This is Ahmad Salkida, the ‘wanted’ journalist who knows BOKO HARAM inside out
The Nigerian army on Sunday declared Ahmad Salkida, a Nigerian journalist, and two others wanted, owing to their “links” to Boko Haram.
Of the three people declared wanted, Salkida is seen as the main target, after he tweeted a link to the latest Boko Haram video showing about 50 Chibok schoolgirls.
WHO IS SALKIDA?
Salkida is a 41-year-old Nigerian journalist from Borno state who had previously worked for Daily Trust and Blueprint newspapers, with a strong focus on reporting terrorism in Nigeria.
Blueprint, it would be recalled, was the newspaper that published the picture of the suicide bomber that attacked the Nigeria Police Force headquarters in Abuja on June 16, 2011, narrowly missing the then inspector general, Hafiz Ringim.
That was the first known case of suicide bombing in Nigeria.
According to Salkida, his first training as a reporter started with Insider Weekly, a newspaper in Abuja, back in 2001. He got his job with the newspaper with a primary school certificate, and a bout of valuable information.
He was born into a Christian family, and said he was a Christian for a good part of his teenage years, before moving to “free-thinking”, and converting to Islam in 1997.
Salkida is the only Nigerian journalist to have interviewed the Mohammed Yusuf and Abubakar Shekua, leaders of the Boko Haram sect. In one of his revelations, Salkida said Yusuf appeared excited to feature in a newspaper and mulled the idea of floating one himself.
In an interview, Salkida said Yusuf found his life story and how he met and married my his wife within five days as “remarkable”.
HOW HE GOT TIES WITH BOKO HARAM
Salkida, who wrote his first report on Yusuf back in July 2006 – a decade ago – said he got to know about Mohammed Alli and Yusuf, in 2005, after one of his mother’s friend came complaining that her son dropped out of the university to join a local Iimam.
In an report by Financial Times, Salkida said he tried convincing the student to return to school, but he would not listen, and went on to introduce him to Yusuf, who he found to be a “brilliant orator, influenced by the teachings of Ibn Taymiyya, a 13th century cleric.
Salkida, who has repeatedly said he is not a member of the sect, said he went on to pray in Yusuf’s mosque, which was named after Ibn Taymiyya, and reported the “signals” of the “monster”, which was later to come.
In his association with Yusuf, he met Shekau, who was Yusuf’s deputy and a strong scholar.
“Shekau was always studying and writing, and was more devoted and modest than anyone else,” Sakilda said.
“He would only wear cheap clothes and did not accept even to drive a car, preferring a motorbike. Even when Boko Haram was peaceful, he was somehow more feared than Yusuf.”
ESCAPING DEATH AND ‘WATCHING’ YUSUF DIE
Speaking in Dakar, Senegal, in 2012, Salkida related his experience on reporting terrorism in Nigeria and Africa. He said he was notified by the sect, hours before one of its gruesome attacks in 2009.
Salkida claimed to have alerted local authorities, who turned deaf ears to his claims and arrested him for fraternising with Boko Haram and its leaders.
“On Tuesday, 29 July, 2009, at the height of the Boko Haram mayhem, after I informed the Police of my intention to embark on a reporting trip to the Boko Haram enclave in Maiduguri to interview Mohammed Yusuf, the local authorities practically declared war against me and my organisation,” he said.
“I was arrested accused of fraternising with Boko Haram at the seat of power of in the state.”
He said he was to be shot by two police officers who went into an argument on “who to pull the trigger” but were stopped by the governor who “did not want to see a corpse at the government house”.
He was detained by the police, who he claimed later arrested Yusuf and killed him behind his (Salkida’s) cell.
PREDICTING FEMALE SUICIDE BOMBERS
Long before female suicide bombers became the norm, Salkida had warned in 2012, that women may soon enrol with the sect, due to the state of the nation and her military.
“A woman once stopped this reporter in Maiduguri and said, ‘I was told you have access to Boko Haram, please take my telephone number and give them,” he said.
“‘I lost my husband and two of his brothers in the hands of some soldiers’ right before my eyes and the trauma made me to have a miscarriage. I want to kill as many soldiers as possible before they kill me.’ If care is not taken women may soon join the band of suicide bombers in Nigeria!”
He said Yusuf was also against democracy, and governments and institutions, whose constitution did not tally with the Quran.
THE MAN WHO DARED THREE PRESIDENTS
If he has a hobby one could guess, it may just be daring presidents and calling their bluff. In 2013, while the Nigerian government was seeking a ceasefire with Boko Haram, Goodluck Jonathan said the insurgents were ghosts, but Salkida came out to say otherwise.
“They are human beings like us. I told you about my contact with many of them. So am I in contact with ghosts?
“When I single handedly facilitated the Dr. Datti Ahmed’s attempts to dialogue by the special Grace of God, did I have meetings with ghosts? Do Nigerians believe in ghosts?
In 2015, Idris Deby, Chadian president, said Shekau was dead and that “Mahamat Daoud who is said to have replaced Abubakar Shekau and wants to negotiate with the Nigerian government.”
Jonathan and Idris Deby
Salkida said: “Idris Deby is wrong now as before when he deceived former president Jonathan in phantom negotiation. Shekau is alive and leads ISWAP or BH”.
On December 31, 2016, after a media chat where President Muhammadu Buhari said he had no intelligence about the Chibok schoolgirls, Salkida also said Buhari was living in a bubble.
“What happened to the video evidence former President Jonathan received less than two months into the abduction of the girls that almost saw the release of the abducted girls in a swap deal – or is everything Jonathan too dirty for this government to try its hands on?
“My understanding of the Buhari administration as it relates to the negotiations of the abducted school girls is that they are living in a bubble. They want everything to work for them like ABCD: no hitches, no obstacles.”
Salkida, a father of four is said to be in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as an asylum seeker, and a grocery trader.
– THE CABLE