By Theophilus Ilevbare
Never mind the barefaced denial from Dr. Reuben Abati, Presidential Spokesman that the Commander-In-Chief, President Goodluck Jonathan, did not offer the Islamist group, Boko Haram, amnesty. On democracy day, we heard the speech of the Minister of Youth Development, Mr. Boni Haruna, loud and clear, and should anyone be in doubt, here are his words: “President Goodluck Jonathan has declared amnesty for members of the Boko Haram sect… Series of integration programmes have been lined up for the members of the sect who would surrender their arms and embrace peace.”
Every line of that statement by the minister on behalf of the federal government was denied by Reuben Abati. How low can an administration sink when it thrives on falsehood and deceit? How can a government continue to speak with discordant tune on a critical issue like national security that requires a clear and emphatic position? Who is fooling who? When will this government show some responsibility, sincerity of purpose, courage, seriousness and true leadership to begin to actually lead? How is the citizenry expected to support the fight against terrorism when the government does not even know what it wants? We know that should AbubakarShekau (Boko Haram leader) contact Mr. President this very moment requesting for amnesty, this administration will grant it. What is the implication of this for the ongoing fight against the insurgents? Is this how we will immortalise our armed forces for the sacrifice and ultimate price they are paying in Nigeria’s north east? Is this how we will honour the many innocent men, women and children Boko Haram has visited with untimely death?
Government deliberately made plans for such declaration not to come from Mr. President to create the impression that he remains ruthless in his stand against the religious extremists. The greatest disservice we can do to the lives that are being lost to the Haramite’s machetes, guns and bombs, is to, in one fell swoop, blot away their atrocities and reward them with billions, turning Shekau and his Amirs – as he calls his generals – to the latest Tompolos, Boyloafs, Ateke Toms and Asari-Dokubos in town who now waltz the corridors of power.
The proclamation of amnesty is nothing new. For as much as we know, since last year, the government’s amnesty offer has been on the table. Any attempt to declare amnesty for the vicious group now or in the nearest future will throw up more questions than answers like: When did Boko Haram request for amnesty? Why is the President offering what wasn’t requested even in the face of escalating bloodshed? Does he want to feign ignorance that the Islamist sect bluntly rejected his first amnesty offer? What makes him think they have changed their stance? Has the Commander-In-Chief lost confidence in the ability of the Nigerian security operatives to effectively wipe out the fundamentalists? Who are the sponsors of this terror groups in Nigeria? Why is it taking so long for the government to expose them? Or are they bigger than the country?
The emptiness and indiscretion of that pronouncement by Haruna was laid bare as the government had hitherto made an offer of amnesty to the terrorists through the Presidential Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution of Conflict in the North Eastern part of Nigeria. Their offer of amnesty is still on the table. So why declare amnesty again for Boko Haram when they spat on the face of the government by stating unequivocally and categorically that they don’t need amnesty but the government should instead, plead for amnesty from them. The government still doesn’t get it that these terrorists don’t flinch at the thought of getting billions from government as amnesty package.
In a desperate and clumsy bid to bring the terrorists to the negotiation table, the government is offering amnesty to faceless people – ghosts. Such ignominious gesture is tantamount to ‘radicalising’ the youths across the country to think that the way to get government’s attention is to pick up arms against the state. We say no, to all forms of bestiality of our youths, which this amnesty charade is all about. It defies every logic and rationale that the FG even contemplated amnesty to faceless terrorists, mindless killers and maniacs that have sent over 15,000 Nigerians to their graves since their Jihad began. More than 4,000 of that figure have being killed this year alone.
It is foolhardy to think amnesty can de-radicalise a terrorist. To the insurgents, terrorism is a way of life they’ve come to know, a new religion and message that they are ready to die for while forcefully propagating. Granting amnesty to Boko Haram is yet another indication that the Jonathan government is at crossroads. Besides, there is more politics in this amnesty charade than meets the eye. The religious radicals have a warped ideology that everything about Western Education is forbidden. How then, can government, in the name of amnesty, send Shekau, for instance, to study aeronautic engineering in United Kingdom or medical science in Australia in the guise of rehabilitation for integration? I don’t think the FG has thought this through. Amnesty or any such thing can never completely dissect this tumor out of the northern community.
Moreover, calling on Boko Haram members to unconditionally renounce their evil acts and embrace peace and days later denying that such a call was never made must have heightened the curiosity and skepticism of the Islamist group over the (in)sincerity of the government to any peace deal. Jonathan, it appears, wants to exploit the window that the prisoners swap for abducted Chibok schoolgirls present to negotiate an armistice with the dreaded sect. Their demand over the Chibok girls should not be misconstrued as amnesty.
Sadly and expectedly, the present administration has failed to take responsibility for the welfare of soldiers who daily put their lives in harm’s way in the war against terror. Nothing has been done to rehabilitate the victims of Boko Haram bombings, no one talks about taking responsibility for the bereaved families of our gallant fallen heroes in the frontlines, and no one ensures that owners of properties destroyed are adequately compensated.
Theophilus Ilevbare is on Twitter @tilevbare.