Daily Trust (Abuja)

23 November 2011

Nigeria: How Boko Haram Began, By Borno PDP

The Yusufiyya Movement, better known as Boko Haram, came to prominence in Borno State when it helped to bring Governor Ali Modu Sheriff to power in 2003 and the current troubles began when it fell out with him, chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party [PDP] in the state Alhaji Baba I. Basharu said in Abuja yesterday. He spoke at Media Trust's corporate head office when he led a 10-member delegation on a visit.

According to the PDP leader, the late Boko Haram leader Mohammed Yusuf was the very man who led a "Taliban" uprising in Yobe State early this decade and fled into exile after a violent clash with policemen. He said it was Sheriff's deputy, Adamu Dibal and his Secretary to the State Government [SSG], Baba Njidda, who negotiated for Yusuf's return from Saudi Arabia.

Basharu said when Ali Sheriff was working to snatch Borno State from then Governor Mala Kachallah earlier this decade, he entered into a pact with the Yusufiyya Movement with a promise to implement Shari'a rule in Borno State. After becoming governor, he said, Sheriff created a Ministry of Religious Affairs and appointed Alhaji Buji Foi, who was Yusufiyya's national secretary, as its first commissioner.

He said the amity between the two camps lasted for a while until they fell out when Sheriff did not fulfill his promise to implement Shari'a rule. At that point, he said, Mohammed Yusuf ordered Fugu to resign from Sheriff's cabinet and most other staff of the Religious Affairs Ministry brought by Fugu left as well. He said subsequently, the Yusufiyya began working to achieve Shari'a rule through preaching. At one point, he said, there was a major clash between them and the police at Maidokiri, near the GRA in Maiduguri, and some of their members were killed.

He said when the Yusufiyya members mounted a procession to the cemetery to bury their dead members, another clash took place with the police. The police accused some of them of riding their motorbikes without crash helmets and in the ensuing clash, 19 people died, Basharu said.

According to him, Mohamed Yusuf then went to many security agencies' offices demanding for justice for the two episodes, after which his supporters attacked prisons and police stations. This led to events of July 2009 in which Yusuf and other sect leaders were captured and killed, and the sect members dispersed, only to regroup again in the last two years.

Asked at what point the Borno PDP took over Boko Haram, Basharu said, "At no point did we take over Boko Haram." Denying that the serial killing of ANPP leaders in the state indicated a PDP connection, he said, "Boko Haram's grudge was against Ali Sheriff. They were against Sheriff, his government, his party and his people, including the bulamas, as well as warders and policemen who they said killed their leaders."

Asked about Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume, who was charged to court yesterday for allegedly abetting the insurgents, the Borno PDP chairman said, "Ndume was an ANPP member. He only came into PDP just before the election, when he realized that Sheriff would give him a fair shot at the guber ticket." He however added that "Ndume is a credible person and we do not believe the allegations made against him. This is a plot by the ANPP and the state government against Ndume because of his rising profile as the biggest political force in southern Borno State."

He also rejected the charge by captured ex-Boko Haram spokesman Ali Umar Sanda Konduga against the late PDP chieftain Ambassador Sa'idu Pindar. He said, "Pindar was an old civil servant and an officer of the Nigeria Intelligence Agency and a former ambassador to Sao Tome and Principe. There was absolutely no way he could be involved with the Boko Haram."

Among those who accompanied the chairman on the visit were former House of Representatives Minority Leader Mohamed Kumalia, Barrister Bashir Maidugu, Malam Malla Gadzama and Alhaji Umar Kareto Lawan.

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