By Ikeogu Oke
If anyone said to my hearing that a US President – say Ronald Reagan – was a Soviet spy during the Cold War, I would react incredulously and dismiss the statement outright. So would I if told, with the speaker expecting me to agree, that Chief Obafemi Awolowo, after declaring hunger a legitimate weapon of war and vowing to deploy it (through a total blockade) in strangling the Biafran war effort, was involved in a racket that supplied food (and other relief materials) to the Biafrans. I would react the same way if anyone alleged that Prof. Wole Soyinka, despite his obvious loathing for the great evil some believed the Abacha regime to be, was involved in laundering the so-called “Abacha loot” or engaged is some other unscrupulous venture with General Abacha.
Yes, I would not believe it if anyone told me any of the above. And my doubt would deepen if the person claimed that, in Raegan’s case, it was the KGB that volunteered the information to him, or that it was the Biafran government in the case of Chief Awolowo, or a member of the Abacha family in the case of Prof. Soyinka. To believe such would amount to exhibiting a worse form of credulity than is expected of a simpleton. Reason: Certain claims are clearly improbable; and people or organisations under threat would not gratuitously divulge information that could jeopardise their survival.
As I would not believe it if any of the above allegations were made against former President Reagan, Chief Awolowo or Prof. Soyinka, except with incontrovertible evidence, so do I not believe the allegation by Stephen Davis, the Australian “cleric and hostage negotiator”, that the former Chief of Army Staff, General Azubuike Ihejirika, is one of the “sponsors” of Boko Haram, together with former Governor Modu Sheriff of Borno State and some other individual in the Central Bank of Nigeria whom Mr. Davis seems to lack the courage to name, and whom Prof. Soyinka did not name in his recent widely publicised article on the same subject titled “The Wages of Impunity”, in which he affirmed Mr. Davis’s accusation of Sheriff.
Unfortunately for Mr. Davis’s credibility, he neither pointed to nor offered any evidence to substantiate his allegation against Ihejirika and the others. He merely claimed that some Boko Haram members told him. There is even a published photograph of Mr. Davis and some supposed Boko Haram insurgents swathed in spotlessly clean, colourful veils that seem fresh from the tailor, apparently to convince us of his closeness to the insurgents.
But my examination of the photograph evoked a sense of déjà vu. For it reminded me of the photograph with which Jeff Koinange, a former CNN reporter from Kenya, filed his controversial story alleging a spike in the activities of militants in the Niger Delta, which was later found to have been staged by him to satisfy what he saw as his employer’s preference for negative news from Africa. From Mr. Koinange I learnt that pictures could lie, especially when produced by an expatriate with an ulterior motive. Couldn’t the photograph of Mr. Davis and his “Boko Haram buddies” have been similarly staged to make a lie appear true?
And if I asked Mr. Davis to disclose the identities of his hooded “Boko Haram buddies” in that photograph, assuming they are truly members of the terrorist group, I would expect him to decline, since compliance would put his reliability as a human being and his business as a “hostage negotiator” in jeopardy. And yet he expects me to believe that such people, while wishing to remain in business as terrorists, would disclose the true identities of their sponsors to anyone who would go on to publicise the information as he has done! I doubt that we need more than this type of common-sense analysis to come to terms with the lack of believability of Mr. Davis’s claim that Boko Haram insurgents volunteered the names of their sponsors to him.
The allegation against Ihejirika is particularly preposterous considering the role he played as Chief of Army Staff in checking the activities of Boko Haram. He rallied our troops and literally took the battle to the terror group’s domain and almost emasculated it completely. Such was his determination and ferocity in fighting the group that, in unwitting acknowledgment of his extraordinary impact, some “leaders” from the Northern part of our country, the base of Boko Haram, accused him of war crimes and recommended his prosecution at the International Court of Justice.
Curiously, those for whom his fighting terror translated into a war crime would not speak a word in condemnation of the murderous terrorists. And if they were to refer his “case” to the International Court of Justice, following the allegation by Mr. Davis, would it be as a pro or anti Boko Haram element? Who can’t see the contradiction between criticising a man for fighting an insurgency too hard and alleging that he is a “sponsor” of the same insurgency? Couldn’t Mr. Davis have been used as a hatchet man by those desperate to rubbish Ihejirika for having fought so hard to end the Boko Haram menace, who regard Nigerians as gullible and likely to believe anything said by a white man?
And let me say that I have never met Ihejirika. I only saw him once, from a distance, at a musical gala held in Abuja earlier this year in honour of the late National Security Adviser, General Andrew Azazi. But I had known him by reputation as the Chief of Army Staff whose onslaught against Boko Haram elicited protests from those “leaders” apparently sympathetic with the group. And, for me, his reputation remains good despite the ridiculous charge of his being a “sponsor” of the same group.
Interestingly, Prof. Soyinka did not affirm the allegation against Ihejirika. He merely said, in what seems a deft semantic manoeuvre, that he has his theory about how the allegation originated, perhaps leaving us to draw the conclusion that a theory would lack validity as a product of wrong hypotheses.
However, I have wished that Mr. Davis or Prof. Soyinka named the alleged Boko Haram “sponsor” in the Central Bank of Nigeria, and the latter without the conditions he has given to President Jonathan before he might do so, whose fulfilment can only be appraised subjectively. For how does it prove one’s willingness to help in solving a serious problem like Boko Haram if, knowing any of its “sponsors”, one prefers to conceal the person’s identity like some political trump card while revealing the names of other “sponsors”, with the possibility that the unnamed “sponsor” could find time to cover their tracks and evade justice, or recruit other “sponsors” to ensure continuity if eventually apprehended?
Ikeogu Oke via email@example.com