After two weeks of intense investigation, Sunday Vanguard presents exclusive details of the dirty war going on between the Nigerian military, members of the Jama’atu Ahliss-Sunnah Lidda’awati Wal Jihad (Western education is evil), otherwise known as Boko Haram, some influential Nigerians who appear to have lent support to the terrorists on the one hand, and some officers and men of the Nigerian military who are aiding the operations of the terrorists in this war, as well as the sometimes naïve yet complicit contradictory disposition of Europe and America, which have both wittingly and unwittingly allowed the terrorists to gain ground and have become somewhat difficult to defeat.
Whereas the military is engaged in a battle on the warfront, the political and psychological component of the engagement appears to be currying sympathy for these mindless killers because of those who seem to share their ideological slant and who once (and have again) found their way to the corridors of power in a polity of clashing socio-political and religious interests.
This is the story of how experienced and war-tested officers are led to their death because of the contradictory, compromising and deadly activities of fifth columnists in the military and in government. And beyond Amnesty International’s (AI) indictment of some top military commanders in Nigeria, former Commander-in-Chief, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, may be dragged before the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity. The details are revealing.
Last week, we told the sad story of the death of a Colonel of the Nigerian Army as well as the gruesome killing of Major Timothy Fambiya who, while attempting to capture Abubakar Shekau, leader of Jama’atu Ahliss-Sunnah Lidda’awati Wal Jihad (Western education is evil), otherwise known as Boko Haram, was shot in the head from behind. We also narrated how an insider leak led to the ambushing of troops on a mission to attack Boko Haram fighters in Michika, Borno State – Lt. Col .Adeboye Obasanjo, son of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, almost lost his life in that ambush as he was shot in the leg. In addition, we highlighted the activities of fifth columnists whose agenda is to ensure that the terrorists defeat the military; the report by Amnesty International indicting very senior military officers and its human rights implication on perception and the war against the terrorists; the expected role of the National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, and how it has assisted the military in shaping a policy of humaneness even as it battles the terrorists was also brought to the fore.
HOW THE WEST ENCOURAGED BOKO HARAM
It was one of those hypocritical engagements. In the early part of 2012, Nigeria’s battle against terrorism was, at best, shambolic and disgusting to say the least. It was as if there was no government in place and the mere fact that the terror group was beginning to dare more, bomb more and kill more, became a matter of concern at international fora.
Some Nigerians who argued that the group be designated a Foreign Terror Organisation, FTO, rather than receive support from home, got a shocker. The Nigerian government – their government – forcefully moved against the idea. That was where mud was thrown in.
It is not yet established where the spurious document emanated from.
What was clear, however, was the end to which the document was meant to be put!
Some 25 scholars, from reputable academic institutions in the United States of America, USA, wrote a passionate letter, insisting that an FTO status for Boko Haram should never be contemplated. It is still debatable whose interests were being served and who may have funded such an exercise.
But with the very vociferous, sometimes embarrassing position of Nigeria’s government at that time, divorcing it of culpability would be very difficult.
And whereas they claimed to be concerned for Nigeria and Nigerians in the event that the FTO designation is hung on Boko Haram, the time wasted while this lasted is partly responsible for the growth, spread and audacity of members of Jama’atu Ahliss-Sunnah Lidda’awati Wal Jihad.
Worse still, a certain Johnnie Carson, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, who took a more than official interest in Nigeria, appeared on the same wave length with the academics. His logic, that poverty was the reason for the rise of Boko Haram, a comment described as an insult to poor people all over the world, showed his poor understanding of the ideology that drove and is driving the terrorists. He suffers culpability.
Had the insurgents been dealt with in the manner of their activities as a terror group, perhaps the token successes recorded in recent times against it could have long added up to foil and stop the group’s advances.
THE PROPAGANDA THAT DECEIVED THE WEST
Investigations by Sunday Vanguard since it first published the letter in 2012 – and specifically in the last three weeks – suggest that some powerful northern influence pedlars may have been sponsors of the letter.
In fact, last week, Sunday Vanguard was made to understand that some leaders of the North were sponsored to embark on a voyage of propaganda to Europe and America.
The brief was to canvass the position that the war against members of Jama’atu Ahliss-Sunnah Lidda’awati Wal Jihad was indeed a campaign of genocide against the people of the North.
Armed with some video footage taken by military officers who believe in the ideology of Boko Haram and who were described by a security source as ‘conscientious objectors’, the propagandists made some inroads.
Whereas in truth and indeed the Nigerian military ought to be accountable to the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Nigerian people; and whereas it needed to conduct its war on terror with a human face so as not to engender unbearable degrees of collateral damage; some of the footage shown in Europe and America – apart from a few reckless extra-judicial killings – were scenes of real-life combat between the military and Boko Haram members dressed in civilian clothes.
The most interesting aspects of the footage were the ones that depicted the Nigerian military as killing innocent civilians whereas, indeed, like ISIS members dressed in civilian clothes, those who were being engaged were terrorists.
To make the propaganda engagement more believable, a retired, very senior army officer of northern extraction, was recruited for the job. How much he collected for the campaign could not be ascertained but a military source insisted that “the retired general didn’t have to be paid because he is one of those who still believe in the anachronistic idea of a “northern domination and an Islamic state”.
DOING BOKO HARAM’S DIRTY JOB
Making recklessly unrealistic assumptions about members of the Jama’atu Ahliss-Sunnah Lidda’awati Wal Jihad, some self-styled experts on Nigeria sought to convince the American government on why it should not support the fight against the terrorists.
And, therefore, when on May 21, 2012, a three-page letter surfaced at the State Department in the US, the sympathizers of Boko Haram were on their way to buying time for the terrorists
The three-page letter was sent to the then Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton, on May 21, 2012. Received at her State Department, 2201 C Street, NW, Washington, DC 20520, the letter read:
“Dear Secretary Clinton:
“As scholars with a special interest in Nigeria and broad expertise on African politics, we are writing to urge that you not designate Boko Haram a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). We are acutely aware of the horrific violence perpetrated by Boko Haram, including attacks on both Muslims and Christians in Nigeria, whether government officials or civilian targets. We share your concerns about the impact of extremist violence on Nigeria’s democratic progress and security in general.
“However an FTO designation would internationalize Boko Haram, legitimize abuses by Nigeria’s security services, limit the State Department’s latitude in shaping a long term strategy, and undermine the U.S. Government’s ability to receive effective independent analysis from the region.
“An FTO designation would internationalize Boko Haram’s standing and enhance its status among radical organizations elsewhere. Boko Haram’s recent tactics, including the use of suicide bombers and improvised explosive devices, raise questions about their foreign links. The network’s focus has been overwhelmingly domestic, despite an August 2011 attack on the United Nations office in Abuja. Rhetorically, some of Boko Haram’s critique of northern underdevelopment and elite corruption is within the realm of mainstream political discourse. But there are clear indications that their tactics and targets have turned most Nigerians against them, including local populations in the north.
“An FTO designation would potentially shift the organization’s posture towards the US and validate the more radical factions’ analysis of outsider influence in Nigeria. It would also undermine the Nigerian government’s ability to address the problem through law enforcement and thereby improve rule of law.
“An FTO designation would give disproportionate attention to counter-terrorism in our bilateral relations, and increase the risk that the US becomes linked – whether in reality or perception – to abuses by the security services. An FTO designation would effectively endorse excessive use of force at a time when the rule of law in Nigeria hangs in the balance. There is already evidence that abuses by Nigeria’s security services have facilitated radical recruitment. This was made unequivocally clear in 2009 following the extrajudicial murder of Mohammed Yusuf, which was broadcast across the internet. That incident was immediately followed by Boko Haram’s radicalization, splintering, and increased propensity for large scale violence. Moreover, the routine use of the military for domestic law enforcement is a cause for alarm in a country with a deep history of military rule, and where formal declarations of states of emergency have historically led to broader political instability.
“In publicizing this letter, it is also our hope that the Department of Defense and other concerned agencies will reaffirm the limitations of their roles: informing or implementing policy rather than making it. Accurately understanding and properly addressing the issue of Boko Haram will require a diplomatic, developmental, and demilitarized framework. The State Department and its civilian developmental partners must be in the lead.
“The FTO list system has its origins in Executive Order 12947 in 1995, which was designed to prohibit transactions with organizations that interfere in the Middle East peace process. Congressional legislation the following year codified a process for making such decisions under the Effective Death Penalty and Anti-Terrorism Act. Once the State Department makes an FTO designation and that entity is added to the Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list managed by the Treasury Department, it is illegal for U.S. citizens to have any interactions with that entity unless they apply for a license. At least 1.1 million individuals and entities are also on secret lists, according to an audit by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Inspector General. Lack of information about the criteria for being listed makes it impossible to be removed and encourages selective enforcement.
“This cumbersome and arbitrary process has made it impossible for some humanitarian organizations to operate in the neediest areas of Africa. If economic development is to play a role in alleviating tensions in northern Nigeria, we should not hamper access by USAID or private NGOs in providing aid and assistance in the region.
“Should Boko Haram be designated an FTO through this regime, it would be illegal for non-governmental organizations to interact with members of Boko Haram – even if the purpose of such contact was to persuade them to renounce violence. The US Supreme Court upheld these restrictions in 2010, declaring that such contact would constitute providing “material support” to terrorist groups. Commenting on the threat this poses to the Carter Center, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter said this legal restriction “threatens our work and the work of many other peacemaking organizations that must interact directly with groups that have engaged in violence.” It would therefore be illegal for third party intermediaries to play a role in some future peace process or in the confidence building measures required to get there.
“Less attention has been brought to the damage that this system does to academic inquiry more generally. An FTO designation would prevent independent scholarly inquiry about Boko Haram, and increase suspicion in the future about researchers with no governmental ties. Public policy benefits from dialogue with public scholars, and an FTO designation would effectively criminalize broad categories of research.
“During a visit to Nigeria in February, former president Bill Clinton commented on the security crisis there by concluding that “it is almost impossible to cure a problem based on violence with violence.” A lasting solution to Boko Haram will require robust political and developmental components initiated by the Nigerian government and broadly endorsed by the Nigerian people
through democratic processes that enhance the rule of law. We believe that an FTO designation for Boko Haram would limit American policy options to those least likely to work, and would undermine the domestic political conditions necessary in Nigeria for an enduring solution.
“We thank you for taking our views into consideration. Our affiliations are listed for identification purposes only and do not constitute an institutional endorsement”.
The letter was endorsed by the following:
Carl LeVan, Peter M. Lewis; American University Johns Hopkins University; Jean Herskovits, Daniel J. Smith; Purchase Brown University; Adrienne LeBas, R. Kiki Edozie
American University Michigan State University; Brandon Kendhammer, Susan Shepler, Ohio University American University; John Campbell, David Dwyer Council on Foreign Relations Michigan State University; Paul Lubeck, Pearl Robinson, University of California – Santa Cruz Tufts University; Darren Kew, Clarence Lusane, University of Massachusetts – Boston American University; Laura Thaut, Nicolas van de Walle; University of Minnesota – Minneapolis Cornell University; Judith Byfield, Susan M. O’Brien, Cornell University University of Florida; John Paden/Deborah Brautigam, George Mason University/Johns Hopkins University; Michael Watts, University of California – Berkeley
Additional names added since May 21 2012:
David Laitin, David Wiley, Stanford University Michigan State University; Shobana Shankar, Sandra T. Barnes, Georgetown University, University of Pennsylvania
cc: Johnnie Carson, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs
The Carson referred to and who was copied this supposed expert view, which sought to blackmail the American government, was the same diplomat who said Boko Haram is a child of circumstance occasioned by the poverty in northern Nigeria.
So, Tuesday, July 10, 2012, before the House of Representatives in the United States, some Nigerians, who saw and knew the agenda of the terrorists, gave evidence and warned of the consequences of allowing Boko Haram the breather the likes of Carson were advocating.
It is that same type of jaundiced position that AI has bought that informed its presentation about abuses which were already being checked and addressed by the military.
Today, the world knows better, especially in the face of the bestialities committed by the terrorists.
To be fair, the NHRC had to step in at some point to assist the military create a revised policy of engagement because of the growing collateral damage arising from the war on terror. That the military itself submitted to the new dictate symbolizes its readiness to quarantine the civilian population from the ravaging war.
DISTURBING CATCH-22 SCENARIO – THE CASE OF ELDER CITIZEN MONGUNU
There is a twist and irony in today’s war.
The nature and bestiality of Boko Haram members is in no measure comparable to the activities of the Niger Delta militants who created economic sabotage in the early part of this century before the late President Umaru Yar’Adua brokered amnesty. Prominent Nigerians from all geo-political zones of the country called for the use of the military.
Interestingly, when the military launched its first wave of operations in the three states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, some leaders of the states, rather than encouraged the military, acted in ways that tended to pitch the troops against the civilian population and, thereby, allowed the terrorists to continue their carnage. In fact, during a presidential visit to Borno State by former President Goodluck Jonathan, the major demand of the elders of Borno was the withdrawal of the military, to which the then president inappropriately demanded an alternative – no one provided any.
Unfortunately, elder statesman Shetima Ali-Mongunu, an octogenarian and a leading light in not just Borno State but also the North, became a victim of the terrorists. After spending days in captivity and contrary to the claim made at that time by the state government, Sunday Vanguard was told, last week, that N20million was paid to Boko Haram to secure his release. Ironically, since then, the military that Mongunu had insisted must be withdrawn from Borno State has been providing him with security. He hardly ventures out – not because of old age but because of the traumatic experience in captivity.
Worse still, Sunday Vanguard was informed that the reason the group always found solace in Chad, Cameroun and Niger republic is because some very senior government officials, perhaps the ones referred to by former President Jonathan who were members of the Jama’atu Ahliss-Sunnah Lidda’awati Wal Jihad hiding in his government, found a very lucrative means of claiming to engage the terrorists while siphoning millions of dollars.
It is alleged that some heads of state were regularly visiting Aso Rock Presidential Villa to collect money.
Military sources alleged that most of the heroic stories about Chadian military were almost always primed to get compensation from the Nigerian government.
Even the ceasefire hoax during the Jonathan administration was alleged to have been orchestrated from Aso Rock by very senior Presidency officials, said to be working with Idris Derby of Chad Republic. The Chadian military that stormed Gamboru Ngala, military sources alleged, were on a looting spree until they were stopped from proceeding. And when they proposed to move southwards to Dikwa, the Nigerian military repelled them because their agenda was far from fighting the terrorists. With friends like Chad, Nigeria certainly do not need an enemy.
The latest AI report, Sunday Vanguard was told, is part of a grand agenda to ensure that the very senior military leaders who did their best to halt the advance of Boko Haram are dealt with. Meanwhile, their Commander-in-Chief, Jonathan, may be indicted in the final analysis.
And whereas those who may have committed acts that are inhuman while claiming to be fighting the terrorists must be brought to book. However, threatening officers and hanging the sword of international criminal justice regime on them would not yield any meaningful advancement in the fight against terror.