Mother of the Boko Haram leader speaks out

Sunday June 17 2018

Mrs Fatimata Abubakar: The mother of the the leader of Nigerian jihadists Shekau Abubakar. PHOTO | NIGERIAN ARCHIVE


The mother of Nigerian militants Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau has confirmed the death of her husband and father of the renegade.

Mrs Fatimata Abubakar told the Voice of America (VOA) that her husband died a few years ago, adding that she had not seen Shekau in 15 years.

“I don’t know if he’s alive or dead. I don’t know. It’s only God who knows. For 15 years I haven’t seen him,” she said.

Mrs Abubakar granted the VOA an interview in a village in Yobe State in north-east Nigeria.

Islamic education

The widow disclosed that her husband was a local district imam at the time of his death.


Mrs Abubakar said she had never spoken to journalists before the VOA approached her.

Her son, she went on, left their village as a boy to continue his Islamic education at a centre of religious studies in Maiduguri.

Shekau was an almajirai. In the generations-old tradition, the almajirai are sent off by their parents to study the Quran in schools locally known as tsangaya, where a teacher coaches the dozens, sometimes hundreds of male students, to memorise the entire holy book.

Shekau PIX

A picture of the Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau taken from a video released by the group on October 2, 2014. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

The almajirai beg on the streets for food, and it is believed that Shekau did the same. At some point in his studies, Shekau, according to his mother, met Mohammed Yusuf, the founder of the Boko Haram, who condemned Western education as sinful.

Mrs Abubakar said her son was brainwashed.

“Since Shekau met with Mohammed Yusuf, I didn’t see him again,” she told VOA.

“Yes, he’s my son and every mother loves her son, but we have different characters,” she said.

Shekau took over the leadership of the dreaded sect in 2009 when his predecessor Yusuf was killed.

Millions of people

Shekau is accused of leading an insurgency that has killed more than 30,000 people in northeastern Nigeria and the Lake Chad region.

His activities have also rendered millions of people in Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger homeless.

Destroying schools is at the heart of the Boko Haram’s manifesto, and the group has attacked more than 1,400 schools, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund.