Vanguard (Lagos)

Nigeria: Before We Accept Boko Haram's Offer

Photo: Vanguard
Cartoon on terrorism in Nigeria

The ripple in the polity is heightening by the day as a result of the latest parley offer by the dreaded Boko Haram Islamic group.

The sect is allegedly set to ceasefire and dialogue with the Federal Government in far away Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The group said it preferred the dialogue to hold there and not in Nigeria.

According to One Abu Mohammed Ibn Abdulaziz, who claimed to be a leader of the group said "five of our members (Boko Haram) have been mandated by our leader, Imam Abubakar Shekau, to handle the dialogue with some prominent people in the country including the former military leader, General Mohammadu Buhari".

It also picked Dr. Shettima Ali Monguno, Ambassador Gaji Galtimari, Mrs Aisha Alkali Wakil, and her husband, Alkali Wakil and former Yobe State Governor, Senator Abba Bukar Ibrahim as mediators.

Boko Haram had overtime, spurned invitations to negotiate with government officials by dismissing government's claims of opening communication channels with it and described its supposed representatives in the purported negotiation as "fake negotiators who are pretending that they are in talks with the Federal Government on our behalf. These people are collecting large sums of money from the government under false pretence".

Butressing this position is the Civil Rights Congress' National President, Shehu Sani, who organised an earlier ill-fated contact with the group, as he said, "No credible talks are going on. If there is going to be any genuine talks, there should be confirmation from the leadership of the group and not the government".

On the one hand, the Congress for Progressive Change had already said that Buhari, the national leader of the party, had nothing to do with members. On the other , Ibrahim, one of the six mediators named, representing Yobe Central in the Senate, had been outspoken on issues of marginalisation of the North-East, claiming that the neglect had resulted in the heightened insecurity in the region.

Just a few days ago, he denied predicting a situation "bigger than Boko Haram" after newspapers quoted him as justifying the sect's insurgency, for the perceived marginalisation.

While some people believe that the offer should be embraced - to bring about the much desired peace - others are of the opinion that it will rather be a wrong move on the part of the government, to descend so low to the whim and caprices of a nefarious group for accepting to host the parley in a foreign land.

To the protagonists, including the Northern Governors' Forum, which comprises the 19 northern governors believe that the deployment of dialogue rather than the continued use of force, would help find a lasting solution to the worsening insecurity of lives and property in the country.

SIMILARLY, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Information, Media and Publicity, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe said: "The Senate will support any measure that will bring peace to all parts of Nigeria".

Supporters of the latest peace initiative believe there is nothing wrong in having dialogue with the sect.

It is argued that dialogue is an essential tool for crisis resolution and peace-making by the warring parties as this will enable the government know the real grievances of the sect, the reasons behind their actions and what can be done to appease the group and elicit from them, possible solutions.

The sect's spokesperson stated that this time around, government must show sincerity in handling the situation as well as indicate its willingness to compensate the group, so as to resettle many of their members and their families killed and those displaced.

To the antagonist of the parley, the conditions for ceasefire offered by the fundamentalists are unrealistic and they should instead surrender unconditionally since the issue involved is a purely domestic affair that should be handled in the country and not in the Saudi Arabia, as proposed by the sect.

Nigerians believe that acceding to Boko Haram may have further underscored the confusion in high places and timidity of the government, forcing the President to lay a dangerous precedent by holding dialogue with people who act like terrorists in all ramifications.

They have variously cautioned the government against conferring unearned status and inadvertently validating the claims by the sect through dialogue.

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) had vehemently opposed the conditions given for the ceasefire, particularly, that which seeks the dialogue in Saudi Arabia.

CAN is of the view that the sect should not be dreaded to the extent of giving in to their demands.

Many people also feel that the proposed dialogue with Boko Haram is suspicious and questionable, going by the previous stance by government that it will not dialogue with any faceless group.

Despite the misgivings, the Federal Government had already indicated its desire to commence discussing with Boko Haram as well as considering compensating members of the violent Islamic sect, especially, those alleged to have suffered from the violence and "were seen to have been killed unjustly".

President Goodluck Jonathan had earlier in the year said he will not meet the demands of Boko Haram, demanding that he embraced the Islamic faith and become?

Additionally, the government is to pay compensation, otherwise known as Diyya, to halt further threats and attacks by the sect, which put the compensation to the family of the 24 deceased members at N2m each. In other words, for the 24 families, the Diyya to be paid equals to N48m. The sect is also pressing for the release of those unjustly detained and the renovation of allegedly destroyed mosques by government security forces. And who pays the victims of the monumental tragedies?

The sect was said to have identified such dead members whom it claimed were killed unjustly, including its leader, Mohammed Yusuf, killed in 2010 in Maiduguri, after he had been reportedly captured alive by soldiers, then handed over to the police, under whose custody, he later died mysteriously.

Boko Haram has never hidden its desperation in advancing the course of its brand of Islam in the country through violence and the use of force by engaging in acts of unbridled terrorism and wanton destruction of lives and property, which Islamic scholars have said to be antithetical to the tenets of the religion.

In 1995, the group was said to be operating under the name Shabaab, Muslim Youth Organisation with Mallam Lawal as its leader. When Lawal left to continue his education, Yusuf took over its affairs, which allegedly opened the group to political influence and popularity.

Yusuf officially founded the group in 2002 in the city of Maiduguri, with the aim of establishing a Shari'a government in Borno State under former Governor Ali Modu Sheriff.

The centre had ulterior political goals and soon it was also working as a recruiting ground for future Jihads to fight the state. The group includes members who come from neighbouring Chad and Niger and were known to speak only Arabic.

While some apologists of the group have continually attributed Boko Haram's mindless acts of terrorism to poverty, unemployment and bad governance, the group itself has held fast to its stated mission of foisting its variant of the Islamic mode of governance on the northern parts of the country, making it complex and difficult to truly understand its philosophy.

Mr. ADEWALE KUPOLUYI, wrote from Federal University of Agric., Abeokuta, Ogun State.

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