OPINION… Boko Haram: Exploring the Amnesty Option

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By Johnson Momodu

The goose and the gander are indeed lucky birds.  So also are the Movement
for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) and the Boko Haram
insurgents; especially so for the Boko Haram insurgents who took up arms
against their fatherland, but are being considered for forgiveness of sins
because the Federal Government thinks it is the best way to go to have
peace and unity in the land.

It does not matter that innocent blood was shed by the two groups, women
defiled, and misery callously distributed to innocent souls; but peace we
must have at all cost.  It is only logical to conclude that though men may
forgive these heinous crimes of bloodshed, the Owner of the souls that were
wasted-the Almighty God- will ask for an account of them.  And if these
criminals do not make amends with God, they will rot in hell.

But we must thank President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan for waving this
generous olive branch to the insurgents, just as his predecessor and
himself did to the Niger Delta militants a few years ago.  The ball is in
the court of the Boko Haram insurgents to either accept or reject this
offer.   I am not interested in the needless controversy that has been
introduced into the proposition by the Special Adviser to the President on
Media, Reuben Abati to the effect that the President has not granted
amnesty to the insurgents as purportedly claimed by the Minister of Youth
Affairs, Boni Haruna.

But here are excerpts of what President Jonathan said: “My government,
while pursuing security measures, will explore all options, including
readiness to accept unconditional renunciation of violence by insurgents,
and to ensure their deradicalisation, rehabilitation and reintegration into
the broader society…. I have instructed our security forces to launch a
full-scale operation to put an end to the impunity of terrorism on our
soil. I have also authorised the security forces to use any means necessary
under the law to ensure that this is done.”  To me, the message of the
President is clear and simple: my government is ready to grant you amnesty
if you renounce unconditionally violence.

Shedding further light on the possible amnesty or forgiveness  at a Youth
Forum in Abuja to mark this year’s Democracy Day, Youth Development
Minister, Boni Haruna, had said: “A series of integration programmes have
been lined up for members of the sect who surrender their arms and embrace
peace. Let me use this opportunity on behalf of the Federal Government, to
call on members of the Boko Haram sect to embrace the government’s gesture
and key into the amnesty programme.”  The minister’s position did not
confirm that amnesty had been granted but that the option was open to the
insurgents to embrace. So, why has the controversy reared its head?

Enough of the distractive controversy!  Jonathan used the occasion to shore
up the morale of the nation’s security forces.  He said: “Despite the
challenges we face, we must commend our security forces.  We must not
forget their gallantry and successes in liberating nations and in
peacekeeping, from Liberia to Sierra Leone, Congo, Sudan, Mali,
Guinea-Bissau and many places in Africa and beyond.  Our forces have paid
the supreme price in several places at several times.  It is now 45 days
since the horrifying abduction of the college girls of Chibok. I share the
deep pain and anxiety of their parents and guardians and I assure them once
again that government will continue to do everything possible to bring our
daughters home.

“I have assured you that Nigeria will be safe again, and that these thugs
will be driven away, it will not happen overnight, but we will spare no
effort to achieve this goal.  It is a sad fact that as I address you today,
all the gains of the past 15 years of democratic governance in our country
are threatened by the presence of international terrorism on our shores.  Our
dear country, Nigeria is facing a new challenge. A war has been unleashed
on us.  Extremist foreign elements, collaborating with some of our
misguided citizens, are focused on an attempt to bring down our country and
the democracy and freedom we cherish and celebrate today.”

It was under former Army General and democratically elected government of
President Olusegun Obasanjo that MEND first reared its ugly head.  Before
the infamous group, other forms of threats to the national security had
cropped up, but the former President had decisively and quickly dealt with
them almost decimating the entire towns.  Odi in Bayelsa State was the
first victim.  Zaki Biam in Benue State was another, with the military
going after one of its own, General Victor Malu.  He was not at home, but
the soldiers made sure they left an indelible mark for him to remember they

When Malu tried to whip up sentiments over the more than necessary
onslaught, he was reminded of his own role in the decimation of Odi as Army
Chief under the same Obasanjo.  It was the same method that the late
President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua attempted with Boko Haram that failed and
snowballed into this raging inferno that Jonathan is employing every
strategy to deal with.

We know that left with men like Senate President David Mark, there would
have been a full scale war by now, and how that would turn out will be
nobody’s guess.  It is not only legislators that are talking more than
tough to gain political capital.  Some gorgeously dressed women have not
been left out especially a former Minister of Education who would prefer to
make noise about in Abuja rather than go to the Boko Haram enclave in
Borno, Yobe, and Adamawa States.  She and some of her co-travelers,
including that failed House of Representatives member from Kogi State, like
to flaunt their credentials as human rights activists while the insurgents
and their sponsors wait for them in Maiduguri, Damaturu, and Yola.

And, of course, some pretenders in the robes of clergy have been gathering
to indulge in spiritual delusion and deception.  Some come to invoke curses
and cement their evil ways that do not ascend beyond the roof over them,
while others, like that fake prophet of Ikotun, have been seeking to
increase the numbers by faking deliverances on the Boko Haram
slaughter.  Meanwhile,
Nigerians are waiting for all those men of God buying space on radio and
television for their comments to no avail.  Are there no true prophets in
Zion again?

As all these go on and Jonathan meanders through the maze with his military
and security chiefs, the All Progressives Congress (APC) has been whining
that it has been ignored in the efforts to deal with the Boko Haram
problem.  But one wonders if these whiners forget that the root of this
problem is in the APC states of the North-East.  Why were they unable and
have been unable to use their clout to stop their former thugs turned
insurgents from shedding innocent blood and raping defenceless women?  One
day the chicken will come home to roost. Whatever has been sown will be
reaped by all the sponsors of different shades.

*Momodu contributed this piece from Benin City

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