Sunday, 27 January 2013

Dialogue With Boko Haram?

Of recent there have been series of calls on President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to Dialogue with Boko Haram. First it was former President Olusegun Obasanjo who suggested the “carrot and stick” formula as a tool to dialogue with an acclaimed terrorists group that has well defined connections with Al Qaeda. It is annoying that this is coming few days after the same Obasanjo had accused President Jonathan of being too soft on Boko Haram at a function in Warri, Delta State where he suggested an Odi solution (genocide) to the Boko Haram insurgence.  

When an elder statesman speaks from two sides of his mouth on state matter it goes beyond attempting to create more confusion in the already fragile system to include discrediting those in authority. The double standard talk is intended to undermine President Jonathan’s administration and set him against the people. It is as diversionary as it is ill conceived. By asking President Goodluck Jonathan to blow hot and cold at the same time Baba is setting the stage for his eventual dislodgement come 2015.  Either way, the conflicting advice is designed to open up avenues for more criticisms; condemnations and possible rejection come 2015.

Then the former President Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, who called on the Federal Government to exploit the option of dialogue with members of the insurgent group Boko Haram in order to arrest the prevailing drift in the nation’s security.  

He pointed out that the use of force has failed to address the insecurity propagated in the country by Boko Haram and advised that “We must put hands together to find a more rewarding and meaningful end to this security concern”. To the retired army general, “Dialogue is my number one preference in this regard”.

But, unlike a resolute army general of the Nigerian Army Armoured Corps and former President that we know him to be, he went further to instruct a sitting President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to use bedroom voice (or is it language of weakness) when talking on issues concerning the Boko Haram sect and to advice his aides to do the same. In his words, “Language of force will not help us in our strong determination to address this insecurity problem” (emphasis mine). He maintained that President Goodluck Jonathan and his able lieutenants must learn how to talk to the Boko Haram terrorists with “respect”. Haba, Baba! We all aware of frantic efforts that President Jonathan have made to make Boko Haram insurgents and their sponsors to pull their mask and come to reason with the Federal Government but they turn down all advances and are so bent on causing havoc in the land, destroying lives and properties. What Boko Haram is doing in northern Nigeria is sinister; it is evil and should be condemned by all in totality.  

As Festus Eriye rightly said, “Anyone investigating the short history of failed dialogue between the government and the insurgents will find that Jonathan and his administration have been anything but hawkish over the matter. Even in the face of the worst outrages the president was always advocating talks – much more to the chagrin of many”.

Adopting a motion titled “Urgent Need for the Federal Government to Open Avenues for Dialogue as a Means of Addressing Security Challenges in the Country” moved by Muhammed Bashir Galadanchi representing Gwale Federal Constituency, Kano Sate, members of the House of Representatives at a plenary session endorsed the use of dialogue as a means of addressing security challenges posed by Boko Haram. To Galadanchi and his colleagues in the Lower House military action, random arrests and imprisonments are not only ineffective but also escalated trends of insecurity. Lamenting on the direction of the ill wind called Boko Haram, Galadanchi said further, “If this approach is not reversed and more long-term solutions deployed, the incessant incidents will pose serious threat to our security, to our democracy, the rights and freedom of our innocent citizens and ultimately destabilize the nation’s fragile stability and unity”.

The law makers’ called on the Federal Government to initiate programmes that will promote rule of law, strengthened civil institutions and address the underlying factors that fuel insecurity and violent extremism is right on course.

What I cannot agree with the law makers is to tell President Goodluck Jonathan to dialogue with shadows or faceless band of criminals who has refused to see reason and down their weapons. Besides, on what basis are we talking dialogue with Boko Haram? Dialogue does not just happen. It is usually propelled into action or initiated by the perceived losing side to secure a safe landing ground.  In other words, fighters only come to a negotiating table when they realize that their cause cannot be achieved by force of arms. Has Boko Haram come to this realization? Until Boko Haram and their sponsors come to this realization the Federal Government should not be pushed around.

 No legitimate government will just hurry into talks with every illegal or pseudo group that challenges its authority. Besides, Boko Haram has scattered like a pack of card with criminal elements in the north cashing in to benefit from the crisis. With the fragmentation of Boko Haram into many factions, which do we begin to negotiate with? If we hack a deal with one group will the other factions abide by such agreement?  

Although Nigeria has no clear cut procedure for dealing with terrorists’ groups, the global best practice is not to dialogue with them.  It is disservice to Nigeria to attempt to politicize Boko Haram and of a more disservice to advice a President who is in total control of all parts of the country to abandon State matters and go begging terrorists to come to a negotiating table.

Is President Jonathan’s tough talk already generating ripples between the faceless sponsors of Boko Haram and their puppets of destruction? Those suggesting dialogue should bold enough to tell us only two things:

1.      What Boko Haram insurgents actually want from Nigeria?

2.      Who they are?

The answer to these questions will enable President Jonathan to know beforehand what is expected of him and how to go about finding appropriate solutions to them.

While I am not totally against dialogue, I am of the view that dialogue with Boko Haram will be reasonable and effective only when the sect come to its senses, put down their arms and come to the government with clear cut demands. Because, if the issues they continue to parade or to be addressed centered around the following, the Federal Government should be wary of the push into dialogue since most of the voice we are hearing is that of Jacob but the hand is that of Esau. Is the dialogue all about:

1.      Replacing western education with Islamic education in Nigeria in this 21st century?

2.      Establishing Sharia or the Islamic legal system in the whole of Nigeria, the direction OBJ wanted Nigeria go when he approved Sharia law in some States in the country in 1999?

3.      Or Islamizing Nigeria as planned by IBB when he smuggled Nigeria into the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) and the G8 Islamic Countries in 1986,

4.      Or, to negotiate political takeover of the nation by the north come 2015 an issue that is already tearing PDP apart?

However, if the dialogue is to center around the problems of unemployment, underdevelopment, social decay, rights abuse, separation of power and the rule of law, and true federalism etc. it make sense and these are attainable demands of citizens in any true democracy.

Perhaps the apostles of dialogue are seeing the “carrot” as some juicy contracts for the Hausa/Fulani Boko Haram sect.  Possibly they are of the opinion that since the Niger Delta militants are now pipeline security contractors earning over half a billion Naira, the Federal Government should contract out our northern borders’ security to Boko Haram at a cost double that amount?

Next, the Yoruba OPC will eventually take up arms to destabilize the west, and then we will respond with “carrots” by means of contracting them to secure our western coasts? Do you not think that in this arrangement, the Igbo MASSOB will eventually lose out because they will have nothing to hold in order to pull Nigeria to their angle? Except MASSOB will embark on arms struggle and front commerce and ingenuity as instruments of negotiation; and because it concerns the Igbos we will at that time pullout armoured cars and tanks to massacre them?

Although the 30 months civil war have contributed to check arms bearing in eastern Nigeria, the ongoing events in Nigeria is enough to change a people’s perception of peace, gentleness and loyalty. This endless circle of dialogue and negotiation with tribal based outlaw or pseudo groups for the soul of Nigeria and share of the national cake should stop. We should always remember that Nigeria is not comprised of the four major groups alone namely: Hausa/Fulani, Yoruba, Ibo and Ijaw. What of the minority groups that cannot bear arms or engage in senseless killing of fellow humans and destruction of valuable properties? Or how will the carrots of arms struggle get to the minority of minority groups that cannot afford a catapult?

By systematically institutionalizing dialogue with terrorists’ groups will are legalizing terrorism, through our utterances, actions and inactions? If Boko Haram is not qualified for a terrorist group by Nigeria standard, then Al Qaeda can pass the test for a freedom-fighters' group or Non-Governmental Organization (NGO).

The OPC, we can testify were very careful in their selection of targets and attacks in the west. The Niger Delta militants demonstrated caution and maturity in their operations in the Niger Delta region. What we are seeing of Boko Haram is a manifestation of madness. It is condemned even by Islam which they profess to protect.

If the Boko Haram sponsors are afraid to show their faces so as not to obliterate their political career, let the Boko Haram leaders themselves be bold enough to step forward for dialogue with the Federal Government.

Let us keep ethnic sentiments and political masquerading out of this and call a spade a spade! The Federal Government has the right to know who to dialogue with, on what conditions, and for what purposes.  

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