Another reason why this ceasefire news must be treated with a great deal of scepticism is that Boko Haram is a secret and brutal organisation of sadists who have done everything possible to conceal their identities. How do you verify the genuineness of the people who claim to be spokespersons for the organisation? Another problem, perhaps the most unassailable reason to doubt this ceasefire, is that Boko Haram is not one homogeneous entity or group. There are factions that operate by the same name. How do we know whether the government signed a ceasefire agreement with the authentic Boko Haram or with one of the subsidiaries of the organisation?
Yet another reason why no one should begin to drink champagne or any sparkling wine over this so-called ceasefire is that neither Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau nor his subordinate has confirmed or denied the report of a ceasefire. Silence by Boko Haram leaders could well signal that news of the ceasefire agreement could be highly exaggerated. Silence will give the leadership of Boko Haram time to change their mind and tell the public that they never informed anyone that they agreed to any ceasefire.
Why would Boko Haram agree to a ceasefire at this point in time when they believe they are holding on strongly to their territory in the Sambisa Forest and appear to be capturing some villages and cities in Borno State? For example, the last time we heard about the movement of Boko Haram, the unconfirmed report was that the criminals were just a few kilometres away from the Borno State capital Maiduguri.
There are important questions to ask to enable us to understand how to respond to the news of a ceasefire agreement. Did anything change in Boko Haram leadership to compel the leaders to agree to a halt in hostilities? Is it true, as the nation was informed, that Boko Haram agreed to a ceasefire with no strings attached? I am not persuaded that Boko Haram signed a ceasefire agreement without extracting heavy financial compensation from the Federal Government. The reported ceasefire agreement could be a ploy by Boko Haram to provide its members space to reassess their position on the battlefield, to re-arm their members, to recuperate from disasters the members suffered in recent weeks in which the group sustained fatalities from onslaught by federal troops and other security agents.
It would be foolhardy for anyone to expect Boko Haram leaders to just give up their arms without compensation from the government, without any form of amnesty granted to their members, including post-amnesty settlement and skills training that will enable the members to be absorbed in the society. How does anyone expect Boko Haram members who have been radicalised and militarised in the past five or more years to give up arms and return to a life of penury, hardship and pain, with no prospect for rehabilitation? Nigerians are no fools. When the Niger Delta militants accepted the amnesty granted to them by former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, many of the militants gave up their weapons in exchange for payment and enrolment in a post-amnesty training to equip them with the necessary skills that will enable them to find jobs.
Boko Haram leaders will not willingly give up their weapons without bargaining hard for compensation for their members. When we talk about Boko Haram ceasefire, we must remember some key facts. Boko Haram leaders and their members engaged in continuous large scale murders of innocent Nigerian citizens in some northern states. They bombed homes, offices, and motor parks. They incinerated buildings and marketplaces. Their campaign of violence spanned over five years. When the government offered them carrot as incentive for a peace agreement, Boko Haram leaders responded defiantly by bombing and killing and kidnapping many Nigerians.
The body count of Boko Haram’s victims has continued to rise. Boko Haram’s violent activities and antecedents suggest they want nothing to do with government’s peace offers and negotiated settlement of whatever it is that might be boiling in their stomach. You cannot trust leaders of a violent organisation who preach violence, live by violence, rape and torture innocent citizens. Against this background, I am not as optimistic as many people are that the so-called ceasefire will herald the return of peace to northern states or that the Chibok girls will be released. Only time will tell. For many years, no one really understood what Boko Haram leaders wanted other than to get the government to impose Sharia law on the nation, regardless of other people’s religious faiths and beliefs.