Daily Trust recently visited Shekau, the birthplace of the late Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau, who had been a major figure in the brutal killings of innocent people. Estimates suggest that over 100,000 people have been killed by Boko Haram fighters who have also displaced millions of people in different operations. In an exclusive chat with Daily Trust, his friend, the friend of his father as well as the village head, his mother and uncle, told eerie tales of his growing up days, how he engaged in sect activities and his end as the leader of the insurgency group.
Shekau Town in Tarmuwa Local Government Area of Yobe State is 75 km away from Damaturu, the capital city of Yobe. Babbangida is the headquarters of Tarmuwa Local Government Area. From Babbangida to Shekau Town is a short distance of 30 km. It takes about an hour drive to get there because of bad road.
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The town has basic amenities such as electricity, water, a hospital and a school. But the people of the place are suffering due to the lack of good road and are calling for government’s intervention.
He had been a stubborn child from childhood – District head
When Daily Trust Saturday correspondent arrived Shekau, he was introduced to a friend of his (Shekau’s) father, Malam Lawan Gana, who spoke about him.
He said he was a son of the soil as he was born in that village.
Lawan said: “I am a close friend of Shekau’s father. During the military regime of General Murtala Muhammad, he brought him to me and said, “Ba Lawan, I want to send Abor (the name his father always called him) to an Islamic school to learn the Qura’an, but where should I send him?
“Shekau was between seven to eight years, but he was so stubborn because no day went by without elders settling one case or the other between him and other boys. Seeing his condition, I told his father to let him go to a village near ours called Jumbam. on that same day, Abor was taken to Jumbam and introduced to a teacher called Malam Kachalla by his father’s cousin,” Lawan said.
Lawan also disclosed that Shekau stayed there for almost two years before he was later moved back to Benisheik by his father to continue his Qur’anic studies. “Abor had never been to this village since he was taken to Jumbam and later to Benisheik, then Maiduguri, but after almost 10 to 15 years, they came here with Mohammed Yusuf to preach to us. But before then, his father had come here to complain to me about his involvement in a religious sect. He told me not to be interested in whatever Shekau brought to me.”
Lawan said even after the death of Shekau’s father, he (Shekau) did not visit the town. He said when news first spread about his behavior and activities he was not surprised. People also distanced themselves from him, especially because he had once threatened to kill an uncle who advised him that what he was practising wasn’t Islam.
“Truth be told, we have seen pressure in this town because almost every day, security forces would come to look for him. One day, soldiers came and gathered all the youths in the village who were said to be linked to Boko Haram. But I resisted them. No one in this town will ever follow his footsteps.
I didn’t see value in his life – Mother
His mother, Falmata Abubakar, who totally condemned his behaviour in an interview with Daily Trust Saturday, said she didn’t know if he was alive or not. “It is all the same to me, because being his mother has done me no good in this life, till we meet in the hereafter,” she said.
She said though Shekau was her first child, she never enjoyed staying with him because she didn’t see him for over 15 years.
“I don’t know his family, let alone his children. But if they are here, may God raise them in the right way,” Falmata said.
Shekau brought us nothing but bad name, shame – Uncle
Zannah Sule, a cousin to Shekau, told our correspondent that despite that there was no attack on their town, they were always without shelters because their children who worked in various places claimed names of different towns to avoid being linked to Boko Haram.
Zannah said there was a time one of Shekau’s boys tried to kill him because he challenged him over his activities.
“You see, we are not ignorant. We are educated and we know our religion. So, there is no way anyone can bring us something new and expect us to just adopt it, saying that we are infidels, because we are learned. I know that no matter what, there is no way for us to come up with something new.”
Zannah added that a number of people in the village criticized him then, including his father. “We told him (Shekau) that what he was doing was against the teachings of Islam. See what happened to him now.”
Zannah said for fear of being associated with Shekau by mere mention of the town’s name, they had to change the name of the village to Garin Tsakiya.
“Some of us are afraid to say we are from this town. That is why we changed the name of our Village to ‘Garin Tsakiya,’ meaning a centre town. No one says he/she is from Shekau town. We have nothing to do with Abubakar Shekau.
His death, our joy – Friend
His close friend who preferred anonymity said Shekau was his childhood friend, but they had parted ways since his departure from the village.
“Although he always wanted me to follow him and I really wanted to do so, my parents disallowed me because we did not understand his purpose,” he said.
“Whenever I greet his mother, she cries and expresses her sorrow over Shekau’s plight. She always says: “You have your family and your children, but I don’t know anyone of his.
“The fact that he died is a source of great joy to us because almost every time this town is under the control of the security forces. Even though they have never arrested anyone, we have no peace,” the friend said.
Abubakar Shekau died after an altercation with ISWAP members. He committed suicide after allegedly blowing himself up with a bomb.
Muhammad Aminu Ahmad who was in Yobe