When German Journalists, Jurgen Todenhofer, 74, was given rare access to the Islamic States of Iraq and the Levante (ISIL) territory of Iraq and Syria for 10 days last year, he was just prepared to glean more information about the world’s deadliest terrorist group not as a negotiator – but as a journalist.
“They knew that I had made very negative comments on them before. I told them clearly that ‘I am not on your side,’ and they said, ‘Yes, that is not our problem, we don’t care about your opinion, we want you to tell what you’ve seen here, not the opinion that you had beforehand,” he was told in one of the discussion he had with ISIL for seven months.
After 10 days, Jurgen returned safely with a summary of his 10 days spell with ISIL, he achieved his mission—to glean more information about ISIL. He was not criticised neither was he arrested.
In the beginning
Nigeria’s Ahmed Salkida’s case is different as the only journalist that has access to the most deadliest terrorist group in Nigeria, Boko Haram and it all started in 2006 when he started out as a reporter. The 41-year-old journalist wrote his first story on Mohammed Yusuf, the founder of Boko Haram after visiting his mosque repeatedly to listen to his teachings.
After a while, he started meeting with Yusuf until 2009 when he was killed in police custody, marking the beginning of Boko haram killings in Nigeria.
Even after the death of Yusuf, the relationship with the terrorist group did not falter, it continued with the current leader, Abubakar Shekau, who deputised Yusuf. He interviewed Shekau and still remains the only journalist in Nigeria to have unrestrained access to their hideout.
He roped in
Due to his close ties with the sect, Salkida in this interview said he has never failed to inform the police or government officials on information in connection with the sects’ activities to security agencies.
He said he was notified by the sect hours before they launch their first attack in 2009 but he claimed that he notified local authorities but they turned a blind eye to his claims and arrested him for hobnobbing with Boko Haram and its leaders.
“I was arrested accused of fraternising with Boko Haram at the seat of power in the states,” he said. He added that he was almost killed by two police who went into an argument on “who would pull the trigger” but were stopped by the governor who did not want to see a corpse in the government house.
Even with this treatment, he did not rest on his oars; he kept giving vital information as regards the sect’s activities.
In 2013 when Nigerian government was seeking a ceasefire deal with the group and the immediate past President Goodluck Jonathan said the terrorists’ were ghosts, Salkida chimed in to say the otherwise. Also in his personal opinion article for Nigeria’s online newspaper The Cable, he challenged the president when he said he has no clue about the state of the kidnapped Chibok girls, stressing that the government are not making efforts to negotiate the release of the schoolgirls who had been kidnapped since 2014.
The way out
Ahmed has done his bit to gather enough information about Boko Haram just like German Jurgen Todenhofer who gathered information about ISIL for 10 days and informed the world about the terrorist group.
Arresting and placing him behind bars will not solve anything. They should rather work with him to map out strategies for negotiation as regards releasing the Chibok girls who have been held prisoner since 2014