Falmata Abubakar, mother of Boko Haram factional leader Abubakar Shekau, has revealed that her son was ‘brainwashed’ by the late sect’s founder Mohammed Yusuf.
“Since Shekau met with Mohammed Yusuf, I didn’t see him again,” she told VOA in an interview at her village in Shekau, Yobe state.
Shekau’s father was a local district imam before passing away a few years ago, she said.
Falmata said she had never spoken to journalists before VOA approached her, and she does not know where her son is hiding.
“I don’t now 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.
Shekau was an almajiri, she revealed, saying the leader of the calamitous sect, left Shekau as a boy to continue his Islamic education in Maiduguri, a center of religious studies for hundreds of years.
In the generations-old tradition, almajirai are sent off by their parents to study the Quran in schools locally known as a tsangaya, where a teacher coaches the dozens, sometimes hundreds of male students, to memorize the entire Quran.
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 Boko Haram, who condemned Western education as sinful.
Yes, he’s my son and every mother loves her son, but we have different characters,” she said. “He brought a lot of problem to many people. Where can I meet him to tell him that these things he is doing is very bad? He brought many problems to many people, but I am praying for God to show him the good way.”
People here say they often hide the fact that they are from Abubakar Shekau’s hometown because others may fear they have Boko Haram connections.
“Mohammed Yusuf was killed by Nigerian security agents in 2009, and Abubakar Shekau then took over as the leader.
Shekau is accused of leading an insurgency that has killed more than 30,000 people in northeastern Nigeria and the Lake Chad region.
Destroying schools is at the heart of Boko Haram’s manifesto, and the group has attacked more than 1,400 schools, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund.