NIGERIA. Boko Haram: between negotiation and capitulation

It has been published in the newspapers recently that the Federal Government of Nigeria has accepted most of the proposals of the committee set up to proffer solutions to the current Boko Haram insurgency.

Our people say that a deaf man does not require telling that a war is at hand. Boko Haram has indeed demonstrated its seriousness by the intensity and sophistication of their campaign of terror, maiming and murder of innocent citizens. They have successfully attacked police stations, banks, churches, market places, Kano city, the UN and some government establishments. And more attacks are in the offing.

The committee observed, among other things, that poverty, youth unemployment, illiteracy, existence of militias funded by politicians, among other factors, are responsible for the rise of Boko Haram especially in the North Eastern part of the country.

Strangely enough, these factors are not alien to other parts of the country. I know a couple of youths in Delta State who graduated 5 years ago and have never earned a dime from employment of any kind.

What is perhaps more puzzling is the recommendation of this committee for the Federal Government to begin negotiations with the terrorist group.  The question I asked myself after reading this report was: negotiate with whom, and on what basis?

For verily negotiations can only happen after the leaders and members of the ‘other camp’ have been identified. In the case of Boko Haram, no one is sure about the identity of their leaders or members. They have been elusive.

Furthermore, negotiations may be possible if the demands or objectives of the opposing party are declared.  One of the objectives of Boko Haram is to destroy the foundation of western education in Nigeria à la Taliban. They have also not hidden their desire to Islamise Nigeria from the Sahara to the Atlantic Ocean.

Nigeria sharply contrasts with other climes where acts of terrorism have become rooted. In Iraq, and Afghanistan for example, the resort to car and suicide bombings have been a reaction to foreign occupation of these lands. But who is occupying Nigeria? Answer: Nobody.

One can thus infer that the Boko Haram uprising has a lot to do with internal contradictions within the Nigerian polity. In other words, there is a political dimension to this menace.

One recalls that shortly after Good luck Jonathan won his party’s nomination, some prominent politicians of Northern extraction who would not accept the outcome of this nomination began to threaten fire and brimstone. And shortly after Jonathan won the elections, all hell broke loose.

Is Boko Haram not indirectly acting out the political script which has been written by disgruntled politicians?

A few weeks into this uprising, some political elements who appear to represent a sectional agenda began to advise that the Federal Government of Nigeria begin negotiations with the insurgent group.

Some of them have argued, rather tamely, that if the Federal Government considered it expedient to negotiate with the militants in the Niger Delta, they should also negotiate with Boko Haram. What is good for the goose should also be good for the gander!

I posit that fundamentally, the Niger Delta militancy is different from the Bok Haram menace.  Firstly, the Niger Delta militants were well known in the corridors of power, and secondly, they were able to articulate convincingly the economic reasons behind their rebellion.

I have been able to peruse the provisions of the Nigeria Constitution and my attention has been drawn to the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy. The operative words and phrases include: sovereignty, security, welfare, diversity, promotion of national integration, promotion of education etc.

In the light of the above it is fairly obvious to an informed observer that the objectives of Boko Haram are at variance with the fundamental objectives of the Nigerian State.

So on what basis is this negotiation? Is the Nigerian Government being encouraged to negotiate away the sovereignty of Nigeria? Or to agree to the idea that education (western education) is no longer relevant? Or to agree that there is no longer strength in our diversity, a diversity that finds expression in religious tolerance?

A state is what it is by virtue of its capacity to repel every threat to its existence. This is achieved by means of the instruments of violence over which it has a monopoly. Therefore, my contention is that the Nigerian state must assert its sovereignty over the entire Nigeria in an overwhelming fashion. The time to do this is now!

The State of Israel has demonstrated that a state can overcome the irritations of suicide bombings. The USA has also demonstrated that terrorists can be tracked down and their infrastructure dismantled. Turkey has been successful in containing the PKK uprising.

Nigeria must learn from the experience of these nations and develop a capacity to deal with threats posed by the likes of Boko Haram.

The Federal Government of Nigeria has a hard decision to make in the weeks ahead.

My view in this write-up is that any decision to negotiate with Boko Haram is, in every sense, a capitulation. A surrender of our national sovereignty!  That is the reason why I am troubled that the Federal Government has prematurely ‘accepted’ most of the recommendations of the white paper submitted by this committee.

The consequence of this ‘acceptance’ and potential negotiation is that any group of young men equipped with a dozen AK47, will be encouraged to take up arms against our nation, in the knowledge that the Government will eventually agree to negotiate and give in to their demands. May Nigeria live long!

Boko Haram: between negotiation and capitulation

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