Joseph David hushed boys to sleep with bullets in Sambisa. He shot hot lead into their parents in Baga. He watched blood drip through their perforated innards, to soak the sands and scorched earth of Borno. David a.k.a Ibrahim Al Hajar, abducted peasant girls and housewives too.
At 22, the commander of the dreaded terrorist sect, Boko Haram, forcibly married two Chibok girls: Precious a.k.a Faridah and Elizabeth a.k.a Amina, soon after their abduction from home and his marriage to his first bride, who is also named Faridah, from Madagali.
David has killed people. Thus at 25, three years after he took command of Boko Haram’s 150-man guerrilla unit, he has lost grasp of his body count. But he remembers the peasant families he dismembered. He remembers the husbands, wives, beloved sons and daughters that he ‘wasted’ in cold blood. David remembers too, the soldiers he ambushed and killed in furious glee.
In the wake of his bloody exploits, David seeks redemption. He fights a desperate battle every day, against demons no one can see. “I want everybody to forgive me and forget because I did it mistakenly. It is not my fault. They forced me…I am sorry for my past. I am sorry for what I did. I am a Christian. I did not intend to do these things but they forced me. I did it to save my life. That is why I say I am sorry,” he said, urging his victims to ‘forgive and forget.’
I want everybody to forgive me and forget because I did it mistakenly. It is not my fault. They forced me…I am sorry for my past. I am sorry for what I did. I am a Christian. I did not intend to do these things but they forced me. I did it to save my life. That is why I say I am sorry
Can his victims ever forgive and forget?
Most of them are dead; very few people survived David and his rampaging horde. From Baga to Bama, Patawe to Pita, Monguno to Sambisa, David left a bloody trail as a fearless slayer. But how did the unassuming youth from Mubi, Adamawa State, mutate into a terror of Nigeria’s northeast?
“I was kidnapped,” he said; “The people that kidnapped me named me Ibrahim Al Hajar. They (Boko Haram) kidnapped me three years ago in Mubi (Adamawa). I was 22 years old. They took me to Sambisa Forest.”
In Sambisa Forest, David’s abductors indoctrinated him with spiritual texts regarded as Boko Haram’s holy grail. This was the prerequisite for training him to use guns and other weaponry. Thus after three months of brainwashing, Joseph was renamed Ibrahim Al Hajar.
shekauAfterwards, he was transferred to Shababu Ummah. “That is where they train people to use guns. I spent almost four months there, learning to use machine guns and other weapons of war. After that, I passed out (graduated),” he said.
For his first assignment, he was given a Hilux truck with an Antiaircraft (AA) machine gun. He was assigned to lead ambushes against Nigeria’s Military Joint Task Force (MJTF). David led his squad on several successful missions, ambushing the JTF and halting military onslaught against Boko Haram in Sambisa. Then he got caught.
“Before I was caught, I went on a mission to Patawe. I went to Gwoza. In 2015, I attacked Babangida (a town) and there was a time that the Nigeria Army attacked Sambisa Forest, so they permitted me to walk over them. So I did…That was the time Buhari defeated Goodluck Jonathan.”
David regrets many things: “You know, the lives of people that I have wasted. At the end, I don’t know how it will be…on the last day of judgment. And I regret because I was a student before Boko Haram kidnapped me.
“I was schooling at SPY. That is, State Polytechnic, Yola. I was studying Criminal Law…I want to say sorry because these things that I did, I did them to save my life. If I didn’t do them, they may think I am trying to bring problem within them. So, I did those things smartly and logically, till the time that God provided way for me to escape,” he said.
“You know, the lives of people that I have wasted. At the end, I don’t know how it will be…on the last day of judgment. And I regret because I was a student before Boko Haram kidnapped me. I was schooling at SPY. That is, State Polytechnic, Yola. I was studying Criminal Law…I want to say sorry because these things that I did, I did them to save my life.
Life as Boko Haram Commander
Being a Boko Haram Commander attracted several perks. David enjoyed a great deal of respect and modest wealth. He had his own army, numbering 150 to 250 men. He also received at least N500, 000 every month for his upkeep and that of his soldiers. The money was disbursed to him and fellow senior officers in Nigerian currency and sometimes, it was disbursed to them in foreign currencies: Euro, Dollars or Riyal.
With such liquid cash at his disposal, David was rich enough to marry three wives. Thus in one year, he forcibly married three abducted teenagers; his first wife, Faridah, was kidnapped from Madagali and the other two, Precious a.k.a Faridah and Elizabeth a.k.a Amina, were abducted from Chibok. His first wife, he revealed, was pregnant at the time of his arrest by the Nigeria Army.
Didn’t he feel sorry for them? Didn’t he ever imagine that they could be his sisters and thus cringe from marrying them? To these, he responds: “I felt sorry for them but I treated them well. Due to my position, I had some wealth, shelter and other things. So, I took care of them. Because they were Christians and I was a Christian too, I treated them well.”
Did they love him? “They loved me too much,” he enthused.
David’s wives are still in Sambisa and he believes they will still see him ‘By God’s grace.”
Frosty relationship with Shekau
“Shekau captured my wives. He took the two Chibok girls from me because I treated them well. He said he did not trust me. He said, one day, I would run with them back to Nigeria,” said David. According to him, his frosty relationship with Shekau was caused by moles in his unit who fed unpalatable information about him to the Boko Haram leader. David said because he didn’t maltreat his wives like the other officers, his actions became suspect to his soldiers and peers.
David is sure that his wives and Boko Haram leadership know that he is still alive. “They will know because of the information that goes around and they have computers and other digital gear,” he said.
David met with Shekau at the completion of each stage of his training in weapon handling. For instance, Shekau hosted him and gave him a Hilux truck with Anti-aircraft (AA) machine gun immediately he completed his first training. He also fought alongside Shekau against the military in Pita in a bloody gunfight that led to deaths on both sides.
Is Shekau a good leader?
Shekau is not a good leader due to what he is doing. His Muslim brothers are blaming him. He spoiled the religion of Muslims. So, he is not a good person. If you look at the people and widows that he has taken as slaves, he is not taking good care of them. People are dying, especially the small children. He is not taking care of them – David.
The 25-year-old dreams of pursuing a career in Criminology. He also dreams of reuniting with his siblings and parents in Yola, Adamawa.