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Opinion: Did Buhari Defeat the Maitatsine?

Gen. Mohammadu Buhari

A searching look by Danlami Aminu – History can only be based on truth. Mohammed Buhari and his supporters have been claiming that he alone can deal decisively with Boko Haram, claiming he “destroyed” the Maitatsine terrorists in the 1980s. But the truth is that the problems of rebellion and insurgency in the North of Nigeria, has a very long history, going back to colonial times since 1903.

The problem did not begin or end in the 1980s. That is the truth. This is a problem that has lasted for more than 100 years in one form or the other. Buhari is from the North and he surely knows better than what is currently being paraded or trumpeted as one of his landmark achievements.

This problem of riots, rebellions and insurgency in the North of Nigeria did not start with the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan. In the 1980s we had Maitatsine rebellion who were also against Western education, and culture. Today we have Boko Haram.

Mohammed Marwa, the leader of Maitatsine was from Marwa in the Cameroun. Boko Haram had been recruiting, training and attacking Nigeria from Cameroun as far back as 2001.Marwa started his rebellion in the North of Nigeria under the British Colonial Government. He was finally killed (or died) during the riots in Kano in 1980. Many of the Maitatsine followers relocated to Maiduguri after their leader was killed in Kano.

Malam Musa Makaniki, who took over the leadership of Maitatsine escaped alive into Cameroun and was only eventually arrested in 2004. It has been reliably reported that Makaniki was discharged and acquitted by the Court of Appeal, Jos in 2012. He walked out a free man. At the time of writing, we are unsure of what has become of him or where he is today.

There have been other problems in the Northeast of Nigeria and other parts since the 1980s. You might remember Kala Kato who caused many deaths in Bauchi in the 1990s.There was the group known as “Taliban” that started in 2002. The Yusiffiya group, also believed to be closely related to the Maitatsine were also attacking security services in the North East of Nigeria as recently as 2011. Mohammed Yusuf founded Boko Haram in Maiduguri in 2002, but he also had a base in Yobe State. Some commentators believe that one of the senior leaders of Maitatsine was actually an uncle of Mohammed Yusuf, who helped train him and taught him the history of Maitatsineas a child.

Buhari should stop “rewriting history”. The truth is that Buharinever destroyed Maitatsine. Winning one battle does not mean you won the war. As a retired military general. Buhari should know this and stop making false claims about his single-handed “defeat of Matatsine”. Buhari knows fully well, that the British Colonial authorities, President ShehuShagari, and others fought these groups in the North both long beforeBuhari became a soldier, and after he had left the army. Buhari needs to admit that this long-running problem has been going on for more than 100 years in the North and he should stop playing politics with the lives of suffering victims of Boko Haram; just because he is hungry for Aso Rock.

One major difference with Boko Haram is they have had more international help from other Jihadist terror groups, than those who came beforethem. They also have the advantage of modern equipment and communications gadgets that did not exist in the past. There have also been allegations, that they have had help in planning some of their attacks.

The Nigerian Government under President Goodluck Jonathan has only inherited the problem of Boko Haram which started as far back as 1903, and which has grown in the modern era because of the influence of the international Jihadists. Many nations with larger economies and military might, like Iraq, Syria etc are using the help of international coalition to fight because they cannot contain them alone. In the end, this problem of more than 100 years, requires more than just a military battle to solve it. Buhari should know that.

The Jonathan Administration is the first government to ever attempt a more comprehensive solution, including the involvement of other governments in the region. In every war, there could be some setbacks, ask Sir Winston Churchill, the great British War hero. There are also multiple socio-economic and other issues underlying this Jihadist problem. President Jonathan’s long term economic, educational, political and military strategy against Boko Haram will finally succeed in ending this 100 year old problem, once and for all.



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