As a young man growing up in the ancient city of Kano in the 70s, I recall repeatedly asking my late grand father why the city was walled. His response, which made little meaning to me as of then, was that it was aimed at fortifying the city against enemy incursion in those days when intertribal war was somewhat the norm, rather than the exception.
From time immemorial, self preservation has been the first law of nature. Except for the few who take their lives through suicide, human beings are known to do everything to protect themselves from harm. As a popular electronic brand would say, life is good. This is so even with the poor of the poorest who cannot feed or fend for themselves. Everyone wants to stay alive. Governments derive their authority largely owing to the control they have over the forces of coercion – the security services whose weapons are capable of taking lives. That is the key instrument governments have globally been using to maintain law and order.
But in our shores, the one group that has defied that law of nature is Boko Haram, one of the deadliest terrorist groups ever known to mankind. For the group, death is a privilege, a welcome development. And so, its members get congratulated by other members when they are selected for suicide missions. The reason? They are heavily indoctrinated to think they are going to die in the cause of the Lord, and upon arrival in the Hereafter, they are going straight to the most premium part of the Heaven where seventy damsels are waiting to satisfy their sexual desires.
And so, leaders of the terrorist cell recruit young men and women, some with degrees and even masters degrees, change their way of thinking and get them to see even their parents as enemies, and generally perceive every non-member of that group as enemy to be killed or in the least, injured. That informs why one of the first actions many Boko Haram recruits take is dispatching their very own parents or siblings to the great beyond. They see them as infidels, and therefore, a danger to the new way of life they choose for themselves. Doing this earns the young, “brave” terrorist double promotion. He soon becomes a force to reckon with. If a member shows any mercy towards anyone, he gets killed by the commanders. And so, the first law in their evil enclave is heartlessness at its raw, worst form.
Boko Haram and other terrorist groups achieve this by manipulating religion, the easiest means to indoctrinate even otherwise sensible human beings. In the Nigerian society we live in today, there are many whose pastors and imams have succeeded in planting unprecedented seed of hatred in their minds, so much that anything done by an adherent of the other religion is seen in negative light. There are even divisions within the same religion. Members of one sect see the others as enemies, and will in some cases rather associate with those who do not even share the same religion.
This division has permeated every aspect of Nigerian life, and it is behind the recent complain by the country’s diligent Chief of Army Staff, General Tukur Yusufu Buratai, about some soldiers not showing enough commitment to the fight against insurgency, a fact that was misconstrued and attached with all sorts of negative meanings.
If enemies of Nigeria could deepen religious indoctrination to permeate even the nation’s armed forces, which is the sad reality, one can only imagine the serious danger ordinary mortals like me face, in our everyday struggle for survival.
General Buratai, the Army Chief, quickly saw the danger and decided to nip it in the bud. His approach is two-fold: to quash religious indoctrination within and possibly even outside the armed forces and thereby restore the army to its days of glory when the soldier sees only Nigeria as his constituency, as most army personnel, God so kind, still very much do. The second key reason is to stop the terrorists in their track, and make it more difficult, and hopefully, impossible, for them to continue to use religion to spread negative propaganda.
In the words of the Army Chief: “we are involved in a joint seminar on Spiritual Warfare as an effective means against insurgency and other forms of restiveness. Boko Haram and the likes cannot be totally defeated by kinetic military warfare alone.”
He added that “finding the appropriate counter narratives against these violent extremist sects will immensely be a big push towards eradicating their negative activities in Nigeria.”
This is by no means an easy task, and when it gets achieved, as we are very positive the Army will help us do, it will be more difficult for all terror cells, not just Boko Haram, to continue to recruit young men and women whose future – and in many cases even lives – they kill with reckless abandon.
Such is the quality of leadership in the Nigerian Army today that this fact has been thought of, and now being tackled with all the seriousness it deserves. The seminar held last week in the city of Sokoto, organized by the Army’s Directorate of Civil Military Affairs, is very timely. The involvement of our religious leaders in this fight is more relevant at this time, more than ever before. And it is for that reason the Nigerian Army deserves our full support in its determination to apply spiritual warfare to neutralize the forces of evil misusing religion to confuse soldiers and the rest of us. The task, in reality, is not just the army’s. It is a fight all of us must individually and collectively wage to make this country and even our personal businesses work seamlessly.
As it is being often said, when one falls sick or had an accident, one does not ask whether the doctor treating him is a member of his or her own religion. One does not also insist that the medical practitioner must be a member of his tribe. So also when we desperately need help. Or when we want to engage in acts of corruption. In all these cases and much more, the issue of division and other primordial sentiments are set aside, because that is the only way the task at hand could succeed. United we stand, divided we fall.
Sad as it might sound, the reality is that there are Nigerians who still see the Boko Haram war as Muslim’s war. They have forgotten that whereas members of the terrorists group are fundamentally Muslims, the victims are found in every tribe or religion.
When Boko Haram struck and bombed the popular Emab Plaza in Abuja in 2014; my close friend and colleague, Suleiman Bisallah, a Muslim, who at that time occupied the high post of Managing Editor of New Telegraph newspaper, was one of the victims. The bomb pierced through his body and cut it by half. I was with him on phone barely thirty minutes before he was killed. The editor only went there to pick his phone that was repaired by a technician situated within that premises.
When I went to the mortuary of Maitama Hospital to see his mangled body, I also saw that the other victims cut across all tribes and religion. I was told the property belongs to an Igbo man, a Christian. But on that day, Boko Haram picked on it as venue of their dastardly activity simply because it was (and still is) one of the busiest places in Abuja. And terrorists always want to hit soft targets in multiple numbers.
What a lot of Nigerians don’t seem to know is that these terrorists don’t see any Muslim as true Muslim or if they are Christian, they regard members of the same religion that are not their members as infidels. When I served as editor of Leadership newspaper seven years ago, I once received a call from Abu Qaqa, the then spokesman of Boko Haram. The man, who got killed about a month after his last call to me, was issuing all kinds of warnings and threats about the way the newspaper was reporting their dastardly activities. I tried to soften the difficult atmosphere he always created by reminding him I was also a Muslim, but he shouted me down, saying without mincing words that I was an infidel.
Some of the victims of the Emab Plaza bombing on that fateful day probably also thought of Boko Haram as other people’s war. Perhaps they helped in circulating negative propaganda about the efforts of the armed forces to extinguish the group from our existence, as many Nigerians unfortunately still actively do till today.
Nigeria is reported as the most religious country in the world today – that is, in terms of an unprecedented number of churches and mosques. Sadly, that has done little or in most cases nothing to make most of us Godly. Today, we occupy the lower rungs of societies that are truly religious, who allow the fear of God and love of humanity to guide their everyday actions.
Kehinde: The fraudster audaciously duping editors
They come in all shapes and sizes, but in the case of this particular fraudster, whose real name is Owoitomo Kehinde Blessing, audacity is one word he possess in large store. He operates in a manner that is very convincing, which tends to make even the most suspicious soul see some sense in his line of argument.
Kehinde digs and picks out respected members of the society and hacks into their Whatsapp accounts. He then takes over their account and replaces their cellphone number with his own. From then onwards, he will infiltrate any chat group that the person subscribes to and send messages in the name of the person whose account he has taken over.
Members of the chat group will see a message in the name of their member, who they trust and respect, telling them about an investment that yields instant dividends. In the case of Kehinde, he calls his own Smile to Wealth, and (don’t forget members of the chat group will think one of their own is the one telling them about it), Kehinde will mention that he thought it was a scam, until he tried it and is now sure it is genuine and legitimate. He then will send a purported bank transaction alert received by the owner of the phone number, in the person’s name, showing how an investment of say, two hundred thousand naira has yielded double that amount in just thirty minutes.
The tendency on the part of most discerning Nigerian is to take any such message with a pinch of salt. But don’t forget, Kehinde will not appear to you as the sender. The person informing you about this and trying all his best to convince you is a personal friend or professional colleague for decades. That’s the false impression the fraudster creates.
Chances are that those colleagues or friends in the chat group will give it a try, since the risk element has been quashed by the strong fact that the person informing you about it claims to have tried the investment and succeeded, even with evidence to back up the claim.
Kehinde tried that with me and he succeeded in hacking into my Whatsapp account. He then took over my phone number and sent all sorts of scam messages to people I hold in the highest esteem. Sadly, a few of them that took him to be me swallowed the bait hook, line and sinker and “invested” their money.
What makes his case even more audacious is that no warning for him to stop the illegality makes any sense to him. He feels a sense of entitlement about what he is doing, as he digs deeper in his trenches to dupe more and more innocent Nigerians. He has continued to do so even as I write this.
It is hoped that with this report, the security services will act fast to get Kehinde and his likes arrested. People like him cannot, and shall not be moving about freely when what they regard as means of livelihood is shortchanging innocent Nigerians.
God so kind, Whatsapp has come up with means of ensuring accounts of subscribers do not get hacked anymore. Members of the society are best advised to immediately key into that, to ensure not just their own safety, but also those of other people they associate with. Any delay to do this, even by one minute, can be very dangerous, as the Kehindes of this world are actively on the prowl.