Thursday, 16 October 2014

El-Rufai, Ihejirika and Boko Haram

El-Rufai, Ihejirika and Boko Haram
On Thursday, August 28, 2014, the controversial APC chieftain, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, reported a statement made by Stephen Davis on Arise TV, UK, in which Davis alleged that former Gov Ali Modu Sherrif of Borno state and Gen Onyeaboh Azubuike Ihejirika, the immediate past Army Chief, are sponsors of Boko Haram, the Islamic insurgency group that has been tormenting Nigeria. El-Rufai ended his Facebook post with these comments: “Finally, the truth about BH is coming out. Hopefully, the murderers of General Muhammadu Shuwa, the abductors of the Chibok girls, those truly responsible for the Nyanya bombings, and attempted assassination of General Buhari and Sheikh Dahiru Bauchi will be known. We hope the authorities will take the steps necessary to act on this revelation, and thereby discharge their duty to protect us, the citizens of Nigeria. That is just what it is, a hope!”
In his response when contacted, Gen Ihejirika retorted, claiming that El-Rufai is one of the frontline commanders of Boko Haram. He reportedly added that “When the Boko Haram operation started, supporters of the sect like El-Rufai said that there was nothing like Boko Haram and that the army was just killing innocent youths”. “If you also remember” he proceeded to say, “not too long ago, some of their supporters including El-Rufai said that I was re-inventing the killing of the Ibos during the Biafra war following government’s determination to rid the country of terrorism.” Ihejiraka in fact went back memory lane: “The likes of El-Rufai have been supporting Boko Haram. In fact, El-Rufai and his likes are the same group of people that ensured the army did not to get the requested equipment to deal with this menace once and for all, as they used their cohorts to tell the government that procuring modern equipment were not necessary.”
I was not surprised when I saw El-Rufai’s social media post because of the wide suspicion of the military in the engagement of the insurgency generally. However, I found it curious that it was Stephen Davis that was making the allegation on a foreign TV station and very specifically mentioning the name of Ihejirika and not, say, the Army. Not that I believed the yarn simply.
But very shocking to me is the reaction of Ihejirika, a General, a gentleman, a military chief, a strategist and one who has led the Nigerian Army to engage the particular insurgency in question. I believe that his credentials and status in the national life of this country should have informed the manner in which he responded to the allegation. To go on a wild spew of claims on a subject such as this is, to my mind, rather unbecoming of his estate. Nigerians have suffered and are still suffering untold terror in the hands of this insurgency and the least any citizen expects out of this development is a determined attention by the state and concerned state actors, past and present, in the unraveling of the veracity or otherwise of the claim, and not blurring the issues with what is evidently turning out to be politics.
Davis has alleged against Ihejirika, on no other grounds except that the Boko Haram people have told him so – at least that is the most he has yet said. He was reported, after the General’s response to El-Rufai, by Sahara Reporters, to have said that he stands and insists on his claim. The burden is on Davis to prove his allegation and Ihejirika should insist on that. Such grave allegations should not be left on and to the pages of newspapers. If the government is not saying anything – as no comment has emanated from those quarters – the former Army Chief should seek to clear his name; at least he owes himself, his family and his ethnic group that much. I say ethnic group because since the end of the Biafran war in 1970, Ihejirika is the first Igbo man to head any Nigerian military arm, and we cannot run away from the fact that some opportunistic politicians will stop at nothing to play to those sentiments, perceived, real or mischievously. If one considers the fact that for quite a while now there have been Biafran cries, both within and outside the country, from people not necessarily any cahoots with him, then the need for him to protect his reputation becomes even more imperative. By the way, his tribesman, Dr. Dozie Ikedife, former President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, reportedly warned, two days ago, of a break-up of the country, if Nasir El-Rufai, and other northern leaders did not refrain from discrediting the immediate past Chief of Army Staff, General Ihejirika (rtd) and other Igbo icons. It is rather unfortunate that such a dire matter is being dragged into the mire of politics and ethnicity.
As controversial and loquacious as El-Rufai is deemed to be in many quarters, he has responded rather common-sensically to Gen Ihejirika’s own allegation on his person that he is a fronline commander of Boko Haram. He said he will go to court. At least one lead will be intelligently interrogated.
NB: Last week’s piece, credited to me, was a contribution by one who prefers anonymity.

BLUEPRINT Newspaper; Sept. 4, 2014

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