Monday Column by Emmanuel Yawe
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In August last year, the Nigerian Army released a press statement which made instant global news headlines. In the statement, three Nigerians were declared wanted for their alleged links with Boko Haram. They were a Nigerian journalist, Ahmed Salkida and two other persons – Ahmed U. Bolori and Aisha Wakil.
All Nigerian news media used the statement lavishly. Not to be left out was the international news organs – CNN, VOA, BBC, Aljazera etc. And then my handset started ringing non stop. Regular readers of my column of course know my views about Ahmed Salkida and the Boko Haram scourge. I have always maintained that our security agents have been unfair to the young resourceful reporter. The two other people declared wanted by the army were and still are complete strangers to me.
Some of the callers were sympathetic that my blue eyed boy was in great trouble while others gloated that the long arm of the law had eventually caught up with the Boko Haram member masquerading as a journalist. Having followed Ahmed Salkida’s encounters with the security agents since the out break of Boko Haram, I kept my cool – knowing that our security agents had bungled yet again in handling the poor boy.
My elementary knowledge of security matters is that you declare a person wanted when he or she is refusing to honour invitations by law enforcement agents or evading lawful arrest. To the best of my knowledge, Salkida did not shun invitations from security agents nor was he on the run. In fact because I was very informed about his travails, I encouraged him to come back to Nigeria from exile after Buhari won the 2015 elections, assuring him that a more responsible government than that of Goodluck Jonathan was in place.
I do not know whether he took my advice seriously but I know that he came to Nigeria two times at the behest of Nigerian security agencies. He held meetings with them and also briefed me on how he was cooperating in the efforts by the security agents to end the Boko Haram horror. Sadly, from my discussions with him, I am not sure that the security agents appreciated his efforts and the great potential in him to bail our country out of the Boko Haram dead end. I had told him while he was abroad that there was a change in government and more responsible people had taken over. I am not sure he shared my optimism in the new set up. He was still dealing with the same security people with the same mental status and if there was a change in government at the presidency, it did not go deep enough. That was my understanding of his dilemma at that stage.
Suddenly, the same Nigerian security system he was taking grave personal risks to cooperate with woke up one day and declared him wanted – exposing him to his host country and the international community as a suspected terrorist of the deadliest terror group in the whole world. It was just unbelievable!
It did not take long before the blunder by the Nigerian Army was exposed. On hearing from the media that they were declared wanted, the two other suspects resident in Nigeria Ahmed Bolori and Aisha Wakil promptly reported to the people who declared them wanted. But as it turned out, the same institution, the army, which made the announcement with glee that the duo was wanted did not know what to do with them now that they showed up.
Given the current global fight against terrorism, Ahmed Salkida was forced to relocate back to Nigeria. A great show was made of his humiliation at his point of departure and entry into Nigeria. No country wants to play host to an agent of a terror group as deadly as Boko Haram. He has also relocated his family to Nigeria.
The declaration of Ahmed Salkida and the two others as wanted men over Boko Haram goes a long way to demonstrate how our security agents are getting it wrong in the fight against Boko Haram. It shows how innocent people can be framed and branded Boko Haram when in fact they can be of use in the fight against the insurgency. Ahmed Salkida and co are lucky to be alive today but others who have been wrongly branded like them have been killed summarily.
During the Goodluck Jonathan era I had tried to make a case for Salkida, using my contacts in that government to see if he could be given a more sympathetic hearing. I went close to Nnamadi Sambo, who as Vice President was the highest official of northern origin in that government. In my naïve thinking, since Boko Haram was northern in origin, it behoved on him to be in the forefront of governments efforts to find a solution to it. I discovered that even as the Vice President, Nnamadi Sambo had little knowledge of what was going on in the war against Boko Haram. Col Sambo Dasuki was the man in control and since I did not have a relationship with that one, or anybody close to him I gave up.
Col Sambo as Jonathans National Security Adviser I was told had complete control of the Boko Haram Desk. He broached no interference from nobody, not even the Vice President. Revelations after the 2015 elections have made me know why he held that desk so tightly.
The fight against Boko Haram was unfortunately reduced to the fight over control of bucks – big bucks. President Jonathan voted huge sums of money for the fight. When that vote was exhausted, he borrowed billions of dollars to prosecute the same war. Col Sambo the NSA and his generals had a field day swimming in money. With so much money to share, there was very little interest in what was going on in the war front and even less that the insurgency should end.
History appears to be repeating itself. The recent decision by the State Governors to donate $1billion from the Excess Crude Account to fight Boko Haram is case in point. The legality of this donation is clearly in doubt. The National Assembly and not State Governors have powers to appropriate funds from the Federation Account.
In any case why does the country need such massive arms and armaments to fight a rag tag army. It is all because of greed and corruption. What the fight against Boko Haram needs more is not arms and armaments. We need accurate intelligence. Sadly, people like Ahmed Salkida who could help with such intelligence are hounded and wrongly branded.