The Rise and Fall of Duhu: Lessons for today’s political thugs


The Rise and Fall of Duhu: Lessons for today’s political thugs

Musa Duhu alias Musa Banana was once the dreaded mob leader of Borno state. He was the leader of what can be termed as a co-partnership or stock company for the plunder and disturbance of the city of Maiduguri at a time. Under Duhu, Borno The Home of Peace, got transformed into the home of violence. It is good that we make it abundantly clear that it was not Boko Haram that transformed Borno in to the epicenter of mayhem and bloodletting but Duhu and his mob under the watch of politicians who lacked self control. He ruled and reigned as the undisputable lord of vice in the city of Maiduguri until when the emergence of Boko Haram terrorists group led to his quick downfall and eventual disappearance from the political landscape of Borno. There is still a general consensus among Borno people that his mob group, the ECOMOG still constitutes a large portion of Boko Haram fighters. While many people say Duhu is dead, a vocal minority still believes that he is still alive but allowed to relocate to another place.


Musa Duhu is a descendant of the few Chadian immigrants who came in to Nigeria through the Ngamboru axis in the early seventies. It was said that these second wave immigrants of Chadians who are known as Chado-Nigerians built the University of Maiduguri Teaching Hospital, the University of Maiduguri and other infrastructure in Maiduguri like the State Secretariat. His alias Banana was derived from his ethnic tongue Marba. The actual lexicon is Bananda which means my friend in English but for reasons beyond the scope of this article, it became synonymous with the Marba ethnic nationality. At the moment many of them have been assimilated by the Kanuris especially those who got converted to Islam while the rest are identified as Banasandari. Unlike Laka who are domiciled in Adamawa, the Banasandari is not a registered Nigerian ethnic group. It is also important to mention here that the Banasandari is entirely different from the popular Godogodo that comprises of the Sara and Ngambai people who fought in the First and Second World Wars. In fact the personal security detail of the first and only Prime Minister of Nigeria,Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa is Godogodo.The Godogodo is registered in Nigeria as Laka.

Ali Modu Sheriff

Musa for reasons best known to him decided to take the sobriquet Duhu which actually means darkness. There is a strong possibility that he adopted this nomenclature because he wanted to be dreaded by all and sundry. Musa Duhu has little formal schooling and it is not certain if he is literate in Hausa or English. He speaks Kanuri and Hausa and some little Marba. Until the emergence of Senator Ali Modu Sheriff in 1998 under the UNCP and later under the ANPP, little was heard of Musa Duhu as he and his gang were just petty criminals who mostly engage themselves in bricklaying and general construction work. The military regimes that have been ruling Borno saw no reason or justification to give room for thugs to operate, and it is only when there is occasional fuel scarcity in the state that one sees or hears about thugs selling fuel through the black market.

Under Duhu, Borno The Home of Peace, got transformed into the home of violence. It is good that we make it abundantly clear that it was not Boko Haram that transformed Borno in to the epicenter of mayhem and bloodletting but Duhu and his mob under the watch of politicians who lacked self control. He ruled and reigned as the undisputable lord of vice in the city of Maiduguri until when the emergence of Boko Haram terrorists group led to his quick downfall and eventual disappearance from the political landscape of Borno.

All this will change when Sen. Sheriff indicated his interest to contest for the senate to represent Borno Central in the National Assembly. Research carried out by this magazine revealed that the history of political thuggery dates back to 60s as documented evidences showed the NCP and other parties like the Action Group also used political thugs wielding deadly and dangerous clubs and weapons.Immediately after independence, the politicians in order to retain political seats with their regions went into various acts that were both politically unwise and immature. They adopted a style that was an impediment to democracy and good governance. They recruited, trained and empowered thugs to harass, intimidate and victimize perceived political opponents those opposing views against their political ambition. For example the popular Fani Koyode is known to control a large number of violent political thugs. This development made the NCP under the late Sardauna to also recruit their own thugs to protect them in Lagos against the wiles of the AG thugs.If Abraham Kaplan defines politics as the sharing and shaking of power,what will be if thugs came in and compounded the issue?It will be transformed into chaos.
And so when Sen. Sheriff parted ways with the elderly and conservative Governor Mala Kachalla in 2002 and eventually made the fine politician, peace loving business man cum politician to move out of the ANPP into the Alliance for Democracy (AD), Sen. Sheriff began a massive campaign among young people to enable him become governor of Borno state. He rightly concluded that Gov. Kachalla was with a few, inconsequential elderly politicians who pocketed campaigns funds and eventually sidelined the youths. Senator Sheriff popularly known as SAS capitalized on this mistake and monetized the entire political landscape of Borno for the first time in the history of the state. His ability to impress or intimidate his supporters and opponents with money and flashy cars plus his inborn charismatic vibes made him to defeat the incumbent Gov. Kachalla at that time. Another important factor that contributed to Sen. Sheriff’s victory at that time was the apparent disenchantment of civil servants from southern Borno who dumped Gov. Kachalla for Sheriff. Until the emergence of SAS, Borno didn’t witness any political upheaval under the administration of Gov. Kachalla.

One of the foot soldiers of SAS who contributed to the success of the campaign was Musa Duhu. Although political thugs like Musa Baban Hajja were on the scene before the appearance of Duhu, the former took political thuggery to unimaginable levels.SAS started his Machiavellian tactics by introducing the then Duhu and his boys with easy money and gradually empowered them until when Duhu was able to recruit a lot of young men and few ladies to form what was then known as ECOMOG. The ECOMOG became so powerful that it members commanded respect and privileges more than the civil servants of the state. It was common at that time to see a member of the ECOMOG slapping a senior civil servant or a security officer. This was something that even powerful organized crime syndicates like the American Mafia will never do; assaulting a police officer.  In fact it is public knowledge that members of the ECOMOG have on numerous occasions manhandled the Governor’s cabinet members. Whether this was done with or without the approval of Governor Sheriff can’t be ascertained but he was aware of their lawlessness and wild escapades. Duhu and his dreaded ECOMOG mob massacred a lot rival political thugs and also maimed and killed many innocent civilians. It reached to a appoint where ECOMOG boys performed services similar to assassins only that in their own case they charged small fees like 10,000 to 100,000.When the Boko Haram insurgents started their hit and run attacks immediately after Muhammad Yusuf was killed, they made use of mostly ECOMOMG boys to assassinate a lot of police officers, para military officers, university lecturers and businessmen.
Because of the high level of illiteracy and poverty among youths in Borno and indeed the entire northeast region of Nigeria, many a politician can organize a deadly unit of political thugs within a few days whose loyalty will be absolute.SAS started with financial inducements of 10,000 each and later went ahead to procure large amounts of Mitsuba brand motorcycle for them. Empowerment! Yes, this was what SAS called it. It didn’t take long before Duhu began to cruise around in the metropolis inside Toyota Land-cruiser four wheel-drive. Between 2003-2007 Duhu even purchased fleets of cars for his foot soldiers and it was customary of him to openly reject donations or gifts less than 500,000 from politicians. Basically what the ECOMOG did was extortion but SAS also gave them money from time to time. They controlled loan sharking, extortion, protection rackets, drug trafficking, blackmail and religious violence to plunder the resources of non Muslim businessmen at that time. A minute proportion of these ECOMOG thugs invest in some small businesses especially the mobile phone and accessories trade in the popular Kasuwan jagwal market.
Duhu was married to two wives and he has children with both. Unconfirmed reports has it that he has four kids with his wife, Bintu who was very popular, and a kid with the newly married second wife before he was apprehended by government security forces after Boko Haram sect went violent.
It is good to mention here that it is not only SAS that is guilty of using violent political thugs even though SAS and Gov. Attahiru Bafarawa of Sokoto took the enchilada to monumental height. Politicians like Umara Kumalia, Mohammed Abba Aji, Kashim Imam, Mamman Ndurkwa and a host of others also have their political thugs. In fact even Gov. Kashim Shettima maintains a unit of political thugs controlled by one Hassan Haske to contrast that of SAS who was known as Duhu. Haske means light in the English tongue. These political thugs received cars and cash from the state government. Some of them even received Toyota Highlander jeeps from the state government.
Now that the electioneering time is approaching and there are strong indications that the political landscape of Borno will be very heated and tensed because there is apparently no one who has been selected and groomed by the incumbent to take over after him. Kitchen cabinet members of the Governor and his associates like Senators Abu Kyari, Bakaka Bashir Garba, Mohammed Ali Ndume, Honorables Adamu Lawan, Ali Dalori, and Prof. Umara Zulum may if care is not taken make use of armed political thugs to eliminate one another. Many observers say that the violent deaths of erstwhile gubernatorial flag bearers like Awana Ngala and Fannami Gubio were all politically motivated and have nothing to do with Boko Haram.
It is high time that the Federal Government criminalizes the creation, maintenance and use of political thugs in whatever forms because it is anti democratic. Investigations carried out by this magazine revealed that politicians are responsible for the existence of thugs because they are always the ones who encourage, arm and finance the thugs. They provide dangerous weapons and narcotics to the thugs. Recently we have observed that some of the politicians also use the narcotics and illicit drugs they provide for these thugs.
In conclusion it will be good if young people in Borno can take time to ponder and reflect on the life and times of the once most dreaded overlord of vice and strong Borno ECOMOG mob leader, Musa Duhu. Any reasonable youth will readily come to the conclusion that political thuggery is a waste of time and energy. Why? Because SAS abandoned Musa Duhu when the chips were down. The political thug is a disposable item. Instead youths in Borno should begin to demand for greater accountability from public officials, shun politicians who cherish violence and embrace politicians who stand for economic empowerment through skill acquisition, capital and education.


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