//Abdulhamid Kolo Bukar, Maiduguri//
The Nigerian Social Media and even the traditional media have played significant roles in shaping Nigerians’ views and opinions about critical State matters, in recent times. Chief among these critical State matters, in my view is the issue of Boko Haram.
Ironically, over the years, Ahmed Salkida, who claims to be a Nigerian Journalist, with “credible contact” with Boko Haram, have been allowed for too long to inundate Nigerians with his own narratives on his contact with the group, with little or no one offering another perspective on what his true mission is.
Interestingly, those who have kept sealed lips, have done so, largely out of fear of being singled out for attack by the group. But now that things have taken a different turn, with my brothers and sisters in Maiduguri, moving freely unhindered, I feel compelled to let Nigerians into the true identity of this so called Nigerian Journalist, following the resolve by the army to get to the root of the matter, this time around.
As I was putting my thoughts together, I realised that all those who have risen in Salkida’s defense do not really know him. For if they do, as I do, they would perhaps have been shouting ‘hang him, hang him.’
Like Salkida, I have also practiced in Maiduguri. In fact, I am back there now. But unlike Salkida, my report on the activities of the group dates back to 2002, when the group was only known as Nigerian Taliban. Whatever contact Salkida has with the group, must have started after the crushing of the group by the Obasanjo-led administration in 2004.
Like me, most Journalists in Maiduguri, came in contact with Salkida, around 2007. Before the 2009 uprising in Maiduguri, we have always suspected him to be a member of the Boko Haram, an allegation, he had always denied. However, following our persistent inquest, he confessed one day to us that he was part of the group before, but had since severed relationship with it.
If the SSS Director and the Police hierarchy at the time will be willing to cooperate with the army, I know for a fact that up till 2009, when Maiduguri witnessed that deadly uprising, Salkida acted as an informant to the Police and the SSS. However, unknown to these government agencies, he was also revealing information about their security strategies to the Boko Haram group.
Contrary to his claim, one of the reasons he was almost killed in the cross-fire at the time was that, while the army was getting set for the war against Boko Haram, I think the second day or so of the uprising, Salkida, had the temerity to ask the security operatives, where the Armoured Tank will be positioned. I am sure that is a journalistic question too?
Also, contrary to his claim, that he alone had access to the ‘bad guys’ most of them know us, and can even identify us through our voices. So they do call us, at will. Although, sometimes, through Salkida, a conference call is usually arranged to talk to us.
Datti Ahmed’s Angle
Till date, most Nigerians, do not know the real story about the botched dialogue, meant to be headed by Dr. Datti Ahmed. But all my colleagues in Maiduguri know who bungled it. I hope they will be willing to cooperate with the army and other security agencies on this matter. The army must be discreet too, in getting this information from them.
Initially, Salkida claimed that he knew nothing about the dialogue then. But as it turned out, both Dr. Datti and Shekau confirmed in their separate interviews that Salkida arranged it. Some of us too were skeptical about the proposed dialogue then, because none of our Boko Haram contacts spoke to us about it. However, one afternoon, Salkida called us and arranged for us to speak with some supposed members of the group at the premises of BRTV (Borno Radio Television.) Those we spoke to confirmed that Shekau, the then leader, indeed knew about the proposed dialogue. After the interview, Salkida again called us to put the story on hold, until he clears from Shekau. We waited for three days, no news from him.
But while we were still waiting, Dr. Datti, issued a statement from Kano, pulling out of the dialogue. His major reason was that the information about the dialogue had been leaked to the press. Like most of my colleagues, I was confused over the development, because Salkida arranged the press interview. Two days or so later, Shekau spoke to us, saying he actually sanctioned the proposed dialogue, but that he was pulling out owing to insincerity on the part of the government. Shekau also said several unprintable things about Salkida. Salkida, called and pleaded with us to remove every aspect about him, from the story, we obliged him, for old time sake. I doubt if Shekau, knew the true story of how the proposed dialogue was bungled, before his death.
Hassan Tukur, former President Jonathan’s aide is alive. The army and anyone who knows him can contact him. Salkida’s ambition and greed was responsible for the botched dialogue. He actually wanted to chair the committee. When that was not feasible, he tried to use a Kaduna-based activist to chair it, when that too failed; he impressed it on the committee to demand for huge sums of money. The demand for money and Salkida’s refusal to present some members of the group, as demanded by the Presidency, including Salkida’s leakage of the moves to the press, actually bungled the dialogue. All these happened in 2012.
Salkida Relocates to Dubai
And by 2013, Salkida relocated to Dubai, over alleged threat to his life, yet he announced to us by himself where he was relocating to. If indeed, his life was under threat and he was running for his dear life, would he have announced his destination? But today, if you read his interviews, he will tell you it was Nigerian Journalists who revealed his location.
One thing I have observed, and you may also cross-check, is that, since his relocation and following the army’s intense and sustained bombardment of the group, the group’s activities on the social media reduced drastically, a thing making me to conclude that after the arrest of Abu Kaka and his successor, Salkida, took over as the spokesman of the group. And I have a few instances to buttress my point here.
One, after the 2014 raid of Kondunga, which I believe strongly led to the death of Shekau, shortly after the army announced his death, Salkida tweeted that Shekau was hale and hearty. Hear him: “Mark my words: I have it on authority that Shekau is well and alive. The picture going round is not the person who torments us with his group.” I am sure, this is how Journalists report? Only a spokesperson uses such strong words to drive home his points. If he is not the group’s spokesman, what is he?
Again, while we all were celebrating the liberation of some towns then from Boko Haram’s hold, especially Kondunga, in 2014, Salkida, did a lengthy piece, where he said among other things that “Kondunga was a turning point for the Nigeria Army but the journey to an assured future is still long and tough. Nigeria must take this fight away from the pages of newspapers and confront it overly. We are yet to get it right but let us pray for victory for Nigeria.” Come off it, we all know that terrorism strives on propaganda. When Boko Haram was always in the media, I am not sure I read any criticism from him then, assuming it is true that the army’s successes then, were mere propaganda.
He went further to say that, “so far, no town taken by Boko Haram has been reclaimed by the Nigeria army. We were only able to prevent Kondunga and Maiduguri from falling. Success in the war against terrorism should be felt by those that are affected most, and not just in the media.”
Truth is, once he noticed the army is making any headway, he tries to underplay the successes of the army, so that government can look in his direction. It was after his long piece, in 2014, that some persons within the Jonathan’s administration invited him again to help secure the release of the Chibok girls. And he not only honoured the invitation (from those he claimed wanted to kill him), but also collected huge sums of money, hung around Nigeria for a while, and disappeared again, saying government was not serious. What I suspect, I have no any credible evidence to prove this though, is that he shares whatever money he gets from the government with the group, otherwise, the group will not insist in using him all the time.
If you watch the latest video carefully, the person who spoke on behalf of the Boko Haram group said they would only deal with government through some Journalists that they (Boko Haram) know. The truth is, they know only Salkida, because he is one of them.
And like this latest video, released by Salkida, it was meant to undermine the successes so far recorded by the army, and to force government to again invite Salkida, for another round of bargain. I pray and hope the Buhari government will not fall for this latest scam.
However, watch it! Do not be surprised, if after reading my piece, they come up with some names of some us in Maiduguri. Do not buy it. It is a scam. This, in brief, is Salkida, the ‘Nigerian Journalists’ Nigerians do not really know.
Bukar, writes from Maiduguri