If there were any doubts about which god is responsible for the deaths of innocent citizens in the name of insurgency in the past, now there are ample teeth to the point. Nigeria has lost close to 300 000 people mostly in the northern part of the country, particularly from the north east and predominantly Christian. All had been attributed to Boko Haram, the self-appointed agents of death in the name of Allah. Most Muslims have consistently argued that Boko Haram was not prosecuting the biddings of Allah but the errands of the devil. But many members of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, refused to believe them or their explanations. Christian groups even went further, through, Ayo Oritsejafor, the President of CAN to ask government to deal ruthlessly with anyone involved in the crime, in an effort to smear Islam and Muslims.
Today, providence has forced CAN to admit, with the arrest of Oritsejafors private jet in South Africa on charges of illegal purchase of arms, that the country’s super Christian may be a catalyst abetting terrorism. Arch Bishop Oritsejafor whose association with guns is threatening his relationship with God is the one who blessed the President, Dr Goodluck Jonathan in a Church in Abuja, an action that elicited a lot of criticism, nationwide. They said to bring the president to his knees would give one unfair influence including getting the president to ignore ones infractions. It is happening today, live.
The former governor of Borno State, Modu Ali Sherriff may be President Goodluck Jonathan’s friend but he is also among the most prominent names associated with Boko Haram. Sheriff had frequented the Villa since his exit from Government House Maiduguri and many people believe he is the architect of Jonathan’s north east policy, which has left many people childless, homeless or lifeless.
And there is Ihejirika. Azubike Ihejirika may have cracked the records when he became the first post war Chief of Army Staff from the igbo stock but his reign had been tainted by negativity at home and abroad. Ihejirika is being accused of misappropriating close to N40bn meant for the acquisition of ammunition for the Nigerian Armed forces. While he is busy denying that accusation, those who agree that he did purchase weapons are alleging on the other hand that but he supplied them or even sold them to the insurgents instead of equipping his men.
That the governor of Barno state Kashim Shettima had regretted that the Boko Haram was better equipped and better motivated than the Nigerian military is an understatement is just by the way, soldiers who protested against going to battle unarmed have been sentenced to death in a court martial. The havoc that these three men have caused this country in lives, money and material is inestimable. Any country would have publicly brought these men to question but in Nigeria they are being celebrated by the presidency, escorted by the government and admitted into the ruling party.
Despite its clinical approach to the value of proof in any allegation, the United States itself has openly accused Ihejirika of complicity in the fraud in executing the war against insurgency in the country but Nigeria is looking the other way. His colleague in the army, Maj Gen Cecil Ehekhaigbe whose last posting was as Nigeria Defense Adviser in London had petitioned the presidency accusing Ihejirika of dipping his hands in defense funds soon after insurgency emerged but the government did not listen. Instead, Gen Ehekhaigbe was sacked and brought back to Nigeria in chains for daring to blow the whistle against the COAS. Government did not even take into cognizance the closeness of Cecil to the COAS which helped provide proof that the London soldier had no other justification than his patriotism to make, knowing the consequences of his actions, those weighty allegations against his powerful and power drunk friend.
The basis of which government continues to behave as if the whole country is wrong and the negligible number in power is right is not only erroneous but suspect.
Nigeria is looking more comfortable and more welcoming to criminals than a foreign jail for hardened criminals. Those who are close to government can do no wrong and this impunity is crossing the limits of mere political patronage and all other barriers of friendship to a kind of occultism which has no value for human life. As a press release issued by Senator George Akume explained in the case of Oritsejafor, following his denial of complicity in the illegal arms deal which was detected by the South African authorities, the chain of ethical liability in his case is unbroken and it makes prosecution inevitable.
If the government which is largely controlled by Christians is impervious to the death of men of its faith, the people themselves must begin to stop chasing shadows and scrutinize the true agents of death in the north east region and not be hoodwinked by the sepulcher of a shorthanded Boko Haram. There is compelling reason to interrogate Modu Ali Sherriff, Ihejirika and Oritsejafor. It is a norm of civilization that all men are innocent until proven guilty but it is a misnomer to allow people who are openly accused of crimes involving loss of lives and breach of national security to continue to walk simply because they are close to people in power.
Government must not sit on its hands and allow people with visible stains of political liability to bestraddle its corridors with impunity unless it is itself a party to the crimes being committed. Sadly it had tried time and again to dissociate itself from most of these men or to exculpate them of blame but the harder it tries, the more grease they get on their sleeves. A clear case was the prominence of Modu Ali Sheriff on the entourage of the president to TChad where they visited that country’s president who himself is said to have strong ties with insurgents. Or is President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan hiding something from the people?
John Allen Valmo is based in Abuja.