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Nigerian Governor’s Order To Arrest Dead Singer Exposes Gaps In Security Communication

A song produced by a dead singer eulogising a terror kingpin in northwestern Nigeria four years ago has recently gone viral and the governor’s order to arrest him has exposed security communication gaps in the sub-region.

Last week, the governor of Sokoto State in northwestern Nigeria, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, ordered the arrest of a musician who produced a song glorifying terrorist kingpins operating in the region. 

After terrorists burned travellers to death in the state, the song became viral, demonstrating how powerful terrorists are in the areas they occupy and control. 

Terrorists in the region govern large swaths of land, designate district heads, open and close markets, levy taxes, and carry out administrative functions.

The governor, speaking following a security meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, said the musician’s detention would serve as a warning to anyone who might in the future assist or eulogise terrorists. 

“We ordered for his arrest to serve as a deterrent,” Tambuwal said. To link the order to arrest the musician with recent security developments in Sokoto State, the governor added that his actions “further inform why I advised that the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces should consider because, in those places where there are security challenges, the inhabitants are willing to be trained on weapons handling.”

However, HumAngle’s research and subsequent interviews with other listeners revealed that the song, which recently went viral, was released around four years ago.

According to sources, the singer, whose real name was Muhammadu Dan Shanawa, was also arrested at the time. He ultimately died — although it’s yet to be confirmed whether this was in the hands of security personnel or at home. 

Bello Turji, a terror leader operating mostly in Sokoto and Zamfara states, is eulogised in the 13-minute song, which describes him as a formidable character terrorising people and murdering security men. 

Come forward the gallant 

Stand up Turji, the slayer of men 

Elephant who kills a bull 

Turji, you’ve dominated rivals 

A man above men 

  • The chorus of the song reads. 

Similar songs, such as those recorded by Late Gambu, a traditional artist, in the 1980s and early 1990s, were popular in northern Nigeria, according to sociologist and a university lecturer, Sulaiman Idris, and have encouraged criminality and violence. 

“Listening to such songs breeds criminals and outcasts in society. Listening to the songs of singers like Gambu can have an impact on a person’s character, and if he isn’t careful, he might start practicing what he hears in the verses,” he said. 

According to Rilwanu Ibrahim, a resident of eastern Sokoto, the singer wrote the song as a form of ransom for the terrorists who kidnapped his mother during a period of high tension between them and local vigilantes. 

“For nearly four years, everyone in eastern Sokoto, Isa, and Sabon Birni has known about this song, who the musician was, and where he recorded it,” Basharu Guyawa, a resident of Sokoto and activist based in Isa Local Government Area, stated

Guyawa said the song was recorded in Tsibiri, Muradun Local Government Area, during a naming ceremony for one of the terror kingpins, Halilu Sububu’s newborn baby. 

“It was confirmed that the song (i.e. Dan Shanawa’s) was the cause of his death because that was the time when there were many clashes between terrorists and vigilante groups in Zamfara State,” Guyawa said. 

He recalled that vigilante groups organised a special operation that resulted in his arrest by security forces, and no one had heard anything about him since. “A reliable source revealed Dan Shanawa, Bello Turji’s singer, had died,” he added. 

The singer cited the names of some terrorists in the song, including Auwalu Daudawa, who were alive at the time the song was released. They later engaged in internal clashes that resulted in their deaths. 

Sarkin Zango, you are greeted

Sarkin Hudu, I praise you 

We should stand up and greet officer 

Dugu MD I salute you 

The hammer that beats men

I must greet you Isah 

Daudawa, we must greet Auwal 

We go together, a deft among men” 

Daudawa was a gang leader and mastermind behind the school kidnapping of over 300 pupils in Katsina in December 2020. 

Even after his pardon by the Zamfara state administration in February 2021, Daudawa had returned to the terror field and was killed by internal rivals in May 2021.

Communication gap or security loopholes?

The governor’s order to arrest a musician who made a song four years ago, according to those impacted by insecurity in the northwest, demonstrates a significant gap in the government’s grasp of the security situation.

“If the Sokoto government has never heard of this song, the performer, or where it was produced, it shows that they are unconcerned about the terrorists’ operations and motivations,” Guyawa stated.

Several citizens in northern Nigeria have accused the government of being unconcerned about their predicament.

Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) and other organisations have claimed that both the federal and state administrations have shown little interest in reacting to the attacks in the region.

“A large number of attacks go unrecorded or ignored by the authorities. Some of the attacks and pillages are simply reported on social media, but the government does little afterwards,” said Rufa’i Garba, one of the Secure North protesters.

The Nigerian government has been told to take decisive action against terrorists who are killing innocent citizens in the northern region of the country, and not only issue condemnations each time there is an attack.

A coalition of activists from the region, who organised peaceful protests across different states, expressed dissatisfaction with the ongoing carnage, and requested the “Nigerian State to  convene a national summit on security with the sole purpose of ending this state of anarchy.”

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Aliyu Dahiru

Aliyu is an Assistant Editor at HumAngle and Head of the Radicalism and Extremism Desk. He has years of experience researching misinformation and influence operations. He is passionate about analysing jihadism in Africa and has published several articles on the topic. His work has been featured in various local and international publications.

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