The Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs has warned the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, against holding talks with the dreaded Islamic sect, Boko Haram, until he receives an official approval from the Federal Government.
The apex body of Muslims in the country fears that the Sultan might be blackmailed by the government if he goes ahead to negotiate with the terrorist group, especially on the over 200 pupils of Government Girls’ Secondary School abducted by the sect on April 14, without an official consent.
The council warned that the Islamic leader should not be hoodwinked into making such moves by those calling for his intervention in the insurgency by the sect.
Some Islamic elite, under the aegis of Concerned Muslim Professionals, had written to the Sultan earlier in July, asking him to lead the dialogue with the Boko Haram sect.
The group told the monarch, who is the President-General of the NSCIA, to use his position and engage members of the sect in dialogue that would make them stop their campaign of killings.
Similarly, a human rights activist based in the North and President, Civil Rights Congress of Nigeria, Mr. Shehu Sani, had earlier in May asked the Sultan to spearhead the moves to secure the release of the abducted pupils from the group’s captivity.
Sani, in a letter to the religious leader, had said, “You (Sultan) have a moral duty and a spiritual responsibility to be visibly and actively involved in seeking the resolution of this impasse happening within areas you have religious influence.”
However, the Secretary-General of the NSCIA, Prof. Ishaq Oloyede, while speaking to SUNDAY PUNCH on Thursday, warned that the President-General of the council should not be hoodwinked into taking up the task of negotiating with the terrorists.
He said, “The Muslim community had always been taking action; it had always been appealing to the people (Boko Haram) but Muslim leaders are also cautious because in your process to go out to look for these people; if in the process you’re caught talking with them, the government can even turn against you and say you’re part of part of Boko Haram.
“No matter the level of the Muslim leader, he has to think twice before he begins to communicate with these people (sect) because the same government that you want to work for can turn against you and accuse you of complicity; and you will be on your own.
“They (government) have enough machinery to present you as a devil such that members of your family will believe that you’re a devil.”
When asked if such could be done to the Sultan, the professor insisted that the Islamic leader could be implicated without the backing of the government, especially at a time when “many of us are being unduly monitored.”
He added, “I am not the Sultan but fortunately the Sultan has dual status; traditionally, he is the Sultan of Sokoto; religiously, he is the leader of the Muslim community. I relate with him as far as his mandate as the leader of the Muslim community is concerned.
“In that capacity, I will not advise him to hold any unilateral action with the sect without having the full confidence of the government of the day. If anybody makes such calls, somebody like the Sultan should think twice before venturing into searching for people you do not know.”
Oloyede asked why the Federal Government kept the findings by the Presidential Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution of Security Challenges in the North, which was chaired by the Minister of Special Duties, Taminu Turaki.
“I believe that by now, as Muslims leaders, we should have access to the findings; we don’t. We are just working in darkness. By now, even if the report had not been released, we should have had access to it. Then, we will be able to have some clues to what is happening,” the NSCIA scribe stated.
Also, an Islamic pressure group, Muslims Rights Concern, said it was the responsibility of the Federal Government, and not the Sultan, to seek an end to the insurgency by the group.
The Founder, MURIC, Prof. Ishaq Akintola, told SUNDAY PUNCH in an interview on Friday that the Sultan had spoken out against the activities of the sect on several occasions, “what else do they want him to do?”
He said, “I stand by the decision of the Supreme Council; it is a very correct position. The Sultan cannot negotiate, particularly without the Federal Government’s green light. We don’t support the idea of the Sultan negotiating because he would be seen as somebody who has vested interests. Why can’t the Federal Government take that up?”
The Professor of Islamic Eschatology stated that there was no reason for the Muslim community to rise up to the challenge separately, as it would be “tantamount to sedition, separatism and rising when the Federal Government should rise.”
Efforts to get the Presidency for comments on Friday and Saturday proved abortive. Calls made to the mobile phones of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe, and the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, respectively, were not picked.
Also, they did not reply to text messages sent to them.
In the letter to the Sultan, the President, Concerned Muslim Professionals, Alhaji Mohammed Saidu, said, “A failure on the part of the Muslim leadership (under His Eminence the Sultan) to discharge these responsibilities/actions to the later will render it of questionable ability, doubtful recognition, decimal loyalty or an outright dismissal as a mere smoke-screen. As obedient and loyalists to His Eminence the Sultan, our hearts bleed on these realities.”
Sani, in an exclusive interview with SUNDAY PUNCH, had stated that the sect would prefer Islamic clerics as its negotiators.
He said, “The group (Boko Haram) is mostly comfortable with Islamic clerics. The insurgents are more comfortable with people that are considered neutralists. .
“For the purpose of negotiation, if the government is setting up a team, I strongly advise that the team should be made up of Islamic clerics, who are going to reach out to them to seek the release of the girls.”
Just as the Islamic bodies have requested, former President Olusegun Obasanjo had insisted that President Goodluck Jonathan must approve his planned move to secure the release of the Chibok schoolgirls.
In an interview with Bloomberg TV on May 31, 2014, the ex-President had said while he had not been officially mandated to lead the mediation, his next step was to get an approval from the government. He insisted that the President must know about his moves.
Again on June 12, 2014, in an interview with the BBC Hausa Service, Obasanjo had expressed his regret that the Federal Government had not yet given him the green light to reach to the insurgents for the release of the girls.
The Federal Government had, however, insisted that Obasanjo had access to President Jonathan, if he truly wanted to make inputs. Sources at the Presidency had also expressed doubts over Obasanjo’s sincerity with his plan.