By Abdullah Abdulganiy
Boko Haram, a deadly terrorist group that originated from Nigeria, and runs across the Sahel, has been around for a long time, but became most violent, emboldened and brutal under the administrations of former President Goodluck Jonathan and incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari. The insurgent group, which now has various splinter factions, has wreaked havoc and disaster on the lives of many. It is a major problem Nigeria is contending with, which has culminated in the death of a number of citizens, displacement of family members and destruction of both public and private properties.
Times and again, billions of naira have been lavished over this menace with no headway in sight. Corruption, lack of political will, impunity among others have reportedly trailed the war against this terrorist group. Some unscrupulous elements within the government and security agencies are allegedly feathering their nest and living large through this insurgency. In fact, they have turned it into a formalised business entity, and do not want the war to end anytime soon. Sambo Dasuki comes to mind.
All the aforementioned are major challenges facing the war against Boko Haram in Nigeria, making it difficult to record total success. It will, however, amount to ingratitude to turn a blind eye to the giant strides of some government and security officials. Nevertheless, one thing is still certain: the war against Boko Haram has not been won. This insurgent group still launches devastating attacks on communities.
Away from the talks of corruption, impunity, lack of political will, one other major factor serving as a clog in the wheel of progress in the fight against Boko Haram is conspiracy theories and theorists. These conspiracy theories often come in form of misguided labelling, uninformed naming and accusations, sponsored propaganda, fake news, outright falsehood, targeted at a group for cheap political points and other social capital.
Furthermore, these conspiracy theories are used to heat up the polity, stir up division among ethnic and religious groups, cast people and groups in bad light and also generate cheap popularity. If anything, they have made the war against the terrorist group more difficult, because they only advance the frontiers of blame-game and make it a Herculean task to situate the context or locate the roots of the Boko Haram endemic.
We have had enough of them in the past, and continue to be regaled with more and more. If you have been following the war and media religiously, you must have heard at some points that Ali Modu Sheriff, former Borno State governor is the brain behind Boko Haram. They had also at a time pointed accusing fingers at General Muhammadu Buhari before becoming Nigeria’s president. They had also attributed it to former President Goodluck Jonathan. Some blamed Islam, tagging it an attempt to Islamize Nigeria. Others went for the ethnic colouration, asserting that it was an Hausa/Fulani agenda.
All these are conspiracy theories that are not founded on facts and figures. They have not been proved overtime as well. Joining the fray as a new entrant is Dr Obadiah Mailafia, a former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN). He stirred the hornet’s nest when he told a radio station, Nigeria Info that a northern governor is the commander of Boko Haram. He also said the terrorists were flying freely during the coronavirus lockdown.
“We have met with some of their high commanders, they have sat down with us not once, not twice. They told us that one of the northern governors is the commander of Boko Haram in Nigeria. Boko Haram and the bandits are one and the same. During this lockdown, their planes were moving up and down as if there was no lockdown,” he said.
So, Dr Mailafia has been holding meetings with Boko Haram commanders secretly? This calls for a great concern. In what appears a failed attempt to push another conspiracy theory however, he was caught in the web. Upon the invitation by the Department of State Security (DSS) to substantiate his claim, Mailafia lost the regalia of decency, as he said he was only misunderstood and ate back his words. Why was Mailafia not man enough to stand by his words? Everyone must by now start taking him for what he is: a shameless liar.
He is one of the reasons Nigeria is yet to see the end of Boko Haram. His ilk won’t chart pathways to arrest the problem, but continue to create panic and tension in the society. It’s most unfortunate that majority of these conspiracy theories are pushed by the educated and highly placed in the society. To what end? Do they want to raze down the country? Saying a northern governor is the commander of Boko Haram can generate hullabaloo and ethnic strife that might consume Mailafia himself if care is not taken. He also knows this!
People like Mailafia should not be allowed to go scot-free. He should be penalized severely for making unfounded allegations to serve as a deterrence to others. Not only the radio station should face the music. Freedom of speech or free press, like I have always maintained, does not transmogrify to pushing false narratives, concocting fake and malicious news, spreading hate and blackmail. Mailafia was only encouraged by the fact that some elements had been saying all sorts in the past without necessarily paying for it.
So many supposedly educated persons in the media and outside of the media have tagged the group an “Islamist terrorist group”. Does it not betray logic that an “Islamic terrorist group” has killed more Muslims than any other religious adherents over the years? Or is it not stupid that an “Hausa/Fulani group” is killing its own and destroying its region? We must begin to see Boko Haram for what it is if a breakthrough is what we clamour.
The fact is that Boko Haram is a criminal, terrorist group with ulterior motives far from being religious or ethnic. It has killed, maimed and violated members of different religious and ethnic groups. It has bombed both mosques and churches. Islamic scholars and Christian priests had been casualties of their terror. The important thing is to help relevant security agencies with useful information in eliminating this deadly group, rather than the mischievous conspiracy theories rehashed overtime!
Let me conclude by also objecting to the fine of N5 million naira levelled against Nigeria Info for the offence of airing “hate speech”. I posit that it is an overkill. To be sure, Nigeria Info should pay for violating broadcasting codes, but importantly is that Dr Mailafia who made the false statement should not go unpunished too. Similarly, the fine needs be reviewed. It is too much for a media house amid the fallout of COVID-19. One would expect that this is how harsh the penalty against corrupt politicians and public officers is; Nigeria would have become saner. More embarrassing is the revelation that the fine was reached by a one-man mopol, Alhaji Lai Muhammed, as against due consultations with the NBC Board members.
‘Live and Direct’ with Governor AbdulRazaq
Since the focus of my discussion is on conspiracy theories, let me quickly use the opportunity to burst one celebrated conspiracy theory against the person of Governor AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq of Kwara State. I am not his mouthpiece, but my training will not make me keep mute in the face of barefaced lies.
It is likely you have come across people saying that Governor AbdulRazaq is a dullard because he didn’t go beyond secondary school. If you choose to believe them, he is also an ‘illiterate’ who cannot read and write. I am sorry to dissapoint you: this is a white lie! Unless dullard now has another meaning. The Governor AbdulRazaq I had the privilege to interact with in a virtual meeting used to commemorate the 2020 International Youth Day is cerebral and brilliant.
People are really getting it wrong because they choose to measure people’s intelligence with schooling. As a matter of fact, education is not schooling. The school is only one out of many mediums one can get educated. Though highly reserved and a man of few words, Governor AbdulRazaq is an intellectual blessed in many ways. He quotes statistics and presents historical facts without blemish. He speaks impeccable English too.
Away from those attributes, the governor is a good listener. He respects people’s opinions and is very affable in interaction. He entertained more and more questions until we were running out of time. It was as if the discussion should not end, but the curtain had to be drawn. Looking forward to another medium of interacting with the great sage. Next time conspiracy theorists tell you Governor AbdulRazaq is an ‘illiterate’ as they put it, just rebuff them, and say, ‘e bole nbe, sir/ma’. Busted!
Toast to Alhaji Gobir and Foundation
It’s very surprising that we still have personalities like Alhaji Yakubu Gobir in today’s Nigeria, where most elites are only concerned about themselves and to an extent, family members. I have been following the doyen of industry for some time now, and I can conclude that he is generosity personified.
His love for charity, community development, empowerment, humanitarian services is extraordinaire. This, perhaps, explains why the great politician founded Gobir Foundation Organisation in 2017. More fulfilling is that all these activities are not for showmanship or political points as replete in the society.
In addition to the body of existing humanitarian services Alhaji Gobir has made and continues to offer, his Foundation, Gobir Foundation Organisation intervened in the travails of an Ilorin assault victim, Abdulqudus Babatunde, brought to the public domain by a growing medium in Ilorin, The Ravens.
The NGO not only supported him with huge funds, but also pledged further assistance for him until the coast is clear. By this uncommon act, Alhaji Gobir and Foundation have only restored hope and confidence in a helpless family ‘Nigeria’ happened to. I salute him and pray Allah continues to be with him.
I also appeal to relevant authorities that the full weight of the law be brought on the nuisance, Abdulkareem Alaba who reportedly caused everlasting agony for Babatunde by pouring hot vegetable oil on him in the course of his legitimate work. Only this way, a deterrence would be served and it will be written loud and clear to the public that there are consequences for bad behavior.
Once again, toast to Gobir and Foundation!