This Day, Wednesday, March 27, 2013
If there was anyone who needed to be convinced that the Boko Haram insurgency is a national problem, the raid on the hideouts of suspected members of the group in Lagos should be enough proof. The worrisome development in Lagos has further reinforced the proposition that the government should be supported by all interest groups and political forces in finding a solution to the problem.
The administration of President Goodluck Jonathan needs all the help it can get to put an end to this rain of bombs and flow of blood. For it is elementary to know that the solutions to all other problems confronting the nation are only possible in a peaceful atmosphere.
There is hardly anywhere in the country that could be said to be outside the perimeter of danger. Security agencies that are already on red alert in Lagos have arrested some persons suspected to be planning multiple attacks on the metropolitan state of Lagos. Public utilities, tank farms and other landmarks are said to be targets of the suspects who are still under interrogation. Security agents have also recovered bombs and other arms from the suspects. Some of those in custody are suspected to be suicide bombers. While the raid on the suspects was on in Lagos multiple attacks were launched in far away Bara in Yobe State. A policeman was killed and telecommunications masts were also destroyed.
The bloodletting continues in parts of the country. Nigeria's friends are also worried as indicated by the meeting that the United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Terrence P. McCulley, had with the Minister of State for Defence, Mrs. Olushola Obada, and service chiefs two days ago. The multi-dimensional nature of the crisis was seemingly confirmed by the service chiefs at the meeting who reportedly told Mr. McCulley that Nigeria’s participation in the defence of Mali against the Islamic extremists in that country is a factor in the intensification of attacks on Nigeria. Experts have argued that the Malian civil war is, in some respects, a spillover from the invasion of Libya. Some of the fighters in the war that terminated the regime of Muammar Gaddafi had access to the armoury and so the southward-flow of arms began from North Africa. Some of the arms being used in Mali have been traced to this source and it is imaginable that Nigeria has also become a receptacle to some of the arms. The complexity of the problems is only a pointer to the fact that the solution should also be comprehensive and multi-dimensional.
It is, therefore, unhelpful in the circumstance to reduce the matter into an increasingly acrimonious debate on amnesty for Boko Haram. So to borrow Lenin's question, what is to be done? Those whose sensibility is seriously assaulted by the proposition of amnesty should note that the solution certainly goes beyond amnesty even if the President agrees to grant one to the insurgents. At best, amnesty can only be a wise political step in a mixture of approaches that should be adopted. Those who oppose amnesty as one of the approaches should be tempered by the global experience in the last one-decade or so where the use of force alone has not solved the problem of insurgency definitively.
Besides, it is a well - informed view in security circles that Boko Haram and its derivatives might have become a franchise borrowed by criminals of all sorts. At least Boko Haram had once posted in its website that the group felt offended that bombings for which it was not responsible were attributed to it in the media. It is important to know who is actually responsible for which attack. The various groups of killers should be separated so that the motives could be known as part of the strategy to defeat terror. This was one of the suggestions made last year by the Borno Elders Forum well before this amnesty debate.
Since the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa'ad Abubakar III, reiterated the suggestion of amnesty for the insurgents, those opposed to the idea have insisted that violence in parts of the north should not be compared with the crisis in the Niger Delta, which warranted amnesty by the late President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua. But a comparison was made on Monday when the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe, warned against "politicisation" of the amnesty debate. He argued that the amnesty granted the Niger Delta militants was facilitated by the elders in the region such as Chief Edwin Clark, and Alabo Graham-Douglas. But the point remains that Yar'Adua never passed on the responsibility on security to the Niger Delta elders. Amnesty was a political initiative of the late President as amply demonstrated by his Media Special Adviser Segun Adeniyi in his celebrated book, "Power"
Politics and Death".
In any case, as Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah is wont to say the debate has been conducted like the meeting of an organisation whose golden rule is not to read the meeting of the previous meeting. The federal government issued a white paper on the report of the "Presidential Committee on the Security Challenges in the North-East of Nigeria" in May last year. The government accepted many of the far-reaching recommendations of the committee headed by Ambassador Usman G. Galtimari. One of the accepted recommendations was this: "The Committee recommended the urgent need to constructively engage and dialogue with the leadership of the sect as an essential strategy in bringing them on board. However, it advised that government should negotiate from a position of strength by allowing security forces dominate the environment. In addition, dialogue with the sect should be contingent upon their renunciation of violence and arms'". The suggestion of amnesty is in synchrony with the spirit and letter of the government's comment: " Government accepts this recommendation and encourages the intermediaries who have access to them to initiate this dialogue".
A year after the President is saying he won’t dialogue or grant amnesty to "faceless" people. This is not a mark of progress. This is why the radical lawyer, Femi Falana, said yesterday that he would begin legal proceedings to compel government to implement the content of the white paper if by April 15, government fails to do so.
As part of the steps to be taken to end this violence, the government should implement the white paper on the report of the Galtimari Committee.