Person Of Interest: Ahmad Saldika
With claims that the terrorist group, Boko Haram has been more consistent with their message than the Federal Government, Ahmad Saldika is the only Nigerian, publicly known to have direct links to the leadership of Boko Haram. Ahmad Saldika is the only Nigerian reporter, who has reported extensively on the consciousness, philosophy and belligerency of the terrorist sect-Boko Haram.
A man from Biu local government, Ahmad was a Christian, later described as a free thinking Marxist till 1997, when he embraced the Muslim faith. Seeing school as an infringement on his understanding of personal liberty, Ahmad ended up not writing his secondary school leaving exams. Discovering an innate love for writing from reading loads of books, his mentor Dr Jibrin Bala Mohammed, who was an associate professor in journalism, urged him to try his hand at writing. In his search for a publisher willing to publish his manuscripts, Ahmed moved to Abuja in the year 2000 to live with relatives. These relatives ended up panicking about his close relationship with their son, fear that this relationship would lead to their son’s conversion to Islam, led to his eviction from their home.
Ahmad at this point worked as a jobless writer by day and a security guard by night. A meeting with Uche Ezechukwu and Obiora Chukwumba gave Ahmad the spotlight of his first journalism job. Even with just a Primary School Leaving Certificate, his fresh perspective was what earned him a seat at the table.
As a journalist, his link to the terrorist sect, Boko Haram has come under suspicion numerous times. Ahmed was exiled from Maiduguri by Ali Modu Sherrif- Governor of Borno State in 2009, after a major battle between the terrorist sect and a special security outfit set up by the Governor. During this period, he kept reporting a build up to a war. At the time the crisis broke, Ahmed, for some reason was the only journalist the sect allowed into their territory. A certain level of trust had been formed between members of the sect and Saldika and for some reason he was given access to interview the sect leader. Harassment by the mobile Police and Soldiers because of this link he had did not deter him. Arrested for a crime referred to as “counter intelligence” and made to lie down while two policemen debated who was going to take up the task of pulling the trigger, Ahmad reportedly survived this execution just because an “oga” did not want to see a corpse present at the government house. Thrown into prison with 58 other people who were either members of the sect- Boko Haram or innocents- an execution was carried out as cell mates awaited their fate.
Mohammed Yusuf- the former leader of the sect was said to be enamoured with Saldika-having heard of him from one of his students. He invited him over numerous times and they maintained open communications-even going as far as asking him to write a book on his activities. Mohammed also offered Saldika a position with the Public Affairs unit of the sect- asking him to help set up a newspaper and take the position of Editor. According to Saldika, it is evident that the raging of the sect increased after the execution of the sect’s leader.
Saldika is a man who believes that Boko Haram is in a growing relationship with Al Qaeda and he is a man who is regarded as one who should know. He has boldly reiterated that the sect was open to talks but the government has decided to subdue these insurgents with force rather than communication. Claiming that there were blue prints for action to resolve the mess depending on the willingness of the government to release women and children in various detention centres and reverse the treatment of those members of the sect that have been detained. The sect had promised a ceasefire and had promised to spare unarmed civilians. These blueprints however, are yet to see the light of day as government officials have repeatedly denied that they had women or children in detention.
Since 2009, Saldika’s life has been on the line. From invitations by security agents asking him to wear a wire, and pressure to reveal his sources, from tags of unpatriotic to connivance- Ahmed is a man who has had a hard time. His kids, unfortunately have not been left out of the melee as one of his daughters reportedly stated that kids refused to play with her claiming her father was a member of Boko Haram. In 2013, he fled to the UAE with his family and set up a grocery store. Denying being a member of Boko Haram has become a song that Saldika cannot get tired of singing. Faced with accusations at every turn, his irritation with the inevitable question is evident when he chooses to answer.