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Islamic State: Before Caliph El-Bagdadi was Recep Tayyip Erdoğan By Osy Agbo

The Islamic State in West African Province (ISWAP) better known as Boko Haram is a jihadist terrorist organization that was founded in 2002 by Mohammed Yusuf. Following his death and since 2009 the group has been led by Abubakar Shekau. The group started in the Nigerian Northeastern state of Borno but has now grown to involved other neighbouring countries of Chad, Niger and Cameroon. The founding goal was to purify Islam in northern Nigeria and since March of 2015 has declared allegiance to ISIS.

For years before ISIS, Nigeria lived with the unequalled barbarism that is Boko Haram. ISWA has been responsible for the killings of tens of thousands of people and displacement of millions from their homes. At one time, The Global Terrorism Index ranked Boko Haram as the world’s deadliest terror group.

What has remained baffling to so many is how they have maintained a steady flow of cash to finance the insurgency as well as the sophisticated nature of their weapon and armaments.

At the outset, local Nigerian politicians particularly the former Borno State governor,Ali Modu Sheriff was accused of sponsoring the group as a way to get ahead of his political opponents, a charge he vehemently denied. Over time, it became evident that Boko Haram has been enjoying solid patronage from numerous State and non-State actors.

Late last year, a Youtube video was widely circulated by CBN News Channel with a shocking revelation that implicated Turkey as a major supplier of arms to Boko Haram. CBN cited an Egyptian media outlet called Ten.tv as the source in a tape where a Turkish airline official allegedly told an adviser to the Turkish Prime Minister that he felt guilty over the arms shipments to Nigeria. “I do not know whether these (weapons) will kill Muslims or Christians. I feel sinful,” The official was reported to have said.

Prior to the CBN report ,Turkish Airlines had been accused of illegal shippment of arms to Nigeria. In fact, in May 2017, the government of Nigeria made known to AFP that it had intercepted an arms shipment originating from Turkey with 440 pump action rifles at the Port in Lagos. This was just five months after another seizure of a truck carrying 661 illegal pump action rifles that was already cleared at the port. Of course the Turkish government dismissed all the reports.

Recep Erdogan, the Turkish President is a strong man. He is also without doubt a man with big dreams and makes no pretensions about being for the revival of the ancient Ottoman’s empire at least in part ,even if not in full. While campaigning for election as a Prime Minister of Turkey, he once sparked controversy by calling his supporters ‘Grandsons of Ottoman’ which was seen as an affront to the modern day republican Turkey. On a certain occasion, he also welcomed the Palestinian President, Mohammed Abbas into the Presidential Palace in an Ottoman style ceremony complete with guards dressed in costumes representing founders of 16 Great Turkish Empires. The Ankara strongman has been accused of orchestrating a plan to become an modern day Ottoman Sultan. Or should I say Caliph?

Erdoğan was born in Istanbul and raised in a low class neighbourhood of Kasimpasa. He attended Kasımpaşa Piyale primary school and graduated from Imam Hatip school a religious vocational high school, in 1973. One quarter of the school’s curriculum was said to have involved the study of the Quran and the life of prophet Muhammad. At Imam Hatip, classmates called him “hoca” which translates to “Muslim teacher”.

Erdogan’s entry into politics started around 1976 by joining the National Turkish Student Union. In the same year, he also became the head of the youth branch of the Islamist National Salvation Party known as Beyoglu and was later promoted to chair of the Istanbul youth branch of the party.

Erdoğan was the candidate of the Islamist Welfare Party and was elected the Mayor of Istanbul in 1994. He was later stripped of his position, and for a while was banned from political office for inciting religious violence.

He recited a poem that included verses translated as “The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers….”.

He subsequently abandoned openly Islamist politics, establishing the moderate conservative AKP from where he rode to victory ,winning a landslide victory in 2002. Such is the profile of the man and the leader of Turkey.

President Edorgan lives in a body housing two souls. On one end he loves to embrace modernity and pally with the west, negotiating Turkey’s accession to the European Union (EU) as a member state.

At the same time, it appears he prioritizes to champion a world dominion through the emergence of a new Islamic caliphate. All these would have been funny except they are not. The human toll of this grand experiment ricochets across the world but more so in the continent of Africa.

Perhaps it’s all smoke without fire. Maybe it was just pure coincidence that Al-Baghdadi’s last days were spent in a safe haven close to the Turkish border. It just happens that there are too much smoke coming out from this one place. Unfortunately the civilized world prefers to look the other way while the harvest of deaths continues to get richer as the smoke billows from Constantinople to Abuja.

Osmund Agbo MD, FCCP writes from Houston, Texas.

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