WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE: Meet Aisha Wakil aka ‘Mama Boko Haram’ - Uju Ayalogu's Blog for News, Reviews, Articles and More

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Sunday 14 August 2016

WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE: Meet Aisha Wakil aka ‘Mama Boko Haram’

WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE: Meet Aisha Wakil aka ‘Mama Boko Haram’

The Nigerian army, invoking some legal authorisation, has declared three Nigerians wanted for allegedly having “close ties” with Boko Haram.

Sani Usman, army spokesman, said on Sunday that Ahmad Salkida, the Nigerian journalist known to have access to access to Boko Haram commanders, Ahmed Bolori and Aisha Wakil are “in possession of information” on the conditions and the exact location of schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram from Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, in 2014.

Usman seemed to be sending mixed signals – in one breath declaring them wanted and in another seeking their help to find the kidnapped schoolgirls.

“They must… come forward and tell us where the group is keeping the Chibok Girls and other abducted persons to enable us to rescue them,” he said.

Who is Wakil? Why is she so important in the attempt to rescue the Chibok girls? TheCable will attempt an answer.

On November 17, 2014, TheCable did a story on an elaborate scam perfected by government insiders in the attempt to negotiate the release of the Chibok girls – and it offered a lot of information on Wakil, who called herself “Mama Boko Haram”.

Committee comedy

In April 2013, President Goodluck Jonathan, as he was then, was hoodwinked into setting up the Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution of Security Challenges in the North, otherwise known as the Boko Haram Amnesty Committee, with the belief that it would reach out to the leaders of the sect and end the insurgency.

The stated aim of the committee was to develop a framework for the granting of amnesty as well as work out disarmament within a 60-day time frame.

WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE: Meet Aisha Wakil aka ‘Mama Boko Haram’

The amnesty committee after inauguration in April 2013
When the committee, headed by Tanimu Turaki, then minister of special duties, was inaugurated, it began a tour of the north-east, visiting military formations and gathering information from the military chiefs.

On a visit to Damaturu, the capital of Yobe state, in June 2013, the members were scheduled to see other parts of the state when they were suddenly summoned to return to Abuja “immediately” following a claim that a “major breakthrough” had been recorded.

Hassan Tukur, the principal private secretary to Jonathan, was said to have put a deal together with the help of Wakil, a member of the committee who claimed to be very close to Boko Haram and even nicknamed herself “Mama Boko Haram” ─ a strategy that worked very well.

The committee members were told that a “top” official of the sect, Imam Muhammadu Marwana, had been mandated by Abubakar Shekau, the leader, to sign a deal with the government.

Several government officials were now jumping on the bandwagon in order to have a slice of the action. The office of the secretary to the government of the federation offered to sign the deal on behalf of the federal government, but Jonathan insisted that the committee was fully mandated to act for the government.

High-level hoax

Marwana, in a well-orchestrated drama, told Radio France Hausa Service: “We are seeking forgiveness from the people over the number of people killed in the country. I appeal to those who lost their loved ones to our activities to forgive us and on our side we have forgiven all those who committed atrocities against us.”

Turaki himself told the media: “We have sat down and agreed that Jama’atu Ahlul Sunnah Lidda’awati wal Jihad, known as Boko Haram, will lay down their arms as part of the agreement so as to end the insurgency. Government agreed with ceasefire and will look into ways to ensure that the troops relax their activities till the final take-off of the ceasefire.”

It was all a ruse. Shekau denounced those who said he sent them to sign a ceasefire deal, and to demonstrate how serious he was, Boko Haram immediately launched an attack on Government Secondary School, Mamudo, Yobe state, killing 29 students and a teacher.

But the drama did not stop. Turaki said it was a faction of the group that carried out the attack, and that Marwana led another faction which was genuinely Boko Haram.

Marwana was back on radio, defending his “peace deal” and saying: “I  want to state clearly that we have no hands in the unfortunate attack on the secondary school.”

Wheeling and dealing

The failure of the first deal had been a blessing of sort, as members of the committee became very suspicious. They also became more rigorous in interrogating other impostors who kept streaming to their secretariat.

On one occasion, for instance, when Wakil, or “Mama Boko Haram”, brought a Boko Haram “representative” to discuss with the committee, the impostor was told to get a video from Shekau saying in clear terms that he had been mandated to negotiate on behalf of the sect. The impostor said he could not do that. He was promptly dismissed.

The final straw came when “Mama Boko Haram” again brought some young men, who claimed to be bodyguards of Shekau, to negotiate with the committee. A committee member told the impostors that the security agencies would like to interview them to ascertain their claims. They became jittery. One of them immediately confessed he knew nothing about Boko Haram, that he was a labourer in Abuja who had been recruited to pose as a member of the sect.

All of them, including “Mama Boko Haram”, were immediately arrested and interrogated by the security agencies, but Wakil, whose husband is a retired judge in Borno state, was released in order to save the face of the committee.

A serving government official, who nominated her into the committee and who was believed to be part of the scam, made a strong case for her, saying any attempt to publicly shame her would put the entire job done by the committee in jeopardy. Somehow, his position was bought.

Indeed, Wakil, who is always dressed in niqab from head to toe, had been strongly believed as having direct links to Boko Haram and this clearly made her a celebrity during the work of the committee. Interestingly, in November 2012, she and her husband had been named by another Boko Haram “representative” to negotiate a peace deal on their behalf.

The name of Muhammadu Buhari was even dragged into the list of “negotiators” either to give it some credibility or to stoke the belief that he was complicit in the insurgency. Buhari sternly rejected his nomination.

But Wakil’s fame spread, nonetheless, and she became a frontline member of the negotiating committee until the bubble burst.

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