Category Archives: West Africa

Nigeria – Yakasai says north conspired against Jonathan’s re-election

Punch

North conspired against Jonathan’s re-election — Yak

Chairman, Northern Elders Council, Alhaji Tanko Yakasai

Chairman of the Northern Elders Council, Alhaji Tanko Yakasai, tells LEKE BAIYEWU why the North voted against President Goodluck Jonathan in the March 28 presidential election

What is your reaction to the claim that the Peoples Democratic Party lost the last general elections due to some actions and inactions of the leadership of the party?

When I was an active member of the All Peoples Party, the procedure then was for the party to investigate the causes of the failure to be able to establish who is at fault and who is not. Until a party does that, it will remain a mere speculation to say some people did not do what they were supposed to do. If you will look at the number of the people professed to be leaders, they are so many. And if the party fails, it is the collective responsibility of everybody. You cannot single out some individuals to say they are responsible unless you can establish that with concrete evidence.

Your support for President Goodluck Jonathan’s re-election gave the impression that you have joined the PDP. Is this true?

I am not in the PDP. I have been supporting the Federal Government and the President’s second term bid but I made it clear all the time that I was not doing so as a member of the PDP. I left my former party, the APP, in 2001 and I wrote the secretary of the party then in March of the same year. In April 2002, I formally announced my withdrawal from partisan politics; that I will no longer be a partisan politician but I will continue to express my opinion on emerging national issues and will continue to relate with Nigerians regardless of their political inclination.

Is it true that the Northern Elders Council you are leading was set up to tackle the Northern Elders Forum over Jonathan’s re-election bid?

The Northern Elders Council is an organisation made up of northerners who believe in a new Nigeria. We were opposed to the stand of the Northern Elders Forum because they were fighting for only the North; they were not fighting for Nigeria. We felt that the way they were dealing with the issue of Jonathan was so sectional that if they were left unchecked, they would harm the unity of this great nation. We do not oppose somebody because we hate him. The fact that they are opposing somebody just because he comes from a particular area or a particular religion is what we do not like.

We have our history. I was a member of the Northern Elements Progressive Union in the First Republic; even before then, during the colonial era I was active. In the Second Republic, I was a member of the National Party of Nigeria, whose motto was ‘One nation one destiny.’ My political history is related to the cause of national unity, and I believe that the unity and the future depend on the people of the country working together in harmony. We are interrelated; we are to complement one another.

While the NEF was opposed to Jonathan’s re-election, the NEC supported him. Was the support also about national unity?

Jonathan was not contesting as a southerner; he was contesting as a Nigerian. They (NEF) were opposed to him because they were northerners and they did not want him to contest. They did not say why they did not want him to contest except that they were northerners and they would not vote for him. In their interviews, they stated clearly that the North would not vote for Jonathan and clearly the North did not vote for Jonathan. It was clear that it was a premeditated action, it was not natural. It was a collaboration between various actors, including some officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission, some traditional rulers, some religious leaders and some politicians that incited the people.

While openly the election was not fought based on religion, the voting was guided by and was largely on the basis on religion. People were asked not to vote for people who were non-Muslims. If you go to a mosque and you have an imam asking his congregation not to vote for somebody except somebody of the same religion, then he (the imam) is asking people to vote based on religious sentiment, which should not be the basis of elections. The basis for an election should be on the programmes of the party of the individual contesting; what they promise to do for the people in the country, not about religion. In a country that has roughly 50 per cent Muslims and 50 per cent Christians, it will not augur well for people to vote for a candidate based on his religion. It is not in the interest of the country.

What efforts did NEC make to counter the mobilisation efforts of the opposition in the North?

It is for you to find out. Certainly we supported him (Jonathan) on the national programmes not because he was a Christian.

Now that General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), your brother from the North, has won the presidential election, what will your relationship with him look like?

I do not know him very closely; hence, it will be very difficult for me to judge him as much as possible. I will wait for his actions to enable me assess what he is doing and to be able to have valid judgement.

Do you have any faith in him as the next president of the country?

It depends on his activity. I will wait for his activities. All I know is that he was a military man who overthrew a government duly elected by the people of Nigeria. Now he says he is a born democrat; let us see him in action.

Beyond Buhari, do you see his party, the All Progressives Congress, bringing about the change it promised the electorate?

I do not want to predict anything but I can tell you that the majority of the people who make up the elected public officials of the APC were by this time last year in the PDP. They were not created anew. I want to see what they are going to do that will be different from what they have been doing before. I know they left the party as a result of quarrels, not as a result of any ideological difference between them and others who remained in the PDP.

What efforts are the northern leaders making to come together again after the electioneering seemed to have polarised them?

We are not making any efforts.

Does it mean the NEC will remain in opposition to the NEF even after the elections?

We are not a political party. The political parties will do what they think is right for them to do but we are not a political party.

Will the interest groups in the North also remain divided?

Interest groups are interest groups; they will remain what they are, election or no election.

Would you agree that the North is no more unified as it used to be?

There has never been a unified North. In the North, people are free to pursue whichever opinion they believe in. This was what happened in the First Republic when there were no fewer than 10 political parties. The majority of northerners contested elections on these various platforms and won. So was the Second Republic; there was the NPN, the Great Nigeria Peoples Party, the Peoples Republican Party and the Nigeria’s Peoples Party. Each of them won elections in the North. Therefore, the North has never been one political entity or a political party group. We belong to different political persuasions. And so we will continue to be.

Nigeria – Buhari  To revisit public corruption and fraud panel reports

Punch

Corruption: Buhari to revisit past probe panel reports – Those indicted may refund public funds

President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari

The incoming administration of the President-elect, Maj.-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), is set to revisit the reports of panels set up by the National Assembly to investigate various financial scandals in Federal Government’s agencies and ministries.

Saturday PUNCH gathered in Abuja, on Friday, that top among reports that the administration would examine include the fuel subsidy and N255m bulletproof cars scam probes by the House of Representatives as well as the pension scandal investigation by the Senate.

It was gathered that Buhari’s pronouncement that he would take another look at the missing $20bn was a precursor to the administration’s desire to retrieve illegally held public funds.

A former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, now Emir of Kano, Mohammed Sanusi II, had alleged that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation did not account for $20bn due to be remitted to the Federation Account.

A competent source close to Buhari, who pleaded for anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media, said the general knew that he had limited time within which to turn around the nation, as such, he had no intention of wasting public funds on endless probes.

This, it was gathered, informed a tentative decision by the incoming administration, not to embark on fresh probes, but review reports and recommendations of “compelling” cases handled by the National Assembly.

Also, a top member of the All Progressives Congress, who confided in Saturday PUNCH, said, with the current fuel scarcity, it had become necessary for the administration to examine the fuel subsidy regime.

The APC chieftain said that the administration would find the report of the House of Representatives’ investigation into fuel subsidy in 2012 useful.

He said, “For now, we have decided not to comment on the issues of probes so as not to heat up the transition, but what I can tell you is that we will not encourage the culture of impunity.

“With the fuel scarcity in many parts of the country, the report of the House of Representatives investigation will be among those to be examined. We suspect that there is massive fraud in the fuel subsidy.”

According to him, the incoming administration will not dissipate energy embarking on fresh probes.

He explained that the administration would look at ways of implementing recommendations of panels set up by the National Assembly.

The APC top member stated, “If you recall, during the campaigns, any time he (Buhari) accused the outgoing administration of corrupt tendencies, he made reference to recommendations contained in reports which he said, the Jonathan administration, has shown a lack of political will to implement.

“What you are likely to see happening is a revisit of investigations into scandals such as the missing $20bn, the pension funds and the fuel subsidy. Where reports recommend that individuals refund public funds, these funds must be refunded.

“Where they recommend that individuals or institutions be prosecuted, that will be done.

“The anti-graft agencies will be repositioned to perform the functions for which they were established. It is certainly not going to be business as usual.”

The insider also referred Saturday PUNCH to what the President-elect said about his approach to fighting the scourge of corruption, during his presentation at Chatham House, London, shortly before the elections.

Buhari had during the lecture said, “On corruption, there will be no confusion as to where I stand. Corruption will have no place and the corrupt people will not be appointed into my administration.

“First and foremost, we will plug the holes in the budgetary process. Revenue producing entities such as NNPC and Customs and Excise will have one set of books only.

“Their revenues will be publicly disclosed and regularly audited. The institutions of state dedicated to fighting corruption will be given independence and prosecutorial authority without political interference.”

When contacted, the Director of Media and Publicity of the All Progressives Congress Presidential Campaign Council, Mallam Garba Shehu, said, he was not in a position to comment on policy issues.

He said, “…Even on the issue of the missing $20bn which he (Buhari) was reported to have said he would take a look at, I was not at the event. Our concern now is to ensure a seamless transfer of power.”

Following the nationwide protests that greeted the move by the Jonathan administration to remove fuel subsidy in January 2012, the House of Representatives set up an ad hoc committee which investigated the management of the subsidy regime.

The House in April 2012 approved recommendations of its Ad Hoc Committee on Monitoring of the Subsidy Regime.

Among others, the panel recommended that the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, the Petroleum Products Pricing and Regulatory Agency and 72 other firms refund N1.07tn said to have been fraudulently paid to oil marketers.

To be part of the refund is also the Office of the Accountant–General, which allegedly paid N127.8bn within 24 hours to unknown beneficiaries. The AGF paid N999m 28 times in one day to the “unknown entities.”

All members of staff of the NNPC, PPPRA and DPR involved in the processing of applications for fuel imports were recommended for investigation for “negligence, collusion and fraud.”

Another report, which Saturday PUNCH gathered would attract the attention of the incoming administration, is the N255m car scam that led to the removal of the Minister of Aviation, Ms. Stella Oduah.

Although the President removed Oduah as recommended by the House, it was gathered that the APC leaders believed that there were other aspects of the report that should be implemented.

Oduah was accused of approving expenditure of over N643m for the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority to procure 54 vehicles.

The House noted that the approval exceeded her limit as approval limit as a minister which was N100m.

The NCAA purchased two bulletproof BMW cars at the cost of N255m without the approval of the National Assembly.

The House further recommended the ministry and the NCAA to terminate all the transactions relating to the bulletproof cars because they “were neither provided for in the Appropriation Act, 2013, nor was due process followed in their procurement.”

In addition to terminating the transactions, the House ordered that “all money so far spent on the entire transactions should be recovered by the Ministry of Finance and paid back into the Consolidated Fund of the Federation.”

The House faulted the diversion of waivers meant for other purposes to import the bulletproof cars and asked the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to “investigate the chassis number (DW68032) of one of the vehicles on the one reported to have been delivered and the one inspected by the committee members.

It also asked the EYCK to “investigate and if found wanting, prosecute all persons/institutions involved in the transactions.”

Coscharis Nigeria Limited, which supplied the controversial cars, was not left out.

The House directed that the company should be investigated on the “issue of waiver” and also to determine the “exact cost of the two BMW vehicles.”

It also ordered the company to pay the value of the waiver to the Federal Government.

Attempts to get an official reaction from the APC were unsuccessful.

Phone calls to the mobile telephone number of the party’s national publicity secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, were neither picked nor replied. A response to a text message sent to him was still being awaited as of the time of filing this report 8:05pm.

Copyright PUNCH.

Nigeria – armybrrees more Boko Haram abductees

BBC

Boko Haram: Nigerian army frees another 234 women and children

A group of women and children rescued by the Nigerian army. Photo: 30 April 2015
NMore than 500 women and children have been rescued by the army in the past few days

Another 234 women and children have been rescued from Boko Haram militants in Nigeria, the military has announced.

It said the operation took place on Thursday in the vast Sambisa forest – a militant hideout – in the north-east of the country.

It was not immediately clear if any of more than 200 girls abducted from a school in Chibok in April 2014 were among those freed.

Nearly 300 women and children were freed by the army earlier this week.

In a tweet, the Nigerian military wrote: “FLASH: Another set of 234 women and children were rescued through the Kawuri and Konduga end of the #Sambisa Forest on Thursday.”

It said the freed hostages were being screened to establish their identities.

The military earlier said it had destroyed 13 camps belonging to the Islamist insurgents in the Sambisa forest, which surrounds a reserve in Borno.

map

Thousands have been killed in northern Nigeria since Boko Haram began its insurgency in 2009 to create an Islamic state.

In February, Nigeria’s military, backed by troops from neighbouring countries, launched a major offensive against the Islamist fighters.

It has recaptured much of the territory Boko Haram had taken in the previous year.

Nigeria – army says it has freed more abductees

BBC

freed captives
The Nigerian army has released this photo of some of the captives

Nigeria’s military says it has freed another sizeable group of people during its offensive against Boko Haram militants in the vast Sambisa forest.

One woman died and eight others were wounded as nine camps belonging to the Islamist insurgents were destroyed, army spokesman Col Sanu Usman said.

He told the BBC at least 100 men and boys were among more than 160 people rescued in operations on Wednesday.

Earlier this week, the army said it had freed nearly 300 women and children.

The girls abducted from a school in Chibok in April 2014 were not among them.

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Screen grab of BBC Africa Live page

Africa news round-up: 30 April

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Thousands have been killed in northern Nigeria since Boko Haram began its insurgency in 2009 to create an Islamic state.

In February, Nigeria’s military, backed by troops from neighbouring countries, launched a major offensive against the Islamist fighters. It has recaptured much of the territory Boko Haram had taken in the previous year.

The Sambisa forest, said to be a huge area surrounding a reserve of the same name in the north-eastern Borno state, is home to their last hideouts, the army says.

The army has released photographs of women and children it says have been rescued.

BBC Nigeria correspondent Will Ross says some of those shown appear malnourished, even emaciated.

weapons
The army says it recovered these weapons

The effort to flush Boko Haram out of their last major stronghold has not been easy, he says.

The BBC has learnt that near one camp the soldiers were shocked when a group of women opened fire on them.

A community leader who has met many former Boko Haram captives says they are often brainwashed and traumatised.

He told the BBC there is a great need for more psycho-social support to help them reintegrate back into society.

Col Usman told the BBC Hausa service that those rescued are being kept in an undisclosed secure location.

An army statement said those rescued were now being interviewed to ascertain their true identities.

They had been “held captive under very severe and inhuman conditions” it said.

map

The eight injured women were in a critical condition, said Col Usman.

One soldier and several Boko Haram field commanders and foot soldiers were killed in the fighting and several armoured vehicles, some with anti-aircraft guns, had been destroyed, the army says

In total 13 camps had been destroyed in Sambisa this week, it added.

It is not clear if those rescued were kidnapped or were taken hostage from villages taken over by the militants.

A local senator says the women and children are likely to have been residents of the north-eastern nature reserve.

“These are farming communities and most of those left behind in villages are the elderly ones, women and girls because the youth and the strong ones normally have to run or otherwise they will be conscripted into the Boko Haram insurgent group,” Ali Ndume told the BBC’s Focus on Africa radio programme.

He said the Sambisa forest reserve is vast so it was difficult to know how many people were still living in territory controlled by the Islamist militants.

Nigeria – Jonathan belatedly questions integrity of Buhari victory

 

Oh good, Jonathan realises his gravy train is about to be derailed so cries foul to cause trouble before the handover. What is wrong wth the main – he failed in everfy sphere of government activity and oversaw a corrupt and inefficient government that lost $20bn in oil earnings and failed against Boko Haram. KS

Punch

President Goodluck Jonathan

President Goodluck Jonathan on Thursday picked holes in the results of the March 28 presidential election, saying “the Peoples Democratic Party couldn’t have got those kinds of scores” it had in some places.

Jonathan, who spoke shortly after receiving the report of the Senator Ahmadu Ali-led PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation   at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, however advised that since the general elections were over, the country must be allowed to move forward.

He added that apart from himself that quickly conceded defeat to the All Progressives Congress candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, many PDP members also made sacrifices because they were persecuted in the course of electioneering.

The President said, “The problem is not whether we lost the elections, that is history, but how do we consolidate our party and move forward? If we are committed and we work hard, definitely the PDP will bounce back.

“The PDP is still the dominant party. If you look at the results, the difference is just 2.5 million votes and if you look at the areas where it is perceived that the PDP scored so low, the PDP couldn’t have got those kinds of scores but the elections are over, so the country first.

“It is not as if Jonathan alone made the sacrifice, it is all of us. I made the pronouncement but some of us are paying the price.

“Some people pay more price than I do, I know how some of you are already being persecuted and the kind of situation facing you.

“The key thing is that we must continue to unite, as a party; we must continue to work hard so that as we go into subsequent elections in 2019, 2023 and so on and so forth, the PDP will continue to come up strong. Even in the interest of the nation, we need the PDP.

“I still believe, though we have lost presidential election, some National Assembly elections, governorship elections especially in the North, the PDP is still the dominant party.

“Let us not judge the PDP by the results of the elections for the presidential election.

“Our duty is to go back and identify areas of challenges so that the party will come up strong and play the role as a very strong party. The PDP is still the most organised party, is still the party that is not owned by anybody, is still the party that whatever you are, you can get to any level with your competencies and so on.”

The President also said that all members of the PDP who defected to the APC   would return with empty stomachs.

He said that it was not unlikely that the APC leaders   would first settle their members before thinking of those who joined them midway.

Jonathan added that “food” might have finished before it gets to the turn of the PDP defectors .

He urged party faithful to remain committed to the PDP, adding that even if it was difficult in the beginning; their aim would be achieved at last.

The President said, “I encourage members of our party to remain loyal to the party; not to be so disillusioned because we lost presidential election and decide to go where they think they will fill their stomachs or something.

“It is not easy. I have been here for five years plus, you hardly satisfy even 15 per cent of those who work for you.

“So, those people running and those already cross-carpeting, they will come back on an empty stomach because they will touch the primary members of their party before they get to them.

“They know you are coming because you are hungry; and before it will get to you, the food will be gone.

“So, let us be committed to the party, yes we will have challenges at the beginning but surely we will get to where we want to be.”

The President said although he did not consult before calling   Buhari on the telephone to concede defeat, he took that step on behalf of the PDP.

“Yes, I did not consult anybody before I made that phone call (to Buhari) but I made that phone call on behalf of all of you and on behalf of the PDP, “ he said.

Jonathan likened the 2015 elections to the nation’s civil war, saying people would give different accounts of the event depending on the angle from where they were reporting.

He however said because of his privileged position, he knew about the elections more than any other person.

He said the issue was not about his electoral loss, but the need to consolidate the party and move forward.

He said, “The issues of this 2015 elections will be similar to the civil war because different people gave different accounts of the civil war.

“The first book on civil war that I read was ‘My Command’ by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, which is his perspectives on what he saw and observed. I recall (Chukwuemeka) Odumegwu-Ojukwu’s own was ‘Because I’m Involved.’

“I know that the issues of the 2015 general elections, may be after few years when political scientists will write, we will get different perspectives.

“If you ask the various observer groups, each will give you a different perspective. Even among ourselves whenever we talk sometimes I laugh when people draw some of their analysis but by my privileged position, I know a little more about the elections than others.

“But the key thing is not whether we lost or won but that Nigeria as a nation must move forward. Political parties can only thrive when there is peace and stability in the country. If there is military intervention all the parties will disappear.”

The President also argued that despite the loss that the PDP suffered in all the elections, it remained the dominant party in the country.

Jonathan expressed delight that countries that brought ships to Nigeria and were waiting to evacuate their citizens in case post-election crisis broke out did not have any reason to do so.

The Chairman, Board of Trustees of the PDP, Chief Tony Anenih, attributed PDP’s loss to what he called conspiracies and betrayals by people trusted by the party chiefs.

Anenih however said they needed to put that behind them and look at how they could build a party that would serve as a vibrant opposition to the APC.

“There is a lot to be done. We need a very vibrant and strong party that can stand in as a strong opposition party; a party that can stand well in the next election. That party has to be put in place now. I believe that we are on the right path,” he said.

Ali said the lessons learnt from the elections would be used to wrest power from the APC in 2019.

He said it was saddening that the PDP lost despite all the energy it put into the electioneering.

Ali also said the report   would provide a road map for the PDP to move forward.

He described the campaigns in the 36 states of the federation as largely successful except for a few incidents in some states.

Copyright PUNCH.

Nigeria – Jonathan says those defecting to APC will return with empty stomachs

Premium Times

Those running to APC will return with “empty stomachs” – Jonathan

Goodluck_jonathan3

Those defecting from the Peoples Democratic Party to the All Progressive Congress due to PDP’s loss at the presidential election, will return with “empty stomachs”, President Goodluck Jonathan said Thursday.

The president said the PDP was still the dominant party and it was only a matter of time before it bounced back. He said the APC will first satisfy the hunger of its own members who worked during the elections before attending to defectors.

Mr. Jonathan made the remarks while receiving the PDP campaign report from the Presidential Campaign Organisation (PCO) at the presidential villa. He urged the party and its members to sit tight and put its failures behind and help the party move forward.

“So I encourage members of our party to remain loyal to the party, not to be so disillusioned ‎because we lost presidential election and decide to go where they think they will fill their stomachs or something. It’s not easy. I have been here for five years plus, you hardly satisfy even 15 percent of those who work for you.

“So those people running and those already cross-carpeting, they will come back on an empty stomach because they will touch the primary members of their party, before they get to you. They know you are coming because you are hungry, before it will get to you the food will be gone.

“So let us be committed to the party, yes we will have challenges at the beginning but surely we will get to where we want to be,” he said.

The president urged PDP members not to judge the party by the result of the presidential elections, saying it was time to go back to the drawing board and identify areas of challenges ‎so that the party will become stronger.

“PDP is still the most organized party, it is still the party that is not owned by anybody, it’s still the party that whatever you are you can get to any level with your competences and so on,” he said.

On his decision to concede defeat the President said he did not consult anyone before making the phone call to the winner in the race, President-elect Muhammadu Buhari.

“Yes I did not consult anybody before I made that phone call but I made that phone call on behalf of all you and on behalf of the PDP.

“I made the pronouncement but some of us are paying the price. Some people pay more price than I do, I know how some of you are already being persecuted and the kind of situation facing you.

“The key thing is that we must continue to unite, as a party we must continue to work hard so that as we go into subsequent elections 2019, 2023 and so on and so forth, PDP will continue to come up strong. Even in the interest of the nation, we need PDP.

“I still believe though we have lost presidential elections, some national assembly elections, governorship elections especially in the north, PDP is still the dominant party. Let us not judge PDP by the result of the elections for the presidential elections”.

He likened the 2015 elections to the civil war which had different accounts written by different people.

“‎Of course the issues of this 2015 elections will be similar to the civil war because different people gave different account of the civil war. The first book on civil war that I read was “My Command” by Olusegun Obasanjo, which is his perspectives on what he saw and observed. I recall Ojukwu’s own was “Because I’m Involved”, if you read it the dimensions are sometimes tangential to the first.

“If you ask the various observer groups, each will give you a different perspective. Even among ourselves whenever we talk ‎sometimes I laugh when people draw some of their analysis but by my privileged position I knew a little more about elections than others,” he said.

The President noted that the key thing isn’t whether the elections were lost or won but that Nigeria as a nation must move forward. “Political parties can only thrive when there is peace and stability in the country. If there is military intervention all the parties will disappear,” he said.
‎He thanked all who worked for the elections.

Mr. Jonathan said countries that sent vessels in case of an urgent need to evacuate their nationals from Nigeria, were disappointed because there was nobody to evacuate.

“The country was so tense but everything has gone down and I think that is the most important thing because the conviction is that you must have a country before you can run for an office. Nigeria is a very complex country and you must manage with care.

“So let me thank you all for joining us to carry the cross, thank you for the various roles you played and I charge you to‎ be even more committed to the development of the party. Definitely PDP will become stronger and united,” he added.

The Director-General of the PCO, Ahmadu Ali‎, commended the President for showing great, exemplary leadership and making the PDP proud despite losing to the rival All Progressives Congress (APC).

“You made the world proud by conceding defeat even when you had several options. You proved to the world that you are committed to your credo that no one’s blood is worth your political ambition.

“By that singular act, you pulled Nigeria back from a seeming pre-determined precipice and you made us proud. While you assuredly lost in the ballots, you won the biggest victory in defeat by that historic phone call.

Mr. Ali said lessons learnt from the elections will be used to wrest power from the current winners in future.

Boko Haram – just who are they and what do they want? Review of Boko Haram: Nigeria’s Islamist Insurgency

Boko Haram – just who are they and what do they want? Review of Boko Haram: Nigeria’s Islamist Insurgency

 

 

Virginia Comolli, Boko Haram: Nigeria’s Islamist Insurgency, London: Hurst and Co, 2015, pp 239 inc. index, hdbk, £20.

 

 

In immense detail, with a very full bibliography of sources and much original interview material, Virginia Comolli has assembled much fascinating and illuminating information on the historical, cultural, political and socio-economic roots of the movement and its relationship with mainstream but also sectarian Islam in Nigeria. The section on the jihadist movement of Usman Dan Fodio provides a much-needed historical context for Islamic militancy in the north, a context which includes the forging of symbiotic relationships between the Muslim rulers of Sokoto and Kano and the British under Lugard and the entrenchment of the power of the Muslim aristocracy of the north, combining both political and religious hegemony.   The book goes on to look at the development of radical Islamist groups in northern Nigeria, particularly the north-east, which were critical of or even violently opposed to the traditional centres of Islamic power and influence. If there is a criticism of this section it’s that the plethora of groups becomes confusing and the precise religious but also socio-political differences between the groups become blurred. The reader also is apt to get lost in the various names, splits, factions and leaders involved – a family tree or chart would have aided understanding. At times, also, this section and some of the later chapters become like a review of the literature rather than a narrative or a definitive view from the author.

 

In dealing with the different Islamist groups and their stance towards the Islamic authorities of the north and the political power of the Nigerian state, I would have liked more on the poverty, lack of education and the socio-economic backwardness and marginalization of the north-east, in particular in the attempts to explain why groups like Boko Hara, its Ansaru off-shoot and its violent predecessor, known as Maitatsine (aka Yan Tatsine), all thrived in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe. The role of the city of Maiduguri as a centre for sectarian and violent Islamist groups could be more explicitly and clearly explained, along with more on possible links in terms of beliefs and willingness to take arms in a brutal way against fellow Muslims, as well as Christians, that seems to link Maitatsine with Boko Haram. Comolli does provide a tour d’horizon of the Islamist groups and does relate their appeal to poverty, poor education and other factors, but I would have liked more on this and the extent to which despair rather than doctrine is a key element in recuitment. When I read the sections on the different Islamist groups, their factions, splits and ability to generate support among the young, disadvantaged, frustrated and angry among the population of the much-ignored and poorly-developed north-east, I was reminded of the section in Umberto Eco’s fascinating Name of the Rose, where the main character Brother William is trying to explain the differences between violent Christian heretical sects of the 14th century. He says that “many of these heresies, independently of the doctrines they assert, encounter success among the simple because they suggest to such people the possibility of a different life…I say that often hordes of simple people have confused Catharist preaching with that of the Patarines…Joining a heretical group, for many of them, is often only another way of shouting their own despair…the simple are meat for slaughter, to be used when they are useful in causing trouble for the opposing power, and to be sacrificed when they are no longer of use”. This analysis fits Nigeria well, with the poor, ill-educated and desperate seeking a better or even just a different life through the angry and violent preaching and then the violence of groups like Boko Haram.

 

Comelli goes on to examine and sensibly reject the alarmist US analyses of Boko Haram, as a key part of international jihad and so a clear danger to the “Homeland” and cautions against seeing Boko Haram as driven by some international jihadist or Al Qaeda agenda, despite the movement’s desire to be seen as part of a wider movement towards a great Caliphate. The War on Terror frame is getting stale and does not explain much, other than the US desire to have simple answers and a clearly identified enemy – complex answers do not fit the bill for them. She rightly characterises Boko Haram as”an inward-looking group feeding on local grievances and with a national agenda driven by the goal of Islamising Nigeria” (p85).

The author doesn’t pull any punches in describing the failed and brutal counter-insurgency offensive of the Nigerian armed forces, which if anything have driven people in the north-east further from the government and created sympathy with or at least prevented cooperation against the goals and members of Boko Haram. She points out that looting, harassment and rape by the Nigerian Joint Task Force (JTF) have driven many to oppose the government while fearing Boko Haram. Interviewees told her that they condemned the violence of Boko Haram, but “they understood why the group was critical of the government” (133). In dealing with the failure of the military, there seems to be a missing part to the jigsaw that the author painstakingly puts together, and that is corruption. Corruption is mentioned in passing but not given enough prominence as a reason for support for Boko Haram among those who see the national, state and local governments corruptly taking rents from national revenues and funds devoted to local development. But also the massive corruption of the military that has seen the best-funded and biggest army in sub-Saharan Africa go into battle with Boko Haram with insufficient ammunition for soldiers’ weapons, while Boko Haram is well-armed and has possession of Nigerian armoured vehicles and other weapons that have been abandoned or perhaps even sold by Nigeria soldiers. The corruption around the “security vote”, as military appropriations are known in Nigeria, is not mentioned and yet to me is a key element in the inability of the Nigerian army to deal with Boko Haram and the unenthusiastic attitude of poorly-armed soldiers to the fight, something brought into sharp focus by the successes of the Chadian forces that joined the Nigerians in fighting Boko Haram in late 2014 and early 2015.

 

Despite my criticisms and some of the omissions, this is well-researched and a very good work of reference on Boko Haram that does explode many of the myths about the group, providing historical, religious, cultural and socio-economic context.

 

Keith Somerville

Senior Research Fellow

Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London

Editor, Africa – News and Analysis

 

“Nigerian civilians find themselves stuck between two brutal opponents – Boko Haram and the security forces – both of which have been accused of war crimes”(p3)…”Even if the military is successful in crush the current manifestation of Boko Haram, a new version will most likely present itself, sooner or later, feeding on unresolved grievances and inequality” (p159). These two quotes from the beginning and end of this timely and well-sourced book sum up the choice that seems to be before the people of northern Nigeria in the face of the Boko Haram insurgency and the brutal, clumsy and totally inadequate response of the Nigerian government and armed forces. The work is particularly timely because of the election victory of the northern former military ruler of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, which will open a new phase in the government’s struggle against the Islamist fighters of Boko Haram.

The book is a thoroughly researched and carefully judged antidote to the very shallow media and Nigerian government explanations for the insurgency.  In immense detail, with a very full bibliography of sources and much original interview material, Virginia Comolli has assembled much fascinating and illuminating information on the historical, cultural, political and socio-economic roots of the movement and its relationship with mainstream but also sectarian Islam in Nigeria. The section on the jihadist movement of Usman Dan Fodio provides a much-needed historical context for Islamic militancy in the north, a context which includes the forging of symbiotic relationships between the Muslim rulers of Sokoto and Kano and the British under Lugard and the entrenchment of the power of the Muslim aristocracy of the north, combining both political and religious hegemony.   The book goes on to look at the development of radical Islamist groups in northern Nigeria, particularly the north-east, which were critical of or even violently opposed to the traditional centres of Islamic power and influence. If there is a criticism of this section it’s that the plethora of groups becomes confusing and the precise religious but also socio-political differences between the groups become blurred. The reader also is apt to get lost in the various names, splits, factions and leaders involved – a family tree or chart would have aided understanding. At times, also, this section and some of the later chapters become like a review of the literature rather than a narrative or a definitive view from the author.

 

In dealing with the different Islamist groups and their stance towards the Islamic authorities of the north and the political power of the Nigerian state, I would have liked more on the poverty, lack of education and the socio-economic backwardness and marginalization of the north-east, in particular in the attempts to explain why groups like Boko Hara, its Ansaru off-shoot and its violent predecessor, known as Maitatsine (aka Yan Tatsine), all thrived in Borno, Adamawa and Yobe. The role of the city of Maiduguri as a centre for sectarian and violent Islamist groups could be more explicitly and clearly explained, along with more on possible links in terms of beliefs and willingness to take arms in a brutal way against fellow Muslims, as well as Christians, that seems to link Maitatsine with Boko Haram. Comolli does provide a tour d’horizon of the Islamist groups and does relate their appeal to poverty, poor education and other factors, but I would have liked more on this and the extent to which despair rather than doctrine is a key element in recuitment. When I read the sections on the different Islamist groups, their factions, splits and ability to generate support among the young, disadvantaged, frustrated and angry among the population of the much-ignored and poorly-developed north-east, I was reminded of the section in Umberto Eco’s fascinating Name of the Rose, where the main character Brother William is trying to explain the differences between violent Christian heretical sects of the 14th century. He says that “many of these heresies, independently of the doctrines they assert, encounter success among the simple because they suggest to such people the possibility of a different life…I say that often hordes of simple people have confused Catharist preaching with that of the Patarines…Joining a heretical group, for many of them, is often only another way of shouting their own despair…the simple are meat for slaughter, to be used when they are useful in causing trouble for the opposing power, and to be sacrificed when they are no longer of use”. This analysis fits Nigeria well, with the poor, ill-educated and desperate seeking a better or even just a different life through the angry and violent preaching and then the violence of groups like Boko Haram.

 

Comelli goes on to examine and sensibly reject the alarmist US analyses of Boko Haram, as a key part of international jihad and so a clear danger to the “Homeland” and cautions against seeing Boko Haram as driven by some international jihadist or Al Qaeda agenda, despite the movement’s desire to be seen as part of a wider movement towards a great Caliphate. The War on Terror frame is getting stale and does not explain much, other than the US desire to have simple answers and a clearly identified enemy – complex answers do not fit the bill for them. She rightly characterises Boko Haram as ”an inward-looking group feeding on local grievances and with a national agenda driven by the goal of Islamising Nigeria” (p85).

The author doesn’t pull any punches in describing the failed and brutal counter-insurgency offensive of the Nigerian armed forces, which if anything have driven people in the north-east further from the government and created sympathy with or at least prevented cooperation against the goals and members of Boko Haram. She points out that looting, harassment and rape by the Nigerian Joint Task Force (JTF) have driven many to oppose the government while fearing Boko Haram. Interviewees told her that they condemned the violence of Boko Haram, but “they understood why the group was critical of the government” (133). In dealing with the failure of the military, there seems to be a missing part to the jigsaw that the author painstakingly puts together, and that is corruption. Corruption is mentioned in passing but not given enough prominence as a reason for support for Boko Haram among those who see the national, state and local governments corruptly taking rents from national revenues and funds devoted to local development. But also the massive corruption of the military that has seen the best-funded and biggest army in sub-Saharan Africa go into battle with Boko Haram with insufficient ammunition for soldiers’ weapons, while Boko Haram is well-armed and has possession of Nigerian armoured vehicles and other weapons that have been abandoned or perhaps even sold by Nigeria soldiers. The corruption around the “security vote”, as military appropriations are known in Nigeria, is not mentioned and yet to me is a key element in the inability of the Nigerian army to deal with Boko Haram and the unenthusiastic attitude of poorly-armed soldiers to the fight, something brought into sharp focus by the successes of the Chadian forces that joined the Nigerians in fighting Boko Haram in late 2014 and early 2015.

 

Despite my criticisms and some of the omissions, this is well-researched and a very good work of reference on Boko Haram that does explode many of the myths about the group, providing historical, religious, cultural and socio-economic context.

 

Keith Somerville

Senior Research Fellow

Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London

Editor, Africa – News and Analysis