President Jonathan is considering granting Boko-Haram amnesty. It’s called consideration, but already, the amnesty committee is forming. It’s difficult to know why the president is moving fast on a wrong thing. Only he knows the information available to him to justify the sudden turnaround. First, he called them faceless, but now granting the same faceless amnesty. Then, the president may have mastered the art of facelessness, has become faceless himself or Boko has acquired face. Whichever it is, something is about to go permanently wrong.
What moves these armed groups? They start with populist issues for relevance and justification and end at the profit and power motive with impunity. Once you fall for this motive, you’re compelled to continually service it or face recurrent upsurges or threats of it. This is why established governments say NO and stay at NO. It’s happening in the Niger Delta and will soon be replicated in the North. Okah boasted of blowing off innocent people, and when the law of a foreign country caught hold on him, his gang returned home to hound the government that prefers to ‘compromise for the sake of peace’. You may ask why? They see such governments as footmats. When spanked by the strong, they return to spank the weak. It’s the weak, therefore, who bear the burden of violence and carry its cost. Worse still is the simulation effect. Everyone that carries arms against the state receives amnesty; if so, more will join to be honoured in the end.
I’ve heard arguments like, ‘Grant them amnesty, thereafter, anyone rising against the state in arms is a criminal.’ Strange. In Nigeria, AMNESTY converts TERRORISM to CRIMINALITY. Then what’s really this fight, and did government fall for this argument? Someone sometime said they’d make Nigeria ungovernable if Jonathan won.
Jonathan won, Boko got biceps to disturb national peace. There’s therefore a political element. Boko threatens to Islamise Nigeria and effects it by snuffing out Christians at worship places. There’s a religious element. They had once told all non-northerners to leave the north. There’s also a regional element. Invariably, we are dealing with a multi-dimensional conflict. Is the government saying that one magical stroke, AMNESTY for terror or is it crime, will give us peace? Let’s see.
Next, Boko has killed and is about to be amnestied, what happens to the thousands of people they murdered? What’s the government’s magic-stroke? Note, if killers are honoured, the surviving of the killed can kill too to become honoured. You see why the direction is wrong. The president may mean well because he’s doing everything to keep Nigeria peaceful and united. But you don’t make peace laying wreath on one and inviting his killer to the table in an ethnic-sensitive clime. So if that amnesty is intended for peace, it has some element of pieces in it. It’s left to see how APPEASEMENT, even when superfluous, can give us true peace.
Make no mistake, the forming committees will soon make window for ‘chopping’. It won’t really be about peace-finding but the inflow of lucre. That again will infringe on the advantage of the military which hitherto has sipped from the iron-fist approach.
There’s this other argument that if Boko isn’t stemmed now, many northern governors may not have the peaceful space to campaign by 2015. But are they sure that, even with the amnesty, they’ll be able to campaign in 2015? It’s just the paradox of eating your cake and having it. When they were expected to jointly define Boko as a no-good, they tended to call them ‘our own’. They refused to see their monstrosity. Now, they’ve turned a destructive behemoth about to consume ‘their own’. The way it’s going, it’s Boko that’ll determine who’ll campaign, when and where in the north come 2015. They can blow the amnesty anytime it doesn’t suit them to give government a smear. That’s what the Jonathan administration is sliding into. Again, what stops MEND and BOKO thinking they’ve become co-beneficiaries of government intimidation and someday simultaneously pull a stunt in the Delta and North, respectively, to cause real scare? These are no alarms but possibilities because the government has allowed it. What would this portend for Jonathan’s re-election ambition?
Even more disturbing is the fact that by 2015, evaluation will not be on Boko or MEND escapades. That wasn’t the promise. We were told darkness will become a WAS. But one hour electricity supply in 48 hours is darkness. We were told there’ll be a second Niger Bridge; there’s still the old rickety bridge. We were told the East-West/Benin-Ore roads will add to our beauty; they are a pond/killer stretch, respectively.
These will count for Jonathan, not Boko and any paper/budget-sniper amnesty. Appeasement? It can’t take us there.
Onyegbule, PhD, is the Consultant-in-Chief of Conflict Out- Peace In Consult.)
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