Borno-born journalist said to be a close ally of Boko Haram, Ahmad Salkida, has dismissed the reported killing of a top leader of the outlawed sect.
Salkida, who is on self-exile in the United Arab Emirates over alleged threats to his life, said he has it on “authority” that Abubakar Shekau was hale and hearty.
Writing on Twitter, Salkida, who is widely reported to have had an unfettered access to the late Boko Haram founder, Mohammed Yusuf, stated that residents of the various communities in the north east have yet to feel the positive impact of the recent gains in the counter-insurgency operations.
Salkida claimed that Shekau, who he had discussions with recently during a failed attempt to negotiate an end to the continued incarceration of the Chibok girls was not the one being portrayed in a picture circulating online.
“Mark my words: I have it on authority that Shekau is well and alive. The picture going round is not the person who torments us with his group,” the journalist who now works as an import and export agent of agricultural products and textile materials in Dubai, wrote on Twitter.
According to him, the Nigerian Army has only been able to repel the taking over of Konduga and Maiduguri but has failed in reclaiming the communities overrun during the sect’s recent expansionist drive.
He accused the security forces of taking the war against terrorism to the pages of the newspapers rather than committing energy and resources in reclaiming the “lost territories.”
Nigerians, he said, must pray and support the military forces, to ensure that the country records victory in its attempt to root out the insurgents from the north east.
“Konduga was a turning point for the Nigeria Army but the journey to an assured future is still long and tough. Nigeria must take this fight away from pages of newspapers and confront it overly. We are yet to get it right but Iet us pray for victory for Nigeria.
“So far, no town taken by Boko Haram has been reclaimed by the Nigeria Army. We were only able to prevent Konduga and Maiduguri from falling. Success in the war against terrorism should be felt by those that are affected the most, and not just in the media.
“If history is a mirror then what have we learnt? To reclaim lost territories in the north east means to restore peace and order by civil authorities. Is this the case in the north east? I will leave the answer to you.
“To reclaim lost territories in the north east means to restore peace and order by civil authorities in affected areas,” Salkida added.
But a northern-based human rights activist, Shehu Sani, has said he was shocked to see the news of the killing of Shekau make headlines, again.
The rights campaigner, who also doubles as the President of the Civil Rights Congress, said on Facebook that the development was worrisome as it was the “third time he (Shekau) was killed.”
He stated that he was expecting the insurgent group to release a statement denouncing or confirming the reported killing of its leader.
“The news of the killing of the Boko Haram leader is in the headlines again. This is the third time he was killed. It gives the nation a lot of relief but only if it’s true. In a war situation, it’s difficult to extract the truth from a misleading ‘morale, boosting statements.’
“However, if the report is true, the group will certainly make a statement and announce a new head and if it’s not true, they will also respond. This is what they did when their founder was exterminated in 2009,” Sani argued.
Meanwhile, the Defence Headquarters has insisted that the military was winning the war against terrorism.
Director of Defence Information, Maj. Gen. Chris Olukolade, wrote on Twitter that the insurgents have of late suffered heavy losses especially in Konduga.
“May I please let you know that Nigeria is winning? We love to tell the troops too that Nigerians are cheering. It will be victory for Nigeria till infinity,” the defence spokesman tweeted.
Olukolade, however, warned Nigerians against attacking him on Twitter, stressing that he would no longer condone all forms of hate speech on the social network.
“This (social media) space will not allow hurling of invective, caustic remarks of broiled-up hate. Violent and abusive languages are not allowed. Every social network is against hateful messages; I won’t hesitate to hit the block button. Every community must be moderated. This is my account, thank you,” the army general warned.