Former governor of Borno State, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, has opened up on what he knows about the Boko Haram insurgents currently ravaging states in the northeast and some other parts of the country, while disclosing that only the neighbouring Republic of Chad could help solve the menace.
Sheriff, while speaking in a BBC Hausa Service magazine programme (Gane Mini Hanya) yesterday, and monitored by LEADERSHIP Sunday in Abuja, denied reports saying that Boko Haram started during his tenure as governor of Borno State between 2003 and 2011. He revealed that the radical religious sect actually started in Yobe State in 1992, and that he has been trying to find a lasting solution to it, including talking to the Chadian government.
But it would be recalled that when the #BringBackOurGirls campaigners visited the Chadian embassy in Abuja recently to find out the connection between Chad and the Boko Haram insurgents, the ambassador had said that his government had no connection to the sect.
The ambassador also alleged that if there was any person that should be held responsible for this problem, it should be the Nigerian government which had repeatedly claimed to know where the Chibok girls are being kept.
When the ambassador was queried on the alleged report of the botched ceasefire deal, which was celebrated across the country and handled by the Chadian President, Idriss Déby, and the report that Mr Mahamat Bichara Gnoti, a close associate of the Chadian president, was reported to have been apprehended on the Chadian-Sudan border with 19 SAM2 missiles he allegedly purchased from the Sudanese army for Boko Haram terrorists, the ambassador noted that he only read about the news on the pages of newspapers just like other persons.
But the former governor, who is also at the centre of a controversy surrounding the sponsorship of the Boko Haram insurgency, following claims by an Australian negotiator, Steven Davis, that he and a former chief of army staff, General Azubuike Ihejirika, were allegedly backing the insurgents, said Chad could help in solving the issue.
Although, the former governor along with Iherijika were exonerated of any complicity during the week by the Department of State Security (DSS), but reacting to his exoneration by the DSS, which paraded people it called fake Boko Haram ceasefire negotiators that confessed to implicating him and Ihejirika after inducement, Sheriff said it is the truth that has come to prevail over falsehood and that he has been vindicated by the latest revelations from the arrested impostors, who allegedly connived with the negotiator, Davis.
He alleged that the Borno State government was responsible for the orchestrated plot to frame him up with the Boko Haram sponsorship allegation in order to defame his character.
Keeping mute on how Chad could possibly help in solving the problem, Sheriff added that since he is one of the few politicians that has benefitted greatly from the kindness of Borno State, as such he is doing whatever it is to help solve the insurgency.
“Nothing preoccupies my mind in Nigeria presently like the return of peace in Borno. When Borno State was peaceful, there was no place I cherished to stay in the world like Maiduguri. I, my friends, my confidants, my parents and all the schools I attended are in Maiduguri.
“Therefore, I am more concerned than anybody in this country, because what Borno State did for me has not been done to any other indigene. You know, in Borno State, a governor has never been re-elected apart from me; in Borno State, no senator has ever been elected thrice apart from me. So, Borno people have done everything for me, and there is no one in this world that I know other than Chad, which I think could help Borno,” he said.
On his belief that he was being framed, Sheriff said: “They defamed my character, and when they started it, I once told journalists that it was plotted in Maiduguri. We know the plotters, their motives, and that by the grace of God, the truth will prevail; and now, the arrested impostors have said it all to the world.”
The former governor alleged that the current Borno State government’s connection with plot to defame him became glaring when the government quickly came out to disown one of the impostors, Junaid Idrissa Khadi, who was until four months ago a special adviser to Governor Kashim Shettima, but rather said Khadi remained his (Sherrif) known associate because he had earlier served his government before Shettima engaged him allegedly under pressure from him.
“This is nonsense. If I had forced him (Khadi) on them, then why will he connive with a Whiteman to implicate me, that I am a Boko Haram member? If at all I helped him to be engaged, then he won’t implicate me…and I have instructed my lawyers to file charges,” he said.
It could also be recalled that President Goodluck Jonathan had on two occasions visited the Chadian President Idriss Derby, in September and November this year, towards finding a lasting solution to the insurgency problem.
Jonathan however came under attacks from individuals and the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) after it was discovered that Sheriff was part of the high-level meeting between him and his Chadian counterpart in September. Their anger was predicated on the fact that the former governor was at that time accused by Davis of allegedly sponsoring Boko Haram.
Sheriff, who lauded the federal government’s counter-insurgency effort in the interview, however, denied the insinuations that the Boko Haram started during his tenure as governor.
“This is not true. The Boko Haram issue did not start during my tenure. If you don’t know, let me educate you today. Boko Haram started in 1992 at Kalama in Yobe State, and at that time, I was not a governor. So, if anybody tells you it started during my tenure, he may be part of my traducers. But the truth is that it didn’t start during my tenure,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Borno State government, through Governor Shettima’s spokesman, Isa Gusau, has denied any government-sponsored plot to tarnish the image of the former governor, saying the government in Maiduguri was only concerned with the weighty allegations against Sheriff as an indigene of the state.
He also added that the incumbent state governor has nothing to gain from Sheriff’s predicament.
Gusau, in an interview with the BBC Hausa Service yesterday, said: “Governor Kashim Shettima has nothing to gain from the allegation against Ali Sheriff. In fact, to him, it is even shameful that a Borno State indigene, whom the governor has interacted or is connected with, is linked to what is happening. So, Governor Shettima’s connection with this saga is unnecessary.”