The statement by the Nigerian Army Public Relations Officer, Brig Gen Kukasheka Usman to newsmen regarding the latest attack on troops only mentioned that 4 troops paid the supreme price while 9 were wounded in action when a Boko Haram vehicle laden with Improvised Explosive Devices rammed into an MRAP vehicle, which exploded “killing 3 soldiers, a civilian JTF and wounding the other soldiers.”
There was no mention of the names of those that died in that attack until when Ahmad Salkida, a freelance journalist that specializes in reporting the crisis in the Lake Chad, broke the news on his twitter feed, that the civilian that was killed in that attack on January 8, 2018, was actually a septuagenarian vigilante named, Baba Mustapha.
SaharaReporters later found out in Maiduguri that Baba Mustapha, who is fondly called “Baa Masaa” was a retired hunter and farmer who lived in the Sambisa forest with his wife almost his entire life. He was then contacted by the military intelligence and was asked to relocate to Gwange in Maiduguri around 2012. Since then, Baa Masaa has served the Nigerian army as an informant, a human compass and a civilian ‘military commander’ who guided combatants into the infamous Sambisa forest, Boko Haram’s epicentre of terror.
A military source claimed that there were times when junior soldiers will even protest moving into Sambisa to engage Boko Haram terrorists if Baa Masaa will not join their convoy. “His knowledge of the forest and sources there, have made military operations a lot easier,” said a Staff Sergeant who briefly worked with the late septuagenarian.
According to Ahmad Salkida in one of his tweets, “those in the know about the ongoing war knew that Baa Masaa had contributed in almost all the operations into Sambisa and was physically involved in leading troops.”
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However, SaharaReporters found out a distressing reality that in spite of the contributions of this 78 years old vigilante – who is survived by a first wife that remained in Boko Haram captivity and a second wife in Maiduguri – no officials of the Borno State Government attended his funeral, even the military did not eulogise him in any statement. Top military brass in Maiduguri stayed away from the burial of someone SaharaReporters found out was a living compass of the Sambisa forest and one of the most valuable vigilantes in the life of the war against Boko Haram terrorists.
According to sources close to the family of the deceased “only an agent of the DIA in Giwa barracks a Commander of the Civil Defence Corpse attended Baba’s funeral,” this according to a vigilante was a confirmation that even when the vigilante was alive, he struggled with his bills and other needs yet he was unrelenting in his commitment to ending the war.
Baa Masaa was said to have been integrated into the Civilian Joint Task Force, but many of his fellow ex-hunters and vigilantes were sidelined when the CJTF was created.
Baa Masaa often complained of neglect and humiliation by the officials of the vigilantes SaharaReporters learnt. However, it was learned that Baa Masaa’s only motivation in the final days of his life was to be able to rescue his wife who was kidnapped by the terror group besides the personal relationship he developed with some serving and retired military officers.
“I trust the Federal Government will make the rescue of his wife a top priority like the Chibok girls and recognise and support his family. He deserves more,” said a member of the Civilian JTF in Maiduguri.
Another soldier stated that without training and military gears, he led troops to Sambisa and added further that “indeed, this old man sacrificed so much for peace to reign, but sadly he may end up as an unsung hero like many others,” said a military Sergeant in Maiduguri.
Reactions in the social media since the news of his death broke out was such that a monument should be erected in his name. Several others urged the State government to fend for his family to encourage other vigilantes that are critical in winning the protracted Boko Haram war.