Is Shekau truly still alive?

Controversies trailing the rumor of the death of Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau seemed to have been dispelled as the sect released a new audio intelligence to this effect. In the message released to the media, Shekau denied his replacement and reiterated that he remains the leader of the sect.

Shekau had noticeably been absent in the video footage released since March 7 when he declared his allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) group in the Middle East. The sect leader had reportedly broken his five months silence by adding that he is now the leader of the ISWAP (Islamic State West African Province).

Just about the time a section of the sect is planning a cease-fire with the Nigerian government, news of the fearsome leader of the insurgency being alive, filled the air. As was his method, he nullified claims of his death and replacement, and taunted the federal government particularly for the three months ultimatum given to the military to end the insurgency by the Presidency.

Even though Maryland-based company that tracks online activity of White supremacist and Jihadi organizations, the SITE Intelligence Group and an AFP correspondent with extensive experience of the Boko Haram, confirm the authenticity of the audio message, there is cause to doubt it.

In the first instance, last time Shekau communicated with his prey- Nigeria- it was in a video footage.

There were assertions that he had been impersonated in that footage and that the last seen Shekau in March was not even the real one. Now, an audio message has filtered the media space. Many Nigerians opine that the audio was a cover up or perhaps pre-recorded else, he should surface in person in a video, as was his usual style.

In September 2014 when he was going to refute the news of his death, he released a video. This audio message confirms either his death or Chadian President Idriss Deby’s declaration that Shekau was decapitated and replaced. Last week, Idriss Deby had told reporters in the capital N’Djamena that Boko Haram had been decapitated and its leadership transferred to one Mahamat Daoud. In the eight-minute Hausa language audio message, Shekau had rebuffed Deby’s declaration and tagged him a hypocrite and a tyrant. The reason for this allegation against Deby is not known. Meanwhile, a Nigerian reporter- Ahmad Salkida, who is believed to have a strong link with the leadership of the sect affirmed that Shekau is alive. He was appointed to mediate between the sect and the government during the Jonathan administration. Salkida’s enthusiasm about being an intermediary between the government and the sect have the appearance of suspicions. Nigerians showed that he could not be trusted.

If the news of Shekau is true, Salkida should be the most credible source. However, Nigerians do not trust him. Other sources of confirmation (the SITE and AFP) seem believable and reliable, but Shekau will not come out in a video to reference their assertions. It makes the question to remain hanging: is Shekau really still alive?

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