Tuesday, September 30, 2014 11:45 am
By Ademola Adegbamigbe
The issues surrounding the killing of Nigeria’s number one bogeyman, Abubakar Shekau, leader of Boko Haram, resembles what happens in the South African play, Sizwe Banzi Is Dead.
Written by Athol Fugard, in concert with John Kani and Winston Ntshona, the play starts in the Port Elizabeth photographic studio of Mr. Styles, a former employee of Ford Motor Company, who is reading a newspaper. Then a character, Sizwe Banzi (new name, Robert Zwelinzima), comes in to have his image snapped so that he could send the picture to his wife in King Williams Town.
The character writes in the letter accompanying the photograph to his wife how, because of job expediency, he changed his name to Sizwe Banzi. He explains that when he travelled to Port Elizabeth, his attempt to find a job became futile because he had no valid papers (because of the Apartheid pass laws) and the authorities wanted him to leave in three days. His friend, Buntu, takes him to a local alcohol joint. Tipsy, he saunters out of the bar to ease himself but stumbles upon a corpse.
He and his friend take the dead man’s identity papers, showing the name, Robert Zwelinzima. Sizwe burns his own papers completely and adopts the name of the dead man. In his letter to his wife, he narrates that as far as he is concerned, he, the husband, no longer exists; Sizwe Banzi is dead.
Like what happens in that play, the death of Shekau does not mean the end of Boko Haram, given the way a new Shekau would, like the Phoenix, rise from the ashes of the dead one.
Just as a newspaper humorously cast its headline when the insurgent-in-chief died, “Nigerian Army Kills Shekau Again”. It is as if a man can die many times! Of course, Shekau has died twice now and one is not sure whether, like the cat, he many die and rise eight times.
News of his demise was broken on Sunday 21 September when Cameroonian soldiers released the photograph of a dead Shekau, explaining that they killed him when they chased him across the border into Nigeria. As Cameroon Concord reported, Shekau died after an aerial bombardment of his hideout within Nigeria.
However, Nigeria’s Defence Headquarters came out with its own narrative last Wednesday. Its spokesman, Major-General Chris Olukolade, explained that Boko Haram made not less than four attempts between 12 and 17 September 2014 to violate the security and enter Konduga to perpetrate their atrocities. Air and land forces were subsequently deployed to handle the situation.
The convoy of combat vehicles, typical of terrorists’ mission that involves their top commanders, were fiercely engaged by the land and air forces, Olukolade said. He added: “Several of the terrorists, including some of their commanders, lost their lives in the encounters which lasted an average of about five hours each.”
Olukolade told Nigerians that our troops killed some of the insurgents and 135 others were either captured or surrendered in Yobe and Adamawa. “The troops,” as the spokesman maintained, “captured some of the terrorists and their equipment. In the course of those encounters, one Mohammed Bashir, who has been acting or posing on video as the deceased Abubakar Shekau, the eccentric character known as leader of the group, died.”
Who, then, killed Shekau? Cameroon or Nigeria? The matter is as confusing as Shekau’s many names (Bashir Mohammed, Abacha Abdullah Geidam, Damasack and others).
Is Shekau really dead? That is another poser. Those asking this question base it on the fact that a Shekau was purportedly killed in 2013 by the Nigerian Army, but because it could not produce his corpse since Boko Haram, perhaps, buried it at an unknown location, the citizens doubted the claim, challenging the military high command to produce the photograph of his mutilated body.
Thereafter, Boko Haram came out with a video, claiming that Shekau was alive and kicking. However, Olukolade explained that Shekau is a “brand name” for whoever becomes Boko Haram leader.
This logic can be used to explain the position of Ahmed Salkida, the Dubai-based but Borno State-born journalist who has contacts among the insurgents. He claimed that he had it on good authority that Shekau was not dead. “Mark my words,” Selkida maintained, “the picture going round is not the person who torments us with his group.”
That information from the “good authority” within Boko Haram could be a precursor to a video that may appear again soon, claiming that Shekau is not dead. What this means is that, another leader may appear (and, like the man who claimed the name, Sizwe Banzi), adopting the Shekau tag. For good measure, he may don a bushy beard, hold a big chewing stick in the afternoon, walk with the same swagger and give the same hashish-induced speeches like the former Shekau.
However, before this happens, the Nigerian military should increase its strafing and pounding of the insurgents. Give them no space or time to regroup or choose a leader and if such an arrowhead comes up again, he must not be given breathing space to gather his thoughts.
As Robert Greene writes in his 48 Laws of Power, all great leaders since Moses have known that a feared enemy must be crushed completely. If one ember is left alight, Greene argues, no matter how dimly it smoulders, a fire will eventually break out. More, according to him, is lost through stopping halfway than through total annihilation. So Greene advises: “The enemy will recover and will seek revenge. Crush him, not only in body but in spirit.”
In other words, the Nigerian military should leave aside the argument whether it was we or Cameroon that killed Shekau. No matter who killed a snake, man or woman, what is important is that the reptile has, to borrow the words of William Shakespeare, been despatched straight.
What is more important now is the total crushing of Boko Haram so that every Nigerian will no longer sleep with only one eye. And we can enjoy the remaining festivities this year.