Decoding Boko Haram: The Regional Ambitions and Permutations

October 20th, 2012 *edited 10/22

NewsRescue– Beyond the government silence on Boko Haram, its sponsors and affiliations, beyond the media failure to investigate this unique terror phenomenon in Nigeria. Beyond the public’s frustrations and anger at this Northern stemming reign of terror; NewsRescue decided to figure out who Boko Haram are, where they are from and what they represent.

Our investigative team presents to you the simple, overlooked facts about this obscure, yet conspicuous organism that has presented a unique type of terror threat, before unseen on the planet. Boko Haram targets blindly, they are accused of and have taken responsibility for over 1000 bombing deaths per year for the last 2 years, these include, Churches, Mosques, government buildings including the UN building in Abuja in 2011; they also target media houses and telecommunications infrastructure.

The Kanuri and the Fulani

Nigeria in the 70’s was looked at as having simply three ethnic groups, the Hausa’s in the North, the Igbo’s in the East and South and the Yoruba’s in the South-west. As time passed, people got more informed and realized that there were many other groups, many almost as large as and rivaling these three major ones. And many of these unrecognized groups, hated more than anything, being filed under some of the three main groups. Indeed there are over 500 unique ethnic groups in Nigeria according to

In the late eighteenth century, insecurity characterized the Hausa and Borno- Kanuri states of Nigeria. Many were disenchanted with the state of affairs, and in a revolution against this, the famous Fulani Muslim warrior, Shehu Uthman Dan Fodio overran Nigeria’s north. In 1809, he founded the Sokoto caliphate. By virtue of his reign and work, including writing over 100 books on religion, government, culture and society, Dan Fodio, an urbanized Fulani, invariably led to a Fulani elite culture in northern Nigeria, with most ruling or ambitious households embracing the ‘Fulani’ label.

Certain parts of the north were not conquered by the Dan Fodio, Fulani empire. Included in these were the Argungu in the North where Kebbi rulers holed up, and important to this piece, in Borno, where, though the mai was overthrown, the Al Kanemi fashioned a powerful resistance and forced the Fulani to retreat west and south. The Al Kanemi then supplanted the eight hundred year old Safawa Dynasty ruler of Borno and established his lineage over these Kanuri people.

To cut the history lesson short. The north ended up having two major independent dynasties: The Sokoto Hausa-Fulani caliphate, and the Kanuri Al Kanemi dynasty.

But the thwarting off of the Sokoto Caliphate by the al Kanemi with help of Shuwa Arabs who he chattered to join his military ranks, was not the only feud between these two dynasties. The Kanuri Al Kanemi also contested with the Sokoto caliphate with a barrage of literature, books and letters, in an ideological battle. This he did knowing that the strength of the Dan Fodio regime was not just military, but via a theological, legal, political and civil document foray.

Boko Haram, a Kanuri Epi Center

With this very clear line recognized, between the Hausa-Fulani, under the Sardauna of Sokoto as traditional head and the Borno-Yobe et al, Kanuris, who take religious and traditional directive, not from the Fulani, but the Shehu of Kanuri Borno, we immediately see a vital aspect of Boko Haram’s history and roots that has been largely ignored by most.

Chukwu Jideani of the Pilot, rightly classified and described:

The Kanuri Jihad and the Ruin of a Nation

In its proper and distilled nature the so called “Boko Haram” issue is at its root a “Kanuri Jihad” aimed at over throwing the existing order established by the over 200 years old Jihad of “Uthman Dan Fodio” . Like Dan Fodio whose Jihad was aimed at rooting out societal ills, ineffective government and religious impiety and led by one ethnic nationality –the Fulanis; the Mohammed Yusuf Maidugiri based movement was said to have started out preaching against bad and ineffective leadership by the circular government as well as the traditional and religious leadership in the north east and this movement was also mainly led by one ethnic nationality – the kanuris. Read More…

Boko Haram is not a Hausa-Fulani phenomenon

Boko Haram is a revolution that stems from the center of the Nigerian Kanuri empire. The major states and parts of the states involved are- Borno, parts of Yobe, parts of Bauchi, parts of Gombe and where many Kanuri reside. The Kanuri, though, like the Ijaw are known to widely disperse and acculturate in their host communities.

In analyzing any urban renegade insurgency as in Boko Haram, it is essential to separate strategic leadership and interests from tactical leadership, interests, tools and soldiers.

Senator Zanna

It is glaring that Boko Haram has most of its essential strategic leadership among the Kanuri people. On October 19th, 2012, a Boko Haram commander, Shuaibu Bama was arrested in a sitting senators domain. Senator Ahmed Khalifa Zanna conceded according to media reports, that upon the Nigerian security forces beating up his family children, the kids brought out the commander, who happens to be his sister’s son/his nephew.

Without question, his family and possibly himself knew of this youth’s operation as commander of this deadly, merciless terrorist sect. Senator Zanna has since declared that his nephew was actually arrested in a house belonging to ex-governor and kingpin, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, also a Kanuri. Ali Modu Sheriff has been attributed to have created and initially armed these thugs for dirty political purposes, before they evolved and possibly he lost control over them.

Zanna is not the first Kanuri senator to be implicated. Another Senator from Borno, Mohammed Ali Ndume has been arrested since November 2011, even though very not surprisingly, the Nigerian government and judicial system allowed him escape to Saudi Arabia. He too has been powerfully implicated as a Boko Haram mastermind. Boko Haram’s founder, Mohammed Yusuf was of course a Kanuri from Borno, as is the new face of the group, the alias, Abubakar Shekau, who is from Shekau village in Yobe state.

Many other arrests have been alleged to have occurred in and linked to prominent Borno, Kanuri government officials and their residences. Non-Kanuri’s, including the Hausa-Fulani are frequently hired for Boko’s dirty jobs, this characteristic of the organization was clearly expressed by an arrested member:

Abu Qaqa:

“At a point, some of us thought suicide bombing was ‘cowardice’, but confronting the leadership with such a position would’ve come with a price: death.

“What was bad about those handpicked for the suicide mission was that all of them were non-Kanuri. They were always Chadians, Nigeriens, Camerounians, Hausa, Fulani and others.

“No Kanuri. That was why some of us had divided opinion on it.” Read More…

What are the interests of this Kanuri based sect?

The question to ask is- what can the Kanuri radical interests be? Before answering this question, it must be noted that the ruling Shehu of Borno, does not appear in league with Boko Haram and he himself has been targeted by this group of traditional Kanuri fanatics. It is possible that they for one, do not recognize his reign and wish among other interests, to replace him. The Shehu was born in Damagum, Yobe State and not Borno and only returned to inherit the throne.

So who are the people at strategic levels, with the know-how, limitless recourse and sophisticated ability to protect, arm and provide the high grade support, to sustain the recruitment and maintenance of the radical fanatic hoodlums coordinating tactical operations?

It is impertinent to ask- what and who converted the initial Boko Haram, dime a dozen group of rabble-rouser fanatics, into this sophisticated level of equipped terrorists with state-of-the-art equipment?

Traditionally one of the richest dynasties in Africa, the states under the Kanuri banner are now known as some of the poorest states in the federation and world, and as per Nigerian politics, they have progressively been losing a foothold on power. This feature of the region, certainly aids the flourishing of the ‘franchise’ at tactical and strategic levels.

Senator Mohamed Ali Ndume {AllAfrica}

When you think about the Kanuri, it is essential to remember the person of no other than late president Abacha. He, like a few other of his political peers, is suspected to originally be from Chad and not even Borno, though the man with his proud Kanuri ethnic marks, claimed Kano state. He set up and funded one of Nigeria’s first terror networks.

Sani Abacha

The assassination of Kudirat Abiola, was suspected to be the handiwork of a terror network, established by Abacha. Abacha’s national security chief, Ismaila Gwarzo has long been fingered in the running of a network of assassins, via the ‘strike force’, and he had access to immeasurable wealth by virtue of his position. Gwarzo has been accused of stealing an estimated $2.45 billion from the Nigerian Central Bank. The Abacha – created paramilitary ‘Strike force’, was an elite force, trained abroad, in North Korea, etc.

It is possible that the wherewithal and security force created by Abacha could be what is let loose as Boko Haram for political goals. Knowing that terrorism requires sophisticated military and tactical know how, is it possible that the Abacha apparatus is the origin and foundation of the deadly Boko Haram? We must ask, where is the Gwarzo money and where is the Abacha ‘Strike force’?

Next, the rivalry between Borno State Governor and king maker, Ali Modu Sheriff, and Mala Kachalla, comes into mind, the governor’s brother, Goni was murdered as was his cousin, ANPP Deputy Zonal Chairman, Awagana Ngala. Could some of this be a feud between these two politicians?

And then, when thinking about those with influence, possible motives and ability by action or inaction to modify events in this region, the Kanuri politician who likes to call himself, ‘King I be’, Baba Gana Kingibe, must be remembered, being another most powerful Kanuri indigene, also suspected to have origins outside Nigeria, Niger to be precise, with his years of ambition to rule Nigeria.

He is most certainly not feeling too good right now after being sacked by the Yaradua government. This happened on Yaradua’s return from the hospital in Saudi Arabia, to ‘realize’ that in his absence, Kingibe who being the Secretary of the government, and was the official number 4 and administrative number 3 man, was already printing posters and planning his campaign for presidency in the hope of Yaradua’s demise. That’s ‘beef’ between Kingibe and Yaradua and current president GEJ (Goodluck Ebele Jonathan).

The Rise and Fall of Baba Gana Kingibe

Baba Gana Kingibe

Kingibe’s first sin is indubitably his insensate ambition to become Nigerian president and, perhaps, the first university-educated Northerner to do so, as evidenced by his total lack of interest in state politics and offices. Yar’Adua, ironically beat him to that goal. In reality, however, Kingibe has long been groomed for leadership.  In addition, he is eminently well tutored and therefore qualified for national leadership tasks. Having been a foreign service officer, an ambassador, a principal officer at the supreme military headquarters, a political director in the cabinet office, secretary of the constituent assembly, minister of interior, minister of foreign affairs, minister of power and steel, a member of the Inter-Congolese Facilitation team,  and a special representative of the AU [African Union], his resume is an enviable one.  Fittingly, renowned Nigerian blogger, Dr. Wumi Akintinde cited Kingibe, amongst others as “a recurring decimal in the Nigerian political equation.”

In active politics, Kingibe has been chairman of a major political party, a vice presidential candidate, a presidential candidate and, most recently, Secretary to the Government of the Federation.   He was on the Abiola-Kingibe Social Democratic Party (SDP) ticket that won the annulled 1993 presidential elections, considered the freest and most credible in Nigeria’s history.  These, unquestionably, are very impressive credentials, except of course, that BGK is also a man with hefty political baggage and the attending detractions and enmity.

For starters, many disdain Kingibe because he is well versed in Nigeria’s military anti-politics and has been a key beneficiary.  Secondly, he is very outspoken to the point of being arrogant. Nevertheless, it is much to his credit that he can easily mix such bluntness with his fine diplomatic skills. However, if Kingibe has committed a cardinal political sin, it is the widely held belief about his presumed betrayal of Chief MKO Abiola and the June 12 cause.   In 2007, Ubanese Nwanganga summed up the angst against Kingibe with these acerbic words:

BGK has demonstrated that he has no conscience. He has no conviction. He is like a prostitute, who engages any number of different men a night just for her money. There is no attachment to such relationships. She wants the money and how it is made is immaterial.” (see The Return of Baba Gana Kingibe) Read More…

Kingibe: Sacked by the Katsina Mafia

By Tobs Agbaegbu
Sunday, September 14, 2008

Babagana Kingibe loses battle for influence at the presidency with his sack as secretary to the government of the federation last week

Babagana Kingibe had gradually lost influence at the presidency. Unknown to many, he had been having a running battle with other key members of the administration who have come to be known as the “Katsina Mafia.” His sudden sack was largely the handiwork of that group.

But sources also said that Kingibe also partly contributed to his own fall. He was said to have been over-ambitious in government and was openly undermining the office of the president and that of the vice-president, Goodluck Jonathan.

He was one of the most trusted members of the administration after it took off in earnest in June 2007. Gradually, he became a key figure, a power broker and even assumed a larger than life posture. But last Monday Septmeber 8, Babagana Kingibe, diplomat and politician was unceremoniously fired by President Umaru Yar’Adua.

The action, the first major decision to be taken by Yar’Adua less than 48 hours after his arrival in the country from his controversial trip to Saudi Arabia for medial attention, confirmed reports that had been making the rounds. Read More…

External Shareholders and Foreign elements

There is no doubt that there are non Kanuri Boko Haram members and shareholders. These are people who see a unique advantage of the militancy of this group that is more up to date in the enactment of terror than are the Nigerian security services in proactive crime deterrence.

And as southern gangs were used to establish certain regional and even national leadership, so also do some of these stake holders, utilize the Kanuri extremist cult, Boko Haram for pursuing their interests. This is why we see related terror activity in religiously and ethnically perturbed Kogi state.

We also have heard of other powerful Nigerians, Jerry Gana, a CAN (Christian Association of Nigeria) leader, who hails from the Middle Belt and has been pointed to as having some sort of affiliation with the group. Media has it that he bailed out group founder, Mohammed Yusuf, from Jail, not once, but twice.

The Northern controversial leader and outspoken pro-secessionist, Dr. Ibrahim Ahmed Datti has also been fingered as being affiliated with this Kanuri organization. The fiery cleric, who was behind the institution of Shariah law in Nigeria is known to have been a mentor to Mohammed Yusuf, and recently was publicized as an intermediary to conduct government talks with the sect. Talks which he pulled out of when his involvement became public.

Foreign interests and connections to Boko Haram can never be ignored, as Nigeria is  a world top oil producer and hence an important state in the global rush for a new colonization of Africa. Chaos, being a  usual opportunity for military intervention and occupation, and the creation of a ‘New World Order’, as top US Elite leader, Eisenhower said during Obama’s inauguration.

But overall, strategic command of terror stems from the Kanuri leadership, who are also in charge of tactical operations. It will be recollected that Abu Qaqa II was easily murdered by the sect leader, due to his being a non Kanuri. Here is an excerpt on that event, from Thisday:

Abu Qaqa II was believed to have been killed on the instruction of the leader of the sect, Abu Shekau, for attempting to back out of their reign of terror.

He was said to have tried to denounce the sect after being trailed intensively by security agents, which forced him to change locations on several occasions.

The news of his killing coincided with the disclaimer by Vice President Namadi Sambo that the Boko Haram attacks have religious undertones.

Abu Qaqa II, whose real name is Mohammed Anwal Kontagora, was from Kontagora in Niger State. He adopted the name Abu Qaqa in February after the original Abu Qaqa, also known by many aliases, including Abu Dardaa, Mohammed Shuaibu and Abu Tiamiya, was arrested in January.

Kontagora, like his predecessor, was non-Kanuri, so the decision to terminate his life by the Boko Haram leader, as has transpired with other non-Kanuri members of the sect, was said to have been decided summarily. Read More…

It is essential for security services and the general populace to be well informed on all characteristics and demographics of this problem that plagues west Africa as a whole. Profiling the problem helps to identify it, recognize it and better deal with it. In considering the solutions to this problem that destroys the north, the Hausa-Fulani, the Igbo, Yoruba, and other groups in the North and across Nigeria that are plagued by the Boko Haram reign of terror, must recognize and address the issues erupting from the Kanuri empire. And, working with the decent leaders, help the Kanuri people overcome the mess.


Hamza Suleiman, Gary Frist and Lekan Abayomi contributed to the article


July 6, 2013 updated flow chart