Australian negotiator, Dr. Stephen Davis, has promised to name “bigger sponsors” of Boko Haram soon as Nigeria continues to get a grip on the insurgency in the north-east.
Davis recently caused a stir when he named two prominent Nigerians as funding the group, saying it was based on his discussions with the commanders of Boko Haram during his four-month attempt at helping to secure the release of the abducted Chibok girls.
He named former governor of Borno state, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, and former chief of army staff, Gen. Azubuike Ihejirika, who have since vehemently denied the allegations.
He also said some of the funding appeared to be legitimate transactions since they went through the financial system, allegedy handled by sympathisers in the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
Speaking with TheCable on Saturday, said: “I am going to have to name more sponsors very soon. The other sponsors are bigger than Sheriff.”
He also said the Boko Haram commanders did not name any political party as their sponsor, contrary to popular reports that the All Progressives Congress (APC) was mentioned by the insurgents.
BELOW IS THE FULL TEXT OF THE INTERVIEW
Dr Davis, you have spent many years interacting with the Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad (JAS) and what we now know as Boko Haram. In all your interactions with Boko Haram commanders and leaders have you ever heard the APC stated to be associated with Boko Haram?
Yes I have been in close contact with the JAS and Boko Haram over several years. In that time I have never heard any political party mentioned by any Boko Haram leader as funding or being associated with Boko Haram. The JAS leaders and Boko Haram commanders have only mentioned individuals like former Governor Sheriff. I heard Sheriff was APC and now PDP but his political party is irrelevant to me. I have never mentioned political parties in my discussions with the JAS and Boko Haram. The names of individual sponsors were given by Boko Haram leaders, not their political party association.
What sort of sponsorship has been mentioned by Boko Haram that they have received?
Former governor Sheriff was specifically mentioned many times. For example, Sheriff was mentioned as sponsoring trips for the boys to go for the Lesser Hajj. There the boys are “reorientated”. In effect they are recruited to Boko Haram. When they return to Nigeria the recruits are then taken off for further reorientation by which they mean teaching and for training. Some of the training took place in Mali by Tuareg leaders but now more training is conducted locally. I am going to have to name more sponsors very soon. The other sponsors are bigger than Sheriff.
You have heard that a “fake” Shekau was killed last week in Konduga last week. Do you believe this man was Shekau or possibly a “fake” Shekau?
I continue to believe that Shekau was killed on or about 19 June 2013 when we were deeply engaged in peace discussions. I have had so many senior commanders tell me that Shekau is dead. It was several weeks after that before a Shekau video appeared on YouTube. When I viewed that video with JAS leaders they immediately said, “That boy. We have used him before.” They were totally dismissive of any claim that Shekau was still alive. They referred to the person in the video as the “fake Shekau”. Some months later one of the senior commanders told me the name of the fake Shekau was Abdul Mutallif. The commander who named him was the one who wrote the script that the fake Shekau reads from in the videos. But I have heard they have used more than one fake Shekau. In July this year I was told the fake Shekau is Isa Damasaka. Earlier in June they referred to him as Bashir. We had been in communication with him over the release of the Chibok girls. Isa Damasaka is one of the names the military has released when identifying the man killed at Kondunga last week. He has also been identified as Bashir Mohammed so I am confident this man is indeed the fake Shekau. However, I do not know if Abdul Mutallif is another name he used or there is another fake Shekau named Abdul Mutallif still alive. I have no doubt we will know soon so we await a new video by another fake Shekau.
We have heard that large numbers of Boko Haram fighters have surrendered in recent days. What do you make of this?
This is an indication that Boko Haram commanders now understand that they have been fooled. They have followed a “fake” Shekau. Boko Haram fighters have died following a fake Shekau and fake teaching. The political sponsors have led these boys to believe that they are purifying Islam by this slaughter and purging the country of corruption. In fact the political sponsors of Boko Haram are corrupt politicians seeking power and more wealth. The sponsors epitomise all that the Boko Haram fighters are seeking to eliminate from Nigeria.
So what is next for Boko Haram?
The death of the fake Shekau shows how the fighters have been duped and totally misled by the sponsors. The fighters and commanders would be wise to take this opportunity to reach out to the government for a peace dialogue. If they do not believe they can have a peace dialogue without being captured and executed the alternative message I have for the commanders is this: Your sponsors will use you and sacrifice you so they can gain power. Set the captive girls free and walk away from Boko Haram while you still have the opportunity.