This is the most detailed profile of the mysterious Shekau that I have seen. Key points:
Shekau was born in a remote village in Yobe State near Nigeria’s border with Niger
When he was a young boy he was taken by his father for Quranic studies by a Mallam. The Mallam’s son Baba Fanani described Shekau as “the most troublesome of all of his students” and that “He was arguing with the mallam all the time”.
After 11 years of study, the Mallam (Baba Fanani’s father told) Shekau to leave after Shekau’s aggressive disposition troubled the Mallam.
Shekau’s parents never visited him throughout his 11 years with the Mallam.
- Shekau then became an itinerant street preacher. He preached hostile rhetoric against the government, telling his followers that the government was not doing anything for them.
- He supported himself by selling perfume bottles in the market.
- Stories of his aggression and anger are legion. One of his followers described him as “very harsh as a teacher” and recalled that “Nobody wanted to argue with him.” A nurse who treated his followers said Shekau was cold, unsmiling, and feared by his own followers: “I’ve seen him shouting and insulting his followers. He will shout at the top of his voice and insult people.”