I have always expressed my disapproval with the FG on the choice of dialogue with the Boko Haram sect, but after pondering on the issue over and over again, i could not come up with any better option than dialogue.
Dialogue i believe is not the best solution for solving the Boko Haram issue,but i think it remained the only available option yet to be explored. They say you don't negotiate with the devil,that is correct if you are directly involved. If you do not want to negotiate with the devil, you must be directly in charge and face it squarely with every thing you have,both the will and might should be employed to engage the so called devil,else you are not fighting the devil,you are rather giving him enough space to occupy your domain.
Why dialogue with Boko Haram is a most in my opinion boils down to the response of the FG so far and the previous responses on other occasions,though not similar situation,but crisis situation in form of terror and vandalization.
It all started during President Yarauda's tenure as president,at that time,the Amnesty program was proposed for the Niger Delta Militants in an effort to end the crisis in the region. During that period, I opined that any attempt to offer the militants an amnesty would mark the beginning of the dark days in Nigeria, It would mean that any group could wake up some day and start a war against the Government with the hope of getting compensation and the FG would be helpless than offer Amnesty to them inform of dialogue and compensation.Though i was criticized , many tagged me all sort of names and the then president was praised and commended for taking the right decision.
Few years later, the Boko Haram group sprang out of no where, and their destruction is far worst than one could imagine.
Though, the Boko Haram sect and the ND Militants cases were different,but they are similar in some ways. They both launched terror attacks on govt establishment and private properties. Boko Haram is even worst because they specifically attack innocent people,worshipers etc making them more destructive and blood thirsty.
The Niger Delta Militants at that time may have claimed to be fighting for their rights with their sympathizers,but Boko Haram sect didn't claim otherwise,they also have sympathizers alike. At this point, It doesn't matter who is right or wrong, the situation boils down to destroying lives and properties,hence both groups are destructive.
The Niger Delta Militants didn't get the amnesty on a platter of Gold, it did after causing serious havoc and destruction of lives and properties. The Security personnel JTF was introduced during that period to curb the threat of these militant groups,they tried their effort which proved abortive before the Government decided to offer the amnesty program.
On the issue of Boko Haram, the Govt have done in my opinion what they think they can to end the situation and all effort has proven abortive as far as reality is concerned. Innocent people keeps dying, freedom of movement and all sort are denied,their work and means of livelihood destroyed,their life is miserable and always in fear of being attacked either by Boko haram in most cases or even the security personnel which would knowingly or unknowingly take them for supporters of Boko haram.
Some people would claim that the citizens harbour Boko haram,but how would i harbour someone killing my friends and families? The Boko Haram would come into a market were poor people are selling and buying and start a random shooting or through an explosive at them,killing only ordinary people as far as their terror is concerned,and we still think the same people would harbour Boko Haram? The Boko Haram sect are not killing ministers,commissioners,chairmen,governors etc,those stealing the public funds which would make the people feel they are fighting in their favor,they are killing only the ordinary people,so why should any one harbour them?
Why should the Govt continue to deny the people their right of freedom if the approach as not produced any meaningful change? why allow people die if dialogue can solve the problem? i hate it to dialogue with Boko Haram, a group which has been killing innocent people and causing a lot of panic among the people,but what can we do? allow the killing to continue with no hope of it ending any time soon or dialogue to at least save the people who may possibly become victims of their next attack.
A situation was reported by IG Wala on the social media about the conduct of the soldiers on the high way check points between Jos and Abuja,In one of the Villages on Jos road, a woman was stripped naked because she refused to come down & open her bag for search. The husband was said to have volunteered to do so since the lady explained she is ill as confirmed by the husband. But the Military boys insisted she must come down, when she refused, her punishment was to undressed her and leave her with only her pant standing by the roadside and for the husband, he was beaten by the soldiers. Another incident was how a soldier man insisted on checking a dead body that was being escorted to grave yard in an open van. When they arrived a checkpoint, a soldier insisted that they must open the dead body, one of the relative of the deceased confirmed that they have performed the religious rites to bury the dead man so it is not proper to expose him any longer, and he explained that with this crowd you don't need to cast any doubt if the man is dead or suspect anything, by looking at their mood any intelligent officer will understand. The soldier went ahead to use his hand to pull off the white piece of cloth, one of the relative tried to stop him, and it ended into a wrestling, the boy grabbed his gun and scattered in on the ground. It was the second soldier on ground that fired into the air and suddenly a patrol van appeared and they took the boy away, until today no news of that boy. IG Wala opined that there are lots of unreported cases every day which is diminishing the image of the military drastically, people are now seeing the military as the worst enemy of the common man in northern Nigerian. Despite these harsh treatment the people face in the hand of the military in an effort to prevent a furtherance in the activities of the boko haram sect,the situation keep getting worst. How then do we rely on this approach forever?
If the govt can indeed crush the group,they should within a reasonable time without putting more lives in danger,but how sure are we of the govts capability to end this anytime soon? What has the Government achieved from the state of emergency declared in some of the states in the North?
I would never support dialogue if their is another means. But if not, dialogue remain the only option.
I have been to Niger,Plateau ,Bauchi,Gombe and Abuja where some Boko Haram attacks have taken place and i can boldly say that the people are going through hell.
If dialogue can solve the problem, i think it is an option now unless the govt have other better plans than what they have employed already. The present approach would never stop Boko Haram,The checking points does not affect the Boko haram attackers like it affects the innocent citizens,they spent hours under sun in checking points, yet we still hear of attacks here and there. The people are beginning to see the military as more dangerous than even the boko haram sect itself.
My advice to the FG is to as a matter of urgency embrace dialogue to end this crisis before it gets out of hand. I am sure that some countries like Somalia,Pakistan,Afganistan where bombing is a major case would wish to have the opportunity to dialogue,may be they once had the chance but didn't take it which resulted to their current situation,The Nigerian Government must take the right step now.
My concern now is, which group will be the next to take arm against the government?
Who Shall take the responsibility of the innocent people already killed?
Who shall be brought to Justice?
Dialogue is the hard way.
I hereby call on the FG to crush these sect now or dialogue to save the Innocent people.
Abdulrazaq Oyebanji Hamzat
Nigerian Ambassador, International Human Right Commission