How has it been in the last 50 years you have lived?
Ah! My life at 50, my experience? How am I going to put it? Well, I got into the university at the age of 21 in 1985; the University of Calabar. During the SAP riots, we were demonstrating outside the main campus when the police started shooting. And there was a female student, Nnenna, behind me. She was shot. She fell.
I started wondering. I was taller than her. How come she got shot standing behind me? How did the bullet pass me to hit her? I carried her with all the blood and everything. From that day, I decided inside me that the Nigerian state must be made to explain to the people, to my people especially what they are doing with the resources of the people.
I asked myself, how come the resources of my people now belong to everybody? A lot of questions and it was a turning point in my life. I became radicalised. In 1988 when I was rusticated from the University of Calabar, I decided to go to Libya. So, I left home. I converted to Islam, took the Kalimah on the 17th of September, 21 of September, I took the bath and became a Muslim at the Calabar central mosque which at that time was managed by some Yoruba people.
I took the Kalimah at Bokobiri mosque. And from that time, I became radicalised after I became a Muslim. One goal I set for myself was the liberation of my people and I wanted a military…
I had read so much about revolution and my greatest attraction was Libya and I decided to go to Libya. So, I took a night bus and dropped at Jos. From Jos, I preceded to Kafanchan to Saminaka, down to Leri, Zaria, so many places until I got to Kano. From Kano, I passed through Dutse. Then Damaturu was a small town. I got to Maiduguri, from there to Marite.
I was just going until I got to Gamboringala. From there I got to Gambori France. From there to Kusiri to Jamina to Eir, Eir to Agadese in Niger Republic. It was much easier for me as a Muslim because I joined them to pray and so on. I saw many deaths on the road. People want to go to Europe and so on. When I couldn’t enter Libya at that time, I had to come back.
Specifically speaking, did you decide to take this path of life because of the shooting back in the university?
No, no, no, I think the Calabar incident was the first time I was seeing life bullets, canisters of tear gas flying. It was the first time because being the son of a legal practitioner; at that time, my father was Director of Public Prosecution in Rivers State and having lived in Government Reserved Area for a very long time, my experience with the outside world was very minimal.
As a young man, yes we interacted in school but after school you run home. A driver comes to pick you and so on and so forth. I was not living in Boarding House or alone. I was living with my parents.
But it was in school that I came to realize that this struggle we were involved in, you can just die. Whether you are really involved or not, you can just die because the lady behind me was not throwing any stone. She was not doing anything. We who were in the front, singing, shouting, clapping and jumping, the bullet did not touch us.
So, basically, what really motivated you?
What motivated me was my encounter with those things that happened and my encounter with Boro. When I read Boro’s 12 Days revolution. After reading Boro’s and Simon Ambakarderemo’s book on Isaac Adaka Boro, a play, then I decided that I want to follow the path that Boro followed.
With the student activism in school and the principal position that I took in most of the cases, it became very clear that the only way we can solve these problems is by arms struggle. But arms struggle has been suspended for some time now.
For instance, have we made any dividends? Has any concession been made to us? Are our enemies not emboldened now? For one, I believe that one gunshot is more effective than a thousand years of dialogue, a thousand years of talks and endless negotiation, a thousand years of persuasion and sermonaization. One gunshot is more effective.
Even when it involves deaths of human beings?
Yes! Because if a man takes your right, he has killed you. If a man takes your property, he has killed you.
So, where would you place what Boko Haram members are doing now because they are carrying arms too?
I cannot speak for Boko Haram for whatever reason they are fighting. If they are fighting because they want to impose their ideologies on other people by force and the people fold their arms and allow them to impose their ideologies on them, why would you blame them? Did they tie the peoples’ hand?
You were in prison for some time, while there, did you get to meet with any of the people linked to Boko Haram?I met with so many people, not even the Boko Haram. Yes, I met with a lot of them: Muda Shiru, Mohammed Isam, Yusuf Hussein, Asan Yusuf, Mohammed Bello.
Who were these people?
They were leaders of the group that is now being called Boko Haram. They were arrested and repatriated from Libya.
Do you know if they are still living?
Yeah. But some of them are no longer with them. Isam is no longer with them. I don’t have their contact. But I believe that the majority of those people may have been dead because we had very close relationship when we were in prison even though we didn’t see face to face. They were in their cell and I was in my cell so we hit the wall and we talked. During prayers, we prayed together by shouting.
If that is the case, why don’t you get to talk to them to broker ceasefire and all that or do we have new faces now?No, no, no. It depends on the government approach. Someone in government thought it could be wished away, that it was easy. Boko Haram? It will fizzle away and all the warning we gave to them, they did not accept. They misled the government into believing that it can be wished it away. If they had taken a decisive action at that time, I don’t think that this would have reached the stage it has reached now.
But a decision was taken on their leader, Yusuf Mohammed?
That was not a sort of decisive action. The killing of Yusuf Mohammed was a mistake. If Yusuf Mohammed were to die, he should have gone for trial. Nobody should use his whims and caprices as the law like what Saddam Hussein said “whatever I wrote with my hand that is the law”. That was what Yar’Adua did. Why should you kill somebody extra-judicially?
Take him to court if he had committed any offence. You have the laws. If they had followed due process, it would have mitigated what is happening. But they did not follow. They went outside the law. When you went outside the law, you are also telling the other person to also meet you outside the law.
With that, many quarters now think that these people are taking a revenge on the government while some people disagree, saying it is pure terrorism. You have also said they are acting on a wrong ideology. How do you reconcile all these?Yea, they are acting on a wrong ideology but even if it was a revenge, Islam does not permit you to take people who are not combatants. When you take the lives of people who are not combatants, then you are not longer fighting the cause of Allah because Allah SWA clearly said in the Koran that if you kill an innocent man, it seems you have killed the whole world.
The president is one of you and he has been accused of not really been presidential in the real sense of the word. Again, you have very many challenges bedeviling the country which most Nigerians had expected him to deal with decisively.Yes, most of us feel that he has not done things the way they ought to be done. But there are individual differences. For instance, does Mr. President believe in things that the ordinary Ijaw man believes? The ordinary Ijaw man who was at the airport to bring the corpse of Isaac Boro; that the Ijaw nation must be liberated, must be independent? Do most of the elites share the same beliefs that we share? No.
You are quoted as saying that the abduction of the school girls in Chibok is a scam. Some people feel shocked by that statement coming from you even when we have seen the international community coming in…Which international community? The United States of America with her allies Britain and the European Union cajoled the whole world and told us that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. At the end of the day, were there weapons of mass destruction? There was none.
So the international community for whatever intent and purpose that is compelling them to do what they are doing is best known to them. But it will not be far from economic interest. How can you believe that 270 girls will be taken? How? It is not possible. If you tell us that 20 girls were taken, 30 may be 50 girls were taken, fine.
How will you tell us that 270 girls were writing physics exam? How? In which school? Where? Even in the most educationally advanced part of this country, can you find any school where even 20 students are writing Physics?I run a school. How many of my students are writing Physics? They just finished their WAEC? And this is an elitist school, we make very good results. How many people are writing Physics? Who are they telling? So, if you are not into education business, somebody can cajole you and tell you a lot of stories.
When they took the students, the principal who said she thought they were Army, she handed, again saying she was in Maiduguri for medical treatment when they came. Her daughter too was in the school. Why didn’t they take her daughter? Why did they take other peoples daughters? Em! The military was aware 4 hours before the attack; the people who sent the information that Chibok was to be attacked 4 hours to the military, why did they not inform the chairman of Chibok, SSS, DPO or anybody in Chibok?
The Chibok community leader who has been talking, why didn’t they say, please, move the girls, we are suspecting that there was going to be an attack on the school? Move these children out of the school. Why? Why was it only the military they told? They couldn’t reach any other person but the military? What are they telling us in this world now?
Ok, today, one of the girls said, she ran and jumped the fence. (Continues mimicking) She climbed the tree and then, the man was saying come down, come down o. What sort of thing is this now? So, the girl can climb a tree faster than a man with a gun? Why didn’t you just simply shoot her and he left her and went away? And some 4 persons were found in their house and they said they escaped and came back? What sort of stories?
You are known as one who insists that Mr. President must come back in 2015. With this array of turbulent issues in the country, do you see that happening still?
Look, Mr. President has won o. He has won the election. Just forget about it. All of them will just fizzle out. He will and win clear for another 4 years, fair and square.
Now, what if he changes his mind not to contest again as he has not even declared?
He cannot do it.
What if he does it?
(Speaking in pidgin english) Where him go come naa? If he do am, where him go return naa? Niger-Delta land? Him go stay for Abuja with them naa when him finish. Him go come carry us reach for center of the river, then, him go come jump enter river, leave us without paddle? Carry our paddle jump inside river, come leave us for inside boat for center of ocean? Ah! No o.
Do you think Boko Haram was designed to stop President Jonathan?
Initially, Boko Haram had nothing to do with it. But now, Boko Haram has become more of a modern political movement geared towards supporting the northern hegemony over and above all of us. When you say Boko Haram, look at the killing that is going on and people say give amnesty to people who have murdered so many people. So, when you grant them amnesty another group of people will come up. It is a vicious circle.
So, what do you suggest the Presidency should do?
Very clear. Meet them at the point where they want to meet with you, strength to strength. But for me, I don’t have any advice for any government because whatever Boko Haram is doing, it is also hitting us.
How has it been in the last 50 years you have lived?