Mahdi Shehu: Between Activism and “Hacktivism.”


By Ahmad Usman Mairukubta

The media is currently agog with the story of the arrest and detention of a popular social media personality, Malam Mahadi Shehu. Shehu, a Kaduna based quasi-whistleblower, achieved notoriety with series of videos backed by doctored documents which were intended to prove (more appropriately, mislead the public) into believing phantom corruption allegations against former Governor of Katsina State, Rt. Hon. Aminu Bello Masari, and senior officials of his administration. 

While it lasted, Mahadi’s solo voyage to fame crashed with as much speed as it gained popularity. The climax of the voyage was when, after appearing in court on a stretcher, wearing neck collar to appear totally incapacitated, he was secretly recorded in his holding cell removing the medical costume he deceptively wore to court for the desperate purpose of dodging the numerous cases of libel instituted against him by Katsina State and some of its officials seeking for redress for being maligned by Mahadi in series of videos backed by doctored documents.

With the viral police-holding cell video showing Mahadi Shehu disrobing and discarding his medical costume, many observers thought the last was heard of “Mahadi Shehu the activist.” Alas, the best for Mahadi’s victims and of course, the worst for him, was yet to come. His chickens finally arrived home to roost precisely Tuesday, 6/2/24. Shehu was caught pants down in a seedy hotel room with tons of documents purportedly supportive of fraudulent activities of former Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Malam Abubakar Malami (SAN). He was there, either daftly or courageously, to bargain with Malami, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), as well a former Chief Law Officer of Nigeria, to “help” sweep supposedly damaging documents linking Malami with fraudulent activities under the carpet. This he will do for a kingly sum of $500,000 (N500m in local language). Quite unprecedentedly courageous albeit daft.

More than Mahadi, followers of his social media anti-corruption crusade were more rudely shocked by the cheap manner he was nabbed practicing the exact opposite of what he spent a considerable time preaching against. No gainsaying the shameful incident explicitly highlighted the gullibility of Mahadi’s followers as much as it punctured his claim to any moral and intellectual disposition.

Always confident and wearing a false mien of righteousness, uprightness and impeccable character, Mahadi is the least candidate for a notorious blackmailer in the minds of his seemingly hypnotized followers, not with his trade mark incantations of verses of the Holy Quran heralding every new “revelation”of one uncovered fraud or another with which he held them spellbound for a very long time while dragging the names of many honorable people in the mud with reckless impunity. 

Mahadi Shehu is now in jail for a lot less than he accused many of his victims. He’s arrested not only for attempt to blackmail former Minister Malami, he’s in the net for a bigger criminality of hacking bank accounts, social media accounts, e-mails and whatsapp accounts of members of his family. In the petition the former Minister presented to the IGP, he accused Mahadi Shehu of attempting to open a fake bank account with the name of his (Malami’s) wife, Aisha Abubakar Malami, obviously for the purpose of implicating Malami in nefarious financial activities to compliment the “bad guy” image of Malami he (Mahadi) has spent considerable time trying to impress in the minds of Nigerians. 

And for clarity, Malami and the NPF were not at the Summerset Hotel to arrest Mahadi Shehu. The were their to nab the imposters that have been using different phone numbers, e-mails and social media accounts trying to blackmail the former minister. It’s fate (or is it sheer stupidity) that took the best of Mahadi and had him come personally, instead of sending a proxy, to collect the $500,000 supposedly agreed with Malami as the price for his silence. You don’t blame Mahadi though. $500,000 is quite a big sum to be entrusted with anybody not to mention the fact that a cheat hates to be cheated. Apparently Mahadi lower his guards to avoid having a taste of his pill by being “defrauded.” 

The irony of it all, in one of his numerous e-mails to Malami, Mahadi Shehu (or is it Col. Kenneth) expressed anger and encouraged Malami to be smarter for what he said were efforts to track his accomplice, an “innocent woman” as he put it. He wrote and I quote: 

“You're sounding silly by now. Tr and be more smarter. If you know the data's we al got from al your deals I don’t think you'll be tracking and innocent woman. How do you expect us to be so cheap to be tracked?” Unquote. 

Funnily, Mahadi (Col. Kenneth in this case) was nabbed cheaply like a village crook who missed his way to the city — waiting in a hotel room with a bagful of incriminating documents waiting  to collect $500,000 blackmail fees. Isn’t this ironic given how Mahadi’s notoriety and expertise in the game of hide and seek with security operatives? 

Indeed, there are great lessons for activists as well as “hacktivists” in this saga. May we learn from.

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