By his videos, we know him. But nobody has heard from Abubakar Shekau, leader of the Boko Haram sect, in the last two months, fuelling rumours that he may be… alive.
Perhaps only his recording studio and camera have been destroyed in recent military operations, and he is still setting up shop and props somewhere else before calling up AFP, his preferred news agency, to pick his latest DVD.
Nobody dare claim that Shekau is dead. He has been reported dead on several occasions and has always resurfaced in his propaganda videos to denounce the “infidels”.
Recent military victories in his erstwhile strongholds have surprisingly not elicited any video response from the boastful leader of the insurgents, but the authorities are cautious about announcing his obituary again.
The Nigerian military breasted valour by freeing two states — Yobe and Adamawa — in northeast which were previously the atrocity domains of the Boko Haram insurgents.
The valiant military also bulldozed the insurgents out of Baga, Bama and Gworza in Borno state. In these places, Boko Haram had held sway killing and displacing many residents.
Trophy for efforts
Now, Sambisa forest, the last “frontier” of the insurgents, is under righteous bombardment and guided attacks from Nigerian troops.
As a trophy for its efforts the military has succeeded in rescuing at least 687 women, girls and children held in horrendous Boko Haram captivity.
It has also made some arrests, but the one singular in “notoriety” is the capture of the insurgents’ “food-and-fuel” human conduit.
As it is, the troops appear to be pressing hard on Boko Haram, and amazingly there has been no word from the sect’s generalissimo despite the pummelling.
Therefore, the million-dollar question is: where on earth is Shekau?
Inter alia, a rustled-up study of Boko Haram shows that the sect revels in propaganda even in the face of annihilation, but could it long-drawn silence mean that Shekau has been cut down.
Could Shekau be ‘dead’ again?
In September, 2014, the Nigerian military announced that one Mohammed Bashir, who had been posing as the “eccentric character” Shekau, had been taken down. It maintained that the sect leader was killed in 2013 during a military raid on Sambisa forest.
But the murderous villain frantically debunked the report of his death in videos that emerged days after.
In one of the videos, he said: “They said I am dead, but here I am. The world should know that I am alive and will only die at the appointed time. Everybody should be judged according to the dictates of his conscience.
“What I am doing is written in the Holy Qur’an and the Hadith and I will not stop. I challenge all the clerics of the world to question my deeds. Those underrating my capacity should have a rethink. I will never allow democracy to thrive.
“The concept of government of the people by the people for the people will never be possible and will never exist. Democracy shall be replaced only by the government of Allah, from Allah and for Allah.
“Nigerian soldiers are late. After killing many of them in Monguno and Benisheik, we have snatched their armoured carriers and a Hilux van and then hoisted Islamic flags on them. We now move freely with them.”
The Nigerian military however maintained its position that it had previously killed Shekau in battle, and claimed that the fellow in the videos was an impostor.
It’s been two months since we last heard from the Boko Haram leader
With the unfurling of events, some are suggesting that Shekau, the real Mc’Coy, is dead. Nevertheless, this is a jumpy conclusion. Surprises are expected!
The premise of this “jumpy” conclusion is the deadening silence from the garrulous, self-styled jihadist.
One of the times he intruded into sane space, in a video, recently, was in February when he threatened to disrupt the general election. Since then there has been no “word” from him.
No to elections
“Allah will not leave you to proceed with these elections even after us, because you are saying that authority is from people to people, which means that people should rule each other, but Allah says that the authority is only to him. Only his rule is the one which applies on this land,” he said.
“And finally, we say that these elections that you are planning to do, will not happen in peace, even if that costs us our lives.”
In the video, entitled ‘A message to the leaders of the disbelievers’, the insurgent also spared word for the sub-regional countries coordinating an offensive against his sect.
“You are claiming that we don’t know how to fight, but we forced your forces to flee from their bases and we freed our imprisoned brothers from the prisons that you oppressed them in. Only praise be to Allah,” he said.
Afterwards, in March, the Boko Haram kingpin pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Since that time, he has been elusive with no videos.
And the million-dollar question is where is Shekau?