Amid the dust raised by his allegation linking a former governor of Borno State, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, and an erstwhile Chief of the Army Staff, Lt. General Azubuike Ihejirika, with the sponsorship of Boko Haram, an Australian negotiator, Dr. Stephen Davis, at the weekend, gave insight into how Abubakar Shekau hijacked the Islamist group.
“The Boko Haram we see today is not the Jama’atu Ahlul Sunnah Lih Da’awa wal Jihad (JAS) that was operational under Yusuf – former JAS leader killed by the police in 2009”, Davis told Sunday Vanguard in an interview.
In the interview conducted online, the negotiator said: “Shekau formed Ansaru which he used for kidnapping and beheading victims. This behaviour was a major departure from the original mandate of the JAS which was to purify Islam and return it to the exemplary life of the Prophet. Many among the JAS leadership are no longer active and others have been killed. This has allowed Shekau to take the JAS to a more extreme action and expand the frontiers of kidnapping, bombing and slaughtering. The Boko Haram we have today is a much expanded Ansaru. What we see now is not the Yusufiya which wanted very much to settle a score with former Governor Ali Modu Sheriff. It is Boko Haram as a partner to ISIS and Al Shabaab”.
Davis admitted that he came to Nigeria in April to facilitate the release of the Chibok girls abducted by Boko Haram, but denied that he was engaged by any party and therefore had no obligation to report to anyone.
He claimed to have interacted with former commanders of JAS and others close to Boko Haram during his visit to Nigeria.
Davis didn’t speak with real Boko Haram leaders – Nigerian negotiator
Meanwhile, a Nigerian negotiator claimed, yesterday, that Sheriff and Ihejirika could not have been Boko Haram sponsors as the two men were actually sworn enemies of the Islamist group.
The negotiator, who didn’t want to be named for security reasons, told Sunday Vanguard that neither Sherrif nor Ihejirika was a sponsor of the sect.
Shekau in the video released to AFP. Photo: AFP.
The source, who has been assisting the government to find a lasting solution to the insurgency in the North-east, pointed out that Sheriff was even one of the three most wanted enemies of the sect. He did not say who the other two were.
“The statement credited to advise that Sherriff and Ihejirika are sponsors of Boko Haram is far from the truth because, as at today, the former Borno governor remains one of the three worst enemies of Boko Haram”, he stated.
“I can tell you that the group has not forgiven Sheriff over the killing of its leader, Mohammed Yusuf, who was arrested and killed during his tenure as governor”.
Confirming the claim by Davis that he was not hired by the Nigerian government to broker peace with the sect, the source said that the Australian came on his own to secure the release of the Chibok girls.
He said that while in Nigeria, Davis never met the real commanders of Boko Haram but depended on information from a member of the Presidential Committee on Dialogue and Amnesty for information on the activities of the sect.
The source blamed what is now playing out on the issue of Boko Haram sponsorship on the information given to Davis by the member of the presidential committee.
He said,”We can say with all amount of seriousness that Davis did not meet the leadership and main commanders of Boko Haram during his visit to the North-east.
“If Davis insists that he met with any senior commander or leader of the sect, we challenge him to mention their names and ranks”.
Excerpts of Davis interview.