Has Shekau Been Replaced?
Yes, he is no longer the sole head of his group, he now reports to a boss in charge of Islamic State West Africa, who in his own turn reports to a boss in Syria, who in his own turn is responsible to the so-called Caliph Ibrahim aka Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the supreme leader of Islamic State. This much is clear.
What is also clear is that not all members of Shekau’s circle were happy about the decision to join Islamic State, and there have been talks of several defectors over the months. What is surprising is that Chad’s President Idriss Derby announced on TV the day before yesterday that another little Shekau has arisen named Mahamat Daoud and he is claiming to be the leader of Boko Haram and is seeking negotiations with the Nigerian Government. If this who I think it is then this is significant.
First of all his name is Muhammad Daud, he is said to be about 38 years old, a Shuwa Arab from Maiduguri with a Kanambu mother from Chad. He is one of the earliest students of Muhammad Yusuf and is said to have been one of the few amongst the close circle of Muhammad Yusuf’s student that disagreed with the 2009 Uprising, his views being that they were not yet strong enough to take over the area as at then. He was said to be a trader in perfumes and an ex-serviceman, although the particular service he was in is not known by the majority of my sources. He is also one of the scholars of Islamic State of West Africa and is regarded as their Imam of the Science of Hadith. He was said to be a staunch Yusufi, opposing the polarizing policies of Shekau after Muhammad Yusuf’s death despite swearing an oath of allegiance to him, and was one of the few top dogs of Shekau’s group who were against the pledge of allegiance made to Islamic State, rejecting it as a betrayal of the teachings of Muhammad Yusuf. If he really is seeking negotiations, then it means he has broken away from Shekau with a faction of men loyal to him, and if he is claiming to have replaced Shekau as the head of the group, then i he has decided to put Shekau and his group in his rifle sights. his hate of Shekau may very well surpass his hate for the Nigerian State.
How does this change anything?
One he is a powerful commander within the group, in charge of the Amniyah or Security Department, the group’s powerful counter-intelligence and internal security arm. Before that he was in charge of the unit responsible for operations in Maiduguri and other major Nigerian cities, meaning he oversaw the training of suicide bombers, the planning of operations in major cities, the selecting of targets for suicide operations in major cities, and the dispatching of the human weapons to their assigned strike areas. This guy also ran the group’s intelligence unit, and was also the guy responsible for collecting the hundreds of millions of naira many state governors were paying Shekau’s group to not explode bombs in their states.
Having this guy on your side who mind you has a not so insignificant support base (I expect hundreds of fighters to follow him if he has left Shekau), plus he has tons of information that can identify many sleeper cells and operatives of Islamic State West Africa, expose the money generation and transfer methods the groups uses, expose critical intelligence about the group’s inner structure, and maybe even information as to how to kill Shekau. If this is the guy really seeking negotiations, the Nigerian Government should hurry and take the offer, having him on the Nigerian side is a game changer. Of course the risk that this is just a ruse to buy sometime, cannot and should not be ruled out completely. Anyways this chooses to go, one cannot help but admit that this really puts an interesting twist in the whole thing.