• Wednesday, April 17, 2024
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BusinessDay

Redeem the North, redeem Nigeria

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  Religious sentiments and politics aside, Nigeria is caught between ‘blood oil’ (stolen oil) in the Niger Delta and a deserted North. Political wrangling, ahead of 2015, is persuading politicians to adjust their positions in the hunt for compromise.

To be clear, ‘pacifying’ insurgents – whether in the Niger Delta or in the North-East region – will yield limited results if political corruption persists. Decades of political perfidy have hollowed out state institutions and institutionalised political incapacity, incompetence and inertia. Non-state actors, wheedled, and incited in the past by cunning and unscrupulous politicians, are feeding on popular frustrations and the dismal living conditions in their regions. “The final dreg of the corrupt elite” is now haunting the nation.

Boko Haram has been likened to a franchise. A fragment appears one day declaring a ceasefire, the next day a splinter group claims responsibility for the kidnap or murder of innocent people (Muslim, Christian, Nigerian or foreigner).

Bishop Hassan Kukah, expressing his opinion in an interview, views the declaration of a ceasefire as a sign, “a flag of surrender”. He contends that war-weary youth, hostages of dark forces, sense that their area of operation is being severely disrupted and weakened. Perhaps this is a reflection of military success in Mali? Though links between Al Qaeda in the Maghreb (AQIM) are difficult to confirm, it is believed a segment of Boko Haram has received funds, training and explosive materials from AQIM. 

So far, conditions for coming to the negotiation table are unclear. Yet, amnesty can’t be off the table. Granted, it’s impossible to deal with an organisation that continually subdivides itself. It has made identifying who is who difficult. Commentators contend that both parties – Boko Haram and government – must state their conditions.

We hope that after his visit, President Goodluck Jonathan will explore all available windows of opportunity. We expect that, through back channels, preliminary discussions, parallel to the military intervention in Mali, will start.

Like the militants in the swamps, the Boko Haram insurgency is a national problem: “the product of bad politics”. It’s a tragedy that has to be permanently resolved employing legitimate means. A temporary politically-expedient solution will placate a few, but only for so long. Festering dregs (economic under-development, poverty, ignorance) will reignite the problem.

Desertion of the region has compounded the economic woes of the North. Factories – most of them processing food and beverages, animal hides or plastic goods – have closed shop. Today, every sector of the economy of the North is severely under threat. Import and export, manufacturing, trading, mining, agriculture, petroleum products marketing, and clearing and forwarding are in dire straits.

A few days ago, Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, who was recently a target for elimination by some group, at a function in Zaria, Kaduna, said: “The security, peace and progress we aspire for ourselves and our families are not attainable if the majority of the citizenry remain locked in the traps of ignorance and poverty. Ignorance and poverty are two sides of the same coin.”