How we planned to overthrow government
By Our reporter
SEATED in his father’s office in Lagos, Baana Bulama, an indigene of Bama in Borno State, hissed out loud when the news was flashed on television that 16 women were abducted in Adamawa by suspected Boko Haram members. “I was once obsessed like they are now. Someone needs to educate them,” he said in apparent reference to the insurgents.
What past?This reporter who was in that office with Baana asked him. Pointing at his father, Baana said, “My father saved me.”
His father, Alhaji Bulama (First name withheld), a successful bureau de change operator in Lagos, encouraged him to share his story with Saturday Sun. In a follow up chat, Baana who is now a banker opened up on his links with Boko Haram, his rise in the terror group and his eventual exit.
Recalling how it began, Baana said he was convinced to listen to one of the teachings of the late founder of the Boko Haram sect, Mohammed Yusuf, by his best friend. “For almost 6 months, my closest friend told me to attend the fellowship of a new scholar in town known as Mohammed Yusuf. I was in my second year in the university and was more determined to read and be the best in my class. I refused to be lured but he kept telling me that a trial would convince me.
“In February 2008, I made up my mind to follow him to Markaz community where Mohammed’s mosque was located. He organised four types of programmes known as Hadith, Koran, Sira and Figh. The day I decided to join them fell on the day of Sira teaching which was more about the biography of Prophet Mohammed. Mohammed Yusuf was a very intelligent man and a great orator. He was gifted; it was just like listening to President Obama speak.
“His group was known as Jama’atu Ahlus Sunnah Li Dawa’awati Wash Shar’i, it was after he was interviewed on one Hausa radio station in 2009, that he chose the name, Boko Haram.
“I was impressed because I got to know a lot about the Prophet Mohammed which I never knew anything about. Then, he had not said anything about western education. I became addicted and made sure that I never missed any of his programmes. I was more interested in attending his programme than attending classes. Above all, my relatives including a medical doctor were also interested and that was also encouraging. It was when he started talking about western education that my relatives, even my friend, stopped attending. “
Unlike others, Baana’s passion for knowledge further drove him deeper into the affairs of the sect. “I was so obsessed with his teaching that I decided to stay back. I also knew the importance of education. So, I kept going to school, the only difference was that I began to miss classes.
“In the open hall, they normally arranged three seats and it was only Yusuf and two of his commanders that were allowed to seat on it while all of us would sit on the floor and faced them. Yusuf started preaching seriously against western education, to the extent that other scholars heard about it and warned him to desist from such.
“To further convince him, the scholars invited him severally to a debate which we called the Muqabala competition. He was summoned severally for the debate and he won most of the time. He was even invited to Saudi Arabia to a debate over the matter and I was informed that he was defeated severally. If Yusuf had won the debate all through, maybe, I would have stayed away from school completely.
“I was actually preparing to sell some of my father’s property in Maiduguri and hand over the money to Yusuf. I was determined to be one of those who will sit on that seat one day. Although I was further convinced that he knew nothing about western education when he was involved in an open debate with one scholar from Zaria known as Albani. He lost the debate and openly admitted that he was wrong to have condemned western education. Albani advised him to also tell his followers the truth but when he came back, he did not. Albani then went to the media and challenged Yusuf to come and tell the truth about the outcome of the debate.
“I was shocked that he did not come out to refute that allegation that was why I decided not to be totally carried away. But I decided to stay because it felt good. Meanwhile, I indirectly started listening to Albani’s teachings. During that time, he was arrested severally by the DSS and taken to Abuja but was later released.
“After those arrests, he came back and advised us to prepare ourselves for possible trouble ahead. He told us to buy any type of weapon that we could afford, even if it was grenade or AK47. I did not have much money then, so I bought a small gun, arrow, bow and several machete. I became security conscious and anyone around me became a suspect.”
Apart from his quest for knowledge, Baana wanted the entire community to identify him with the teachings of Yusuf. “It was obvious that I had started attending his meetings because my dressing showed it. I was always wearattending his meetings because my ing, pure white dress and carrying a stick. That was our identity then.
A lot of graduates who were with us openly tore their certificates. Even a medical doctor that I knew very well tore his certificates, stopped going to work at the hospital and concentrated his energy in serving Yusuf. Then, if you were bold enough to sacrifice all, you would be honoured with a good position amongst the sect. Many of us sold their houses and gave everything to Yusuf.
The rule then was that you would give 100 percent of your earnings and depend on families of members of the sect for feeding. We saw ourselves as brothers, so, you are willing to share with everyone.
“What I normally did was to give them 98% of my pocket money and manage 20%. My family had money, so I was able to buy a motorcycle which I used to take myself to his mosque and also to school.
“I made sure that I gave 98% of any money that came my way. We were so obsessed that many of us sold everything we had. You would see a successful businessman would just close his shop, sell his goods worth millions of nairs and hand them over to Yusuf.
“To teach us how things should be, Yusuf closed down his businesses in Maiduguri. He told us that he sold everything and had dedicated the proceeds to sponsoring the activities of the sect.
“He did not sell his house or the cars that he was driving then. He even got married to the daughter of a former commissioner in Borno State and his in-law later joined him. He was the leader we believed should represent us well. He told us that the reason why he had television in his house was for him to monitor what was going on in the country.”
Our plan to overthrow government
All through the period that Baana attended the sect’s programmes, he believed all their plans would be achieved peacefully one day. “No one forced me to join them, and I believed that through evangelism, we could convert a lot of persons. He told us severally that he was a man of peace, and that was why we should not confront government with arms. However, he disclosed that being a man of peace did not mean that he did not have the capacity to take over the state. Sometimes at night, trucks would come to his compound and everyone would be asked to go to the mosque to pray.
“All was well untill policemen shot and killed five of our members. To reduce crime in the state, government formed a new security outfit called ‘Operation Flush.’ They banned the use of Okada on the streets of Maiduguri town. In an attempt to enforce that law, they clashed with some of our members and five persons were killed.
“It was then that we saw the other side of Yusuf, he became aggressive and openly threatened that we were going to fight back. He said that he was going to overthrow the government then and enforce Sharia law. He said that we are no fools and that he decided not to be violent because he knew that Islam is a religion of peace. He said that government was taking their patience as a sign of weakness. He promised to teach them a lesson. At that point I was terrified and knew that it was time to call it quits. I kept my weapons and pretended that I was still part of them in case he finally succeeds.
“I knew at that point that if things went bad, my family would get to know what was happening and that would embarrass my father. In as much as I wanted to be part of the sect, I was conscious of the fact that anything negative would ruin my family’s name.”
Beginning of the end
Down in Lagos where his parents are based, the activities of Yusuf were already making headlines. One of Baana’s relatives who was getting worried about his continuous relationship with the sect, alerted his father.
“Unfortunately for me, my relatives who observed my lifestyle alerted my father who is based in Lagos. Without my consent, he sent one of my cousins to search my room. When he discovered my weapons, he did not tell me but informed my father. I was shocked when my father and mother suddenly returned to Maiduguri.
“I did not suspect anything until he brought all the weapons that I hid under my bed. I was shocked because our family friend who is a policeman was also in the parlour. I was silently praying in my heart that my father should not be mean enough to hand me over to the police. I started crying and assured him that I had stopped attending the sect’s meeting as soon as I realised that they were planning to be violent.
“I was his only son then, and my mother who was already on her knees begged my father not to report me. It was then that I knew that the activities of the sect were well known and my parents knew about it. I thought it was restricted to our state. My parents handed the arms over to the policeman and took me down to Lagos. That was my saving grace. I thank God because shortly after I left, they attacked and destroyed millionaire quarters opposite his mosque, two police stations and the prisons. It was after that incident that he was arrested and handed over to the police,” he narrated.
Shekau’s always been aggressive
Baana also claimed he knew the group’s current leader, Abubakar Shekau as the second in command then and was very aggressive. “Shekau is still very much alive. He was the one in that video that was shown last week. He addressed us twice when I was still with them. The first time, Yusuf had an important meeting to attend and he introduced him to us as his second in command.
“He was very aggressive throughout the sermon. He told us that the time had come for us to overthrow the government. He condemned anyone that did not believe in what Yusuf preached; he told us that if he was in charge, he will not waste time in taking over the entire north.
On one of the days while he was teaching, he received a call and requested that he had to leave us. He handed us over to Mohammed Nur who was the third in command.”
Shekau’s deputy, Nur more aggressive
“Baana warned that Nigerians should beware of Mohammed Nur whom he said is much more aggressive than Shekau. “He was very aggressive and loved by all because he was very vocal. He did not mince words, in letting us know how he felt. He was calling names and advising us on the need to kill them all if they failed to join the sect. Everyone, on that day were so excited that they hailed him. They wished he was our leader and not the gentle Mohammed Yusuf.”
Grateful to Allah (God) for saving his son, Alhaji Bulama, a bureau de change operator in Lagos said that he sent his son back home so that he would not be carried away by Lagos life. “I am a home grown person and I wanted my first son to know more about our culture, that was why when it was time for him to go to the university, I sent him down to Maiduguri. Even when he started wearing those white cloths, I was happy that he could be a scholar. I was happy because my grandfather was one of the greatest scholars from the north.
“I acted quickly when I received a red alert from one of my brothers. I actually called him to help watch our son and stop him from joining the sect. He then told me that I should be worried about my son because he was already a member. I thank Allah that he saved my son from an evil path.”