Abubakar Shekau was formerly a lieutenant at Lord’s Resistance Army. He left LRA after a marked difference in the direction of the terrorist cult’s ideology with his boss, and converted to Islam to champion an Al-Qaeda-style insurgency. He migrated to Nigeria in 2005, and settled down in Shekau, Yobe State. In his early interviews, he insisted, refuting his boss’s charges of insubordination, that he left because of his disapproval of LRA’s quest for a society governed by the Biblical Ten Commandments. His preference of Sharia was after a brief stay in the Yemeni city of Sana’a where, for studying Islamic orthodoxy in toto, according to him, he was nicknamed Darul Tauheed. Shekau was an LRA-trained, ultra-conservative Christian and Ugandan. We must join hands in rejecting his claims.
Of course, the source of the above is my imagination, my own conspiracy theory, to pander to the ongoing misuse of our intellect in analysing the genesis and complexities of our troubles as a nation and as a people, and on the junctures where humanity takes flight and abandons us to conspire against one another, against reason, and against common sense. The past few weeks have been about competing to outdo one another in inventions of unverifiable stories, sometimes amusing and, other times, and these are of higher frequency, shameful, so much so that you wish to recommend the conspiracy theorists for admission into mental institutions.
If you have joined our deception-gathering agents, whose operations are everything but secret, the Nigerian secret police, in living in denial of Shekau’s actual existence as shared by their spokesperson Ms Marilyn Ogah, there are archives to go explore – and the Internet is one of them. There are videos of Shekau’s existence as an unknown radical preacher and now the most wanted bogeyman in the world on Youtube and other video-sharing websites where doubters can watch and study him, his mannerisms, and transformations, employing your latent Sherlock Holmes-esque skills. In the early days of this insurgency, a friend of mine who had followed Shekau’s commentaries on the affairs of the world, long before he metamorphosed into an invisible man that taunts our undermined military might, gave me a DVD of the man’s selected sermons. The DVDs were on sale in Minna, I don’t know about now. Shekau is real, and dangerous in pseudo-intellectual warfare. And to say that he doesn’t know an “alif” about Islam is cheap, for the Shekau I listened to was a considerably learned man who wallowed, which he now does in full blast, in hollow ideologies, possessed by the demons of an unrealisable society he yearned for!
Screaming that Islam is a religion of peace and dismissing Shekau as non-Muslim or non-Nigerian, as some have done in shock over possibility of a Nigerian destroying his own people, is no longer an effective reaction to terrors and stereotypes. Evil has neither a religion nor a nationality, neither a race nor an ethnicity, and so long as this remains undisputed the activity of a particular terrorist group is not a fault of the larger people whose belief and ideology it selfishly abuses.
The merchants of death at Boko Haram have never identified with any concept aside from one built around the Islamic, even if ignorantly, which their Commander had explained until he no longer made sense. Shekau is not a Christian. He’s not Joseph Kony, the elusive leader of LRA whose delusion was vaguely attributed to his quest for “a society governed by the Biblical Ten Commandments.” But everybody knows that Kony is not a practising Christian. The same way our most intelligent dismissal of Shakau may be to highlight that he’s not a practising Muslim, for the Muslim identity is now both spiritual and political.
What the Boko Haram insurgents perpetrate is understandably un-islamic but they are Muslims. Disqualifying them as non-Muslims is not only a cheap escape from this maddening reality that begs for our honest confrontations but questions the authenticity of our own faith too. For instance, Islam is unambiguous in its condemnation of polytheism. In fact, polytheism is the shortest and smoothest highway to apostasy but so many of us patronise marabouts and seers to seek solutions for our problems, and to ‘protect’ our future, in spite of our knowledge of the consequences. Unfaithful Muslims, of whom the terrorists are frontline members, are candidates of Jahannam. Being a Muslim doesn’t mean being spiritually and behaviorally upright, being a Mumineen, a believer, is what makes one so. Islam is not a secret cult, and apostasy in a world where the “Islamists” have turned the Muslim identity into political is now contradictory, and should be declared with caution. Shekau may have lost his spiritual identification with Islam, but he’s politically a Muslim.
Every ideology can be exploited to promote an evil cause. Like the abuse of democratic ideals by Nigerian politicians. So, instead of propounding conspiracy theories, let’s dedicate our energy to all efforts being made to rescue the girls abducted in Chibok – and all, boys and girls, abducted before them! Where are they, over a month later? Our campaign right now must be to remind the international community that has stripped us naked, fairly so, that #BringBackOurGirls is neither a posing nor fashion contest. We don’t want to see their Yves Saint Laurent suits, don’t want to see their gucci shoes, don’t want to see their Rolex watches… anymore. If they really want to help us, then they must understand that urgency is requisite in counter-terrorism. But if their actual intention is merely to embarrass us in style, laugh over our postcolonial failures in the closet, and publicise the other side of our ‘barbarous’ people, then let them open up and leave us alone. They must stop documenting our miseries if they’re not willing to assist us. Our girls have marked 32 days, over a month, in captivity. Is this a fashionable tragedy?
And all the way from America, where President Jonathan has adopted as the arbitrator of our public opinion in his “America Will know” blunder, a certain Senator has called our President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, “some guy” and his government “practically non-existent!” Well, John McCain owes us no apology at all. Practically, he said. And I agree. See, a people’s daughters were abducted, they’re in immeasurable misery, yet the impractical “Establishment” is expecting them to “waka come” – and see them in their grand Palace (of shame). Aren’t they and their ilk, (s)elected to serve, supposed to visit the ‘mourning’ citizens and apologise for failing to defend them as pledged in their Oath of Office or assure them of a possibility of rescuing those unfortunate daughters of a “non-existent” country? Yet they sit on a trillion naira, expecting hashtags to gather and venture into Sambisa Forest and touch the heart of the morally unconscious terrorists or even, by a twist of miracle, save the citizens they have vowed to protect!
I really wish I could sit down with my kids in the future, telling them, with painful nostalgia and perhaps pride, of a terrorist cult called “Boko Haram” that terrorised my youth, as our parents had told us of Maitatsine’s violent dissent – and the immediate subduing of Mohammed Marwa-indoctrinated Yan Tatsine by a militarily no-nonsense government of President Shehu Shagai, and also Major-General Muhammadu Buhari !
But our present counter-terrorism isn’t a guarantee for that hope. I fear that our kids may be similarly rattled by this evil creation of our time, a product of a dangerously built society. I fear. For us. How this literally frail Shekau who may not even stand me in a boxing bout managed to defy our security arrangements, outwitting the salary-earning, civilian-brutalising “sojas” there to defend the people, is a proof that ours is a structurally collapsing nation. May God save us from us!
By Gimba Kakanda
@gimbakakanda (On Twitter)