Last week Thursday, the deputy leader of the dreaded Boko Haram sect, Abu Mohammed Ibn Abdulazeez proposed a dialogue with the government should the government show a desire and sincerity in negotiating an end to the turmoil that has been happening in the Northern region especially the Northeast part of the country.
The sect in its statement further stated their terms of negotiation with the government thus giving the government no say on the nature of the proposed dialogue. They didn’t stop there; they also made a list of those to represent both parties in the dialogue. The fact that they listed the name of Gen. Mohammadu Buhari as a member of their negotiation team is suspicious as the retired General had been threatening violence since after the last presidential elections and criticisms and speculations have always linked him with the activities of the sect as their sponsor.
To me, this is a curious gesture on the part of the sect and its leadership as I have never come across any form of negotiation where a party has to solely dictate the structure and even going further to arbitrarily list the names of the teams for negotiation for both parties. More so not taking into consideration the secular nature of the country as both teams for negotiation are Muslims and the venue Saudi Arabia is a Muslim nation. They didn’t even give any reasons for the choice of venue.
Majority, if not all the states in the western world have a tough stance on not negotiating with terrorists. This I think is as a result of a strong political will and sincere desire to protect the lives and properties of its citizens coupled with the availability of the requisite military and tactical resources to tackle such insurgency.
Back home, history has shown us that right from the inception of the violence that has engulfed this region; our government is neither sincere nor ready to put a strong fight to the whole menace. In fact several statements by our dear president admonishing us to pray to our God as it is only God that can save our country further underlines how clueless our government is as to how to go about the protection of its citizens.
In the North, where I was opportune to be for some time, the soldiers sent to help curb the violence and protect citizens are now a terror themselves. Their actions have resulted in a drastic rise of extra judicial killings in the region particularly Borno state where they have a shoot at sight policy which makes it difficult to determine who is the actual ‘enemy’. An example is the recent follow up attack by the Joint Task Force in Maidugiri the state capital on Saturday following the murder of a retired army general Mohammadu Shuwa where forty people mostly teenagers were rounded up and shot dead.
I in fact, had an experience whilst in Gombe state where because of an innocent joke two friends shared through a text message threatening each other with the word Boko Haram if the other does not bring him his Sallah ram. The military in their usual style of aggressiveness came breaking into our office building early in the morning beating everyone they saw around there and asking us to lie faced down while they conducted their search for non-existent hidden bombs. In the end, nothing was found after they had dragged some people to their barracks for more beating and torture.
On the government, Boko Haram and peace talks, sources in the government has said that the proposed dialogue is a very welcomed development and embraces it, “after all even in war, you find time to come back to the table to negotiate peace.” See the Nation Newspapers of 4th Nov. 2012.
On the issue of Boko Haram solely choosing the team for negotiations, the source said that “the government believes that Boko Haram has its reasons for choosing these eminent Nigerians.” Further onthe choice of venue, the source said “we have accepted the choice of Saudi Arabia as convenient for the sect. In dialogue, you choose the most secured and safe place. We have good ties with Saudi Arabia too.” See the Nation Newspapers (supra).
The government’s readiness to enter into negotiations with the sect further underscores the fact that it is weak and do not foresee an end to the violence in this region except of course if God supernaturally intervenes. So it leads one to conclude that they have been secretly waiting and wishing for an opportunity to ‘beg’ these group to cease fire. No wonder they once offered to grant them amnesty should they agree to give up arms. Grant amnesty to a terrorist with no plausible agenda? Such a joke!
In the words of Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN) “why would the Federal Government negotiate with terrorists? Are we now saying that a group that has killed so many innocent people should not be held accountable? What will happen to the relations and friends of all those they have killed should the government negotiate with them and give them some sort of power? Are we saying they should be allowed to go scot free?” See Thisday Newspaper of 5th Nov. 2012.
The question is what should one expect from these negotiations on the part of government since they are already aligning themselves with the sect’s position on things? What are the assurances that they will not easily give into their unreasonable demands and make promises which will be difficult to fulfill in their ‘desperate’ search for an end to the violence?
In the end, we can only wait and see.