There was never a truce in Nigeria, just so we’re clear

On Friday, the world media foolishly decided yet again to take the Nigerian military at its word when they announced a truce with Boko Haram and a deal to release the kidnapped girls from Chibok. I explained, with a laundry list of evidence, why there was no reason to trust that this huge claim was true, especially with zero confirmation or comment from Boko Haram.

It only took a day for “we have a deal” to become they have “agreed in principle” to a deal, with negotiations to follow. And then came the explaining away of ongoing violence after a purported ceasefire.

A senior public affairs aide to the president, Doyin Okupe, told VOA that Boko Haram leadership is on board with the truce and that the violence was perpetrated by “fringe groups” of fighters who likely had not gotten word of the agreement.

Over the weekend, the violence continued to mount, undercutting any case that a ceasefire actually existed.

Suspected militant Islamists have shot and slaughtered people in three villages in north-east Nigeria, despite government claims that it had agreed a truce with them, residents say.

Boko Haram fighters raided two villages on Saturday, and raised their flag in a third, residents said.

The government said it would continue negotiating with Boko Haram, despite the alleged breach of the truce.

It hopes the group will this week free more than 200 girls it seized in April.

Boko Haram has not commented on the announcement made on Friday that a truce had been agreed, and that the militants would release the schoolgirls abducted from the remote north-eastern town of Chibok.

The government tried to point to the recent release of dozens of Cameroonian and Chinese prisoners as evidence that the purported negotiations were making progress, while skipping over the fact that they were released days before any such deal had been announced and were probably unrelated.

Moreover, the Nigerian government claims to be negotiating in nearby Chad with a man named Danladi Ahmadu, which has immediately raised all kinds of red flags…

  1. Chad’s president is supposedly mediating. He has declared war on Boko Haram, so it makes basically no sense that he would be mediating.
  2. Danladi Ahmadu is supposedly representing Abubakar Shekau, even though Nigeria’s government and military claimed less than one month ago to have killed Abubakar Shekau.
  3. Why does Danladi Ahmadu have a very non-Muslim first name if he’s supposedly representing a hardline Islamic extremist group?
  4. Why has no one ever heard of him before?

Most of those red flags were raised by a prominent Nigerian journalist named Ahmad Salkida, who opposes Boko Haram but is also a vocal critic of the Nigerian government. Salkida, who now lives outside Nigeria to avoid harassment by the government, is from a northern background and has established extensive journalistic contacts with top officials inside Boko Haram, in an effort to provide more accurate information than the constant stream of lies and deception by the Nigerian authorities. Here’s what he pointed out, according to the New York-based Nigerian whistleblowers at Sahara Reporters:

Mr. Salkida […] asserted that Mr. Ahmadu was not authorized to speak on behalf of Boko Haram or the group’s leader, Abubakar Shekau. He added that the Nigerian government was caught in the hoax of negotiating with an impostor.

According to him, it is the Islamist sect that ought to announce a ceasefire and not the Nigerian government since it was Boko Haram that declared war on the Nigerian state.
“Where in the world will a government say they killed Shekau, two weeks later, met a delegation sent by the same Shekau to discuss a ceasefire? […] some people claim Shekau is a title and ‘Boko Haram’ always finds his look-alike to assume Shekau each time they kill him? Haba! When we said Shekau was alive two weeks ago, we were nearly crucified here. Now the Federal Government agrees Danladi Ahmadu speaks for Shekau? Is Shekau mutating?” he wrote on twitter.

Mr. Salkida continued: “I challenge Danladi Ahmadu to an open debate if he has [the] interest of Nigeria at heart. Who is he? Where was he pre-2009? Why is he leading this? The name Danladi, [according to] ‘Boko Haram’ ideology, is ‘filthy.’ It refers to ‘someone born on Sunday,’ unlike the norm of picking strictly Muslim names. Sadly, no town taken by BH has been reclaimed [by Nigerian troops] beyond media-derived hype. Show us the video or pictures. Take reporters there. Simple.

“I don’t care if it is [Chadian President] Idriss Deby or whoever; Danladi Ahmadu is NOT part of ‘Boko Haram’ Shura [governing council] [nor] speaks for them as far as I know. It also appears that govt is more interested in shadows and bubbles, than in substance and clearheaded engagement with the ‘Boko Haram’ ideology.”

I think between these problems and the ongoing attacks by Boko Haram, as well as the continued lack of confirmation from them that any negotiations are even in progress, it should be pretty clear to everyone that there was never any deal and that the Nigerian military either made it all up or was severely hoodwinked by a con man.

As the BBC blithely reported:

Saturday’s attacks have caused many Nigerians to doubt whether the government has really negotiated a truce with Boko Haram, especially as no statement has been issued by its leader Abubakar Shekau, says BBC Nigeria analyst Bilkisu Babangida.

While local media outlets are under pressure to report the official government line as truth, I still have no idea why the world media even took it at face value in the first place. Between the past track record and the scope of the claim, there was every reason to doubt it and little reason to believe it. But now that it seems pretty certain it was a fiction, this should be a major warning not to do it again.

Bill Humphrey

About Bill Humphrey

Bill Humphrey is the primary host of WVUD's Arsenal For Democracy talk radio show and a local elected official.
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