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‘I was in the same cell with Mohammed Yusuf’ – The changing face of Asari Dokubo

I was pleased when I heard that Dokubo was expected at the occasion as a special guest. The first time I had anything to do with the erstwhile leader the Niger Delta Volunteer Force was in 2004, when I oversaw an interview and a special report on the man and his activities in the creeks. It was soon after he had surfaced as the face of the Niger Delta militants, during the presidency of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.

Daily Trust reporter Shehu Abubakar was assigned to make the potentially hazardous journey to the Niger Delta Creeks. I did not commission there port from the beginning, my boss then Garba Deen Muhammad did, but he had to go on leave before the assignment was done. It fell to my lot, as the deputy editor of the Weekly Trust, to see that the assignment was executed to perfection.

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I was particularly impressed with the package Shehu brought from the creeks. The interview and report were inspiring tales of courage and a selfless life dedicated to a worthy cause. Though Asari Dokubo was to fall on hard times during his arrest and detention, he still remained something of ahero to me, thanks to the special report on his activities in 2004. You can therefore imagine my excitement when I found out that I was to see him, in the flesh, in July 2011.

Arriving in a green Ankara shirt and trouser with no cap, I was a bit disappointed that he didn’t dress up for the occasion. I mean a Quran class graduation demands something a bit more formal. A flowing Arab Kaftan, an African Kaftan and even a Babbar riga with a cap would have suited the occasion. But I had to remind myself that what matters is what is in the heart. If Mujahid Asari Dokubo had the right quality of faith in his heart, it shouldn’t matter that he dressed too casually for a religious occasion. Like someone said before me ‘God is not deceived by externals.’

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As the occasion progressed Dokubo was invited to speak being the special guest of honour. He voiced the usual niceties and commended the school for a commendable programme. Then he decided to comment on the security situation in the country. Asari Dokubo said and I quote, ‘There is nothing like Boko Haram. I was in the same prison cell with Mohammed Yusuf for months. They were peaceful people. They couldn’t possibly be behind all this violence. Everything you see now is being done by government.’

To someone like me who always questioned the connection between the present violent Boko Haram with the Boko Haram of Mohammed Yusuf, this was welcomed news. I mean coming from a man who shares a common soil with the president, it is amazing to hear that he was pointing an accusing finger in that direction. I planned to write a column piece on that encounter, particularly this declaration by Asari Dokubo, but I couldn’t get down to it for a few weeks. Less than a month later, I received a text message from someone who was advising me to read a paid advert by some concerned Niger Delta citizens, featured in the Daily Trust of that day.

In it these concerned citizens were spitting fire on the plot by northerners to destabilise the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan through the use of insecurity. They condemned the northern elements behind the destabilisation plot and pledged their undying support for the Jonathan administration, and added that they were willing to go to any length to defend it. Among the six signatories to this advert was the clearly legible name and signature of Mujahid Asari Dokubo.

You can only imagine my confusion, but as they say in herein Nigeria, a lot of water had passed under the bridge. No one has any idea what transpired between the time Asari Dokubo absolved Boko Haram of any bloodshed and the time he became an avowed defender of Goodluck Jonathan. Today he has grown further than that. He is now the chief threatened of the North. The one who will have us know that he can cut off oil and food supplies from the Niger Delta to the North. In a recent press conference on the same state of insecurity he attributed to government one year ago, he said the North will suffer in the event of a war caused by the recent security challenges.

In his own words ‘The war will continue forever, if you start a war it will continue forever. We are just waiting, it is we that they are pushing. They will push us to the extent that we will tell Goodluck that you are on your own. Now we want to fight and the guns will start coming out. What will happen is unimaginable in the history of the world. I feel pained because I am a Muslim. I know the North will suffer because not only oil, we will cut them off totally from the coast. No food will go in.’

Imagine this coming from the same man who said Mohammed Yusuf was a peaceful cellmate who couldn’t kill a soul, so someone else had to be borrowing his robes to kill and maim. The least one expects from Asari Dokubo, if he was a sincere Muslim and patriot is to call for more diligence on the part of security agencies to find the actual terrorists in our midst. As someone who claims that the founders of Boko Haram were peaceful, one would expect him to call for more unity among Nigerians in order to hunt the killers among us not to fight the North and cut off our food and oil supplies. In a blatant show of ignorance of his country’s natural resources, Asari Dokubo expects to stop food from reaching us as if we had ever depended on the South for food.

Needless to say, with hypocritical, tough-talking community leaders like Mujahid Asari Dokubo, our nation needs no enemies. When they talk with both sides of their mouths or dance to the tune of whoever picks their bills, they do more harm to Nigeria than any invading army of foreigners will do.


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