Boko Haram: Is amnesty still on the card?
After an estimated 20,000 deaths, an even higher number of broken limbs, skulls and souls and near-dislocation of socio-economic life, life is gradually returning to normal to northeastern Nigeria. And to imagine that the lecherous and sukudai- (suck-and-die) drinking
Boko Haram members have literally thrown in the towel in less than one year in the life of the Buhari/Osinbajo administration is a major achievement! With their backs to the wall, it comes as no surprise that both the Shekawi and Barnawi rungs of Boko Haram are mouthing talks they had consistently spurned. It is okay for government to leave the while troops continue to pound the bandits. This is one pacific policy that must be applauded.
Had the incredibly clueless Goodluck Jonathan done a tenth of what Nigerians have seen since June 2015, chances are Boko Haram would have long been history. Hmmm! Goodluck Jonathan! May his kind never come near power in Nigeria! It is one of the several ironies of our time that a man who was unfit to feature even in the reserve team of the Niger Delta found his way to the presidency of Africa’s power house! Under the Goodluck Jonathan dispensation, some of those who clamoured for amnesty genuinely believed it will dam the flood of security challenges in northern Nigeria while others suggested, preposterously and, cheekily that amnesty for Boko Haram would balance a similar one extended to the ogogoro-drinking scavengers in the Niger Delta by the administration of late Mallam Umar.
And, by now chances are one or more starry-eyed group would have been smarting for a fight, emboldened by another wrong-headed appeasement policy of granting amnesty to bandits! Except in a few instances, the mere thought of amnesty for terrorists has always been a recipe for more disaster. Amnesty will never cease to be a double-edged sword! While the government mulls amnesty, members of Boko Haram know what to do if they honestly wish to be considered for it.
After laying down their arms, the first condition by those who genuinely seek peace, they should proceed to follow those well-known laid down steps which murderers must follow in seeking the face of God! These steps are as prescribed by the Shari’ah and which any five-year-old Muslim kid should have no problem to cite. Among them is to seek forgiveness from those the murderers have orphaned and widowed and all other victims who suffered their atrocities in the hands of the murderers! The next step is for surviving family members to forgive and let go.
Otherwise, the Qur’an is clear on their fate: they too must be killed or made to pay blood-money in addition to the mandatory and unbroken two month-long fasting prescribed for taking innocent lives, be it that of a Muslim or non-Muslim. How many of these can the perpetually-intoxicated Abubakar Shekau and his drunken murderers restore to life? After going through these, it is left to God to decide the fate of murderers! Like other laws to regulate society, this one too is creed-blind! For the avoidance of doubt, justification to take a life, even in strict Muslim societies, is not the prerogative of bandits and criminals: Death sentences are passed by recognised body of leaders who must be unanimous in their verdict.
God knows man has the capacity to be bestial as Abubakar Shekau and his bandits have proven and this is why He prescribed ways to regulate societies. It will take more than a lion heart to have a murderer next door, even if they are penitential! It must be conceded that Boko Haram is here because of the way and manner the Niger Delta bandits were appeased and treated as if they were a special breed. But, the blame for the death of 20,000 Nigerians, mass suffering of an even greater number and virtual collapse of the economy of the north east must be placed at the doorstep of the Goodluck Jonathan administration which simply looted funds meant to fight the insurgents. Honestly, the Chibok girls saga would have been different had the former president acted decisively instead of allowing his barely literate wife to take the initiative after the girls were snatched.
The Buhari/Osinbajo administration has gone too far in its war on insurgency to now reverse itself by declaring an amnesty that will effectively glamorise bandits. No one expects Boko Haram members to wave white flags but, thanks to sustained military onslaught on the group, no one also expects them to spurn the offer of an amnesty despite their claim to the contrary. When reminded of the untold atrocities caused by the group, there will always be the temptation to call Boko Haram’s bluff.
But what is the point in kicking a fallen man? Why honour a terror group with round table talks? For now, the biggest mistake the administration will make is to dispatch a presidential jet to Sambisa to bring the marauding and lecherous Boko Haram crowd to Abuja for a presidential handshake. Rather, what government should busy itself with but which was passed off in the past is to capture the whole nation for an urgent and far-reaching rehabilitation drive. No one should contemplate appeasing Boko Haram militants and treat its leaders as a special breed. For months to come, rehabilitation funds will continue to pour into states virtually paralysed by the Boko Haram insurgency. We have shown that there is no limit to how we can steal and we can only appeal that, in the name of decency, no state governor or their sidekicks corner those funds!
One of the ways to avoid cornering funds is for the governors of the affected states to resist the harmful temptation of abandoning the needful and concentrate on jostling for space in 2019. It was the needless bickering by their predecessors ahead of the 2015 general elections that led politicians to rob the nation blind while Boko Haram festered.
There should be a radical departure from the era when state governors whined endlessly about perceived lopsided federal allocations most of which they pocketed, anyway. Governors should spend more of the little developmental programmes. To do this, they should surround themselves with ingenuous people who are driven by the need to explore the abundant non-oil resources in the vast plain of northern Nigeria.
If their predecessors created Boko Haram, the present set of northern state governors can help to banish its spectre. This is not a case against amnesty. If we are genuinely sold on the idea, it is the victims of Boko Haram that should be amnestied or, liberated from the hardship imposed on them by Abubakar Shekau and his bandits. It should not be the other way round!
• Magaji is based in Abuja and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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