Aisha Wakil, popularly known as Mama Boko Haram, shot to national limelight in 2013, when she, among others, were appointed by former President Goodluck Jonathan into the Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution of Security Challenges in the North. She had then appeared at the inauguration of the committee wearing an impenetrable black veil, leaving no clue about how she looks.
This, not only caused a stir, but prompted many to doubt her “the masked one.” The committee was charged to establish link and open up dialogue with the members of Boko Haram, develop a framework through which disarmament will take place and work out sustainable option that could lead to granting amnesty to the group.
A lawyer of Igbo extraction, Wakili was however in 2016, declared wanted alongside two others – Ahmad Salkida and Ahmed Bolori – by the military in connection with the abduction of the Chibok schoolgirls.
The girls were abducted by the Boko Haram sect in 2014. The trio were accused of having information on the conditions and the exact location of the over 200 abducted girls.
But, Wakili, who has always made plain her links with the sect, fired back at the security operatives in a daring message. She insisted that she had been fighting for peace long before the Chibok girls were kidnapped and was well known to the security operatives and wondered why she was declared wanted since she had nothing to hide.
She wrote: “I am Aisha Alkali Wakili. I understand that the military declared me, Ahmed Silkida and Ahmed Bolori wanted for having links with Boko Ha-ram. It’s interesting, now they believe me? I know the Boko Haram boys. I have been in front fighting for peace long before Chibok girls were kidnapped. Nigerian security know me too well, I’m not shady.
“Why declaring me wanted? “I have had meetings with the Chief of Army staff and his people. I told them the way forward, to allow me come with some commanders of Boko Haram and discuss with them, present the release of the Chibok girl, but they chose to do things their own ways only and never gave considerations to any of my suggestions.
“I want to inform the Nigerian people of my innocence and make them realise that I am in constant relation with the security personnel and they know where to find me but wonder why I had to be declared wanted on national news even mentioning my husband’s name alongside.
“This has put my immediate and ex-tended family under a lot of pressure and I do not deserve this from the Nigerian government. Though they may not appreciate all my efforts to proffer peaceful solutions to the menace of Boko Haram, my name should not be mudslinged nor my character defamed.”
Wakili later reported at the Defence Headquarters in Abuja, but was released after questioning.
However, she did not allow the interrogation to deter her from revealing all she knew about the Boko Haram sect.
Speaking in an interview after being quizzed by the military, she gave insight into why the peace committee set up by the Jonathan administration failed. She also disclosed that the late leader of the sect, Mohammed Yusuf, had told her that Boko Haram members started bearing arms when they felt betrayed by the government.
While the military, perhaps, moved against her at that time because she was mentioned by a masked gunman in a video with the kidnapped Chibok girls as one of the desired negotiators that the sect trusts to lead the charge for the girls release, many reasoned then that rather than declare her wanted, she should had been used as a channel to secure the release of the Chibok girls given her links with Boko Haram.
Four years after the Chibok incident, Wakili has been pushed to the limelight again by the Boko Haram sect with its recent abduction of 110 schoolgirls from Government Girls Science and Technical College, Dapchi, Yobe State.
Wakil is in the news again over her claim that a faction of the sect had contacted her to confirm it has the girls. According to her, the Barnawi faction of Boko Haram contacted her on Thursday and confirmed to her that the girls were safe, healthy and in good condition. Wakil, who had earlier last week called on the abductors to release the girls to enable them to be reunited with their families, declared that she was ready to sacrifice her life to rescue the girls.
Her words: “They are even the ones that called me, and said ‘mama we heard what you have said’ and told me that they are with the girls and they are going to release them.
“I begged of them and said ‘please let this not be another 1,000-plus days of Chibok girls,’ and they laughed and said no. “I asked them where I can come and stay with them (girls) for two days, but they did not say anything.
“I can assure Nigerians that so far they are with my son Habib and his friends. Habib is a nice guy, he is very nice boy. He will not harm them, he will not touch them, and he will not kill them.
“He is going to listen to us, and so far, he indicated interest that he loves peace and I love them for that and believe what they said on this. They will definitely give us the girls.
“All I am begging Nigerians is to calm down, be prayerful, everything will be over by God’s grace.” While government is yet to react to Wakili’s claim, some say she should be ignored as she is a mere attention seeker.
But, there are members of political school, who believe that it is time to seize the moment as Wakili remains an enigma, whose link with Boko Haram runs deep and could help resolve the jigsaw puzzle over the kidnap of the Dabchi girls and as well facilitate their rescue.
But, as the debate on how to rescue the kidnapped rages, many keep wondering how the bond between Wakili and Boko Haram came about. Report had it that Wakili was not born a Muslim, but to a Christian family in the South East state of Abia.
However, during her sojourn in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, where she obtained her Law degree from the University of Maidugiri, she had a life changing event.
It was said that writings of the Holy Koran mysteriously appeared all over her body, which made her a cynosure of attention as people trooped to see the strange Igbo girl with text tattooed on her skin.
This heralded her conversion to Islam and soon after, she had her first meeting with the founder of Boko Haram (Yusuf). Besides her links with the sect, Wakili has always been a face known to the circles seeking peace with Boko Haram.
She was the centre piece of the reconciliatory thrust of Governor Kashim Shettima in which she outlined the core demands of the group.
They include independent inquiry into the circumstances that led to the extra judicial killing of their leader (Yusuf) and 3,000 sect members in 2009; prosecution of those found culpable in the 2009 killing of their members; release of Boko Haram detainees and payment of compensation to those whose homes were destroyed in the 2009 uprising.
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