Stephen Davies: Negotiator or whistle blower

The exposures by Stephen Davies, the Australian cleric did not come to me as a surprise. He pointedly called Ali Modu Sheriff, former Governor of Borno state a Boko Haram promoter and cash donor; also accused was the former Army Chief, General Ihejirika. An unnamed Central Bank official similarly stood accused.

Long before he made his startling revelations, they were already in the public domain. Personally, I have heard even worse things from Ahmed Salkida who knows a lot about Boko Haram. Ahmed Salkida for those who do not know is a news reporter of extraordinary talent. He was my pupil reporter at Crystal International Newsmagazine where I was the founding Editor in 1999.

When Crystal closed shop, he followed me to New Sentinel where I was Managing Editor. It was at New Sentinel that he filed the first ever news report on Boko Haram that was carried in the media. Since then he has gathered a frightening store of information on Boko Haram.

He has developed contacts with them beginning from Yusuf the founder of the group who is now late, to the present helmsman Shekau. I have often written that there is no greater authority on Boko Haram in Nigeria than Ahmed Salkida.

I am not in this alone, other gentlemen who have unsuccessfully tried to broker talks with Boko Haram share my view and have said so publicly. It is the measure of the efficiency of our security network that even though my views have been expressed in public, nobody from that sector has ever asked me why I am playing the devils advocate.

And I have often wondered (not silently) why me a Christian and a poor reporter without a kobo can get Ahmed Salkida’s confidence on Boko Haram and yet the security forces funded with billions of dollars can not utilize this young man who has all the answers to the Boko Haram scourge. The popular belief, (I do not share it) is that Salkida is a Boko Haram man.

Suspected and despised by his professional colleagues, he was also hunted and bullied by security agents. The young man then embarked on what I referred to in my piece – widely circulated in April last year as – ‘Ahmed Salkida’s Hijra’.

He fled Nigeria. When news of the revelations by Stephen Davies broke out, I got in contact with Ahmed in his hiding place abroad. My discussion with him led me to the conclusion that a government which rejects honest patriotic advise soon becomes a victim of tricksters and conmen.

That is the problem of Goodluck Jonathan. He is poorly served and I have said this elsewhere. The President may be in the habit of acting on impulse without consulting his security chiefs. We saw this in his spontaneous pronouncement on October 1 2010 when he exonerated MEND over the bombing of that day even as MEND kept insisting that they did it.

On what authority was he speaking? What was his reaction when a MEND leader who was caught in the dastardly act was convicted in South Africa? Why didn’t he appeal the judgment since he believed MEND was innocent? The danger of a leader taking an ill informed position as he did on the MEND bombing is that his close advisers take a cue.

They withdraw into their shells and instead of guiding their principal with facts and figures, they wait for him to state his position. After this, no matter how ill informed that position may be, they clap and adopt it as holy writ!

A leader who pigeon holes himself in that commanner deserves pity. Soon, he becomes victim of all kinds of schemes. Salkida told me last week that the man from Australia is a schemer who ingratiated himself to the Presidency to become an authority on Boko Haram. He says the Boko Haram people detest men of Davie’s background – not only is he a Christian, he is a Priest and a whiteman.

Boko Haram he argued is at war even with black Muslims who do not share their faith, talk less of a white Christian Priest. He must have made contact with some fake Boko Haram men who fed him with concocted stories, Ahmed said. As usual, I am tempted to believe his side of the story.

When some people posing as Boko Haram leaders declared a cease fire in February last year, Ahmed immediately called me to disregard the story. He said they were fake and impostors. The government however went ahead to celebrate them in the media as authentic leaders of the sect.

Today nobody in government is talking about them and their ‘ceasefire’ anymore. An angry Ahmed still holds strong views on Ali Modu Sheriff, the former Governor of Borno state and his role in the crisis but says the fund raising process in Boko Haram has no room for his contribution.

He reminded me of the order given by the former governor for his summary execution in Maiduguri while working there as a reporter for Daily Trust. He has told me that blood chilling story of his near execution at the Governors office in Maiduguri many times over: The gun was cocked, the bullet was to be released and Ahmed’s pant was already wet when an order came from the governor that that he did not want to see a corpse in the Government House. Divine intervention saved him from the order which was to be carried out elsewhere. His venture with Boko Haram has caused him a basketful of problems. He took an unbelievable risk this year to get the Chibok girls released. His report to government on how to solve the problem was carelessly thrashed and while he thought he was acting anonymously and in good faith, somebody in government released his name to the media. Again afraid for his life, he fled.

Last week he cried out to me; “When will Nigeria take me seriously and listen to me? Why are our elites playing politics with human lives? Any serious person will listen to Salkida and not Davies.

Will I protect SAS (Ali Modu Sheriff) who wanted to kill me?” It is like the Biblical voice, crying out in the wilderness. The fact is that everything works out against Ahmed Salkida and the road to resolving the Boko Haram mess. Ahmed is young, black, poor and diminutive in stature.

You can easily underrate him and when you do so, you do it to your disadvantage. On Boko Haram, the Nigerian government will prefer an engagement with Ali Modu Sheriff, a wealthy man who flies around in a sleek private jet which lands at the Maiduguri Airport.

The Airport opens for him even when it is closed to everybody including the sitting governor and pilgrims. Not only is he a former governor, he is filthy rich and his money is said to be like a sea that never dries. The Nigerian government will also prefer to deal with a white man, a PHD, a Reverend gentleman in this case.

All the odds are staked against Ahmed Salkida. And exactly because our leaders are so blinded by appearances, the Boko Haram thing has been allowed to blossom into what it is today.

Again exactly because we are blinded by appearances, here is the man who was originally employed by our President to negotiate the release of our abducted girls. He has suddenly become a whistle blower who has spilled the beans on the President and his friends – Sheriff, Ifijerika, Obasanjo, Aziza – all.

Certainly something went wrong somewhere. The damage done to our President, to our political system, to our security agencies is grave. Even the best of the government’s spin doctors have been sedated. As I write this piece on Friday afternoon September 5, none of them has responded. In the circumstances, it would have been nice to say to the government – you asked for it.

But this crisis will not only destroy this government; it will destroy all of us. In the build up to the civil war, I was a village lad with little knowledge of what was going on.

Suddenly soldiers just appeared in our village with guns looking for Ibos to kill. Not knowing what the hell was going on we tried our best to protect the Ibos. We saved many but the country still fought a bitter war.

Today I see a more dangerous scenario. I know the issues at stake and my son who is in the army was shot by Boko Haram at Sambissa forest. He managed to survive. Still everywhere I turn, I see big trouble looming and a government that is helpless.

  • Dr Bappai

    Or is it possible that some vested interests in a priviledged position does not want the Boko Haram issue resolved because it is their baby or it fits well in their agenda?!
    Why then would Ahmad that knows this much, attested and taken seriously as you have done, still remain uninvited as part of seeking for a solution?
    And with how much you know from your rappor with Ahmad, is there absolutely nothing you (we) can do to save ourselves and our dear country?
    Why can we foam a coalition of concerned Nigerians that would come to advocate on Ahmad’s treasure of knowledge (if indeed it is as you say) to find and seek to enforce the solution?
    Why must we all continue to remain sitting ducks in the face of a monster gradually consuming us? Or is it we don’t see it as such?

  • Dr Bappai

    Or is it possible that some vested interests in privileged positions do not want the Boko Haram issue resolved because it is their baby or it fits well in their agenda?!
    Why then would Ahmad that knows this much, attested and taken seriously as you have done, still remain uninvited as part of seeking for a solution?
    And with how much you know from your rappor with Ahmad, is there absolutely nothing you (we) can do to save ourselves and our dear country?
    Why can we foam a coalition of concerned Nigerians that would come to advocate on Ahmad’s treasure of knowledge (if indeed it is as you say) to find and seek to enforce the solution?
    Why must we all continue to remain sitting ducks in the face of a monster gradually consuming us? Or is it we don’t see it as such?