Revisiting FG, Boko Haram Negotiation | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Revisiting FG, Boko Haram Negotiation

Posted: Jul 7, 2015 at 3:33 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Temidayo Akinsuyi  / Lagos


The Presidency appeared to have stirred the hornet’s nest last weekend when it announced that its doors are open to negotiate with the Boko Haram insurgents to find a lasting solution to the security crisis in the nation if the sect is willing to do so.  Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, who stated this during an interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), had said: “If they (Boko Haram) are willing, why not? You know, attempts have been made for negotiations in the past and they didn’t work. Every reasonable person would want to see the end to this insurgency. So, if they are willing, why not? You can’t rule that out.”

To many concerned Nigerians, this is an indication of weakness on the part of the federal government and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), given the campaign promises of the party on the need for change, a cardinal point of which is to ‘effectively deal with’ or crush the Boko Haram sect.  According to them, Nigeria has travelled on this journey without a fruitful result before and any talk of negotiation will only amount to wandering in the wilderness without a clear picture of when the country will get to the Promised Land in winning the war against Boko Haram.


How Negotiations Collapsed Under Jonathan’s Presidency

Following calls by concerned Nigerians on the need for the federal government to enter into negotiations with the insurgents, the sect accepted the offer with some conditions, one of which is that the negotiations can only take place in Saudi Arabia. It also named incumbent president, Muhammadu Buhari among six prominent northerners, to mediate between it and the Federal Government.  The other five include: Dr. Shettima Ali Monguno, former Yobe State governor, Bukar Abba Ibrahim, Ambassador Gaji Galtimari and Hajia Aisha Wakil and her husband, Alkali Wakil.

While addressing journalists in a tele-conferencing in Maiduguri, spokesman of the sect, Abu Mohammed Ibn Abdulazeez, who doubles as the Second-in-Command (Amir) to their leader,  Abubakar Shekau, also said that for the group to observe ceasefire, the Federal Government must heed its demand by arresting and prosecuting the former Governor of Borno State, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff as well as compensate members of the group and rebuild their places of worship destroyed during 2009 uprising, which led to the alleged murder of their leader, Mohammed Yusuf.

The group further added all their members, who were arrested and are under the custody of security agencies must be released immediately, just as their wives and children who were displaced following the crises should be rehabilitated into the society. Responding, The Federal Government in a statement by then spokesman, Dr. Reuben Abati, said it welcomed the move.

But why did the negotiations collapse?  According to Nuhu Suleiman, a public affairs analyst, the talk collapsed because of the insincerity on the part of the terrorist organization. According to him, Boko Haram deceived the federal government into talks of negotiations so that the Nigerian military can slow down its operations while giving the sect the opportunity to launch vicious attacks on the citizens.

“The attempt by the Goodluck Jonathan-led administration to enter into talks with the militants in 2012 failed to yield any positive result simply because of the unwillingness of the sect to lay down its arms. The federal government later realized that the ceasefire talk was a tactical attempt by the sect to make the Nigerian security agencies relax their onslaught while Boko Haram consolidates its stronghold. The best way to deal with them is to launch an all out attack on them as was done by the government towards the twilight of the Jonathan presidency,” he said.


Increase In Attacks And Talk Of Negotiation

“We know how they (Boko Haram) started and where they are now and we will rapidly give attention to security in the country. And I believe we will effectively deal with them in two months when we get into office…Really, we have seen enough and we have enough law enforcement to face Boko Haram squarely.”

This statement by President Muhammadu Buhari shortly after his victory in the March 28 presidential election and the relocation of the military headquarters to Maiduguri gave Nigerians a sense of hope that the days of murderous attack by the sect will soon be history.

But in defiance of the government, members of the sect became emboldened and more ferocious in their attacks. Not even the Holy Month of Ramadan could deter them from carrying out deadly attacks the latest being the killing of about 150 men, women, and children in Kukawa, Borno State, last week. While strongly condemning the act, Buhari in separate statements issued by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, in Abuja, further stated that it was “a very heinous atrocity which must be unreservedly condemned by all people of conscience.” Shortly after, Adesina granted the interview quoted at the outset where he talked about the possibility of the federal government going into negotiation with the sect.


Shifting The Blame On The President

Many Nigerians who could not fathom how the sect was able to gain the upper hand after the successes recorded during the six weeks shift in the conduct of the last election have put the blame on the doorsteps of the president.  While some argued that the president’s strategy in wiining thwar is defective, other said his failure to appoint a substantive Minister of Defence over a month after being in the saddle is responsible.

But speaking on the issue, Executive Secretary, Nigerian National Summit Group (NNSG), Tony Uranta, said while the incessant attacks by the sect is unfortunate, President Buhari cannot be held responsible for the renewed onslaught. While expressing confidence in the ability of the Nigerian military to win the war despite the campaign of calumny against them, he said irrespective of the campaign promises made, Nigerians should not expect an overnight victory over terrorism.

“Nigerians have noted that rather for insurgency to decrease since the change of government, there seems to be an upsurge. However, we need to be pragmatic about this. Regardless of what campaign promises were made by anybody, I am one that is realistic and have been following the trend of warfare and guerilla warfare especially, terrorist warfare. It is not to be expected that there will be a slowdown in terrorism in the North East, not in the near future. There may be and I expect there should be a curbing of territorial acquisition by these terrorists, however, you cannot remove the possibilities of suicide bombing continuing.

“Suicide bombing are not traditional or tactical warfare strategy. These are actions taken by individual living within the society itself. However, we must expect that the new administration will do everything within its power to slow down both territorial acquisition and individual acts of insurgency such as suicide bombing. I do not think we need to hold this against the new administration at the moment. Whether President Buhari put in a Minister today or not, the same security system and the same military organisations that have been confronting Boko Haram are the ones in activity now.”

While calling on Nigerians to rally behind the president and military, he said the federal government must do its best to ensure that territorial acquisition by the insurgents and suicide bombings in the country is reduced to the barest minimum. “I have full confidence in our security chiefs, the NSA and the entire military. I hope the president recognises the fact that they have been doing a great job regardless of all the calumnious attempt to paint them in a bad light by certain multinational organisations both within and outside Nigeria,” he said.

Also in his reaction, the Acting National Chairman of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Uche Secondus, who spoke on behalf of members of the party nationwide said the party stands with President Buhari on any measure adopted by the government as long as it puts an end to the wanton and barbaric killings.

“Indeed, the time has come for all Nigerians, irrespective of ethnic, religious, and political affiliations to be in one accord in the fight against terrorism in our dear country. In this challenge, the PDP stands with President Muhammadu Buhari and the nation on any measure adopted by the Federal Government aimed at ending this in this ugly experience. We may not be on the same page on some policy issues but not when it comes to matters that directly affect the security of our citizens and our stability as a nation,” Secondus said.


Negotiating On ‘Position Of Strength’

Following Adesina’s statement and the condemnation it generated from concerned Nigerians who believe that the Buhari administration may not after all be bringing any change to the table by opting to negotiate with the sect just like the Jonathan administration did, the Presidency issued another statement where it said while the federal government not shy away from any negotiation initiated by the Boko Haram sect, it will be from a point of strength and not weakness.

In the statement, “Amplification of comments on negotiations with Boko Haram,” Adesina pointed out that President Buhari, who has won such insurgency before (Maitatsine sect), is now poised to win the fight against Boko Haram.  He however added that there is nothing wrong in negotiating saying the United States also negotiated with the Talibans in Afghanistan at some point in time.

According to the statement, “Most wars, however furious or vicious, often end on the negotiation table. So, if Boko Haram opts for negotiation, the government will not be averse to it. Government will, however, not be negotiating from a position of weakness, but that of strength.

The machinery put in place, and which will be set in motion soon, can only devastate and decapitate insurgency. It is multinational in nature, and relief is on the way for Nigeria and her neighbours. President Muhammadu Buhari is resolute. He has battled and won insurgency before; he is poised to win again. It is a promise he made to Nigerians, and he is a promise keeper. But I say again, if the insurgents want to negotiate, no decent government will be averse to such. Didn’t the Taliban and Americans also negotiate in Afghanistan?”

However, while warning the federal government of entering into any form of negotiation with the sect, Uranta said doing so will amount to the federal government being guilty of what it accused the immediate past government of not doing.

According to him, “I have said it before during the tenure of former President Jonathan when we thought this sect was a faceless group that the federal government must not grant amnesty to Boko Haram. And then I went further and I said we should not negotiate in any way with terrorists. Now it has now become clear that we are not dealing with even the average terrorists of the world. We are dealing with Islamist (not Islamic) extremist fundamentals who do not represent anything to do with the religion of Islam as far as I am concerned.  Theirs is a religion of violence, arson, murder and of evil. I do not see how you can deal with people of that level without becoming evil yourself.

“I will not support any negotiation between the federal government and Boko Haram. Boko Haram is not out to negotiate with anybody. They are out to carry out their agenda, no matter whose ox is gored. And I hope this government will not fall into the trap of taking up its vomit because I remember this was the opposition that criticized former President Jonathan for not carrying out what they call an effective war against Boko Haram. They cannot now be seen to be morning cuddling these terrorists,” he said.