Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Azorka Boys, Boko Haram in Ghana, and threats to national security

Wednesday, December 24, 2014
Folks, we want to turn attention to issues regarding national security following happenings involving a Tamale-based group of NDC militants called “The Azorka Boys” at the 8th NDC delegates’ congress in Kumasi. You must have read news reports that 9 members of this group were arrested by the police in Kumasi for acts that were in direct contravention of laid-down procedures. The Ashanti Regional Police Commander, Kofi Boakye, had warned that those seeking to upset the system would not be spared. And his “men” did the job, arresting those “Azorka Boys”. Good job done!!
The presence of this group and others now emerging raises very serious concerns that I want to comment on in this opinion piece. These groups are a major threat to us and must be dealt with. They must be eradicated now before they grow to become intractable. Is anybody listening?

I am particularly concerned that the “Azorka Boys” have a political backing from the NDC pillars in Tamale and that a possibility exists for a replication of this group in other parts of the country (under different guises). The bitter truth is that this politically partisan group of militants will so endanger political interests as to set the stage for something nasty nationwide. Political parties and activists threatened as such will advise themselves. Nothing will prevent political opponents from forming their own groups and preparing them for tasks to prosecute their agenda. Ghana deserves better.
Other militant groups may not be politically motivated but will also constitute a major national problem if let loose. Theirs will constitute a new twist altogether that can be summed up in just one scary word: TERRORISM!
Within that context, we want to draw attention to some peculiarities of such militant groups, regardless of whether they are conceived of as political or religious. They are just not good for Ghana. We have the legitimate security agencies that are supported by the Constitution and must be allowed to function so they can secure the country and its people. There is no need for anything otherwise. Those who feel insecure and are keen on establishing vigilante groups to protect them should be identified and dealt with. So also should their followers be tackled.
The matter becomes more alarming if poisoned with religious extremism as is the case of a happening at Akyim Ofoase. The Daily Heritage newspaper has reported that Islamic extremists have formed a Boko Haram group at Akyim Ofoase in the Eastern Region. They are doing one thing: torturing Muslim women who defy their orders. What do they do the men? Extreme case of male chauvinism to scare us stiff!!
And what are these orders? No Muslim in the Akyim Ofoase Zongo community should transact any business or mingle with Christians in the area. Defiance of this order is swiftly given corporal punishment. According to the newspaper, its preliminary investigations indicated that the Muslim leadership in the Zongo community approved the formation of this replica group of Boko Haram in the Akyim Ofoase Zongo community with the aim of running a pure Islamic community.

One of the victims, Lad Muhammed (who was given over 100 lashes on her back by members of the Boko Haram group as punishment for buying food from a Christian; each member of the group gave her 30 lashes) revealed what happened. We are terribly alarmed!!
The Eastern Regional police command is searching for members this vigilante group, who are believed to possess extreme views on Islam. Five members of the group have been arrested and subsequently granted bail after long hours of interrogation. Three of them are mentioned as 30-yeqar-old Abdullah Sulemana (also known as “Taller); Bukari Musa (28 years old); and Danjima Sheriff (17 years old). Other members of the group are, however, at large and are believed to be hiding in Nima, a suburb of Accra.

(See http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.php?ID=340263)
Some disturbing questions: When was this group formed without the security authorities ever knowing anything about it? Where did they punish those victims? In the open without anybody taking any action to inform the government agencies? Where were the local police or other security agencies at the time? How about public-spirited citizens? How about the traditional authorities in Akyem Ofoase? And why would such a group originate from Akyim Ofoase? What about Akyim Ofoase is fundamentally Muslim to warrant the formation of such a group there to unbalance socio-cultural lives in the area?
Now, to Alhaji Sharabutu (the National Chief Imam) and his lieutenants. Is that what Islam can offer Ghana? Of course, I know that there are various Muslims sects operating in Ghana and won’t be myopic as to narrow everything down to the orthodox sect led by Alhaji Sharabutu. But he has a better exposure than the leaders of the other sects (purely, a matter of doctrinal differences when it comes to sectarianism; not so?).
This development in Akyim Ofoase is really alarming but not unexpected, especially given the fact that we have for long cautioned the authorities against their lackadaisical attitude to the Boko Haram menace in Nigeria and predicted that cells of this terrorist group might already be in existence in other countries or that they might begin being formed wherever possible. What is happening in Akyim Ofoase vindicates us, even as it sets off the alarm bells. Where else will this madness surface?
Although some may think that the Akyim Ofoase case is an isolated one, everything points to a reality that should alarm us all. Those willing to hide behind Islam to act as if they have chosen particular parts of the country of citizens for a particular vengeance will exploit the situation. That is why the government must not continue to detach itself from happenings (whether as is the case of Boko Haram in Nigeria or its counterfeit/replica being exposed now as existing in Ghana).
Truth be told, grounds exist for just anybody to do anything to endanger limb and property. Religious extremism may not be our problem in Ghana but from what is rearing its ugly head, we can tell that the possibility exists for those angry at not getting their way—whether politically or economically—to manipulate the sentiments of idle hands to cause mayhem under the guise of Islamic fundamentalism (as is the case of this Ghanaian version of Boko Haram) or any other sect (even though Christians or followers of other sects hardly translate religious bigotry into acts of violence on the scale of Boko Haram). But we must not take chances.
I particularly want to cite the activities of the Azorka Boys for emphasis. This group is known for the danger that it poses to Tamale and its environs. It is a politically motivated group that shouldn’t have been tolerated thus far; but it seems to have been nurtured by those who cannot be touched because it is their party (NDC) that is in power. And the Azorka Boys are unarguably pro-NDC, apparently because they are managed by Sofo Azorka, an NDC pillar in Tamale.
There is no justification for this group to exist. It is dangerous to Tamale and the country as a whole, as we can infer from what some of its members did at the NDC congress in Tamale, constituting themselves into a security wing of the NDC and confronting the legitimate state security apparatus. Whatever happened on the occasion speaks volumes and strongly calls for stern action by the government to clamp down on the activities of this group before the situation deteriorates. And that deterioration is likely to take us by surprise.
I have a hunch that members of this group may all not be Muslims to be manipulated on the basis of Islamic fundamentalism; but they are potential recruits for those bent on exploiting the situation to advantage, political or otherwise. The government must not tolerate this group because it can easily become a cell for the terrorist groups operating in other countries. The Nigerian Boko Harm can easily recruit members of this group to spread its campaign of terror.
Conditions that spawn terrorism exist everywhere in the world. In our part of the world, where political activism is high and political intolerance is our main worry today, nothing should be left to chance. Politically oriented groups of “machomen” and others labelled as personal security guards may turn out to be something different if pursued by those supporting such initiatives.
I recall the situation before the 2000 elections when rumours circulated that the late Major Courage Quashigah was putting together plans and programmes of action toward establishing a “private army” for the NPP. Much was done to prevent anything of the sort.
The PNDC/NDC has also had its versions of such amorphous bodies, even if streamlined and given official recognition as CDR’s, Civil Defence Organizations (CDO’s) or People’s Militia. At least, in this case, they seemed to have been brought into the open and supported with the tax-payers’ sweat, blood, and toil. But they left their ugly marks on the security complexion of the country. Some were behind anti-social activities such as armed robbery, rape, and destabilization of national security. The records exist to prove so.
We are more than concerned at this stage that cells of terrorist groups may be in existence in our country without our official security organizations doing anything to clamp down on them. A few years ago, when it was reported that militants of the Niger-Delta confronting the Nigerian Establishment were relocating in Ghana, we raised our voices in complaint. We warned the government not to accommodate them and suggested that measures be put in place to prevent the abuse of Ghanaian hospitality. What has become of that stance is anybody’s guess.
So, if we are being told today that a replica of the Nigerian Boko Haram has been formed in Akyim Ofoase, we needn’t look further afield. We just have to question our leaders about what they’ve done to prevent the overflow of such waywardness into our country. Ghana is recognized and respected worldwide as an oasis of peace and stability in a volatile West African sub-region and one expects the government to secure that impression.
If for nothing at all, one credit that nobody can take away from Rawlings is his government’s ability to secure the country against anything detrimental to national stability. He sacrificed everything for Ghana’s peace and stability and is respected as such. Those that dared him ended up none the wiser or better. We expect President Mahama to know that being Chair of ECOWAS means a lot and that he has the mandate to prevent terrorism from becoming our woe. After all, the inability of the governments of the various West African countries to solve problems so the citizens can live decent lives is painful. No more pain should be inflicted on the people. Those that are pursuing the agenda of terrorism should be identified and dealt with. That is the charge!!
I shall return…
·         E-mail: mjbokor@yahoo.com
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