The kidnapping of a former Minister of Petroleum, Dr. Shettima Ali Monguno, despite his philanthropy, which has endeared him to the people, came as a surprise to many.
During the visit of President Goodluck Jonathan to Borno State in March, it was a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Dr. Shettima Ali Monguno, who led the campaign for dialogue and subsequently, amnesty for the Boko Haram sect. At a town hall meeting, Jonathan had with the people, Monguno advised the president to welcome dialogue with the sect, noting that if not for dialogue, Jonathan would not have become the president of the country.
Further in his argument, Monguno contended that the nation’s founding fathers came together with a spirit of living peacefully together and respecting one another, though with individual differences, “we should not let the labour of our heroes past be in vain. Everyone should sit up and remember that one life lost can never be replaced without a birth.” He told the president that since the battle
with the sect has continued to lead to loss of lives, the proper thing should be done by way of peaceful resolution of the crisis.
To active observers of the issues surrounding the Boko Haram menace, the former minister and the first black chairman of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), is an avowed supporters of carrot approach to the crisis. Indeed, at a point in time, he referred to the insurgents as his sons.
As he led the elders and leaders of thoughts in Borno under the auspices of Borno Elders and Leaders of Thought (BELT) to a press conference last year, Monguno said: “The members of the Jama’atu Ahlus Sunnah Lid Da’waati Wal Jihad (Boko Haram) are our grandchildren, sons and brothers. We are aware of your grievances. We are however appealing to you to ponder on the recent happenings and how our people are subjected to those harrowing experiences…We wish to appeal to you to consider the plight of your people and consider bringing the situation under control.
“We appeal to you to lay down your arms, come back home, re-integrate yourselves and help salvage our destroyed society and economy. Nobody else will do this for us except ourselves. You have the right to live your normal lives like other citizens and go on with your lawful activities as members of our community. All of you should as a matter of urgency come back, confide in us and seek the path of dialogue to resolve all issues you may wish to raise. You need to do that for Islam, for our people and for yourselves,” he said.
However, a few weeks after his advocacy, Monguno was kidnapped by people suspected to be members of the Islamic terrorist group and was ferried away from Maiduguri to somewhere between the Nigerian border with Cameroun. The abduction of Monguno, was described as a stab in the back by people whose cause he was championing After a few days in captivity, Monguno was freed through what people, including the Governor of Borno State, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, who had equally canvassed for dialogue and amnesty for the sect, called moral suasion. They had told the world that no ransom was paid to secure the release of the former minister.
The governor and members of the Monguno family had made persistent appeal to Monguno’s abductors to free him with the victim’s eldest son, Rahama, urging them to consider the age of his father and his philanthropy as well as long time service to the community, nation and humanity. He also pleaded with Nigerians to keep their father in their prayers.
Shettima, in his appeal, used different approaches, including moral suasion, subtle curse and religion. In his appeal contained in a statement by his Special Adviser on Communication and Media, Isa Gusau, the governor said: “Allah places high premium on orphans, adding that in many portions of the Quran that take care of orphans is one of the best deeds before him because His noble Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) grew up as a poor orphan. Allah has clearly described those who help orphans and feed the poor as the righteous ones He is pleased with.
“Those who help orphans and the poor have special place before Allah and this makes our elder statesman, Shettima Ali Monguno, a special person before Allah because over the years, he has dedicated his lifetime to catering for the orphans, widows and the needy, he feeds them, cloths them, takes care of their health and other social needs. He sponsors them for Islamic education, builds Islamic schools for orphans, widows and women, he is a righteous old man as all humans can testify, leaving Allah to be the judge; he is associated with honesty and integrity. This means Allah cannot be happy with anyone that hurts this good servant of His if for nothing because of his help to orphans.
“Monguno is an old man of over 90 years, he hardly eats well because of his age, he takes routine drugs about seven times a day to make up for lack of eating, keeping him in custody away from his drugs can make his health deteriorate very fast, I strongly appeal to his abductors to consider his old age; they should regard him as their own father and grandfather, they should realise that by keeping Monguno away, they are breaking the hearts of many orphans and whom Allah has special interest in; they should realise even during the times of the Prophet when Jihads were fought to liberate Islam.
“Allah abhorred harming old persons, children and women unless if they arm themselves at battle fields; the abductors should realise that they are keeping an old man that is one of the leading voices against bad leadership, against corruption, against oppression; against public freedom; they are keeping in custody, an old man who has over the years raised his voice in defence of the masses and against their oppressors; they are keeping in custody someone who has been advocating for amnesty, dialogue and peaceful negotiation of the crisis in our land, someone who is promoting Islamic scholarship and practice, promoting harmony, tolerance and coexistence
“Someone whose house is open to the poor masses, someone who even in the face of threats, kept fate and continued to visit his old neighbours and family friends to pray with them and extend alms even when he has the option of staying away; they are keeping a defenceless old man who cannot even run away when he sees an opportunity to escape from custody; they are keeping an old man who only deserves their kindness, help, courtesy, respect, admiration and prayers and not to be made to undergo a trauma as reward for doing good and helping orphans; by keeping Monguno, they are discouraging good tidings and empathy for the reward for good is good and nothing less.” Monguno was kidnapped a few days after the Joint Task Force (JTF) had raised the alarm that Boko Haram was planning to kidnap people to raise money for its terrorist activities. According to the JTF, Boko Haram has collected several millions of naira from the Borno State government, which had sent a delegation to get the deal finalised and Monguno released.
The abduction of Monguno underscores the point that the battle against terror transcends morality and other sentiments that have made many members of the northern elite to be sympathetic towards the insurgents’ cause. The reason while Monguno, like many northern elite, had kept quiet was attested to by his son, Rahama who spoke to THISDAY on the development.
“Baba is well and wants to only say that what happened to him, God had ordained. Any good Muslim will know what destiny is, and what Allah has destined, one must accept as the will of the Almighty, to whom we owe everything. He is in good health and grateful
to Allah (SWT), to each and every person who prayed on his behalf, and to his captors for bringing no physical harm to him and deciding to release him. Thank you and may Allah (SWT) have mercy upon us all.”
Yet, what happened to Monguno has been described as an indictment on the Northern elite by observers who have accused the elite of giving tacit support to terrorism by their refusal to condemn the activities of the insurgents. Observers believed that if the northern elite had intervened objectively, by standing on the side of truth and reason, perhaps, the insecurity in the north would have ended a long time ago. It is for that reason that many observers believed that the sect has the support of some of the prominent northern leaders, hence the reason they have established their foothold in those parts of the north where primordial sentiment other than reason has continued to determine their response to the state of insecurity foisted on the north by the terrorists.
In the overall, the indication of Monguno’s kidnap, observers have further noted, is that the country is in dire strait as the issue of Boko Haram is no longer religious or moral but a complex security issue that should be viewed and address as such. While the latest move to clip the wings of the sect through the declaration of state of emergency in the three states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa may go a long way, observers insist that the northern elite have a major role to restore normalcy in the region.