Negotiating with Boko Haram terrorists

by Gbenga Kayode

Terrorists are often small groups claiming to speak, even without justification, for an entire set of people in pursuing ulterior motives. That is why the continued suggestions by certain individuals and groups, to the Federal Government of Nigeria, that it should initiate a dialogue with the dreaded, devilish and mysterious Boko Haram insurrectionist Islamic sect with a viewing to appeasing them to back off their extremely disruptive and devastating activities are quite unfortunate.

This observation becomes more so against the backdrop of acknowledged efforts and endless, decisive measures being instituted against such terrorists who are exterminators and enemies of humanity by all responsible leaderships in other parts of the modern world. No wonder then that some informed minds have asked: “Negotiation with which individuals and on what terms?” Perhaps, dialoguing with Boko Haram sponsors masquerading as mediators?

Regrettably, recent shocking statistics of the collateral damage inflicted on the nation are too telling for all lovers of human race to ignore. For instance, aside from destruction of hundreds of houses, government offices and institutions worth hundreds of millions of Naira and hundreds of innocent people maimed for life, Human Rights Watch, in its latest report on the group’s dastardly activities, conservatively estimated the number of human casualties of the Boko Haram phenomenon between 2009 and 2012 at 935 deaths across the Nigerian Federation.

Indeed, contrary to its much-publicised yet, inconsistent demands, including outright rejection of Western education and all its promising benefits as well as institutionalising Islamic legal system all over the country among others, it is however, becoming clearer by the day, that the group is determined to undermine the current Administration and precipitate Nigeria’s slide into anarchy.

This move, the Government must realise, the sect’s members and their sponsors continue to make by spreading fears across the length and breadth of the country, particularly Northern Nigeria, while the political elite who tend to criticise their evil practice publicly are blackmailed and molested to gain relevance in the process.

However, in what could best be described as systemic disintegration, constant assassination attempts on the lives of some notable Northern personalities and continual destruction of key Government institutions in Abuja, Niger, Yobe, Borno, Bauchi, Kano, Kaduna, Jigawa, Nasarawa, Adamawa, Zamfara, Plateau and Gombe states among others have instigated scores of non-indigenes in these states to start relocating, in droves, to their homesteads in their respective states down South in the last few weeks.

While still contending with their identified lapses in intelligence gathering and other logistical requirements, the frontal war being waged against the Nigerian state by these arsonists is a well-orchestrated attempt to turn the people against the Government by pooh-poohing any efforts being intensified by the security agencies to contain the scourge, thereby trivialising thorny national issues into an unwarranted religious crisis.

Thus, without mincing words, these attacks on innocent citizens, security agencies and Government establishments are all aimed at gaining political leverage for the cause of their paymasters. After all, a recent statement was credited to the sect, disclosing that members are on the “payroll of some of the Northern governors” in Nigeria to spare their states of the widespread violence. Sheer hypocrisy, one would say. Need the Government look elsewhere for practical solutions to these disconcerting security challenges then?

Instead of wasting its precious time on dialoguing with an anti-humanity and destructive group as Boko Haram, the Government must institute counter-terrorism measures to further clip the wings of these reckless suicide bombers and their sponsors, paymasters and sympathisers.

With counter-terrorism as offensive strategies intended to prevent a belligerent, in a broader conflict, from successfully using the tactic of terrorism, and the reported training and retraining of the Nigerian security agencies by the United States’ special forces, who have had similar disturbing experiences with the transnational Al-Qaeda terrorist network in their clime, the former can reduce the vulnerability of possible targets to such Boko Haram “home-grown” tactics here.

In containing the recurrent devastation by this Islamic sect, it should be stated that building a feasible counter-terrorism plan involves the cooperation and support of all segments of a society or many government agencies. It is a communal thing, as these misguided elements live in their respective communities with other peace-loving individuals.

This tasking responsibility must not be left for the Nigerian armed forces and the Police alone. The populace must be vigilant and brave enough to stand up for the truth and report suspicious movements in our vicinity. Good intelligence which is necessarily at the heart of such preparation, as well as political and social understanding of the group’s alleged “grievances” and information from the members may help to nip this nagging security dilemma in the bud.

With good governance, possible causal factors such as poverty of the mind, want, injustice and maladministration need to be delineated and resolved, so that measures implemented can allow equal access to considerable resources and sustainability for all Nigerians. Such steps combined with the much-talked about needed restructuring of the nation’s system, if conscientiously pursued, can empower citizens by providing ‘freedom from fear’ and ‘freedom from want’.

Amnesty International, at the Madrid Summit on Democracy and Terrorism in March 2005, stated of the essentials of fighting terrorism thus: “Democratic principles and values are essential tools in the fight against terrorism. Any successful strategy for dealing with terrorism requires terrorists to be isolated. Consequently, the preference must be to treat terrorism as criminal acts to be handled through existing systems of law enforcement….”

Hence, the current confrontation between the sect, the Government and Nigerian people should not be taken lightly or regarded as a mere passing phase in the annals of the country. It is absolutely revolt against the Nigerian state. With the purported infiltration of all arms of the current Administration and security agencies by members of Boko Haram, the powers that be must not appear helpless.

Rather, armed with essential intelligence, it ought to be decisive in fishing out and prosecuting such depraved sponsors and sympathisers of the sect’s cause, while overhauling the entire security apparatus for effective operations. The Government, under any guise, should not invite the Devils and their ubiquitous sponsors and agents to any unjustifiable roundtable. It could be suicidal.

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