The suggestion that the federal government should dialogue with Boko Haram sect is not a bad idea. The government’s reluctance to initiate such dialogue is also not mistaken. To dialogue means that parties to such dialogue know each other very well and the basis of the grievance that should form the germ of the dialogue though may be of formal or imaginary nature is an issue that both are willing to discuss in an open and factual manner.
In the case of Boko Haram dialogue is not in its vocabulary (so it claims?) as it seems that the sect believes that violence is the only means of actualizing its objective. The sect’s hard stand on its goal shows the height of its grouse. This is always so whenever any grievance has become inveterate.
The question that has remained hazy is the real persons behind the operation of the sect. Boko Haram is a corporate name and, dialogue presupposes that certain people ultimately would be bound by the agreement reached during the dialogue. Unless and until some people come out openly to be identified as the alter egos of the sect the outcome of such dialogue can in a twist of the flick be rejected in that the sect can claim that those who purported to negotiate on its behalf are not its members. It should be recalled that in the case Niger Delta Militants they proposed some prominent Nigerians as their representative in any dialogue. It would also be helpful as a prelude to the proposed dialogue between the federal government and Boko Haram that the sect should come up with some respected names as its mouth piece in the proposed dialogue.
But the truth is that elders in the areas where the sect had for sometime concentrated its activities has a lot to do with regard to any move to dialogue with the sect. This is because I believe that members of this sect are human beings and in that case the elders in the affected areas can easily know them if they want to. So these elders owe it as a moral duty to try and identify some prominent members of this sect and try to initiate some talk with them. The discussion should proceed from that level and, thereafter to the state government level then to the federal government level.
The call by the elders in Borno State on the federal government to initiate dialogue with Boko Haram is not a bad idea. At the same time the elders in that state should try and do something that would show that they are truly worried by the security problems arising from the activities of this sect. Members of this sect are their children engaging their kin and kith in a fratricidal war. Where members of a family are involved in a fratricidal war it would amount to abdication of responsibility for the elders to think that solution can only come from the government. So the elders are expected to bring their wisdom to bear on this issue that is threatening the corporate existence of this nation. It is not a good idea to leave the problem to the government alone.
If the elders can wade in and initiate some dialogue with the sect at least the grievances of the sect would then be put in perspective. This will also reassure the federal government that those presented to it as members of the sect are the true representative of the sect. A dialogue initiated by the elders and sanctioned by the affected state governments can then serve as a veritable template for any meaningful dialogue to take place.
Agreed that the way and manner the sect has conducted itself is unacceptable but we should not completely overlook the religious coloration to which the sect has tried to give to its avowed war against Nigeria and Nigerians. In a multi culture and ethnically and religiously polarized nation like Nigeria the sect activities can if not immediately arrested pitch the citizens even the armed forces against each other in an orgy of violence of unimaginable proportions. I hope and pray that our armed forces as it is consistent with their professional training and conviction know that their loyalty is to the nation and to the constituted authorities. This period is challenging and it is only true patriots that can weather the storm that is threatening to unleash calamitous consequences on us. Protection of the political order must not be compromised by our noble men and women of our armed forces including the Nigeria Police Force. We must not give room to primordial sentiments.
Let us stop glamorizing the modus operandi of the sect. At the same time statements that would fuel anger should also stop. It is clear that ego is now the motivating element in the sect’s activities. We know that no matter how strong the sect is it cannot come out victorious against the coercive powers of the state as represented by the powers of our armed forces. If the federal government decides to open some kind of dialogue with the sect there is nothing dishonourable about that. In that case it would be the price that federal government pays for peace. So it is a trade of situation. Bury your unquestionable military might in exchange for peace.
But if dialogue cannot be initiated because of the feeling in the government circle that such move tantamount to rewarding criminality then the federal government should start thinking of conveying a Sovereign National Conference. The South -South and South West Elders and the Arewa Youth recently lend their voices in favour of conveying such conference. This is more so because the claim or claims of the sect cannot be resolved by an administrative panel. The issue of enthroning Islamic legal system as the dominant system in Nigerian legal system which rests on a tripod is a constitutional issue. Such issue cannot be handled by the National Assembly because of its centrifugal force. Other sensitive issues like true federalism, resource control and self determination (which is one of the claims of the sect) by some nationalities would then be handled by such conference.
Finally a Masquerade no matter how powerful it may be has those that control it. I still believe strongly that there are great patriots in the North East and North West Nigeria that if they raise their voice today the sect would bow. This is a golden opportunity for such personalities to stand up take the center stage raise your voices and let the sect bow. God bless Nigeria.