People started calling me Mama Boko Haram when
You were initially not a Muslim and you are also from Enugu State. What can you say about your new found faith and love for the North?
Anybody can come to the northern part of Nigeria and make it his or her home. I got married to a northerner and I have three kids.
Some people allege that you do not have any link to the Shekau’s faction of the Boko Haram sect. What is your reaction?
If those people know the real Boko Haram, they should tell us who they are. Did they ask Shekau and he told them that he did not know me or that he had never heard about me? Or did they ask members of Shekau’s faction and they denied me?
What can you say about the
I really do not know. I know we have Habib’s faction. There is Mamman Nur’s faction. There is Shekau’s faction. There are other smaller groups like
Do you have a relationship with all these factions? Can you link someone up with them?
I will not answer that question for security reasons.
Do you really think that the Federal Government should hold
What are they agitating for? Is it the continued killings or is it their mode of prayer that they want to force on everybody? Is it reasonable? Is there any compulsion in Islam? Do you force someone to be a Christian? Nobody can force anybody to accept any religion, principle or ideology. I don’t know what they are agitating for. If I know clearly, I would probably know what to say.
So what is your understanding of the group then?
My understanding of the group is that they are young people who claimed that they were provoked. They said nobody listened to them and that they had to transfer their anger and vent it on innocent people. That is the only thing I can say about them. They were angry. When I heard the
How exactly are you mediating between the sect and the government?
I am still appealing to them, telling them to embrace dialogue because there is no way they can stay inside the bush and expect anybody to listen to their
You were once declared wanted by the Department of State Services. Why and how was it resolved?
They said I knew where Shekau was and that they wanted to get the Chibok girls out and resolve the whole issue and that I was not releasing the information at my disposal. I was not arrested; I went on my own to meet them. They heard me, I told them that I was not hiding and that I wasn’t hoarding information in my quest for peace. I also told them that even when I went to the bush to meet with those guys and someone asked me about the trip, I always revealed the details of our interaction. But if you ask me where they were, I will not tell you that; I will tell you I do not know. Actually, I do not know because they usually take me there in a blindfold inside a car with strict instructions that I should bow down my head throughout the trip.
They would deliberately drive round for hours until they are sure that I have become drowsy and possibly slept off. How do you expect me to know where they had taken me? It is also the same process when they are bringing me back. As a matter of fact, what is the purpose of telling the DSS where they are? Can’t they go and look for them? Sometimes, when I go to them in the bush, I spend about three days, and at times, a week. It is a pathetic situation. You see them sometimes shedding tears, anxious to be reunited with the society. They usually confess that they are tired of the life they are living. Anybody who knows my history will know that the boys, when things were still good, were staying in my house. In those days, if you came to my house, the gate was always opened to everybody. I never discriminated against anyone. We were living together, and even whenever I was going somewhere around in Shehuri North then, they would carry my handbag and call me mummy and asked what I had for them.
They would tell me what they wanted to eat and I would give them money to go to the market. We would prepare the food and eat. They were like kids to me. Some of them, I did
How come you were doing circumcision?
It is not that I was the one cutting their foreskin. They used to bring the person doing the
What was the relationship between you, Ahmad Salkida and the third person declared wanted with you?
I have never met with Salkida but shortly before they declared us wanted, I spoke to him on the telephone. I drew his attention to what was happening to his friend’s group made up of young men who I refer to as my children and I asked him how we could resolve the problem.
He expressed his dissatisfaction with how the whole thing was handled by the security personnel. I told him that we cannot just give up like that. I then advised that we do something. That was all. We did not speak again until we were declared wanted and we met at the DSS headquarters. I also visited him when he returned from Dubai. That was the first day we actually had an opportunity to discuss.
Do you think that a peaceful resolution of the Boko Haram war is still feasible?
I believe in God and I pray a lot. I believe in prayers. If we pray, these kids are not more powerful than God. I do encourage people to also pray about it. There is one adage in Igbo that says if you drag a stick and the stick drags you, you leave the stick and run for your life. They (Federal Government) keep telling me that they have dragged the stick (Boko Haram insurgents) and that the stick has dragged them and it is now for them to leave the stick. But I keep telling them that this is not a
Are you advocating an end to this military solution?
The shootings and killings have never solved any problem. Very soon, it will be 10 years since the war started. Scores of soldiers have died in the process. I had to involve myself in the peace process when I saw people coming from all over the country and even white men to fight
They planned to bomb St. Augustine’s Church on December 24 last year. One of them called me on that day to find out whether I had travelled. There was a
I instantly told him that I was right inside the church (targeted for bombing) with my brother because I brought food for him. I told them that I was not ready to leave the church, daring them to do their worse. They were then confused and asked what I wanted to become of the boy they had prepared for the suicide mission, and I asked them to send the boy away to the nearby bush; after all, he had taken the oath to die, so he should go and die alone. They asked me to leave the church
Do you agree that the Boko Haram has been technically defeated?
They do not have that energy anymore. If you look very well, that energy is no longer there. They are gasping for breath and looking for a way out. They are always asking for the road. They are looking for the road to come out. They want trusted roads and not
Why do you think there are still bombings in the North-East?
Maiduguri in particular has become what they call Makkah, the headquarters of the North-East, and that is why we are experiencing bombings unlike Bauchi, Adamawa and Yobe, where there are pockets of bombings.
I have always told them to come down and look for their
Some government officials are saying Shekau is hardened. Is he not a human being?
Do you think Nigerians’ condemnation of the $1bn to fight insurgency is justifiable?
What is your assessment of the insurgency war under the President Muhammadu Buhari administration?
I cannot but clap for him. At least in Borno, we are sleeping very well. If you had come to Borno when this thing started, you would not be here by now (3pm). Everywhere would be vibrating. But since (President Muhammadu) Buhari took over, we have been sleeping soundly. We are now moving around up till 10pm. We now do our shopping in the night; unlike before that everywhere would be closed by 4pm. Buhari has really tried.
A report claims Buhari paid €3m for the release of the Chibok girls. Were you privy to the arrangement?
I do not know.
Are there any ongoing plans to secure the release of the remaining Chibok girls?
Are you involved in some of these moves to get them released?
I will not answer that question.
Do you think the North-East Development Commission can be effectively used to develop the war-torn region?
It is for the rebuilding of the damage done
The Nigerian Army said it has incapacitated
I don’t know. Am I the Nigeria Army? Ask (Chief of Army Staff, Tukur) Buratai.
How do you think the society can heal the wound of Boko Haram?
What can society do? The wounds of World War II healed gradually and it has healed. We too will heal; what can we do? Is it to say we will not forgive and move on? We have to move on. If you fight with any Kanuri, he will tell you to be patient and once that word is used, they cannot do anything. They will look around and say the person that did this is “our own blood.”
You recently created a non-governmental
I have gone round to see what could be done to assist the people and to find out what the problem is. I have found out that because of this insurgency, many things have gone wrong; drug addiction is common among other vices. I have come to the
What assistance are you receiving from stakeholders?
It is just to help out, to help internally displaced persons and non-IDPs, victims of
What is your final word?
To insurgents? I cannot but continue to beg them. What is it they want that they cannot come out and say? What is it that is hurting them for eight years, and they cannot come out? They preach to us to forgive; if you see them, they continue to say forgive. Do not hold anger against your brother overnight. What are they holding there? I am begging them, they should come out. The military does not have the intention of killing them. Nobody has the intention of killing them. The military has to do what they are doing in order to save civilians and property. Security want them to come back home for we are not fighting