As a Muslim, I first came into contact with Okene, the bustling small city lying in the mountains of Ebirraland in Kogi State of North-Central Nigeria, when I was part of a movement of brothers name Tauhidullah wal-Jihad that sought to organize for jihad against Islam’s enemies in Afghanistan and other lands Muslims are being oppressed. We had heard of some brothers in that town who idolized Sheikh Usamah Bin Ladin(May Allah Forgive him his excesses and errors) and the Imaam of Afghanistan, Mullah Umar (May Allah Have Mercy on him and make his grave spacious, aameen), like we did, and who were seeking to get to the battlefields in Afghanistan and Iraq like we were desperately seeking to.
We visited the town after getting in contact with those brothers through a brother from Kano (whom I will call Mallam Sani) who had visited Somalia and had fought with the sheikhs of the Union Of Shariah Courts during their campaigns to impose order on that lawless country, against their enemies. Mallam Sani would later go on to fight and die in Iraq in the ranks of the Islamic Army of Iraq and Al-Qaeda against the Coalition forces. Anyways at the time he was alive and had linked us up with the brothers in Okene, hoping that we could organize jointly and run a campaign to sponsor mujahiduun to go fight in Iraq and Afghanistan(and later Somalia against Ethiopia), and also raise funds for the jihad in those lands.
We spent several days as guests of those brothers, but we could not agree to work together as it became clear that there was no common cause between us. We wanted to go fight in Iraq and Afghanistan to defend the lands of the Muslims and the honour of our brothers and sisters that was being trampled on by the Americans, their local collaborators and their Coalition partners, while the brothers in Okene wanted to prepare and initiate a jihad against Nigeria, something which most of us were not in support of. A minority were in support and these ones wasted no time jumping ship to follow and raise high the banner of Muhammad Yusuf when he declared his jihad.
The difference between us and the Okene brothers was that while we were mostly followers of Amiir Ibn Khattab (of Chechnya fame)and admirers of Bin Ladin (some followed him blindly, but this was not a majority, as Sept 11 was regarded as religiously indefensible by most of us, those who followed him justified Sept 11 on the grounds of they bomb us in Palestine we bomb them in New York, classic Samuel Huntington rubbish), the Okene brothers idolized Anwar Al-Aulaqi and Abu Mus’ab Az-Zarqowi.
Al-Aulaqi was never regarded as a scholar of Tauhiid nor of Shariah nor of Jihad, nor was he a Mujaahid(Bin Ladin was also not regarded as a scholar but he was a Mujaahid), rather he was a man who had been arrested for soliciting (and we knew that in America you get arrested for soliciting a prostitute, you go to jail, you don’t get your case dropped for no reason, some of the people in our movement had lived in the US and had experienced getting arrested for soliciting, first hand) and yet was mysteriously allowed to walk free. And then his strange incitements to commit acts of pure madness like advising people to go on the streets to stab any body as long as the person was not Muslim, scared us especially as he could never produce any shariah backing for such actions, rather the shariah evidences were always in conflict with what Al-Aulaqi was saying. Many of us would later strongly believe that Al-Aulaqi was a CIA false-flag plant to discredit jihad. I still strongly believ that that is a very real possibility, time will tell(just as in the case of the CIA’s terro campaign against Fidel Castro’s Cuba.Yet this was the folk hero of the brothers in Okene. And they terrified us to the extent that we cut short our stay and afterwards broke contact with them.
Over the years I have passively monitored what became of the brothers in Okene, and I was not shocked when Baba and Mustapha who had hitherto been little known suddenly became popular in that town towards 2008-2009, preaching the ideology of jihad against the infidel, oppressive regime of Nigeria, rejecting and denouncing the Sultan of Sokoto and all those Muslims that recognize him as the leader of the Ummah in Nigeria. I was not shocked when many of the brothers in Okene accepted their call and flocked around them.
When Muhammad Yusuf’s emissaries visited the town in early 2009, they were said to have gained a significant number of local recruits who made hijrah (migrated) to the North East to join the uprising when it took off.
But while the local takfiri callers applauded every spectacular operation the insurgents carried out in the North East, they did not pledge allegiance to the Yusufi’s nor did they accept their offers of merger because it made no sense to them that they should migrate to the North East to join the yusufiyya armies, when they had not liberated their home towns from the yoke of the the disbelieving regime ruling over them. Plus, they regard all innovation as disbelief, and all Sufis as disbelievers irrespective of whether they are ghulaat(extremists Sufis like the grave worshippers, saint worshippers etc who are agreed upon by the scholars as apostates and polytheists,), or Sufis who simply partake in minor innovations that are not shirk (polytheism), a blanket takfir that even Muhammad Yusuf knew enough to know was baseless in Shariah. These factors prevented them from merging into the Yusufis both before and after the 2009 uprising.
For close to five years since the 2009 Uprising, the Nigerian government tolerated as these agitators not only openly called for their students to prepare (by physical training, imbibing a culture of secrecy, learning how to use firearms just as the original takfiris aka the Muslim Brotherhood’s founders like Hassan Al-Banna and later leaders like Sayyid Qutb advocated), but also were raising funds and stockpiling arms in preparation for when they would become strong enough to take to the hills around Okene and begin their jihad.
They watched despite constant warnings from concerned persons, Salafi scholars, Izala preachers, prominent citizens from the area as people linked to what was now being referred to by residents of Okene as As-Sunnah attacked a church and killed 19 people, helped to explode bombs in Lokoja the Kogi State capital, and even blew up a radio station which a character known as Abu Mujahid (a student of Mallam Baba) said in a post on Facebook praising the bombing(both account have post have since been taken off facebook) in Ebirra language shortly after it happened was known to be anti-Islam. Another student of Mallam Baba and Mallam Mustafa known only by his first name Ibrahim and using the facebook name Abu Zeekrah(now changed to Abu Banaat) in this post in Ebirra language was justifying the attack and praising it, while asking all commentators to only comment in Ebirra. The five or six people that dared to like the post are also students of these two men, and are open campaigners for a jihad in Kogi State against Nigeria.
Yet the Nigerian securityn agencies ignored this cancer that had kept growing in the town. The followers of these two men are known to openly boast of the massive arms stockpiles they have built in the mountains surrounding the towns, and it was only when it became increasingly clearer over the past weeks that they may soon launch an uprising that the government decided to launch a preemptive attackn on them and the mosque of Mallam Baba he is popularly known.
Locals that I have managed to get in touch with tell me that several soldiers were killed, although they differ in the figures with some saying five and some saying three, while they agree that the soldiers who were killed, died during the storming of Mallam Baba’s mosque and also when the soldiers tried to give chase to the AK brandishing takfiri youths as they ran into the forested hills surrounding the town. Nobody is sure of the whereabouts of Mallam Baba, but all sources agree that he was no where near the mosque when it was stormed.
While the Army may have captured some persons and recovered some weapons, local sources say that many of the takfiri youths have been known to have been moving into the bush where they have been opening new camps in addition to the training camps they have had in the hills over the years. Asked to estimate how many youths have left the town to move permanently into the bush since two weeks back, a local source estimated between 80 and 150 youths may have moved.