IT was a rude shock for former President Olusegun Obasanjo yesterday as Boko Haram hardliners killed his host in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.
In what seems a strong message of rejection of Obasanjo's peace overtures, gunmen suspected to be members of the fundamentalist Islamic group killed Baba Kura Alhaji Fugu, the eldest son of the late Baba Fugu in broad daylight.
Fugu met with Obasanjo on Thursday to discuss the plight of the family left behind by the late leader of Boko Haram, Mohammed Yusuf. News of Baba Kura's murder by Boko Haram militants broke out last night. The Moment On Sunday leant that Baba Kura had just concluded a press interview and was meeting with his family members, when his mobile phone rang.
He was reportedly shot dead when he stepped out from the meeting to answer the call. Borno State Commissioner of Police (CP) Simeon Midenda confirmed yesterday evening that Alhaji Fugu 'was shot dead at about 1.30pm'. According to Midenda, the killers apparently were not happy with the press interview he granted. He said no arrest has been made but that investigation has commenced.
Controversy had deepened earlier in the day over Obasanjo's surprise visit to the family of the slain leader of the violent Boko Haram sect.
Contrary to the widespread impression that the trip was a private initiative by Obasanjo, The Moment on Sun-day learnt on good authority that it might have been part of a secret strategy being worked out by government to solve the problem.
'The trip was part of the recommendations of a panel set up by the top hierarchy of the Nigeria Police to investigate the Boko Haram crisis and proffer a solution to it,' a usually reliable source said.
'There's no way Obasanjo could have gone to Maiduguri without the knowledge of the Presidency,' the source added.
Obasanjo, it would be recalled, had during his visit to the family home of Yusuf on Thursday held a closed-door meeting that lasted two hours with with family members. The former president who arrived Maiduguri alongside a Kaduna-based human rights activist, Comrade Shehu Musa of the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO) was received by state government officials and the eldest son of the slain father-in-law of late Yusuf, at their demolished house- hold behind the railway quarters, Maiduguri.
He reportedly told the meeting that he merely came to condole with the family over the killing of their breadwinner and finding a lasting solution to the lingering crises and bloodletting in the country.
Shehu Sani of the Human Rights Com- mission brokered the meeting. It would be recalled that Yusuf was allegedly executed by policemen in the wake of the crises in Maiduguri in July 2009. His followers said the recent bombings and gun raids in Borno, Abuja and other parts of the country are meant to avenge Yusuf's killing. The ex-President, who was ac- companied to the rendezvous by a thick retinue of security officials, insisted that everyone should wait outside the building as he intended to hold the meeting privately.
However, reliable source within the former President's retinue of aides said Obasanjo's trip was far from being a condolence visit. He was said to have gone to appeal to the members of the family to beg Boko Haram members to sheathe their swords and end the spate of bombings in the country and informing President Goodluck Jonathan of the outcome of the visit.
Another issue on the agenda of the ex-president was amnesty and employment for members of the sect that is opposed to Western education and lifestyles. From what transpired during the visit, however, it is clear that Yusuf's family is amenable to dialogue. One report said, in his capacity as spokesman for the family, Baba Kura had given Obasanjo conditions on which the group would stop hostilities, as a first step towards achieving the much-desired lasting peace.
Also, Baba Kura, son of the slain 76-year-old Alhaji Baba Fugu Mohammed, was reported to have demanded that the court judgement of Tuesday, April 13, 2010 be complied with fully, as the take-off point for negotiations. Yusuf's family handed Obasanjo a picture of the mutilated body of their father, after his brutal murder. They also gave him an estimate of the property destroyed by agents of government, who moved in with a bulldozer and levelled the family compound after killing their breadwinner.
According to Baba Kura, Justice Mohammed Mustapher of the Borno State High Court, Maiduguri Division, had given the judgement in favour of the family when it dragged the federal and state governments before it.
Obasanjo was said to have demanded the copy of the judgement, and estimate of the compensation expected from the government. The highpoint of Justice Mustapher's verdict was that the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Attorney General of the Federation, the Inspector General of Police, the Governor of Borno State and the Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, Borno State, being the first to fifth respondents in the case, were to jointly and severally pay N100 million to the Yusuf family.
Several letters had been written to the Federal Government through the Office of the Attorney General and Minister of Justice by the family's lawyers, Anayo Adibe & Partners, requesting to settle the matter out of court. None of the letters was acknowledged. Instead, the government filed an appeal against the judgement. The appeal comes up for mention on Monday.
Obasanjo rounded off his visit by telling the family that now that he had stepped into the matter, a lasting solution had come. He requested for three weeks within which he would get back to them. Members of the Yusuf family gave their own account of what transpired when Obasanjo came calling, confirming the remarks attributed to Obasanjo. Baba Kura was quoted as saying: 'Indeed, we received former President Obasanjo in our house yesterday (Thursday); his mission was very clear.
He said he came to condole with our family over what happened during the 2009 Boko Haram insurgence, especially the extra-judicial killing of our father and the wanton destruction of our family house. 'He promised that he would convey our plight to President Jonathan within a week or two and thereafter will get back to us directly or through an emissary.
Obasanjo also visited the home of Yusuf's in-law, the late Baba Fugu Mohammed, who was allegedly executed by government security agents during the Boko Haram uprising in Maiduguri. Baba Kura also revealed that the mother of the former Commissioner for Religious Affairs, who later became a top member and financier of Boko Haram, Alhaji Buji Foi, was equally at the meeting and she was said to have lamented before Obasanjo that government should come to her aid in providing financial assistance to the children of the former commissioner who was killed extra-judicially in the 2009 Boko Haram face-off.
Baba Kura expressed confidence that Obasanjo had the ability to bring the crises to an end. 'We are confident that Obasanjo's visit would resolve the Boko Haram crises in Borno State. We are 100 per cent sure that President Obasanjo has all it takes for the Boko Haram crises to be resolved,' he said.
However, he made it clear that Boko Haram's agitation was quite distinct from theirs and that there was still need for government to honour the demands of the sect's members, 'especially on the withdrawal of the Joint Task Force.' Poor man, little did he know that he had become a target of Boko Haram marksmen who would kill him the next day!
The sect had earlier said it would agree to cease the spate of bombings in the country only if the Federal Government apologised to the sect. They also want government to pay compensation for their losses, try the killers of its slain leader, Yusuf, and release their members in detention.
Even before Baba Kura's violent death two days after receing Obasanjo, perceptive analysts had warned that the retired Army general's peace visit was bound to end in an anti-climax as the family was distancingitself from the tough demands of the sect. There was intense public outcry against Obasanjo's visit to Yusuf's family. Many Nigerians believe that the government should not negotiate with bombers or arrive at any truce with those who have declared war on the country.
A chieftain of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr. Alex Obiogbolu, described the visit as unnecessary and diversionary. He expressed doubts that the visit was with the consent of the President.
'If it is not, it amounts to an attempt to undermine the integrity and focus of the present government,' he stated.
However, the senator representing Ogun East on the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria, Alhaji Gbenga Kaka, described Obasanjo's visit as a welcome development. If it had come earlier, it would have saved the many lives that were lost in bomb blasts, he said. His words: 'I believe that once the cause of a problem is known, the solution is in sight. Obasanjo's visit would enable the authorities know the grievances of the Boko Haram leaders and assuage their feelings. It would also enable the government pursue a course of lasting peace.'
Kaka advised the government to provide employment for every Boko Haram member and with- draw troops from Maiduguri and its environs. A Presidency source said Abuja would be willing to discuss conditions for peace with Boko Haram leaders against all odds.
To quote the source: 'The talk between the sect and ex-President Obasanjo was a welcome relief to all of us. No government will be happy with the spate of bombings nationwide.
'Our own approach is that whichever way we can resolve the challenge,