By Isa Gusau
Hajiya Naja’atu Muhammad is not naïve, she did not err, she knew she was telling lies when, at the end of last month (January, 2023) she went on television, to libelously link Vice Presidential candidate of the APC, Senator Kashim Shettima with sponsorship of the Boko Haram terrorist group.
Naja’atu (and those who may have scripted her play) wanted to use her ‘just divorced’ relationship with the APC, to present herself as a former ‘insider’, in a position to make some revelations. It is typical of defectors, especially when they are ‘well motivated’ or looking forward to it.
At her ‘must-win-a-new-husband’ interview, Naja’atu tried using one incident to associate Shettima with Boko Haram. She cited that a notorious member of the Boko Haram, Kabiru Sokoto, was arrested at the Borno Governor’s official lodge on T.Y. Danjuma Street, Asokoro, Abuja, back in January 2012, when Kashim Shettima, was less than one year old in office, as Governor of Borno State. That to her, was enough to call him a terror sponsor.
In holding to that argument, however, Naja’atu contradicted herself in at least, the following four ways:
1. Kabiru Sokoto was arrested at the Borno Governor’s official lodge on January 14, 2012 and for that, Naja’atu called Kashim Shettima a sponsor of Boko Haram. However, what Naja’atu deliberately omitted was that sometime in 2014, she was in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital and during her visit, Naja’atu stayed at the official residence of Kashim Shettima while he was Governor of Borno State.
Naja’atu spent two days or so, with Kashim Shettima and his family in the Government House, and that stay happened two years after Kabiru Sokoto was arrested at the Borno Governor’s lodge.
Now, if Naja’atu truly believed that Kabiru Sokoto’s arrest implied a link between Boko Haram and Kashim Shettima, would she have considered it safe to travel and live in the same house with the same Kashim Shettima, and in Maiduguri, where the Boko Haram was still commanding territories at that time?
I knew about Naja’atu’s visit to Maiduguri and her stay at Shettima’s residence, because I worked closely with Shettima as his media adviser throughout his first and second terms as Governor of Borno State.
2. Kabiru Sokoto’s arrest back in January, 2012 at the Borno Governor’s official lodge happened during the administration of then President Goodluck Jonathan, who was leader of the PDP, while Shettima was then an opposition Governor under the ANPP (which later fused into APC). After Kabiru Sokoto was arrested, security agencies investigated the circumstances of Kabiru Sokoto’s arrest.
It is public knowledge that as sitting President in the PDP, Jonathan openly had issues with Kashim Shettima (in the then opposition ANPP). Shettima openly criticised Jonathan’s handling of the Boko Haram while Jonathan openly threatened Shettima (see Premium Times, February 25, 2014, ‘Jonathan slams Borno Governor, Shettima’).
Now, if the PDP-presidency of Goodluck Jonathan, which investigated Kabiru Sokoto’s arrest had found anything criminal associated with Kashim Shettima, will the PDP-presidency have spared an opposition ANPP Governor, especially one that the PDP-presidency openly criticised? Would Kabiru Sokoto’s issue not have given the PDP a strong story-line to use in associating Shettima and the entire APC with Boko Haram ahead of the intense 2015 election?
3. At an Abuja public presentation in April 2018, when the Bring Back Our Girls movement held a lecture on Chibok girls, Naja’atu Muhammad, reminded her audience thus, as I quote her:
‘I have been part of a committee that investigated the atrocities of Boko Haram…’ Naja’atu announced (see The Cable, April 18, 2018, ‘Naja’atu Muhammad: Terrorism has become a multi-billion dollar industry’).
Now, as she re-confirmed, Naja’atu was part of that committee which ‘investigated the atrocities of Boko Haram’, but how come she never, on the basis of what should have been her committee’s findings, raised any alarm against Kashim Shettima, whom she not only lived with at his residence in 2014, but even accepted to work with, in her membership of the Tinubu/Shettima Presidential Campaign Council (until her sack)?
4. At that notorious interview, in which she accused Shettima, Naja’atu conveniently refused to reveal that the security committee she served in, which investigated the atrocities of Boko Haram, had based on its findings, strongly commended Kashim Shettima’s contributions to the fight against Boko Haram.
The committee identified Kashim Shettima’s 2013 role in organising, formalising, training, equipping, deploying and funding over 10,000 youth under the Civilian JTF, Vigilantes and Hunters, who used their local intelligence to help the military chase out Boko Haram out of Maiduguri and to fight along them at other frontlines in over 20 Local Government Areas.
It is on record, and no one can erase that, Kashim Shettima in 2013, applied to the then National Security Adviser during Jonathan’s presidency, and convinced the presidency on the need to approve a partnership between the Borno State Government, the military, the DSS, police and para-military, to involve combat-ready youth with local intelligence in the fight against Boko Haram (see The Will, September 26, 2013; ‘Borno Govt Trains first batch of 800 civilian JTF members’; Aljazeera, May 31, 2014, ‘Nigeria’s Civilian JTF has taken it upon itself to fight against Boko Haram’; Premium Times, September 4, 2014, Bama attack: ‘Borno Governor meets security heads, Civilian JTF’, Premium Times, February 1, 2015, ‘Calm returns to Maiduguri as soldiers, Civilian-JTF foil Boko Haram attack; TVC, June 6, 2019, ‘Counting the gains of civilian JTF’).
Few months after approving Shettima’s request, President Goodluck Jonathan in August 2014, praised youth of the Civilian JTF, being funded by Shettima, for their gallantry and patriotism in the fight against Boko Haram (see Vanguard, August 2013, ‘Jonathan commends Civilian JTF in Borno’).
Beside Jonathan, heads of the military and commanders who operated in Borno State while Shettima was Governor, including the current Chief of Defence Staff, General Lucky Irabor, who served as Theatre Commander, all testified to how Shettima incredibly supportted the fight against Boko Haram.
In fact, a delegation from the Defence Headquarters, led by the then Director of Operations, had in May 2013 in Maiduguri, revealed that then Governor Kashim Shettima was even helping the military with valuable security information he was gathering from community leaders, most of which had served as actionable intelligence in the military’s fight against Boko Haram.
Truth is that Shettima has incredibly contributed to the fight against Boko Haram as all these instances suggest.
Meanwhile, taking us back to the arrest of Kabiru Sokoto, which opposition elements seem to isolate in trying to reverse Shettima’s history of impeccable service as Governor, I appeal to you, dear reader, to read an investigative news story that was published on July 15, 2022, by The Cable news, to which none of Nigeria’s security establishments has so far faulted, since the publication.
Thank you for reading!
Gusau, Special Adviser on Public Relations and Strategy to Governor Zulum, served as Adviser on Communications and sSrategy to former Governor Kashim Shettima (March 2012 to May 2019).
FOR THE RECORD
July 15, 2022.
REVEALED: How Boko Haram kingpin plotted to kidnap Shettima’s children at Borno lodge
Kabiru Umar Sokoto, the convicted Boko Haram bomber, was hatching a plot to kidnap the children of Kashim Shettima, then-governor of Borno state, when he was arrested in January 2012, a confidential memo has revealed.
Sokoto was the mastermind of the Christmas Day bombing of St Theresa Catholic Church in Madalla, Niger state, which killed at least 37 people and injured 57 others.
He was initially arrested at the Borno governor’s lodge in Asokoro, Abuja, on January 14, 2012 before he escaped from police custody and was re-arrested a month later in Taraba state.
In a confidential security memo dated Thursday, June 14, 2012, that is just coming to light, Sokoto was reported to have infiltrated the Borno governor’s lodge in a plot to kidnap the children of Shettima, who had relocated them from Maiduguri, Borno state, to Abuja for safety reasons.
According to the memo, which was submitted to the presidency, Shettima — who had spent barely eight months as governor — had been warned that Boko Haram was plotting to kidnap his children for ransom.
Shettima, who is now the vice-presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), decided to relocate them — two girls and a boy — to Abuja and enrolled them at Turkish and British schools in Wuse II and Gwarimpa.
‘DISGUISED AS BORNO MAN’
The memo, signed by a senior security official, alleged that Sokoto, whose identity was yet to be made public after the Madalla blast, disguised as a “Borno man” to gain access to the lodge — where Shettima’s children were staying.
He reportedly sneaked into the lodge on the weekend of January 14, 2012 when there was less traffic.
In what was described as a “major security breach”, he allegedly pleaded with a guest at the lodge to help him pass the weekend as he claimed to be stranded.
The guest, whose identity was not revealed in the memo, had been officially allocated accommodation at the lodge for one night on the directive of Ahmed Sanda, then-permanent secretary in charge of the governor’s lodge and the Borno liaison office, both in Asokoro.
‘TO BE KIDNAPPED FOR N1 BILLION RANSOM’
The memo suggested that Sokoto was planning to kidnap the children on Monday, January 16, 2012, on their way to school.
He was arrested by the police after spending a night at the lodge.
Shettima had moved the children, all below 10 years old at the time, to Abuja in December 2011 — about two weeks before the foiled kidnap.
He had relocated them from Maiduguri on the advice of security officials and there were suggestions after Sokoto was arrested that some of them might have links with Boko Haram and were obviously passing information to the terror group.
Boko Haram was said to be planning to demand a ransom of N1 billion, which was valued at $6.3 million at the time.
‘ONLY ONE SECURITY ESCORT’
The children were living at the governor’s lodge under the care of two aunties and an uncle, while Nana, their mother, frequently shuttled between Abuja and Maiduguri to run her office as first lady.
The report faulted the fact that only one security detail was escorting the children daily which made them highly vulnerable to kidnapping.
Shettima later beefed up security at the lodge and moved his children to boarding schools.
A senior security official contacted by TheCable denied knowledge of the 2012 memo but said the alleged plot was consistent with how Boko Haram carried out its operations.
Shettima later became a target for assassination by the terrorists who kidnapped hundreds of Chibok schoolgirls in April 2014.
“I am not aware of this memo but I know Kabiru Sokoto was arrested at the lodge. He later escaped from custody while being taken for a house search and was re-arrested,” the official said.
“Some officials in charge of the lodge were invited and questioned. There was a terror investigation. The truth, however, is that nothing was established against them. It was just lax security and poor judgment which could have been disastrous. Otherwise, they would have been charged to court.
“Remember that President Goodluck Jonathan was not on good terms with Shettima and if anything untoward was found against the governor, it would have been made public or leaked to the media. He was an opposition governor.
“It was simply a case of stupidity that someone could so cheaply gain access to a governor’s lodge, even if the governor was not there at the time.”
On December 20, 2013, Sokoto was convicted by a federal high court in Abuja and sentenced to life imprisonment for the Madalla bombing.