By Dapo Okubanjo
There are no two ways about it- the media has been wittingly, and in some cases unwittingly, providing Boko Haram and ISWAP terrorists the leverage they require to continue their reign of terror in the consciousness of Nigeria and Nigerians. It is a fact that some of the nation’s traditional media have been unrelenting in publishing the terror groups’ propaganda but some individuals have taken the ‘freedom’ to a whole different level.
No one epitomizes this than the self-acclaimed conflict reporter Ahmad Salkida who appears to have turned his relationship with the leadership of the terror groups into a gold mine and is believed to be the one that shares the audio and video propaganda materials they intermittently release to local and international media.
That the insurgents are having a free ride in the media is mainly because of this fellow whose association with Boko Haram is believed to date back to 2006 when the group had not metamorphosed into a killing machine that it has now become. Today, the impression is that if anyone wants any information on the group, the go-to person is Salkida, who to all intents and purposes, now sees it as a full scale business venture.
He had, since the President Goodluck Jonathan era-especially in the aftermath of the Chibok abduction-, leveraged on his relationship with the terror group to give the impression that he could negotiate the release of the 276 abducted schoolgirls back then. As it turned out, nothing came out of it as it was not until 2016 that about 100 of the girls were freed.
Just after he arrived Nigeria in 2014 from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) ostensibly to negotiate the release of the girls, he was quoted as saying that there was nothing wrong in having what he claimed was a ‘professional access’ to terrorists and added that as long ‘as it is used to save lives and promote peaceful co-existence’.
This was more than six years ago and since then, Boko Haram had broken into two groups with one pledging its alliance to the Islamic state (IS) and subsequently adopted the moniker (Islamic State in West Africa), but there is no record of any direct or indirect involvement in the release of any of the abducted schoolgirls. He also has not been helpful in any effort to end the decade long insurgency although he uses his social media platform to give the impression of someone who has the magic wand but has so far been ignored.
Indeed on the fourth anniversary of the Chibok abduction in 2018, Salkida took to twitter to inform his followers that only 15 out of the remaining 112 abducted Chibok schoolgirls were still alive and added that sources within the group told him that the others died mostly during military operations.
Many see that tweet as a ploy to demonize the military and whip up sentiments against air raids that were launched on Boko Haram positions at the time. The Presidency also used the opportunity to clarify that Salkida was never part of the initiative that led to the release of over 100 Chibok girls and was also not part of efforts to get the others out of captivity. It equally made it clear that the international contacts that facilitated the release of the girls are in a better position to provide status report on the remaining girls.
It is worthy to note that after years of syndicating his ‘exclusives’ on Boko Haram terrorists to media outfits who were willing to pay, he has now set up his own online media where he releases pro-Boko Haram materials including the recent audio in which Abubakar Shekau taunted the new service chiefs which some traditional media gleefully published.
Like many people had noted, Salkida hardly reports the success stories of military operations against the terrorists but would amplify any ‘attack’ on defenseless people, yet he claims to be a ‘conflict reporter who is interested in ‘saving lives and promoting peaceful coexistence.
It is high time the Salkidas of this world were reminded that what they are doing amounts to providing material support to a terrorist organization. People like him and those who give extensive coverage to terrorists’ propaganda cannot be said to be doing a professional media job. They are simply aiding the killer groups to sow fear in the minds of unwary Nigerians. This is indeed seen as a crime in countries we like tagging as “saner” climes and there is no reason it should not be treated as such in Nigeria.