Moving to Lagos wasn’t easy for him. Because he had to resume almost less than forty-eight hours after leaving Maiduguri, he decided to head straight for Lagos, after briefly setting eyes on his family sheltering in Abuja at his uncle’s. He assured his wife, that as soon as things got sorted out in Lagos, he would have them over, they would however have to put up in Abuja for a while, till he’s able to send some money over with which they’d be able to either go to be with his mother in Benue State or with her people in Kogi State. Just because of some intolerant religious fanatic, he’d become internally displaced in his country, but he didn’t let that weigh him down as his predicament wasn’t the worst that could happen to anyone, he was so better off than many other people he knew, so he GAVE THANKS TO THE ALMIGHTY!
There were many offers he had of places to stay in Lagos, and that was because of goodwill he had engendered from his first stint there in the months he spent on training when he secured his current job, less than a decade back. He had slush funds then, fewer responsibilities and besides the stipends that was paid at the time for upkeep, he had the per diem for hotel accommodation all to himself, which he lavished on his hosts. Because he hadn’t told any of his current prospective hosts about his current predicament, he supposed that they’d think things were going to be as it had been before if not even better, so he opted for the home of a family man, who was retired with a few grown up children, and that wouldn’t bother him much with responsibilities of their own, besides the fact that it was also the closest to his new place of work. Most times, so as not to appear imposing, he’d sleep in his car, or spend the night at a club with friends just so as to make himself as scarce as possible from his host, even though most times he still managed to give his host’s wife some cash out of the little he had at the time, to add to her meal budget.
Within six months he’d gotten accommodation (with great sacrifice that saw him spending only on the barest of necessities), brought his family over to Lagos, but had to have his first son wait for the next school year to enrol in school. He was particular glad to see his daughter who was born in his absence, though he’d seen her picture, that couldn’t be compared to touching her. He felt alive again, and promised himself to make the best of what Lagos had to offer, having successfully repatriated himself at great cost, compared to “grave cost” for many, from Maiduguri.
Though Maiduguri was out of sight, it wasn’t out of mind. He kept in touch with folks back there and followed events in the news pertaining to Maiduguri, the State Of Emergency in the North East states of Adamawa, Yobe and Borno, as well as other parts of the North (where bombs were now exploding with some regularity) religiously. He heard tales of friends who lost lives and limbs or relatives to the situation, as well as friends and colleagues who officially declared for the insurgents and were not heard of again, besides others who had been arrested by the security agencies and also vanished.
In early 2013 more than a year after his successful escape from Maiduguri, rumours filtered in that Abubakar Shekau (Boko Haram leader) had been killed during a gunfight with the military forces. The military authorities later confirmed it but without a body or picture to prove it, standing that there was no way he could’ve survived from the fatal injury he sustained. The populace found it difficult to believe as the intensity of the activities of the insurgents rather than declining, climbed up several notches, and then out of the blues a video purporting to show Shekau was made available to the French media organization, Agence France Presse, AFP. In the video, “Shekau” berated the Nigerian military for spreading lies about his supposed death while he was alive, before going on to taunt the Nigerian and even the American government, all the while posing with a long (chewing) stick which he used to clean his teeth between comments.
Though the information department of the military released pictures trying to prove that the “Abubakar Shekau” in the latest video was an impostor (which actually rings true when several facial differences are considered), it was difficult to convince the Nigerian public especially seeing that there was no picture of the body, like it was with the body of the leader of the Maitatsine sect (a forerunner to today’s Boko Haram insurgent group in the early 1980’s when Alhaji Shehu Shagari was Nigeria’s president), whose body was exhumed and kept in standing position flanked by two soldiers as proof of capture, after he died from gunshot wounds sustained in combat against Nigerian soldiers called in to quell the disturbance following their activities, and had been spirited away from the scene of the battle and hurriedly buried by his disciples.
It didn’t matter to him if Shekau was dead or not, because his purported death didn’t seem to have done much in degrading the ability of the group. He had heard of such happening with the Al-Shabab Islamist group in Somalia, where dead leaders were simply replaced by the next in line with the group growing more ferocious as a result, though the killing of Osama Bin Laden greatly impacted Al-Qaeda, despite the fact that it appeared that its influence amongst jihadist was beginning to wane amongst heady upcoming groups in Iraq, Syria and in Africa, the AnsaruDeen in Mali (routed speedily by the French military).
The inability of the military to ace it over the insurgent groups led to calls by well meaning Nigerians as well as politicians with pious as well as ulterior motives, urging the President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan-led government to dialogue with the insurgents, but the government continued to maintain that it couldn’t dialogue with faceless individuals. An attempt by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to arrange a meeting with the honchos of the group appeared to be sailing smoothly, with the insurgents making a list of demands which included the prosecution of the policeman(men) responsible for the extrajudicial killing of Mohammed Yusuf (erstwhile Boko Haram leader captured by the military but killed under controversial circumstances after he was handed over to the police in July 2009), as well as compensation to be paid to families and dependants of late Boko Haram leaders, only for the man facilitating the deal to be killed by unknown gunmen suspected to be members of Boko Haram days after the meeting with the former president.
The video that surfaced on the government owned Nigerian Television Authority, NTA of masked men stating their willingness as Boko Haram members to dialogue with select Nigerian government officials turned out to be a hoax, while another attempt by the Boko Haram this time to reach out to the government, in naming some notable personalities in the North of Nigeria, including Jonathan’s opponent, retired General Muhammadu Buhari was rebuffed by the former presidential candidate, who had long canvassed dialogue as panacea but was now caught between the devil and the deep blue sea as he was beginning to be seen in some quarters, especially those closest to the presidency as possible sponsor (or suspected to have close links to sponsors) of the insurgent group, for which his naming by the group to negotiate on it’s behalf tended to lend credence to such assertions.
Even the ruling PDP couldn’t escape been tagged as sponsor of the Boko Haram group following the arrest of some of its members, notable of which is a serving senator Ali Ndume whose link with the insurgents was established by phone call logs between him and a member of Boko Haram, which he claimed were at the point he reached out to them as member of a committee set up to pursue the option of dialogue with the group. Of greater import was the statement at an event by the National Security Adviser at the time, General Owoye Azazi that the sponsors of the Boko Haram group were members of the PDP, corroborating an earlier statement by the president that Boko Haram members were everywhere even within his cabinet. General Azazi was later removed from office as a result of the controversy his statement generated, especially (according to some sources) his refusal to retract the controversial statement. Within weeks, he died in a helicopter crash alongside the first Christian governor of Kaduna state, Patrick Yakowa (whose death triggered an avalanche of celebration and jubilation amongst Muslims of his Kaduna state and those of the neighbouring state of Kano over the ascension of his deputy, a Muslim as governor), on their way back from a function organized by an aide of President Goodluck Jonathan in Bayelsa State. Not a few Nigerians built a conspiracy theory around the deaths of both individuals, hence when Governor Danbaba Suntai of Taraba State crashed his small plane, sustaining head injuries and became incapacitated as a result, a strong cabal continued (as they do to this day) to keep his person in power to ensure that power does not totally fall into the hands of his deputy, now “Acting Governor”, a mirror of how religion plays a divisive role in Nigeria’s intriguing game of politics oftentimes denying the people the dividends of democracy.
He had always wondered how it was that Boko Haram claimed they were anti- Western Education yet they, in recent times, had been attacking facilities unrelated to education like military installations and barracks, police stations, prisons, markets, churches and mosques (where clerics have been known to speak against their brand of Islam) motor parks, even a United Nations building, besides employing tools procured from knowledge of western education to facilitate their activities, even maintaining a steady presence on social media networks more than their enemy, the Nigerian army which only until recently (and even at that barely scratching the surface of the good ICT can be put to) conducted their battle via analog technology and means. It appeared the insurgents at about this same time considered this, for they now intensified their attacks on schools. In Yobe state, a boys secondary boarding school was attacked by unknown gunmen suspected to be members of Boko Haram, while they slept at night killing several of them and wounding much more and set the school buildings ablaze. The shocking nature of the attack revulsed Nigerians and for many, woke them up to the unfortunate situation in the North Eastern States currently under a State Of Emergency. But no sooner had the news of that event leaked (days after it occurred due to the fact that journalists were restricted from visiting the zone, and mobile phone networks had disabled their signals on the instructions of the military in a bid to hamper information dissemination amongst the insurgents) than another scandal in the general Nigerian polity distracted Nigerians from that event, and similar attacks in schools in Adamawa, and then in Kano (a NorthWestern state that wasn’t under a state of emergency), where not only were schools attacked, but health workers who had been on immunization duty in a bid to rid Nigeria of the six deadly childhood diseases, of which POLIO was the main, were shot at and killed by unknown gunmen.
Kano, as with many other northern states of Nigeria is notorious for having a large Muslim population refusing vaccination from polio, following instructions by some Muslim clerics that the vaccination is a bid by Western Christian nations to reduce the Muslim population of Nigeria which resulted in the continued presence of the disease in Nigeria (alongside Pakistan and Afghanistan, after India stayed free of polio for the second year running) despite all the huge amounts plunged into the vaccination program by the federal government, international organizations like the World Health Organization, WHO and private foundations like Bill and Melinda Gates’. In attacking and killing the immunization health officers (copying the activity of the likes of the Taliban in Pakistan), the Boko Haram group appeared to have signaled their support for the anti-immunization movement in Kano, which won a landmark case four years back, against a pharmaceutical company (winning millions of dollars in compensation) which carried out trials in Kano in the early nineties that claimed the lives of many of the subjects (children).
A new dimension was added to Boko Haram’s activity, when they began abducting young men (indoctrinated and recruited into their ranks) and women and girls (used as sex slaves) after raids on towns in some parts of Borno and Yobe States, but none aroused attention like the abduction of more than 200 female students of a Government Girls Secondary (boarding) School in Chibok, Borno State while they slept in their dormitories on the night of the 14th of April, 2014, after a “Physics” exam earlier in the day. Infact, it didn’t generate much noise for days, and the government must have felt, like the abductions and killings before it, naturally the event will be overshadowed by another, less or more gruesome. He went to his Facebook page venting about the issue, and for someone who’d lived in Borno State and been in the face of the storm at one time, he gave his take into what could’ve happened in the face of denials and rebuttals amongst some Nigerians that it could’ve been a set up. Not even the video released by “Abubakar Shekau” via the AFP with the abducted girls in the background was enough to dissuade the unbelieving that indeed, the girls were abducted and were in custody of the “Haramites”.
Revulsed by the silence on the part of government to the plight of the missing girls and their parents (a few of which had developed a heart attack and even died), a group surfaced, popularized the hashtag “#BringBackOurGirls” on social media agitating for government to do more to bring about the release of the abducted Chibok girls. This group received support of the populace, but was vilified and at a point intimidated by the government stating that their activity was politically motivated. Even the loquacious first lady wasn’t to be left out as she, intending to do right by the parents of the abducted girls ended up embarrassing herself and her husband and by extension the government, after the video of the event where her garrulousity was made manifest went viral on youtube. The international coverage that followed the disappearance of the abducted Chibok girls forced the hand of government to seek international help, and which though was promised nothing on ground suggested that help had come as Boko Haram continued to unleash terror, and even began claiming territories like Gwoza and Bama (in Borno State) proclaiming them caliphates in much the same way as the ISLAMIC STATE IN IRAQ AND SYRIA (THE LEVANT), ISIS/ISIL was doing with swathes of overran Iraqi and Syrian lands.
One good that came of this was the increased collaboration between the neighbouring countries of Cameroun (with whom Nigeria enjoys a frosty relationship after ceding the Bakassi peninsula to the former, following an International Court of Justice, ICJ ruling), Chad, Niger and for reasons best known to government, The Republic of Benin, fostered by a meeting in Paris at the instance of French President Francois Hollande. These countries ensured that their countries didn’t serve as safe havens for terrorists fleeing the onslaught in Nigeria to regroup for counterattacks, besides also taking the battle to the insurgents into Nigerian territory once a while.
While he was in Maiduguri, the news that there were saboteurs within the rank and file of the Nigerian troops as well as among the officers were rife, hence he wasn’t surprised to hear that some soldiers fired shots in the direction of their commanding officer, who had come to commiserate with them after they lost some of their colleagues in an ambush. The soldiers had returned from a successful campaign against the insurgents in one of the towns in the outskirts of Maiduguri but were ordered by their Commanding Officer later that night to proceed to Maimalari Barracks against the advice of some of the soldiers, en route to which they were ambushed, and some of the men killed by suspected “Bokosites”, the reason for which they mutinied. These soldiers were later arrested, tried and some of them sentenced to death, prison sentences, and a few of them to days of manual labour, awaiting the approval of the Chief Of Defence Staff for the execution of the sentences. It came as a shock to him that nothing punitive was extended the way of the Commanding Officer who was a Major General, who in his view must’ve been a Boko Haram sympathizer and collaborator.
He was glad when out of all the gloom, news about success on the part of Nigerian troops began to filter in recent weeks, as towns overran by Boko Haram elements were retaken, and even more that Abubakar Shekau may have been killed in battle in Konduga, Borno State by the Cameroonian military. This was disputed by the Nigerian military who produced pictures of the dead Boko Haram leader, stating that his real name was MOHAMMED BASHIR and had been posing as the late “Abubakar Shekau”, which they always maintained they killed more than a year before the latest incident.
An attempt by members of the group to come for their Honcho’s body, in a bid to afford him a decent burial and hopefully make a SHRINE of his burial place, was met with stiff resistance in Konduga by the army, with the insurgents suffering great losses, including the arrest of the group’s ICT person responsible for posting the videos of their activity online, as well as other social media signatures of the group.
While listening to VOA on his battery powered transistor radio on one of the days that power was off, he was glad when one of the news items was that the members of the group were locked in a succession battle which has caused them to go at each others throats leading to the deaths of some of the group’s henchmen. Finally, he thought to himself, this could just bê the beginning of the end for the notorious group, however he was saddened by the fact that none of the financiers have yet been brought to book, remembering how the picture of Alhaji Ali Modu Sherrif, former governor of Borno State, flanking President Jonathan (for which he got slacks from the opposition for dining with a suspected Boko Haram sponsor) at a visit to the Chadian President, Idriss Déby gnawed him at his innards, a fortnight back. He then wondered how the war against insurgency can be won, with the sponsors moving around freely with armed police and army escorts.
….and he was SAD again!