minister, they block their ears with wax. And to further prove that he has no antipathy towards Christianity, remind them that Buhari picked a pastor and preacher as running mate in last year’s presidential elections.
Yet, the cynics and sceptics are not impressed. How else will Buhari convince the naysayers? I don’t see. And they were the ones rejoicing last week when Boko Haram nominated Mai Gaskiya to lead the ceasefire talks. The way they carried on, you would think they had unearthed vital evidence to prove that Buhari was, indeed, the sponsor of Boko Haram. Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) has issued a statement that Buhari was not contacted, nor would he have anything to do with the proposed dialogue recommended to hold in Saudi Arabia. But the anti-Buhari forces were still bursting blood vessels, stamping their feet, spitting in the sky and collecting the spittle with their faces, saying the man was not fit to lead the talks.
Who will purge these people of their phobia for honesty? Who will deliver them from the gall and thrall of bitterness? Who will set them free from their self-inflicted bondage? Mai Gaskiya lives his life quietly, honestly, simply, yet they want to send themselves to premature graves, just because Boko Haram asked him to lead talks.
The balloons of the antagonists were finally deflated on Wednesday, when Gen. Buhari not only turned down the Boko Haram offer, but added that he did not know any member of the sect or “of any religion that will tell people to kill others and burn schools.” I am sure some people in government (and out of it) would have been happy if Buhari led the talks with Boko Haram. Not because it would engender peace in the country, mind you, but because it would justify what Sam Nda Isaiah of Leadership Newspaper calls “their pet fantasy.”
Yes, he is the brain behind Boko Haram, that is why they chose him to lead the talks, they would say. I like how Nda Isaiah further put it in his piece, ‘The Buhari I know.’ “The people around President Jonathan have, for long, been insinuating the nonsense about a link between some northern leaders and statesmen who have served the country in the past meritoriously and Boko Haram.
Because they were the sponsors of the Niger Delta insurgency, they believe that everyone must be like them.” Quite enlightening, isn’t it? Those who point fingers at Buhari as being Boko Haram sponsor were the ones behind the Niger Delta insurgency, so they are now using their standards to judge everyone else. Simpletons! Now we know where they are coming from. Daniel Elombah, in an article posted on the Internet under the headline, ‘This desperate attempt to link Buhari with Boko Haram,’ submitted that since the April 2011 elections, “there had been both overt and covert campaigns to tar Gen Buhari with the Boko Haram brush.” Waste of energy. Beating a dead horse, I say. Elombah asked pertinent questions about the olive branch waved by Boko Haram through one Abu Mohammed Ibn Abdulazeez, who spoke on behalf of the sect last week. The germane posers are as follows: this purported spokesman had not hitherto been known to the media, how then can anyone be sure he is authentic? Two, he spoke in English, a language never known to have been used by Boko Haram spokesmen, who usually speak in Hausa, and use the name Abu this or Abu that. Three, Abdulazeez did not ask for the implementation of Sharia law across Nigeria, a long-term demand of the sect. Four, the leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, had always disowned any idea of talks with the government through videos posted online. Is Shekau now part of this deal? Why not then come out to authenticate it? Elombah concluded: “In my view, whoever masterminded and concocted this announcement no doubt achieved his aim because all over the Internet and elsewhere, many Nigerians opined that this shows Buhari’s connection to the terrorists.” Well, people can believe whatever suits their fantasies, but it often does not change the truth. As Buddha said, “three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon and the truth.” Or, as Winston Churchill declared: “The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.” Despite what some people have decided about Buhari and his connection with Boko Haram, the truth remains the truth. And for me, my position is simple. I don’t see Buhari as Boko Haram sponsor, but let anyone show me unassailable evidence to the contrary, and I will apologize publicly on this page. Yes, I’m a Buhari-for-Life, but show me the slightest scintilla of evidence that he sponsors Boko Haram that has reportedly killed over 3,000 people in cold blood, and I will not only decamp, I will also cast the first stone. Now, to the crux of the matter. Should Buhari have led the talks with Boko Haram? I want the group to sheathe its sword. I want the wanton killings to stop. I’m tired of the boom of bombs. I’m weary of seeing people stream daily into a dark eternity. I want the hell that has enlarged itself against Nigerians to close up. But should Buhari have led the talks? In a sincere country, yes. But Nigeria is filled with too much insincere people. If Buhari led the talks, not all the perfumes in Arabia would have ever sweetened his reputation again. The cynics will say he was able to broker peace because he was the moving spirit behind the insurgency in the first place. Yes, we said it, he was the one behind Boko Haram all along, that was why they listened to him. And an innocent man would be tarred unjustly with the brush of infamy for life. Again, see the cocktail of attacks and bloodletting that followed the ceasefire proposal by Boko Haram last week, which probably confirms that the group is split right down the middle, or that the purported spokesman is an impostor. A civil war hero, Gen Mohammed Mamman Shuwa, was assassinated in Maiduguri. Boko Haram says it didn’t do it. So, who did? Question. The day after, four people, including two policemen were killed in Yobe. Who did it? Another four were killed in Bolori, Maiduguri. Whodunit? And the Joint Task Force (JTF) equally continues to kill the insurgents in their scores. Does dialogue appear to be in the offing with these scenarios? No. The whole matter may have to be re-approached with greater sincerity from both government and Boko Haram. But Nigerians are tired of tough talks from a government that is completely helpless and hapless before insurgents, just as we are equally fed up with unending stories of bombings and assassinations. For me, the naming of Buhari in the proposed negotiating team by Boko Haram was a plus, rather than minus. They wanted a man of honour, man of integrity, whose word is his bond. And who is that man? Mai Gaskiya. Gen. Buhari, a man of unimpeachable integrity and sincerity. Boko Haram knows this truth, but a lot of Nigerians don’t, and that is why they have always conspired to keep Buhari away from power. In Luke 19:42, Jesus Christ looked at Jerusalem, and lamented over the city: “If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which pertain unto they peace. But now, they are hid from your eyes.” And I also lament over this country. If only Nigerians know what they have lost in Buhari’s leadership, the probity, the accountability, the integrity, the many salutary possibilities. But they don’t know, because it is hidden from their eyes. And the blindness is self-inflicted. Truly, there was a country.