BORNO ELDER: SEASON OF APOLOGIES
It came with great relief, reading the Press Statement by the Borno Elders Forum, demanding an apology from ex-President Goodluck Jonathan “over the death of Borno State residents” during the various Boko Haram attacks under his administration. I was relieved because the first thing that came to my mind was that finally, the war against Boko Haram was over. The bombings were over, there would be no more death of innocent residents of Borno State. The federal government had been able to either arrive at a ceasefire or perhaps, that the blood suckers have been totally subdued, and it is time for stocktaking.
The Borno Elders hinged their position on the fact that the government of President Jonathan did not take seriously, the warning of Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State sometime in 2014, that the Nigerian military lacked the required military equipment to tackle the insurgents. The Borno Elders consequently demanded for a judicial enquiry on why or how President Jonathan exposed their sons and daughters to such terrorist harm. If his regime is found negligent, could be charged for genocide. The group also demanded compensation for relations of those that died during the reign of Boko Haram and an unreserved apology from the ex-President and his service chiefs.
I would agree with the Borno Elders on their demands, in fact, I do not see anything wrong with an apology. But the point is, who is going to apologise to the victims and families of the Suleja Christmas Day Bomb blast of 2011? who will apologise to the victims and families of the UN House Bomb blast in Abuja of August 2011? who will apologise for the hundreds that were killed in the Nyanya double bomb blasts of April and May 2014?
The Borno Elders inattentively refused to tell us who would apologise for the numerous bomb blast that took place in Kano and had claimed hundreds of lives. My people, who would be apologizing for hundreds of lives slain, burnt, shot by rampaging Fulani Herdsmen in the Hills of Plateau and beyond in North Central Nigeria? Will President Buhari apologise and face war crimes for over 500 Nigerians killed by Boko Haram since May 29th 2015?
A further look into the Nigerian rear view mirror reveals lots of apologies still waiting to be rendered. In 1999, for instance, then President Olusegun Obasanjo set up the Oputa Panel modelled after the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This Commission was meant to heal the wounds of the nation after the end of the brutal dictatorship that lasted well over 15 years with the death of General Sanni Abacha in 1998.The Oputa Panel was treated with disdain, and Generals Buhari and Ibrahim Babangida scorned their invitations to appear in that Panel. The report was eventually suppressed by General Babangida through the Courts. The rest was confined to the dustbin of history. Who now will apologise to the Ogoni people for the genocide carried out against them – the brutal rape of their wives, mothers and daughters by a rampaging Army.
Nigerians are still waiting for an apology over the brutal killing of Youth Corpers and well over 800 innocent Nigerians, mostly of Southern extraction by the rampaging mob instigated to violence after General Mohammed Buhari lost the Presidential election in 2011. Till date, not a single word has come from Buhari, acknowledging the evil that took place in the desperate pursuit for political power. Who is going to apologise for those souls whose deaths were avoidable.
What is however very noticeable in the press statement is the usual morbid silence by the Borno and Northern Elders in the condemnation of the hydra headed monster that Boko Haram has become. The Borno Elders lacked the guts to demand an apology from Boko Haram over the thousands of innocent lives that have been maimed, slaughtered and bombed since the insurgency took a monstrous dimension in 2009. What we have seen in the past are songs of solidarity coming from very unusual and scary elders of Northern Nigeria.
For example, while speaking on a Liberty Radio Programme in June 2013, President Mohammed Buhari had asked President Goodluck Jonathan to stop the clampdown on Boko Haram insurgents, saying the Niger Delta militants were never killed nor had their properties destroyed. According to Buhari, “what is responsible for the security situation in the country is caused by the activities of Niger Delta militants. Every Nigerian that is familiar with what is happening knows this. The Niger Delta Militants started it all”.
In Buhari's words, The Boko Haram insurgency is the Northern response at grabbing power. Even now he is fully settled in Aso Rock, is it not time for him to call his “misguided brothers” to order? Is it not clear that President Buhari needs to apologise to all Nigerians for providing the platform that inspired and instigated the most deadly terrorist organisation in Africa, currently threatening to displace ISIS as the world's number one terror group?
In that same interview, General Buhari went out of his way to make a case for Boko, and rationalise the mayhem they had been unleashing on Nigerians. He continued “you see in the case of the Niger Delta militants, the late President Umaru Musa Yar'adua sent an aeroplane to bring them, he sat down with them and discussed with them, they were cajoled and they were given money and granted amnesty. They were trained in some skills and given employment, but the ones in the North were being killed and their houses were being demolished.” One could only imagine how many suicide bombers were inspired by Buhari's statement. But Buhari's message was clear, and now as the president, he could as well send an airplane to Maiduguri, bring them to Aso Rock, sit down with them, cajole them, give them money and grant them amnesty. Nigerians simply cannot wait to see this carnage come to an end since its aim has been established.
It is however most uncharitable to compare the terror of Boko Haram to the agitation of the Niger Delta millitants.Those who distorted the Nigerian state must apologise to Nigerians. The military adventurists who threw Nigeria into an avoidable civil war must apologise to all Nigerians. The framers and drafters of the draconian Petroleum Act of 1969 which took away the God-given resources of the oil bearing states for the purpose of prosecuting the civil war must apologise to the people of the Niger Delta. The drafters of the 1979 Constitution who deliberately refused to restore Nigeria to its true federal state must apologise to all Nigerians. I am sure every Nigerian deserves one form of apology from the Nigerian state.
President Mohammed Buhari owes Nigerians an apology by words and actions for the next four years. He owes Nigeria an apology for siding with and holding forth for the military junta of late General Sanni Abacha. At the 10th anniversary of the death of General Abacha in 2008, Buhari told the whole world that Abacha never stole Nigeria's money. As at the last count, over $1.3 Billion (Dollars) of Abacha's loot have been recovered and more to come. Yet, he would boldly talk about his anti-corruption prospects. It is surely a Season of Apologies.
***Oshiokpekhai Utu-Orbih is an attorney, broadcaster and media consultant