• Friday, May 24, 2024
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Boko Haram and amnesty: Who giveth? Who taketh?


 About five years ago, the Academic Staff Union of Universities of Olabisi Onabanjo University summoned a congress to discuss the white paper which the government had issued subsequent to one of those usual visitation panels. It was in this charged atmosphere that one of us, Kayode X, raised a counter motion and argued that based on what the government and its appointed management had done to us, we, the academic staff, were the ones who should be issuing them with a white paper! It was obviously a valid assertion, except that it was/is not common for the tail to wag the dog, especially on such matters. I remembered that hilarious but serious ‘Kayode’s Theory’ following the recent government intention to offer amnesty to the BH because a similar scenario has just played itself out. Just as the FG was considering the amnesty option, an arm of the BH responded through Abubakar Shekau that it did not need any amnesty; that the group would rather grant amnesty to the president, the government or the country; that they never committed any offence and that all they wanted was just the ‘shariarisation’ of the predominantly Moslem north.

The BH amnesty talk has all the trappings of a high-profile drama, except that this is a deadly serious affair. Not too long ago, the Sultan of Sokoto declared that amnesty should be granted to the BH, and that was just as President Jonathan was about visiting Borno and Yobe States. I was among those who thought that it was a game-plan and that he was just clearing the ground for a presidential declaration on the issue. When the president visited that deserted and distressed operational HQ of BH [Maiduguri and Damaturu], he talked tough, declaring that he would not negotiate amnesty with ghosts and that the elders should undertake to be personally liable for BH murderous campaigns. Some of us thought that he had discovered an anti-BH vaccine, but alas, the group continued with its activities unabated, bombing Maiduguri just as President Jonathan was leaving. Then suddenly, just suddenly, the president empanelled a committee on the possibility of amnesty for BH. Coming so soon after the ‘ghost declaration’, and given that nothing has changed, except perhaps negatively, people were also surprised at the sudden u-turn. emerged for and against. Among those in support are ‘Fr’ Kukah [Fr in quote because he is a full-fledged Catholic Bishop]; the Arewa Consultative Forum; Abubakar Tsav, who argued that a precedent had already been set; a host of northern elders

, a long queue has 


some of whom are faceless and who directly or indirectly created the BH scourge by arming and using them as thugs and to settle political differences and by encouraging, condoning or refusing to condemn all the ‘uprisings’ in the north because the victims were always the usual people. I hope that Ahmed Yerima, who holds a gold medal in Sharia governance and amputated Jangede for petty thievery, will now be happy. After all, BH is insisting on total Sharia just as he did [and still does?]. Those against include Christian Association of Nigeria; Northern Christian Elders Forum, who rather requested that amnesty be granted to all convicts and ATM [awaiting trial men]; many Christians and Christian groups; Alhaji Gumi [yes, the son of that same Gumi!]; Attahiru Ahmad, the Emir of Anka; Bamanga Tukur, who said the group was an evil and terrorist organisation; Shehu Sani, who warned against people using amnesty to serve their pecuniary interests; and Balarabe Musa, who saw it as a blackmail by insurgents. It is important to note that Bamanga Tukur, who is the national chairman of PDP, made his comments on the day the president elected on the platform of PDP was inaugurating the amnesty committee. That says much about coordination! Asari Dokubo, who in January declared the Niger Delta amnesty as a fraud both legally [you don’t grant amnesty to one who has not been convicted] and operationally [people who had 200 ‘boys’ declared 10,000, failed to surrender 10,000 guns but are paid N650m monthly for the boys; TheNews, 21/1/13, pp16-20], is against this, saying that it opens a vicious circle of violence since that is the only language the FG understands. He also declared that you do not buy peace, as such monetised peace would not last [Vanguard, 11/5/13]. In the meantime, other developments have shown clearly that just as Pat Utomi has warned, we are trivialising amnesty [Next week].

Meanwhile, a lot has been said about the bloody Baga incident and a lot will still be said about it. It is gladdening that people are now concerned about avoidable deaths of our citizens. If we have been showing this level of collective concern since 1966, Nigeria would have been a better place at least in one or two regards. The disparity in the casualty figures is quite alarming and all the five figures cannot be correct. But even if it is only one person that died, it is still an issue. But the figure that alarms me the most is the one about houses. It started from 1,800, to 2,740, and then to 4,000. 4,000 houses – in Baga? This is not Kano or Kaduna or even Wukari. Even if the houses were the size of biscuit cartons, 4,000 is indeed a very alarming figure. I am not sure that 4,000 houses have been destroyed in Syria in the last one year! Another alarming figure [a real one for that matter] is the Senate 32-member committee on the crisis, which visited Maiduguri on 8/5/13. That is 33 percent of the entire Senate! If it had been a nationwide crisis, they might have borrowed senators from Ghana to make up the number! I also pity our soldiers. How do they observe ‘rules of engagement’ when the enemy is unknown and unknowable? Now, 46 policemen were just murdered by the Ombatse ‘prayer warriors’ in Alakio, Nasarawa State, after another 55 were killed in Bama. Security operatives should not shoot at sight, but should they have to ask for ID cards before reacting or do they wait until they are finished before they act? This is complicated indeed!



Muo is a lecturer and management consultant in the department of business administration, Olabisi Onabanjo 

University, Ago-Iwoye



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