Can you please elaborate more about the media platform you started and how do you oppose Boko Haram through it?
– I was working for local radio called Freedom Radio when we made an observation that Boko Haram harmed lots of people in northeastern Nigeria. This part of Nigeria is comprised of a very big tribe called Kanuris who have their own way of life, their own language. Their headquarters are in Maiduguri that is also a capital of Borno state. In this state Boko Haram did the most havoc. All the media in that region talk to people only in Hausa and English languages. Hausa is the predominant local language in the area, but Kanuris speak as a rule only their language, Kanuri, they also have their set of traditions. Boko Haram also speaks Kanuri and uses it to indoctrinate them and recruit them into Boko Haram. So, the situation is so that media is speaking to people only in Hausa and English. The majority does not understand English (however it is also an official language) and mainly do not understand Hausa which is the most spread language of Northern Nigeria. So the media is not addressing either victims, or insurgents or potential recruits. Therefore we decided to come up with our project – to start the radio that will speak to people of the region in their language, in Kanuri. The group of these people is pretty big, comprising 9 million people. We established a radio on short ways in conjunction with international donation agencies. We called the radio Dandal Kura. In Kanuri this word means “big arena”. Arena that gives Kanuri people safety. And the radio admitted a great impact. The leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, was so concerned that in his statements he mentioned Dandal Kura. He said that we are not Muslims, that we will not succeed and this gives us point that we are succeeding. The main focus of the radio is deradicalization, making people against recruitment, telling people about the levels of recruitment. This means that when they should know that someone is trying to recruit them, as those people have their own tactics.
As radio was developing we started another programs where people can communicate directly with us. For example, Boko Haram was attacking the village and people started running in all directions. One group found themselves in a forest, but they did not know where they are. Luckily some of them had cell phones, they called the radio. They said that Boko Haram attacked the village and they are in a forest at the moment, where exactly they do not know. They asked for assistance. From that broadcast military were able to identify where they are and resque them.
There is also another program that links people after Boko Haram attacks, because during such attacks people are confused. Sometimes father runs in one direction, mother and child run in the other directions. Therefore we started a program that links those people who lost their relatives in conjunction with Red Cross. So many families were reunited through this program. There was one example of a lady who ran out and left her four-year old child. When she came to radio and introduced herself stating that she’s looking for her child. The kid was just passing near the radio station and heard the program and they got linked with the help of Red Cross, however he was already in a neighboring state Cameroon.
What are the reasons of emergence of Boko Haram? How did this terrorist group appear?
– Boko Haram is a group of people who say they are Muslims and they say they are doing jihad. Scholars of Islam say they are not Muslims, because they are killing Muslims. 80-90% of their victims are Muslims; all the villages they are killing are Muslims. If they are doing jihad, what is its base?
They also adopted behavior that whoever you are, if you oppose their ideology, you are an enemy and you will be regarded as non-Muslim. Even those scholars that say that they are not true Muslims are regarded as non-Muslims. Boko Haram is very vicious, I think it is more vicious than IS. To tell you some things they do, they use machines to cut the trees to cut people heads. You do not have to do an offence. There was an example when they just went on a highway, mounted the road block and all the people who were coming in the cars were taken out of them and killed, their heads were cut. They killed more than 100 people there within two hours. They are very heartless and no one really knows what they want.
But how did those people appear? Do they have any roots in Nigerian past?
– What brought Boko Haram is politics. They are thugs. They are young people used by politicians to secure or to rig elections. The politicians used them to kill opposition and when the politicians came to power they dumped them. So they were dumped and had access to weapons.
Where did they get it?
– The popular belief is that since the exit of Gaddafi all these sophisticated weapons left Lybia and spread around African countries. The borders in African countries are porous. They did not have any security and the demarcation is just imaginary. Anybody can move anywhere through the continent with weapon, with drugs. So this is how weapon happened to come in the wrong hands and this is the major problem to Africa, especially of West Africa. There are a number of weapons in the heads of people who are not qualified to hand them. That is why we have so many crises. When they found that, they used religion. Once you use religion,of course you will get followers. If they got followers, they will got money. The major source of income for northeastern Nigeria is Lake Chad. It is very important economically, because majority of the fish that people of Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon eat, live there. When they were striking, they captured the entire environment around the lake Chad, so nobody could fish there, except them. That gave them lots of money to buy guns and people. Two major problems that make recruitment easy for them is poverty and illiteracy. Majority of people there cannot afford 50 cents a day and somebody comes and says that he can give hundred dollars and says that he’s a hero and invite those people to join them. They indoctrinate those people in their ideology of hate and they engage most of them from the age of six and eighteen. So, they came with head fresh to the idea. So, whatever ideology is pushed into their heads, it goes. So many these insurgents were arrested between the ages of seven and fifteen.
Nigeria is one of the most economically successful countries in Africa. But still as you mentioned their huge percentage of people who live below the poverty level. Where are the money located then?
– Nigeria is maybe the richest country of the West Africa, because it has oil. But at the same time it has high level of corruption. When the corruption goes so deep, then you see that main assets are located between few individuals. They put that money in Western banks and use them for their own purposes.
Who are those people?
– The ruling elite. In Nigeria we have bicameral legislation. People in both chambers who are responsible for making laws, make them only in favor of themselves. I told you that there are a lot of people in Nigeria who live for less than 50 cents per day, but the salary of the Nigerian senator is higher than salary of the US senator. It was made due to the legislation when they entered parliament. They also do not pass legislation if they are not bribed. The former Nigerian minister of finance Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala in one of her interview said that when she presented Nigerian budget in the parliament, senators refused to vote until president pays them a bribe. That is how they destroy economy of the country, they chase our private investors, they destroy government institution and make everybody poor.
What are the post-colonial problems that Nigeria faces?
– Ethnic differences. Nigeria is composed of three major ethnic groups: Hausas, the Igbos and Yorubas. Nigeria has over 3,000 different ethnic groups, but these one are the biggest. But instead of them to come together and rule the country in cooperation, everybody tries to work to its own ethnic group. At the same time one ethnic group tries to sabotage the other. The president of one ethnic group will work and empower only his own people. There is also lack of education and literacy. Perhaps, because of illiteracy of people politicians can do what they do. At the same time, the quality of higher education is very poor. The country is in a confused state now and that is why the insurgencies are growing.
Boko Haram was partially defeated, but other problems can came up. For example, clashes between farmers and Fulani herdsmen (nomads who come from north to south with their cows). Politicians took over that root and use it as farms and the cows of nomads eat the crop. Of course, the clashes start here and now when the borders are porous and those Fulani also have weapon and they kill innocent people.
There is an urgent need to stop those senseless killings of people.
Could you name the main problems Africa has due to its post-colonial history?
– I think that major problem that Africa has is a lack of good leadership and this problem applies to all African states. Some are better, some are worse on the scale, but none has a good leadership. The second problem is that stronger foreign countries do not want to help Africa, because once you are a corrupt a leader and you want to share money with them, they will take it. For example, recently former oil minister Diezani Alison-Madueke stocked in US and UK billions of dollars. If the foreign countries did not allow bringing that money there, where would they take them? They would be left an invested in Nigeria.
Malam Umar Sa’id Tudun Wada graduated from Bayero University in Kano, Kano State, (Nigeria) and Nigerian Institute of Journalism. He was a Principal Editor at the then CTV now Abubakar Rimi Television (ARTV) , International Broadcaster with Voice of America, freelance correspondent with Hausa and English services of Deutsche-Welle and Editor, Concern Magazine. Now he is a Managing Director of Kano State Radio Corporation (Nigeria).