Emir of Kano and the Boko Haram

by Carl Hill

This week the Emir of Kano, Muhammad Sanusi, is reported to have warned Nigeria and the world that starvation in northeast Nigeria could be a reality due the destruction caused by Boko Haram. In an article from Nigeria’s NAIJ.com, the Emir is quoted as saying, “More children from Borno State may die as a result of famine.” He believes that Borno State, maybe the hardest hit by Boko Haram, in the northeast, is so devastated that food will soon be the biggest issue there. “If things continue as they are,” the Emir continued, “then we may soon start seeing the children of Borno like the pictures of those children we used to see in Ethiopia who were dropping dead on the streets, dying of hunger.”

This is a shocking disclosure, coming from one of the major leaders of the Muslim faith in Nigeria. The Emir of Kano, former head of the country’s Central Bank, spoke from Lagos at a meeting of the University of Lagos’ Alumni lecture over the weekend. Kano is located in northern Nigeria and the city is the second largest one in Nigeria following Lagos. The Emir is considered the second highest ranking Muslim cleric in the country. He has been standing against the violent tactics of Boko Haram for some time. He had urged former President, Goodluck Jonathan, to deal more aggressively with Boko Haram.

This public statement against the Islamic insurgent movement has placed him in direct opposition to many political forces in Nigeria that are suspected of secretly backing the radical Islamists in the northeast. A few other Muslim opponents of the Boko Haram have been eliminated over the last few years for taking strong stands against the Boko Haram. In 2014, the Emir of Gwoza was assassinated by Boko Haram gunman as he drove to a funeral. Two other Emirs were in the same convoy but escaped without injury. In January of 2013, the most influential Muslim in Nigeria, the Sultan of Sokoto, dodged an assassination attempt by Boko Haram. The Sultan was protected by his body guard and driver who died in the failed attempt on the Sultan’s life.

The Emir of Kano sees the Boko Haram as the unlawful terrorists that they are. Now, because the government of Nigeria has let the violence persist for too long, he sees other problems emerging that the government will have to deal with. The people of northeast Nigeria are an agricultural people. Subsistence farming has been their way of life for a very long time. The Emir stated, “There is no farming, no fishing and no industry in Borno State. The vast majority of people of Borno wake up to eat breakfast and not sure of where to eat again for the rest of the day.”

Church of the Brethren’s Nigeria Crisis Response is trying to get seeds and other farm materials into the hands of the people of southern Borno and northern Adamawa State this planting season. Together with the EYN Disaster Team, led by Reverend Yuguda Mdurvwa, Church of the Brethren funds are going to purchase these much needed supplies so that the people can plant this Spring and harvest in the Fall. “We are trying to provide the people with something so they can begin to help themselves,” said Carl Hill, co-Director of the Church’s response. “As we can see, the Nigeria crisis in the northeast is not over. It is only entering a new and equally critical phase. Our prayer is that the Church in the US can continue to help.”

We are grateful to the Emir of Kano for speaking out and making us aware of the potential problems that still persist in northeast Nigeria. Jay Wittmeyer, Executive Director of the Church Global Mission and Service, is working on a national Peace Conference that will be hosted by Church of the Brethren along with our sister church EYN. As this Peace Conference is being organized we would like to include the Emir of Kano as he is an important person to be included in this ground breaking work.

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