Nigeria: The Untold Story of Kabiru Sokoto

Two days before the arrest of Kabiru Sokoto, the alleged mastermind of the Christmas Day bombing at Madalla, a Daily Trust's reporter v...

Two days before the arrest of Kabiru Sokoto, the alleged mastermind of the Christmas Day bombing at Madalla, a Daily Trust's reporter visited the suspect's hometown of Gagi village in Sokoto South Local Government Area of Sokoto State.
Gagi, a dusty sprawling suburban settlement about five-minute drive from Sokoto metropolis, is the birthplace of Kabiru Sokoto, who until Friday, was the most wanted - with N50million on his head - of all the members of Jama'atu Ahlissuna Lidda'awati Wal Jihad, popularly known as Boko Haram.
Mentioning his name or speaking about him is an apparent taboo here. The mere mention of his name makes residents of this place shudder. Because of this impediment therefore, it took our correspondent two days (Wednesday and Thursday last week) to trace the sect member's family home, which is located openly by the main road.
It was gathered that the restraint on speaking about Kabiru Sokoto stems from the fear of being mistaken for divulging his information or that of the sect to security agents, the consequence of which could be costly.
After much assurance, however, some individuals volunteered to take Daily Trust on a journey about the individual. We are not naming them here because this is the condition upon which they accepted to speak with our reporter.
The man known today as Kabiru Sokoto had used a couple of other names at different times and for different reasons. He was known in his school days as Kabiru Dikko and thereafter, Kabiru Gagi. But when he left Sokoto in 2009 after a clampdown on Boko Haram members by Nigerian authorities, he became known as Kabiru Sokoto.
According to our sources, the sect member attended Gagi Primary School, before proceeding to Sultan Bello Secondary School in Sokoto. He reportedly lost his father at an early age.
He was never known to be a stubborn character or to keep company of people of questionable character during his school days, one of the sources said.
"He was two years behind me in secondary school and he is not as old as people will take him to be. He is just 29 years old," he said, adding "he was an easy going and gentle person."
Daily Trust gathered that contrary to claims in the media that the Kabiru is a graduate of sciences from the Usmanu Danfodiyo University Sokoto, he did not go as far as the ivory tower in his quest for western education.
"People say that he read Physics, some say Biochemistry at the university, I think they are just guessing. Kabiru actually started School of Nursing Sokoto, but he did not complete the programme," a schoolmate said.
When our correspondent visited the School of Nursing on Thursday for confirmation, the academic secretary, who gave his name as Malam Abbas, declined comment, while maintaining that only the principal (who was then absent) can provide such information.
"There was a time that people rumoured that he had travelled to Afghanistan to further his studies. I cannot say how veracious is the claim, but I can concur that he became glaringly absent during that period," said another source.
A house painted in milk colour and overlooking the main road was shown to Daily Trust as Kabiru's family home in Gagi. Contrary to reports indicating that he was the head of the sect in the area, sources said the group was headed by one Abdurrahman, now standing trial before a court in the Sokoto following his arrest along four other members in 2009. Kabiru nonetheless, was said to be an active and supportive member of the group as he allowed it members to erect a mosque, which they also used as school, behind his family house.
He used to live with his wife in a house owned by his elder brother, a paramilitary officer, on another part of the town.
Shortly before he was killed by the police in 2009, Malam Muhammad Yusuf, had visited the cell in Sokoto and met with its members, including Kabiru, at a mosque on Bauchi Road in Sokoto. Kabiru was also said to be a regular attendant of the mosque.
Some residents of Bauchi Road who spoke on condition of anonymity disclosed that while other members of the group also visited the mosque to pray and learn, nobody in the area had ever encountered any clash with them whether on account of religious difference or other mundane issues.
"They were very peaceful and we mingled freely with them. They never condemned us for following a different religious sect or refusing to join them," said a resident.
When our correspondent visited the palace of the district head of Gagi on Wednesday, he was said to be away attending a meeting with the Sultan of Sokoto. Similarly, another attempt to speak with him the following day failed as he insisted that only the Sultanate can speak to journalists on any matter.
But it was gathered through a palace source that even though the group was headquartered in the area, it has never encountered any misunderstanding with members of other sects and people of other faiths except on one occasion. And Kabiru, who was deeply involved, emerged victorious when the matter came before the traditional ruler, by arguing strongly against his opponents.
"Some youths had adopted a certain way of sitting - said to be copied from Prophet Muhammad (SAW) - during prayers and some scholars (from other sects) objected to it, arguing that they were too young to copy the Prophet on such aspects. Kabiru, on the other hand, said nothing was wrong since it is the sunnah (tradition) of the Holy Prophet," said the palace source.
His position was said to have irked his opponents, who reportedly ran to the district head of Gagi.
"The scholars came and reported the young man (Kabiru) to the traditional ruler and he was summoned. When he was asked to state his reasons for backing the issue in contention, he cited facts and authorities from the Hadith. But when the district head turned to his contenders and asked them to cite stronger facts and authorities that could disprove him, they failed. There and then, the district head told the opponents to go back and live peacefully with other people. He (Kabiru) actually proved to be versed in Islamic knowledge," the source said.
It was further learnt that Kabiru was a disciple of a prominent Islamic Scholar in Sokoto, whom he left and joined the Mohammed Yusuf group. Similarly, people close to him said he has also taught so many people, before he relocated out of the state.
Threatened by possible arrest in the wake of the deadly suppression of the Boko Haram sect in 2009, Kabiru Sokoto and other members of the sect fled Sokoto. He moved to Abaji in the FCT. At that time, authorities in the state demolished the sect's mosque in Gagi. Daily Trust also gathered that an attempt was made to pull down Kabiru's home, belonging to his elder brother, but for the intervention of the said elder brother.
Five members of the sect, including its purported leader Abdurrahman, were arrested. The clampdown, according to sources, nearly cost Kabiru his marriage, as his wife, who is also from Gagi, was said to be taken by her parents, who insisted separation, when he ran away from the state to escape arrest.
Residents said he later came back and eloped with her after the dust had settled.
"The sect members here did not attack anyone as was the case in Maiduguri and other places before their houses were demolished. Yet, even when their houses were searched, no weapons were found," said another resident of Gagi.
A source at the palace in Gagi disclosed that the destruction of homes of the members did not go down well with the district head of the area, who was then in Egypt, stressing that the monarch had questioned the act on his return and went further to see how he could get those that had fled to return home.
"He went to the police with some people that he was able to get and told them 'these are my people and we have been living peaceful with them, please let them be.' So, they were asked to write undertakings and allowed to go back home."
On the spot where the sect's mosque was sited, is now an ash-coloured bungalow, said to be owned by Kabiru's family members. Although some noise could be heard inside the building, nobody came out to speak to our correspondent even after sending two emissaries.
Sources said the family has been maintaining low profile since the arrest and subsequent escape of Kabiru.
Also sources said security agents have been picking friends, students and associates of the sect member since his escape from the police last month.
"Two weeks ago (from last week Thursday), some plain-clothe security agents came to Bauchi Road and arrested one Nura, who is a tailor and is known to be very close to Kabiru," said a resident of the area.
Nura's Fashion Café tailoring shop was locked when Daily Trust visited the area on Thursday. Residents said before his arrest, a lady approached him and requested for 'express' sewing. "When he accepted, she insisted she would be around until he starts the job, but as he got down to do it, she came out and made some calls. Shortly, security men came in a vehicle with Abuja registration number and picked him," he said.
He added: "So, all those stories you are hearing that they are not arresting anyone here in Sokoto is not true, they have been picking people suspected to be linked with Boko Haram."
Kabiru, who escaped from police custody last month, was re-arrested on Friday at Mutum Biyu in Taraba State. Since his are-arrest, he has been in custody of the State Security Service in Abuja. On Friday, while parading the suspect, SSS spokesperson Marilyn Orgar said investigations would be conducted and Kabiru would be charged to court after that. But she did not give a specific date as to when he would be arraigned.
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