When under President Usman Shehu Shagari in the early 80’s, a group much in the likes of Boko Haram, led by a certain preacher named Mohammed Marwa became very intolerable of people for been too western in their ways in Northern Nigeria, and in Kano particular, he was hunted down by a combination of the military and his group effectively put down.
Mohammed Marwa, as head of the Maitatsine group (as they were then known) preached against the westernization of the people. He spoke against the use of bicycles and even watches, and indeed gained quite a large following in many Northern states especially in Kano. Interestingly, Marwa wasn’t even a Nigerian but from Garuwa in Northern Cameroun.
‘Mai-tatsine’ means ‘The Man that Curses’, because he was in the habit of cursing those who were using western gadgets or following western ways. Marwa soon had a brush with the law after he lost his son during skirmishes on the street. In seeking retribution, his followers soon clashed with the Nigerian Police, who thought wrongly that they could just go and arrest him, only to find that the group was also armed to the teeth with sophisticated weaponry and magical potions which is thought to protect them from bullets.
The Army was soon called in with heavier weapons and within three days, the insurrection was put down, Marwa who died from bullet wounds sustained in the melee was secretly stolen away by his followers and buried. His body was later exhumed by the military, displayed and some say later cremated to ensure a shrine was not made at a future burial place by his followers.
Today, it’s the group ‘Jama’atu Ahl as-Sunnah li-Da’awati wal- Jihad (JASDJ)’, popularly known as Boko Haram that has come in the image of Maitatsine, only that they seem to have learnt from the mistakes of the former and became deadlier and more focussed in their activities and attacks.
They’d remained quiescent in their activities, organizing their enclaves even working in cohort with politicians by helping them mobilize for votes and dealing with perceived political enemies especially in Borno State (the state from where Boko Haram originated).
It was a falling out with the government in power (led by Governor Alhaji Ali Modu Sherrif) and later clashes with the police that brought their operations into limelight.
The military was later called in to quell the tensions, and their leader Mohammed Yusuf was killed after he was delivered to the police alive by the army in 2009.
Many people felt his death was politically motivated. The death of their spiritual leader at the hands of the police threw the group into a rage and a spate of reprisals against Nigeria’s security forces; and driven by the very radical views of their new leader, Abubakar Shekau they began to attack christians, southerners and even moderate muslims and/or others who held contrary views to theirs.
Today, after hundreds of lives have been lost to their terrorist activities, the Federal Government has declared a state of Emergency in the states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa.
With little or no information coming from the affected states more than a forthnight since the declaration, a recent Al Jazeera interview with a mole in the army has opined that there’ve been gross human rights abuses against civilians within the states especially in Borno where the military claims it’s achieved much success in it’s battle against insurgents.
In the past week also, a large cache of arms was discovered in the home of a Lebanese national in Kano while a popular retail outlet in Abuja (Amigos) owned by another Lebanese have been closed down by the secuirty forces.
The recent sentencing of an Iranian for arms importation also point to the international dimension of the crisis in the North-Eastern part of Nigeria, with names like the Hezbollah (currently fighting on Assad’s side in Syria) being bandied about by the security agencies.
Even though the State Of Emergency in the states afore mentioned, in my view came a little late and also not widespread enough, I feel it shouldn’t be the end, but a means to an end.
Radical preaching in the North, stands as the root to the formation of these radical groups, and rather than pamper or seek to see reasons with them, government should clamp down on them.
The army of teeming ‘Al Majirai’ in the North must be engaged and the system that threw them up discouraged. It is shameful that a few days ago Governor Aliyu Babangida disparaged calls for the disbanding of the Al Majirinci system, describing the building of Al Majiri Schools in the North as no solution, while providing no alternative solution, even though none of his own children are Al Majirai.
Above all, the culture of impunity in the North must be stopped. The killing of Southerners and Christians appear not to be considered as murder. This must STOP!
Opposition politicians must criticise only constructively to aid the government in putting an end to this menace. There should be no different way to look at what Shagari did in the 80’s and what Goodluck Jonathan is doing now, just because he is from the South.
There can be NO Peace without JUSTICE!