It seems, some protagonists of the insurgency ravaging parts of Northern Nigeria do not want the Boko Haram uprising to come to an end before 2023, Nigeria’s general election year.
As such, a fatwa of sorts may have been imposed on Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State. His convoy again came under attack earlier on Sunday on his way out of Baga.
For adherents of Islam, a fatwa is an advisory legal opinion by a recognised authority on Islamic law and tradition, issued in answer to a specific legal question. It differs from a court judgment, or “qada,” because it has a much wider potential scope.
Those who know better say fatwas can range from single-word responses like “Yes,” “No,” or “Permitted” to length of treatises. Fundamentally, fatwas are typically focused on legal matters. Those who know say fatwas also treat more general religious issues, including theology, philosophy, creeds and what are called in Arabic “ibadat” (that is, religious obligations or acts of worship).
For instance, the award-winning Anglo-Indian novelist, Salman Rushdie, in 1988 published his fourth novel, The Satanic Verses. It sparked a global controversy. Wild protests erupted in many countries against what Muslims saw as its mocking disrespect toward the Prophet Muhammad and his family.
Protesters say the novel refers to Muhammad by the derogatory name “Mahound,” which was often used by medieval European writers to vilify him, and it gives the names of his wives to prostitutes in a brothel.
Rushdie received death threats, and on February 14, 1989, the Supreme Leader of Iran, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa calling for his assassination. Impressively, the British government rose to the occasion, putting him under special police protection. The novelist went underground. Though Ayatollah Khomeini died less than four months after his fatwa, Rushdie still remains on several Islamist hit lists.
Like Rushdie, it seems Zulum is on the hit lists of his many political foes. How he emerged as the governorship candidate of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), allegedly against the run of play, unsettled some Borno political forces.
And, a seeming desperate bid to project himself as a messiah has not been doing down well in some political circles. Governor Zulum cannot deny that he was unaware of the bad blood his choice as the APC governorship candidate fueled in Borno, and how the establishment aided him to go into hiding till his formal inauguration. While he may not have appeased the forces against him, he added the armed security forces, by openly indicting them for gaining in the Boko Haram crisis.
In a seeming unguarded outburst in June, he publicly stated that contrary to claims by the military, reconstruction, rehabilitation and resettlement could not be carried out in five out of the 27 local government areas of the State, due to the presence of and continuing terrorist activities of Boko Haram insurgents. They were Guzamala, Kukawa, Abadam, Marte and Kaka local government areas.
He again demonstrated his daring posturing when he visited President Muhammadu Buhari some months ago, and expressed his concerns about the management of the insurgency in the troubled state, especially following the offensive against the insurgents by Chadian armed forces, over the killing of about 91 members of their military, a few months earlier, and the massive influx of the retreating terrorists into Nigeria, around the Lake Chad axis.
However, Zulum had departed Baga at about 10:30 after a two-day visit to receive indigenes of the town back home after 21 months of exile. Few kilometers away from Baga, unknown assailants suspected to be Boko Haram opened fire on the governor’s escort.
The convoy was being escorted out of Baga by soldiers who replied to the gunshots and cleared the way for the endangered Governor Zulum.
Reports say the attack happened barely 48 hours after officials of the state government were ambushed on the same route while travelling to Baga to join the governor who had flown in via an Air Force chopper.
Eye-witnesses on the ill-fated convoy say 16 persons were confirmed dead while the whereabouts of an unspecified number of people can still not be accounted for.
Members of the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW) working with the state government’s resettlement committee to clear shrubs from the road for clearer vision, also reportedly disappeared after the attack.
In an interview in Baga before taking his leave, Governor Zulum said that he was saddened by the lives lost during the Friday attack, and pledged to support their bereaved families. He has since arrived Maiduguri, the state capital after successfully performing the resettlement issue that took him to Baga.
His admirers say their activist governor has been showing rare courage, as he tours every local government in Borno, taking a message of peace, hope and development to his constituents. In spite of the Friday attack, he still continued with the journey to Monguno.
Governor Zulum has been sending a strong message to public servants and citizens alike that under his watch, he is determined to justify the mandate freely given to him by the electorate of Borno, by investing in the human capital development and infrastructural reconstruction of the State ravaged by insurgency.
In the same manner, he has been challenging the military authorities about the true state of security in Borno, questioning the veracity of their claims and their commitment to ending the insurgency, in spite of the avowed commitment of the Buhari administration and the military high command.