Last week, the Army declared three people it suspected of having “links with the Boko Haram” wanted and this became a subject of intense debates especially as the trio—Mr. Ahmed Umar Bolori, Mr. Ahmad Salkida and Ms. Aisha Alkali Wakil—promptly expressed their shock. The military institution, they wrote, knew them and how to contact them yet they hadn’t been informed or invited in any way before the public notice.
On Facebook, not long after the declaration went viral in the online media, stirring up divisive interactions on social media, Ahmed Bolori published a screenshot of his SMS correspondence with a top military officer. “Salam General,” read the text. “This is Amb Ahmed Umar Bolori. I got the news that I and other 2 are declared wanted (sic). I’m bringing myself. Where do I come to? Thanks.”
The General asked him to report to “Provost Marshal Army (sic)”. His next Facebook updates, later that day and the following day, was of his 10 AM appointment and struggles to be attended to by the Army. It’s amusing that someone declared wanted, purportedly a threat to national security, was literally pleading to have an audience with his supposed hunters.
Ms. Wakil released a statement to confirm her relationship with the security agencies, and that she had had meetings with the Chief of Army Staff and had even given the Army conditions for her involvement in any dialogue between the terrorist group and the Federal government. “(T)hey know where to find me,” she wrote in her own expression of shock at her declaration as wanted person, and then “but wonder why I had to be declared wanted on national news even mentioning my husband’s name alongside (sic).”
The most popular of them is the journalist Ahmad Salkida who, for fear of his safety, has long been in exile. Salkida had reported extensively on the activities of the terrorist cult, being a witness to their emergence and evolution into the nation’s deadliest group. Some of the nation’s exclusive reports and breaking news on the Boko Haram were presented to us by Salkida. His publication of the Boko Haram’s video of the abducted girls of Chibok instigated the hunt.
Writing from his Dubai base, Salkida noted his contributions to reporting terrorism in Nigeria. “Clearly, my status as a Nigerian journalist who has reported extensively, painstakingly and consistently on the Boko Haram menace in the country since 2006 is an open book known to Nigerians and the international community,” he stated.
This got us to the obvious question: why declaring citizens who weren’t on the run wanted? What’s wrong with an invitation being sent first before, if declined, publishing such damaging notice about people who were previously not tried for a crime in question? This and similar unprofessional conduct by our security agencies are piling up, day by day, and it was the same recklessness that got the EFCC operatives going after the blogger Abusidiq without notice. They are yet to even publish what exactly he did wrong. The risk of declaring somebody wanted without any established evidence of his culpability or invitation to hear from him or her one-on-one is grave in a country where jungle justice is an everyday tragedy. I’m sure the Army itself is aware of this, and yet it went ahead. Somehow, it has succeeded in putting the lives of these people in danger, and somehow a misinformed mob might spot them and move to lynch them in their own understanding of patriotism. All for a “crime” yet to be determined.
Our security agencies need to restore professionalism in their dealings with civilians. Showmanship seems to stimulate them, but obsession with this approach to crime prevention and control will only embarrass them and ridicule what they stand for. The two home-based citizens have already submitted themselves to the military, and inferring from the Channels TV interview of the Spokesman of Defence Headquarters, Colonel Rabe Abubakar, the declaration was hasty and misleading.
“Declaring them wanted was not our intention,” he was reported to have said on Channels TV. “We are inviting them to come and shed more light on Boko Haram so that collectively we can achieve the desired goal.”
This is the essence of civic vigilance. But this retraction isn’t enough. Their hurriedly prepared and dispatched blunder has already jeopardised the lives and prospects of these people. What’s expected is a clarification through the very medium it employs in damaging the trio. Seeking partnership, which is what the spokesman means by “collectively” by declaring your would-be partners wanted is akin to publicly harassing a woman and then asking for her hand in marriage.
One is tempted to agree with the conspiracy theory drawn by the popular public affairs analyst, Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde. He sought to see a link between the media trial of Ahmad Salkida and General Tukur Buratai’s Dubai property scandals. When the Army said the Boko Haram were responsible for the leaks of Buratai’s ownership of properties in Dubai, he pointed out that the convenient inference was Salkida would be roped into it. May God save us from us!
By Gimba Kakanda
@gimbakakanda on Twitter