The Sun News

Sheriff’s cross

I  watched   ex-Governor  Ali Modu Sheriff rambling and rumbling  during the week as he sought to extricate  himself  from the allegation that he created the Boko  Haram sect, the group that has held the nation by  the  balls  for a better part of the year. Poor Sherriff. You can’t blame the man.

Who would want  to lay  claim to the paternity of a monstrous  kid,  a kid that has continued  to sow anarchy and blood in the land,  fighting its cause in a manner that strikes the fear of the devil in all Nigerians, forcing governors in other states of the country  to quickly despatch  chattered  aircraft and luxury buses to ferry their indigenes  home.  For many Nigerians, Boko  Haram  has become a metaphor for terror ;  a nation  unable  to  tackle its security challenges,  a nation sitting  on the cliff or a time bomb.

If you watched the exodus of Nigerians from the Maiduguri theatre of war or read the pathetic story told by those who managed to flee, you would be forgiven for believing we are at war. Families wiped out; parents unable to locate their kids, vice versa;  students fleeing their campuses because no one can study when bombs are flying over the lecture theatres;  corps members on national assignment  fleeing the war zone because it has become a forbidden land.

If this is not war, I wonder what else we should call it.  Many wonder if we are not gradually descending the road to Mogadishu, Afghanistan  or South Sudan.  That’s why well-meaning Nigerians have continued to make the strident call for a Sovereign National Conference to examine the grievances of Nigeria’s ethnic nationalities ,the restive youth population  and other interest groups that are obviously enraged and disenchanted  at the way things are going in the country;  the level of poverty and frustration and amidst these, the flaunting of obscene wealth by government officials at all tiers.

Yes, we are at war, no doubt about it.  Except that this is a senseless war, a war that defies all logic;  brothers cutting the head of brothers in a misdirected rage.  The poor fighting  the poor.  The  cheated cheating their own brother of their lives and property; the oppressed  and dispossessed  oppressing their  co-oppressed.  Back  to Sheriff. For those who may have forgotten(given that memories are painfully short in this part of the world)  Sheriff,  a former Senator,  who loves to go by the kinky acronym  SAS(short for Senator Ali Modu Sheriff), was governor of Borno  State for eight, long  years.  He  handed over to a successor May 29, 2011.

Apparently responding to the accusation by Gen.  Jeremiah  Useni,  a former minister of transport and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT,  now leader of the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF,  that  Sherriff  actually founded the Boko  Haram as a political  tool deployed  in the harassment  of his opponents during the electioneering,  the former governor launched a broadside against those  who have been spreading the ‘wild tale’  that  he was the major sponsor and benefactor of the dreaded sect.  For the avoidance of doubt, he declared,  ‘Boko  Haram  had been in existence even before I became governor.’

The  alleged  leader of the group, he further claimed, had  been arrested, tried and jailed  even before he was governor.   Meaning:  how could he be the founder or creator of a group  whose activities had been ‘booming’  even before he mounted the saddle of political leadership? Even though Sheriff’s  disclaimer of the militant Islamic group came a bit late after the mayhem and blood-letting it had unleashed on the nation,  it was still better than keeping mute.  Even though the former governor was careful in using harsh words in denouncing the sect’s activities,  it  was still okay to hear him claim he didn’t know about the group’s origin.  But even at that,  Sherriff, in my opinion, left many doubting if he was  telling the truth, the  whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Sherriff, in trying to extricate himself, left many  unanswered  questions.  He left many thinking if he had not actually encouraged the flourishing of the sect, by omission or commission, during his tenure. Let’s examine what Sheriff said and juxtapose it with what he didn’t say and draw a parallel.  He claimed he didn’t create Boko Haram as the sect had been in existence before he became governor.  Let’s agree he was telling the truth.   What he didn’t say was what he did to either curtail the activities of the group or address their grievances.

The fact that  you didn’t  create a group  does not translate to not being a sympathiser to the group’s cause.  I expected Sherriff to let the public into what he did to stem the group’s spread, how he tried to caution them on the need to thread the peaceful path in pursuit of its grievances. He left the public to draw their own conclusions. Sheriff  also claimed  that  Boko Haram  had also once killed an official of his government.  True and quite  unfortunate.  But, does that still address the question of what he did while in office whilst the group virtually overran the state? The lesson of Boko Haram for people like Sheriff is that we should be mindful of what we say or do or the body language we display while in office, because sooner than later our actions return to haunt us. If he didn’t create Boko Haram, he must admit he also didn’t do much to call them to order.

He didn’t do enough to address the poverty and illiteracy which still ravage his state, which gave birth to groups like Boko Haram. Even though he was called GAS, another favourite acronym of his meaning Governor Ali Sherriff, he neither gassed out  poverty nor illiteracy from his domain.  The position of Sherriff’s successor, Gov. Kashim  Shettima, is even more salutary and sensible than the infantile mumblings of  Sheriff.  In a broadcast to the people of Borno,  Shettima blamed the restiveness in his state on poverty and illiteracy, rather than religion.

His words: “The World Bank has described the central region of the Savannah-Sudan comprising of the areas covered by the North-East Political zone of  Nigeria, the Republic of Tchad , eastern portion of Niger Republic, Northern Cameroons and the Darfur Region of the Republic of Sudan as being one of the poorest regions  on earth. The region has very little and mainly dilapidated infrastructure, a population with poor or ill-education  and highest level of unemployment especially among the youths, little or poor authorisation for mobilisation of people for self-help, a large number of hungry and angry population, inept and bankrupt leadership,  little or complete absence of government  control network and other factors for economic progress and social harmony of the area.” These factors Shettima said, “provide a fertile ground  for the emergence of radical organisations like Boko Haram.” However, the unanswered question for many would remain why the incessant attack on churches?

Are those who bomb places of worship saying their oppressors or causes of the so-called poverty are to be found where they strike?   Shettima’s  position clearly calls to question the successive leadership of the region and other parts of the country.  I hope all those who impoverish their people while pretending to be offering leadership would  bury their heads in shame seeing clearly they offered nothing close to dividends of democracy.   When this insanity  will, hopefully, be over, the Boko Haramists  and their sponsors would realise how too far they have gone in venting their grievances.  And  for the victims of the carnage,  the dead and the injured, the broken-hearted,  things can never be the same again.

That is the tragedy of war even after it has ended. LAST LINE: This piece, first published July 2011,  is republished because of its relevance to the prevailing situation in the country and the allegation by security agents that two former senators and ex-Gov. Sheriff have explanations to make regarding the Boko Haram insurgency. Nothing, it must be emphasised, justifies the wanton killing of innocent citizens by any group no matter its grievances.

When people go to places of worship, they must do so in the calmness of body, soul and spirit. When worshippers are now too scared to close their eyes for prayers when commanded to do so by the officiating priests, it has become a truly frightening affair.  Lord, have mercy!

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  1. ik November 5, 2012 at 6:45 am

    Eric U̶̲̥̅̊ have spoken d mind of millions of nig, l pity ♍Ɣ land of birth bcos we are really heading to the cliff.

  2. okwubanego November 5, 2012 at 7:22 am

    Boko Haram is apparently a political tool of disintegration.

  3. AJ Darlington November 5, 2012 at 7:27 am

    Kudos to U,if shettima is blaming the restiveness from Boko haram on poverty & illitracy,the question nw is hw does boko haram acquire its sophiscated weapons?second why d continous attacks on churches? Shettima is economical with d truth

  4. chuks November 5, 2012 at 9:07 am

    They northerners especially the muslims feel they either rule or the country will break. Let Nigeria break so we watch who comes out worse off. Enough of the tolerance.

  5. ozo November 5, 2012 at 12:11 pm

    Gov. Kash. is only talking the way he is because BH has put the fear of God him.SAS or GAS was only busy gassing money into his pocket.SAS should cover his head in shame.He should be promptly arrested by the police who continues looking for evidence,which arrested BH members could not give.Government should blame themselves for killing MOHAMMED YUSUF.I wept the day I watched the carnage handed to the sect members by the police-they were killed like chickens in the video I watched.Your piece is always incisive,apt,revealing,piercing and factual.

  6. Nwaiwu Austinoiz Ugochukwu November 5, 2012 at 8:25 pm

    Well spoken mr. Eric,i would rather forget my daily meals than to miss your weekly blogs

  7. franco November 6, 2012 at 12:02 am


  8. james amaefuna November 6, 2012 at 12:05 am

    dear Eric, your piece is a master one indeed, kudos to you. may God help my country

  9. Chris November 6, 2012 at 7:18 am

    If the president is a northerner, there would be no boko haram. It boils down to one thing. They always want to rule! Its jst pathetic.

  10. Sincere Truth November 6, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    That those Amodu’s animals killed his aide meant nothing because he sold the aide to them. His murderous SINS must surely find him

  11. Adeyeye Bolarinwa November 6, 2012 at 11:38 pm

    Events unfolding have situated the Boko Haram insurgency as a weapon of the Hausa/Fulani oligarchy to fight the Jonathan government. If not, see how with one accord the northern leaders have been pressurizing the federal government to negotiate with common criminals called Boko Haram who must answer for their crimes agains humanity.

  12. Peters November 7, 2012 at 7:50 am

    God must judge all those sponsoring whoever that shed other peoples blood

  13. Odzamo November 7, 2012 at 7:52 am

    No one wants to lay claim to the paternity of the monstrous group…but i hate to hear anyone tryint to the associate the mindless and needless insurgency of boko haram to poverty.if not for the culture of impunity why didn’t SAS do anything to stop the gruop while they were yet to go haywire?what are their goals and objectives?who founded the gruop? If they feel they ‘d been denied justice is killing of christians and muslims alike how and where to get justice? if the case is poverty as some folks wants us to believe how comes the whole money they spend on IEDS and ammunitions…it is same culture of impunity…why hasn’t the high profile arrest of the sect members lead to some major breakthrough or and end to the insurgency,has those offenders been prosecuted or will it go the Nigerian way? in my view boko haram is and was formed as an extremist religious group but found relevance and much use in the wake of political games and play in this clime.

  14. Wilson Godwin November 7, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    “Those who make peaceful change impossible will also make violent change inevitable” Still remembering that quote? during 2011 presidential campaign? Oh! now you know.

  15. Bart November 7, 2012 at 10:11 pm

    I’m beginning to see this like what happened in Rivers State when Peter Odili equipped boys with arms to rig elections in his favour. At the end, the boys graduated into something else when he could no longer pay their bills. They came after his government and even after Omehia. It took the very wise Governor Amaechi wisdom to send them packing and with the President Yardua’s amnesty to dislodged them. I think that was what Sheriff did during his time as a governor. He can deny it but Nigerians know.

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