Boko Haram: In Defence of What?

2011-06-17
THISDAY Newspaper- Michael Olugbode

They used to be Boko Who? But their fame, or infamy, has spread all over the country and all over the world. Nobody ignores them again.
Boko Haram is the name of every lip now.

Yet little had been known about them until July 2009 when the news hit the headlines that police
had killed some members of a religious fundamentalist group who had attacked a police station. The insurrection spread across the
North-east, with tens of thousands believed to have been killed in Maiduguri, Borno State, alone.

They are the Yusufari group named after their slain leader Ustaz Mohammed Yusuf, but are popularly called Boko Haram after their
ideology which is hatred for western ideologies especially secular education.

The group was founded in 2002 in Maiduguri by Yusuf who was felled in 2009 at the age of 39 after he held Borno and some parts of the
country hostage for about five days. The group after it was founded had in 2004 moved to Kanamma, Yobe State, where it set up a base
called "Afghanistan", and at that time attacked nearby police outposts, killing police officers.

Yusuf, throughout his adult life, was hostile to democracy and the secular education system, and before his death had vowed that his war
would continue to rage until the present political and educational system was changed.

The group most time likes to live a reclusive life, refusing to mix with local people and some of its members are said to come from
neighbouring Chad Republic and speak only Arabic to distinguish themselves. They oppose not only Western education, but Western
culture and modern science as well. Yusuf had in a 2009 BBC interview taken a position against the popular belief that the world is a sphere, claiming that it was contrary to Islam and should be rejected by all, he also stood against Darwinism
and the theory that rain comes from water evaporated by the sun.

The group, though had fought again government and its agencies on many occasions but came into the nation’s consciousness when it took arms against the police in July 2009 in some states of the North and held the states hostage for days. Many policemen were laid to waste until the Nigeria Army was called on to arrest the situation.

In this battle, the leaders of the group were captured and alleged to have been summarily executed by the police. The base of the sect was
also demolished by government security agencies and the few that were lucky enough escaped or were captured and have been facing prosecution since then.

They were silenced for a while but a year later they returned with vengeance. Though they have changed tactics, with the guerrilla
warfare they have waged on Borno State and some states in the North, the group has continually crept into town like ghosts on a mission to
destroy, killing on a daily basis mostly security men.

The new leader of the group, Imam Abu Muhammad Abubakar bin Muhammad, better known as Shekau, was during the 2009 clamp down on the group said to have been killed.

Though the group has not stopped killing security men it has extended its hit list to include Christians, critical Islamic clerics and
traditional leaders, Igbo traders and politicians.

They have at various times given conditions for a truce, including the institutionalisation of Sharia legal system, the prosecution of those they alleged to be involved in the death of their leaders during the 2009 attack, the resignation of the present government in Borno State,
release of their detained members and unconditional amnesty.

Boko Haram’s grouse, from all indications, arose from the way and manner Yusuf was killed. He had been captured alive by the army. He was handed over to the police. Moments later, the police showed his bullet ridden body to journalists, claiming he had tried to escape from custody. Nobody believed them.

 

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