The killing of Babakura Fugu, the only opening for dialogue with Boko Haram dims any hope of a quick resolution of the impasse
If President Goodluck Jonathan and his security chiefs had any romantic ideas about the seriousness of Boko Haram, the killing of Babakura Fugu, brother-in-law of Mohammed Yusuf, late leader of Boko Haram, Saturday, September 17, two days after receiving former President Olusegun Obasanjo, in Maiduguri may have convinced them that they are not dealing with Boys Scouts. The summary execution of his host was shocking even to the general who had seen enough bestiality as a soldier.
Obasanjo, a known continental volunteer in conflict resolution, who said his visit to embattled Maidugri was entirely his own initiative, and not on the prompting of the federal government, may have been inspired by the need to make a substantial progress in the attempt to make peace. He stated that Fugu did not deserve to die.
It was gathered that Obasanjo’s trip was facilitated by Shehu Sani, president, Civil Rights Congress, CRC. Sani has been a consistent advocate of dialogue with Boko Haram, and may have facilitated the visit in that spirit. But the activist was forced to go into hiding after the killing of Fugu, perhaps afraid that the group could come after him. Reacting to the incident he said: “The unfortunate incident is a serious setback. Hardly can people be encouraged now to continue to find a lasting solution to the crisis. But the process must continue... Innocent souls have been lost in the last few months; we thought the contact would lead to reconciliation of the aggrieved parties in the crisis but the unfortunate incident is a serious setback.”
Sani confirmed to the magazine last Wednesday night that he indeed facilitated Obasanjo’s trip to Yusuf’s family and regretted that a real opportunity to stop the bloodletting has been aborted. He equally confirmed that he had received threat messages and had to go underground. He noted that the search for peace has been compounded by the division within the Boko Haram family and that Fugu was probably assassinated by a virulent splinter group. Sani may be right. While the country was still trying to make meaning out of the killing of Fugu, an incident happened, which threw some light into the behind-the-scene happenings on the Boko Haram imbroglio. One Aliyu Tishau, who described himself as a co-founder of the Islamist sect, made a surprise appearance on the African Independent Television, AIT. He said though the State Security Service, SSS, had infiltrated the sect and succeeded in arresting those who did not abide by the pious principle of the founders of the sect to ensure adherence to the tenets of Islam, the suspects were freed, without being tried by the court. He said, “Some big men moved in to ensure that the court released them and they came back (and) caused more problems within our group.”
Tishau’s story is a fresh confirmation of what this magazine had written about Boko Haram members who were released from detention following the intervention of some influential persons. He also confirmed that some governors maintained militia groups used for personal security and for other activities. Twenty-four hours after Tishau’s shocking testimonies, governors of Northern states met in Abuja and resolved to discourage thuggery in their domains. That, in a way, confirms the testimony of Tishau that politicians were grooming militants as some form of private army.
The main group led by Abubakar Shekau, regarded as Boko Haram’s spiritual leader, and which denied involvement in Fugu’s murder, is believed to be the original group that stands on the true practice of Islam. The group denied an earlier statement in which Boko Haram claimed responsibility for the killing of Fugu. This is obviously the group to which Tishau belongs. But the sect leader claimed that the other group is the militant group allegedly used by politicians to guard their fiefdom. Members of this group, according to him, are trained outside Nigeria with the intention to destabilise. He has yet some information for the authorities. It is that more militants are returning home from Mauritius.
Perhaps they are aware already. Little wonder that the National Council of States resolved that military option be shelved in favour of dialogue. The first leg of that approach was the initiative by the former president.
Obasanjo’s visit drew mixed reactions from the public. Many, including Wole Soyinka, Nobel laureate condemned it, describing it as insensitive against the background of the fatalities of the UN House bombing, for whom a funeral service was held the same day. Yet some people hailed the visit as a breakthrough.
Beyond sentiments, Obasanjo’s visit has its benefits, which Fugu’s assassination may have been targeted to pre-empt. For instance, Yusuf’s family was open to the visit and revealed it was the first time a high-ranking personality was visiting since Yusuf died under controversial circumstances in the hands of the police in July 2009. The family gave what were considered initial conditions for dialogue.
It was gathered that the family wanted the government to comply with a court judgment of Tuesday, April 13, 2010 as the starting point. Justice Mohammed Mustapher of the Borno State High Court, Maiduguri, had given judgment against the federal government in a case brought before him by Yusuf’s family. Obasanjo was not aware of such judgment, so he requested for a copy of the judgment and the compensation expected from government. They also complained that agents of federal government used bulldozer to level the family compound after killing Yusuf.
The judge ruled that the extra-judicial murder of the applicant’s father, Baba Fugu Mohammed, by security personnel was illegal, unconstitutional and a violation of his rights to life as enshrined in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the African Charter and the universal declaration of human rights. He, therefore, ordered the President, the Attorney-General of the Federation, the Inspector-General of Police, the governor of Borno State and his attorney-general and commissioner for justice to jointly and severally pay the sum of N100,000,000 in compensation to the applicant. Yusuf Ali, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, counsel for the federal government, filed an appeal against the judgment.
Obasanjo told the family to give him three weeks to talk with government. That meeting was yet to take place when Fugu was killed.
So who killed Fugu? An initial statement claimed he was killed by Boko Haram. Another statement by the main group denied that. Shekau condemned the killing and described it as “immoral and a further injustice on the Fugu family, which has every right to seek protection without recourse to the group”. This reflects the conflict within the group. The Directorate of Security Services, DSS, alleges that Fugu was killed by the Boko Haram splinter group led by Mamman Nur, the suspected mastermind of the August 26, UN House bombing, which claimed 23 lives and wounded 116 people. Nur has been declared wanted and the DSS has placed a N25 million ransom on his head. It is further alleged that Ustaz Mote, who grew up in the Fugu family house, may have been used for the assassination. He is alleged to be Nur’s ardent follower, whose group suspects that recent arrests of its members by the DSS was caused by the late Fugu.
Why was he killed? They felt that Fugu had betrayed the group by going into alliance with the government against them for pecuniary gains. A source said that asking for a N100 million compensation from the government was debasing the group, which traditionally looks down on money. Above all, it may have been done to instill fear into others who may want to toe the path of dialogue by showing that government cannot protect them. One thing is very clear, the killing of Fugu has done some serious damage to the peace process. That is why people like Emmanuel Chukwuma, Bishop of Anglican Communion, Enugu Diocese, said there is a dose of politics in the motive of Boko Haram. “Some politicians threatened to make this country ungovernable and they are living up to their words, making the number one citizen look as if he doesn’t know what he is doing,” he maintained.
Also plausible is the possibility that Fugu was killed to forestall a scheduled interview with an online news portal, Sahara Reporters. The account of his final moments suggests he may have been on a telephone conversation with the Internet news portal when he was killed. Again those who believe that Fugu was talking too much may have decided to take his life. Once again this brings the nation back to the question about why Yusuf was killed in the first instance. Should the state security not have kept surveillance on a man who had become an ally in peaceful resolution? If they watched the family, why did they not get the identity of his killers? These are the questions begging for answers.
Additional report by