Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Wakil described her efforts to mediate between Boko Haram and the Nigerian government, saying: “I am trying to convince them to be disarmed and be back to their homes.
“I know this is a risky job, but we need to do this for our kids and our country,” she said.
Born to an ethnic Christian Igbo family, Wakil converted to Islam when she was enrolled in law school at Maiduguri University in Nigeria’s Borno region in 1989.
Wakil, who has been working to save youth from Boko Haram since 2009, said, “None of the attacks or any of the activities carried out by Boko Haram are not related to religion as they claim.”
She said: I sometimes try to convince some of the members coming to my house and those who called them to be disarmed. Due to these efforts, I have ensured the release of some of the people held hostage by Boko Haram.”
Wakil is interested in working with children in need, and claims to know many of the young people joining the group over the years.
“When I first came here in 1989, most of the people who joined Boko Haram were kids and I had a very close relationship with them. They used to call me ‘mama’ which means ‘mother’. They were in my house every weekend, I used to feed and help them,” she added.
‘Sincerity in negotiations’
Wakil said she met with Muhammad Yusuf, the founder and first leader of Boko Haram.
“When Boko Haram was first founded, I didn’t give much attention. I saw it as a random group. I didn’t expect it will grow this militant,” she said.
Wakil underlined that she still maintains contact with some members of Boko Haram, and claimed things will change if the government shows sincerity in the negotiations.
She recalled that there were mediation efforts led by former president Goodluck Jonathan.
“At that time, members of the Boko Haram wanted immunity and pardon for themselves and their members. If the government had fulfilled the demands, these people were ready to be disarmed and come back home.”
Boko Haram has allegedly split into two factions being led by Abubakar Shekau and Abu Musab al-Barnawi. Wakil calls on the government to make peace with both groups in order to end the terrorist attacks.
Wakil participated in many conferences and programs aiming to solve the Boko Haram problem from the root, and a short film has been made documenting her efforts.
•Text (excluding headline) courtesy of Anadolu News Agency.