The dust being raised in the country following persistent calls for amnesty for the Boko Haram insurgents is a revelation of ignorance, insincerity and religious mediocrity of many Nigerians. It is very unfortunate that Boko Haram can play on our religious reasoning and succeed in dividing Nigerians along four ideological perspectives centering on whether to grant unconditional amnesty to Boko Haram sect or not.
Ideological Perspectives to Boko Haram’s Amnesty
The first group is those calling for unconditional amnesty for Boko Haram without an in-depth analysis of the demands of Boko Haram vis-a-vis what amnesty is expected to achieve in the Nigeria situational dictate.
The second group comprises those who think that Boko Haram members, considering the damage they have done to the country and atrocities they have committed against humanity deserve no amnesty but the full wrath of the law.
The third group includes those who are agitating for unconditional amnesty for Boko Haram jihadists as their own humble contributions towards the ongoing jihad aimed at establishing Islamic nation or Umman in Nigeria. They are covertly supporting the cause with their funds through Zakat and Sadaqat and morale, and are also overtly lobbying the Federal Government to grant amnesty to the executors of the holy war as well as allowing them to keep their weapons for use during the next jihad because according to Abubakar Shekau, “Muslims don’t lay down arms, they merely keep it aside”.
The fourth group consists of those who are resolute that Boko Haram, as it stand now, do not deserve amnesty. This rational group is of the opinion that Boko Haram sect must meet the minimum standard required for the granting of amnesty before they will be afforded the opportunity. To this group belong President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Professor Wole Soyinka and majority of Nigerians. It is based on this premises that on Monday, 18th February, 2013 the Federal Government of Nigeria expressed its readiness to offer amnesty to members of Boko Haram, if their leader, Abubakar Shekau gives up himself. This condition by the Federal government is in place because Shekau is one of three members of the group on United States of America’s terror list.
Amnesty for Boko Haram Sect is Already on Offer
But, come to think of it, recently that the National Coordinator of the Counter Terrorism Centre, Major General Sarkin-Yaki Bello (rtd) announced the readiness of the Federal Government of Nigeria to accommodate members of the Boko Haram sect in a rehabilitation programme. Why is it that the apostles of Boko Haram’s unconditional amnesty are not responding to this disclosure which was made at an interactive session with top United States military (Capstone Course) personnel led by Admiral Henry Chiles (rtd) at the National Defence College, Abuja? In the words of Major-General Bello, “Government is also working to ensure that an opportunity will be created to embrace extremists who renounce terrorism to come forward for rehabilitation.” (Emphasis is mine).
He added that government is prepared to meet the demands put forward by the group which included the release of its members in detention; the rebuilding of its mosque (Markas) which was destroyed by military operations in Maiduguri in 2009 and allowing sect members to practice their religion freely.
Bello said government would adopt some socio-economic measures to address extremism in the north, hence members of the sect who renounce violence will be granted amnesty.
“The Federal Government in conjunction with state governments will soon officially launch a coordinated programme aimed at addressing unemployment in the region.”
Irrespective of the group of thought we belong, let us swallow our pride, keep our righteousness to ourselves, imbibe religious tolerance, eschew violence in all its ramifications and follow the path of Mr. President. Rationality holds the key. You don’t discuss peace with someone holding a loaded AK47 rifle behind him.
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Deterring and combating terrorism are two extremes of the same continuum that require different strategies. While the former may require a proactive approach the later may be solved reactively.The value placed on human live by the government becomes questionable when we weigh government reaction vis-a-vis the protection of its citizens. I have argued extensively that the military (by their nature, weapon, orientation and exposure) are not in good position to fight internal crisis. The civil authority is a better leader in this regard, driven by law enforcement while the military remains in the background.That the Military Joint Task Force ambushed Boko Haram and killed 14 persons is both embarrassing and inhuman. We must learn to value and respect human life. Why kill, when arrest can make the difference?
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It is an unfortunate precedent being set by Mr. President. The message is very clear and enticing. He has succeeded in weakening and demoralizing the military and other security agencies to the doom of the country. Must Mr. President outsourcing security to ethnic militias to calm their nerves? This singular act is capable of leading to the collapse and disintegration of this nation if something drastic is not done urgently about it.
Like I said, “Nigeria is not comprised of the four major groups alone, namely: Hausa/Fulani, Yoruba, Ibo and Ijaw”. The minority groups and minority of minority groups are now being told in clear terms to get themselves armed, disrupt activity within the nation with as much violence as they can muster. “We will reward you from the abundance of our treasury. You will be rich beyond your wildest dreams. Unlike your peers who are busy acquiring an education or struggling to build a career. They would be dead to us, if not for the taxes we need them to pay”.
We should expect the emergence of several other ethnic militias in Nigeria very soon. After all, the governments do not have monopoly of weapons anymore. Mr. President should be told in clear terms to stop bribing ethnic militias. Bribing cannot check crimes, not the most heinous of all crimes, called terrorism. War against terrorism cannot be won in the bribing front.
Besides, Boko Haram’s amnesty is bound to fail. It may sound pessimistic. But time will tell. Its failure will spring from the fact that Boko Haram insurgency is not arms struggle for negotiation for socio-economic development. Its primary aim is to Islamize Nigeria. The question that the government is yet to answer is, how do we reconcile Islamizing of Nigeria and the proposed amnesty? What will form the bedrock of the discussion? Or, is it going to be amnesty in the beginning, amnesty in the center and amnesty at the close of negotiation No more, no less?
Have we ever consider the fact that Abubakar Shekau and his followers in Boko Haram are mere puppets in the hands of the puppet masters who are not only non-Nigerians, but also reside outside Nigeria, from where they direct Boko Haram’s operations and attacks in Nigeria?
I am oppose to amnesty for Boko Haram because I know that Boko Haram warlords are not Nigerians per say. These masquerades can only be unmasked with appropriate political will, sincerity of purpose on the part of our security agencies coupled with an effective and efficient superior intelligence power. When all these elements combined to advance in a war led by civil authority, in several battles fought by law enforcement and background support of the military the government will not be on its knees begging Boko Haram to have mercy by accepting amnesty, rather it will be the other way round. Let us keep our fingers cross hoping that the northern leaders and the northern oligarchy will be able to convince Boko Haram insurgents to return their arms to the Federal Government of Nigeria and get amnesty. The ball is in their court. Well done Mr. President, but stop bribing ethnic militias because this is not the way to Go-With-One-Nigeria (GOWON) which must of us sacrifice our lives for!