Since it began full-scale terrorism in 2010, it is believed that the sect has killed over 13,000 people, goods worth millions of naira destroyed while communities razed. As a matter of fact, over 200 Chibok schoolgirls kidnapped in April 2014 are still in their custody. However, in the last seven weeks, the President has replaced his military chiefs, moved the military headquarters to the north-east and organised for the deployment of a multi-national force to fight Boko Haram by the end of July.
Regardless of these measures, the sect has intensified its attacks in the last one month, with multiple suicide bombings and gun attacks killing hundreds of people. This obviously has placed Buhari’s administration under intense pressure as Nigerians task him to end the fight following his promise during the electioneering campaign. Perhaps, as a further step to winning the war, President Buhari has indicated interest to negotiate with leaders of the sect if that would facilitate the release of the over 200 schoolgirls.
However, Buhari told CNN that it would depend on the credibility of those claiming to represent the sect. “Our main objective as a government is to secure these girls safe and safe,” he said during a visit to the US. A previous prisoner- swap attempt for the girls’ release ended in failure. “If we are convinced that the (Boko Haram) leadership that presented itself can deliver these girls safe and sound, we’ll be prepared to negotiate what they want. We have to be very careful about the credibility of those claiming that they can deliver. We are taking our time because we want to bring them safe back to their parents,” he noted.
He told CNN that bringing security to stabilise Nigeria – both in dealing with the oil militants in the south as well as the Islamist insurgents in the north-east – was his main priority, stressing that “nothing will work until this country is secure,” he said.
Similarly, Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima, has intensified calls on the federal government to grant pardon through a programme of amnesty to members of the sect. Shettima’s support for an amnesty programme for the terrorist group was re-emphasised at an interactive session organised by his Special Adviser on Communications and Strategy, Mallam Isa Gusau, with selected journalists in Abuja. Gusau said Shettima’s call was scientific and had been vindicated by a very desperate effort of Boko Haram leaders to stop their fighters from leaving their fold when a group of 16 members renounced the sect’s ideology in Borno State following which they were slaughtered by the sect’s leaders.
He said, “Governor Kashim Shettima was misunderstood by many Nigerians when in his May 29 inaugural remarks revisited his stance on the need to apply a political solution to fighting the Boko Haram by way of granting a window to admit those willing to surrender their arms and renounce the Boko Haram ideology. “Shettima has held this position from his campaign days ahead of the 2011 elections for his first term.
He had always advocated a combination of three approaches, which are: the military which is what we have in place, an economic approach which is aimed at providing jobs for people and discourage citizens that Boko Haram terrorists are recruiting. “It is important to note that the governor has always advocated that the three approaches should be applied together not exclusively.
However, the amnesty issue has been the controversial one. The governor is not really talking about dialogue as a start, what he is advocating is to create an opening for those ready to abandon the sect to be able to do so freely, so that the sect can be broken. In the last seven weeks, he has replaced his military chiefs, moved the military headquarters to the north-east and organised for the deployment of a multi-national force to fight Boko Haram by the end of July.
“He is very particular about hundreds, if not thousands of members that were conscripted or forced to join the sect and became killers against their wish. If attacks on all communities can be efficiently done, then there wouldn’t be need for any debate on amnesty but we all have seen that many communities have continued to suffer from these attacks because the communities are so much, not only in Borno but round Nigeria and we don’t have the right proportion of security personnel to secure all communities.
“When insurgents attack communities, they mostly target male youths, they arrest them and guard them into bushes. In most cases, even before taking them out of the towns they attacked, they preach in support of their ideology with promises of heaven for adherents and then openly ask aloud if any of the youths is willing to join them or not and whoever said he is not ready to join them, they slaughter him right there sometimes in the presence of his parents or they lay them on row and shoot all of them in matter of seconds targeting their skulls.
“Now, what Governor Kashim Shettima has been saying is that hundreds of these forcefully arrested and initiated young men may want to run away and drop their arms and there should be a policy and programme to admit them so that insurgents lose members and their strategy of arresting youths and forcing them to join them which is what they apply in sustaining their membership, can be deflated and I think the governor’s call on May 29 has been vindicated less than two weeks ago.
“You might have read it on most news platforms that on Friday, July 3, 2015, Boko Haram insurgents beheaded 11 of its members who renounced their ideology. According to accounts by some locals, what happened was that some members of the sect who are indigenes of some villages in Damboa Local Government Area indicated interest in abandoning the ideology but most of them were afraid of the consequences. On his part, the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, has also urged President Buhari to consider negotiating with Boko Haram particularly for the release of Chibok girls.
“When I advised former President Goodluck Jonathan to dialogue with Boko Haram, a lot of people criticised me that I was supporting dialogue with ghosts, but since then, nothing has changed. Are we now ready to dialogue with ghosts? The ghost that are killing us everyday, destroying our mosques and churches, shedding innocent blood,” he said.
The monarch who cited an example with the United States of America which negotiated with Taliban and agreed to the release of five of their top commanders for one American soldier, said Nigeria could also do the same for the release of Chibok girls, “because every life is sacred”. In the same vein, Bishop of Osun North-east Diocese, Rt. Rev. Humphrey Olumakaiye, has urged President Buhari to exploit every possible avenue within his disposal to rescue the abducted Chibok girls.
The cleric, who made the recently at a press briefing organised by the Anglican Communion at Otan Ayegbaju, a suburb of Osogbo ahead of this year’s edition of the diocese’s synod scheduled, stressed that nothing was too big to be sacrificed by the Federal Government to rescue the innocent girls from the jaws of the deadly insurgents. He, therefore, urged President Buhari to sacrifice Nigeria’s pride and invite the insurgents for dialogue and plead with them to release the girls unconditionally.
His words,“Over one year of the Chibok girls in the den of Boko Haram, the insurgents have remained adamant. These are people that are ever ready to die. That is why they don’t want to give up. Buhari should invite them for a dialogue. That is the best option now. Even, the Civil War and so many other wars and crises ended in a round table dialogue. Negotiation is the best option now and that sacrifice is not too much for the innocent girls. “Buhari is an epitome of change. He has effected positive changes since he came to the office just a month ago. His change agenda can only be complete if he brings the Chibok girls back home to their parents.”
He also noted that dialogue with the insurgents could miraculously end the years of battle they had opened against the country, even as he assured that the church would continue to support government with prayers in the struggle for victory against the ongoing genocide being perpetrated by the insurgents in the North. But for some political observers, when the government signals its willingness to negotiate with the sect, an insurgent group the government has been fighting against for more than five years, the message is that the government has exhausted all options and is eager to save face by calling for dialogue.
They maintain that the sect leaders would rather see Buhari as a man in a weak position, who is losing the war, and is therefore ready to accept their terms for resolution of the conflict. Many argue that the situation would give the sect an opportunity to further intensify the mindless killings. “Why will any sane person seek amnesty for a terrorist group without any just cause of fighting, killing, bombing and kidnapping little children. Why should amnesty be granted really? On what basis should the amnesty be negotiated?
I can assure you that amnesty will not end the war,” a source declared. Political watchers argue that a federal government that negotiates with Boko Haram from a position of weakness is a threat to national unity and an embarrassment to Nigeria’s collective security. They insist that the President should concentrate on fortifying and arming soldiers, improve intelligence gathering, institute measures to protect the lives of soldiers in the war front.
-Although, President Muhammadu Buhari, may have taken some steps to reinforce the fight against Boko Haram in the North-east, yet the mindless killings of innocent people by the sect has remained unabated, reports Peterclaver Egbochue