Who Is the Boko Haram Commander?

By Eric Elezuo

A former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria and Presidential Candidate of the African Democratic Party (ADP) in the 2019 general elections, Dr Mailafia Obadiah, buzzed the Nigerian political and security landscape penultimate Tuesday, when he alleged during a live radio interview that a serving Northern governor is the commander and sponsor of the dreaded Boko Haram sect.

There are 19 known northern governors, and so the question, who is Dr. Obadiah referring to? Who is the commander of the Boko Haram sect.

Founded in Maiduguri in 2002 by Mohammed Yusuf, who was killed in 2009, Boko Haram, a deadly organisation, known for it guerrilla war-like activities has since been led by Abubakar Shekau and recently by Abu Musab Al-Barnawi after a splinter group supposedly emerged.

According to Wikipedia, when Boko Haram was first formed, their actions were nonviolent. Their main goal was to purify Islam in northern Nigeria. However, after the death of Yusuf, the group became violent and highly radicalised with increasingly sophisticated attacks, initially against soft targets, but progressing in 2011 to include suicide bombings of police buildings and the United Nations office in Abuja. The group is credited with the deaths of tens of thousands of people, displacement of about 2.3 million others, mass abductions including the Chibok saga of April 2014 where over 276 school children were taken.

Since March 2015, the group has been aligned with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and was at one time the world’s deadliest terror group according to the Global Terrorism Index. In September of the same year, the Director of Information at the Defence Headquarters announced that all Boko Haram camps had been destroyed, much as attacks from the group continued unabated, in addition to President Muhammadu Buhari’s declaration in 2019 of the group being “technically defeated”. The attacks have not ceased however, but have escalated to a wider proportion.

In the midst the terrorism, speculations have been rife about who is behind the terror group just as accusing fingers have been pointed at some key personnel. Earlier, a former Anglican clergyman, Stephen Davis, blamed a former governor of Borno State, Ali Modu Sheriff, saying he initially supported them, but no longer needed them after the 2007 elections and stopped funding them. There is also Senator Ali Ndume, who was accused. Both men however denied the accusations.

Presently, the likes of Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, have come under fire over alleged fraternity with the terror group. The suspicion placed on Rufai was made manifest owing to his revelation in 2016 that he paid herdsmen to stop the killings in Southern Kaduna. He explained that the perpetrators of the killings foreign herdsmen who suffered losses during the post 2011 election crisis. According to him, they came back for revenge, and at the end of the day demanded compensation, for which he paid.

Fast forwarding to present, Obadiah’s allegation opened yet another can of worms. Reports did not substantiate his claims with the names of the supposed sponsor of the sect. However, he narrowed his accusation to 19 men including: Aminu Masari (Katsina), Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano), Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto), Simon Lalong (Plateau), Abubakar Bello (Niger), Bala Mohammed (Bauchi), Babagana Zulum (Borno), Samuel Ortom (Benue), Yahaya Bello (Kogi), Abdulrahman Abdulrasaq (Kwara), Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi), Nasir El-Rufai (Kaduna), Inuwa Yahaya (Gombe), Mohammed Badaru Abubakar (Jigawa), Abdullahi Sule (Nasarawa) Darius Ishaku (Taraba), Ahmadu Fintiri (Adamawa), Mai Mala Buni (Yobe) and Bello Matawalle.

The case, according to a human rights activist, who craved anonymity, is like the case of someone will betray the Lord, and the twelve disciples are confused among themselves, asking “Lord, is it I?”

The jittery governors, who is believed to have a Judas, have described the allegation as ‘weighty’, asking the security operatives to immediately carry out investigations.

In a statement signed by Makut Macham, Director of Press and Public Affairs to the Governor Lalong, who is the forum’s chairman, the group noted thus:

“The forum, which has been working with the federal government, security agencies, community, civil society, traditional and religious leaders as well as development partners to defeat terrorism, banditry and other forms of criminality in the region finds the allegation by Dr. Mailafia very weighty, which deserves further investigation.

“We, as Northern governors, have met severally to discuss insecurity in the region and the nation at large where we did not only condemn the activities of terrorist groups such as Boko Haram, bandits and other criminals but also engaged the President and all heads of security agencies in finding solutions to the problem.

“To now say that one of our members is leading Boko Haram is a serious allegation that cannot be swept under the carpet. We demand an immediate and thorough investigation.”

The Boss reported how Obadiah was invited by the Department of State Security, and drilled for over six hours. The former CBN executive however, did retract his statement, maintaining that he was sure that of his utterances during the live interview with Nigeria Info 95.1 FM in Abuja.

He said: “During the lock-down, the insurgents were moving and distributing arms and ammunition across the country. We have met with some of their repentant high commanders, they have sat down with us not once, not twice.”

The Federal Government, in July had reintegrated about 601 ex-Boko Haram terrorists including 14 foreign nationals from Cameroon, Chad and Niger into the society, a move that attracted condemnation more than applause.

Here are some of the 19 governors in the eye of the storm:


The two term Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai was born on February 16, 1960 to a Fulani family in Daudawa. He lost his father at the age of eight, and was sponsored through his early education by an uncle in Kaduna.

He was educated in Barewa College at a time when former President Umaru Yar’Adua was the house captain of his dormitory. In 1976, he graduated at the top of his class, winning the “Barewa Old Boys’ Association Academic Achievement” Trophy. El-Rufai attended Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, where he received a bachelor’s degree in Quantity Surveying with first class honours.

In 1984, he received a Master of Business Administration from Harvard Business School. He has since attended several professional and post-graduate programs, including the Georgetown School of Foreign Service of Georgetown University in Washington, D.C and programs on privatization and leadership.

El-Rufai has been battling albeit, unsuccessfully the one sided killings in the state where the Christian dominated Southern Kaduna has suffered casualities from Fulani herdsmen.


A former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Bello Masari, who is serving his second term as the governor of Katsina state, was born on May 29, 1950. He is a native of Masari village of Kafur Local Government Area.

Masari’s Katsina, which incidentally is the home state of President Muhammadu Buhari, has become the centre point of banditry in recent times with many deaths recorded.


The Governor of Sokoto State, who also serving his second term, was born on born January 10, 1966. He also served as the 10th Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Tambuwal is a product of the Usman Dan Fodio University, Sokoto, where he studied Law, graduating with an LLB (Hons) degree in 1991. He completed his one-year compulsory legal studies at the Nigerian Law School, Lagos, obtained his BL and was called to the Bar in 1992.

Besides studying for his law degree, he attended several courses abroad including: Telecoms Regulatory Master Class–Bath UK, 2004; Lawmaking for the Communications Sectors –BMIT, Johannesburg, South Africa, 2004; and Regulating a Competitive Industry-UK, Brussels, 2005.

Tambuwal has had his own fair share of skirmishes in the fight against terrorism, banditry and herdsmen.


Zulum is a first term governor of Borno State, who a cross section of stakeholders believe is making efforts at leadership. A professor of Soil and Water Engineering, Zulum was born on August 26, 1969.

He studied at the University of Maiduguri, where he obtained a degree in Agriculture Engineering. He proceeded to the University of Ibadan from 1997 to 1998, where he obtained a master’s degree in Agriculture Engineering. In 2005, he enrolled for a PhD in Soil and Water Engineering with the University of Maiduguri which he completed in 2009.


Yobe State governor, Mala Buni was (born on November 11 1967. He is the current caretaker chairman of the All Progressives Congress. He was previously the national secretary of the APC.


Born on June 18, 1975, Kogi State governor, a businessman turned politician, is in his second term as governor. The youngest of six siblings, Bello studied at Kaduna State Polytechnic Zaria in 1995 and obtained an accounting degree from Ahmadu Bello University ABU Zaria in 1999. Yahaya Bello further enrolled for a Masters program in Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria where he obtained Masters in Business Administration (MBA) in 2002. Bello became a chartered fellow of the Association of National Accountants of Nigeria in 2004.

He was privileged to become governor after Abubakar Audu, who originally won the election died before the results were officially announced.


The Kano governor was born on December 25, 1949. He served as two term deputy governor to Rabiu Kwankwaso before emerging governor in 2015.

In addition to Qur’anic education, Ganduje attended Advanced Teachers’ College, Kano between 1969 and 1972 before attending Ahmadu Bello University, where he graduated with a Bachelors in Science Education in 1975. He also obtained a master’s degree in applied educational psychology from Bayero University Kano in 1979 and later returned to Ahmadu Bello University from 1984 to 1985 for a Master of Public Administration degree. He received his doctorate in Public Administration from University of Ibadan in 1993.

With many others toeing the line, Nigerians are desirous of knowing who the Boko Haram commander is.

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