I would have run mad. Many people did. But because I had memorized parts of the Koran, instead of talking to myself, I just recited the Koran. That was what kept me alive. If I had not memorized the Koran, I would have been mad. Talking to yourself is a different thing. But this one, you are reading, edifying your soul.
So, while in prison, did you get to meet with any of the people now linked to Boko Haram?
I met with so many people, not only Boko Haram militants. Yes, I met with a lot of them: Muda Shiru, Mohammed Isam, Yusuf Hussein, Asan Yusuf, Mohammed Bello.
Who were these people?
They were leaders of the group that is now called Boko Haram. They were arrested and repatriated from Libya.
Do you know if they are still alive?
Yeah. But some of them are no longer with them. Isam is no longer with them. I don’t have their contact. But I believe that the majority of those people may have been dead because we had very close relationship when we were in prison even though we didn’t see face to face. They were in their cells and I was in mine; so we hit the wall and talked. During prayers, we prayed together by shouting.
If that is the case, don’t you get to talk to them to broker ceasefire and all that or do we have new faces now?
No, no, no. It depends on government approach. Someone in government thought it could be wished away, that it was easy. Boko Haram? ‘It will fizzle away’ and all the warning we gave them, they did not accept. They misled the government into believing that it could be wished it away. If they had taken a decisive action at that time, I don’t think that this would have reached the stage it has reached now.
But a decision was taken on their leader, Yusuf Mohammed?
That was not the sort of decisive action. The killing of Yusuf Mohammed was a mistake. If Yusuf Mohammed were to die, he should have gone for trial. Nobody should use his whims and caprices as the law like what Saddam Hussein said “whatever I wrote with my hand, that is the law”. That was what Yar’Adua did. Why should you kill somebody extra-judicially? Take him to court if he had committed any offense. You have the laws. If they had followed due process, it would have mitigated what is happening. But they did not follow. They went outside the law. When you go outside the law, you are also telling the other person to also meet you outside the law.
The thinking in many quarters now is that these people are taking a revenge on the government while some people disagree, saying it is pure terrorism. You have also said they are acting on a wrong ideology. How do you reconcile all these?
Yea, they are acting on a wrong ideology but even if it was a revenge, Islam does not permit you to take people who are not combatants. When you take the lives of people who are not combatants, then you are not longer fighting the cause of Allah because Allah SWA clearly said in the Koran that if you kill an innocent man, it seems you have killed the whole world.
Let’s go back to the struggle. Do you think it has paid off?
Not 100 percent. Maybe 20 percent. We have somebody that looks like us, dresses like us, eats our food, dances the way we dance as President. It is a victory over those who feel that they were born to rule. Who says they are born to rule? It is a negation of that erroneous position.
But to everyone in Nigeria, the President is Nigeria’s President not an Ijaw President even though he is coming from that background.
Yes, it is true. But he came from somewhere. He did not fall from the sky.
The President has been accused of not really been presidential in the real sense of the word. Again, you have very many challenges bedeviling the country which many Nigerians had expected him to deal with decisively.
Yes, most of us feel that he has not done things the way they ought to be done. But there are individual differences. For instance, does Mr. President believe in things that the ordinary Ijaw man believes? The ordinary Ijaw man who was at the airport to bring the corpse of Isaac Boro; that the Ijaw nation must be liberated, must be independent? Do most of the elites share the same beliefs that we share? No.
You are quoted as saying that the abduction of the school girls in Chibok is a scam. Some people feel shocked by that statement coming from you even when we have seen the international community coming in…
(Cuts in) which international community? The United States of America with her allies Britain and the European Union cajoled the whole world and told us that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. At the end of the day, were there weapons of mass destruction? There was none. So the international community for whatever intent and purpose that is compelling them to do what they are doing is best known to them. But it will not be far from economic interest. How can you believe that 270 girls will be taken? How? It is not possible. If you tell us that 20 girls were taken, 30, maybe 50, fine. How will you tell us that 270 girls were writing physics exam? How? In which school? Where? Even in the most educationally advanced part of this country, can you find any school where even 20 students are writing physics? I run a school. How many of my students are writing physics? They just finished their SSCE? And this is an elitist school, we make very good results. How many people are writing physics? Who are they telling? So, if you are not into education business, somebody can cajole you and tell you a lot of stories. When they took the students, the Principal, who said she thought they were soldiers, again said she was in Maiduguri for medical treatment when they came. Her daughter too was in the school. Why didn’t they take her daughter? Why did they take other peoples daughters? The military was aware four hours before the attack; the people who sent the information that Chibok was to be attacked four hours to the military, why did they not inform the chairman of Chibok, SSS Rep, DPO or anybody in Chibok? The Chibok community leader who has been talking, why didn’t they say, ‘Please, move the girls, we are suspecting that there was going to be an attack on the school? Move these children out of the school’. Why was it only the military they told? They couldn’t reach any other person but the military? What are they telling us now? Ok, today, one of the girls said she ran and jumped over the fence. She climbed the tree and then the man was saying come down, come down o’. What sort of thing is this now? So, the girl can climb a tree faster than a man with a gun? Why didn’t you just simply shoot her and he left her and went away? And some four persons were found in their house and they said they escaped and came back? What sort of stories?
How has it been in the last 50 years you have lived?