FGN Negotiation with Boko Haram is Blackmail

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When the federal government first mooted the idea of negotiating with an extremist sect in the Northern part of the country called Boko Haram, I was miffed because I could fathom how deep Nigeria has sunk in terms of insecurity of lives and property. The first idea that raced through my mind is that if the Nigerian security agencies cannot contain localized insurgency, what then will happen if Nigeria faces external aggression? We are indeed the giant of Africa o can negotiate with any group of agitators, but America never discussed with neither Al Qaeda nor did they hold a tea party with the Taliban. Again I started to wonder which of the President's aides or any security Adviser that would sell such a nasty idea to Mr. President.

Even if a government is desirous of negotiating with an insurgent group, such a tricky enterprise is done by a third party (mediator), because any direct negotiation with insurgents serves as a stamp of credibility for the group (s). I also concluded that whoever could give the President such selfish advice may be fifth columnists, who want President Jonathan to be trapped and held hostage by such groups. In the foreseeable future they will also advise Mr. President to discuss with street cults.

While the Movement of the Actualization of the State of Biafra, MASSOB; the Movement of the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) and the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, may be said to be insurgent groups, the same thing cannot be said of Boko Haram – which is neither a socio-political movement but a religious one. One of the major characteristics of insurgency is the existence of an organized structure, with a clearly defined leadership. Such groups have clearly defined objectives such as: environmental justice; the creation of a separate State or agitation for economic justice among others.

Insurgency is not new in contemporary political history. Insurgency as an organized protest or rebellion against a lawfully constituted government has existed throughout history but it has ebbed and flowed in accordance with the dynamics and sophistication of socio-economic and technological advancement. It is either aggravated by cumulative governance deficit or oppression including marginalization and alienation. With the advent of globalization in an internet age, most often have developed the capacity to sustain large scale resistance. Basically, insurgency is a strategy adopted by groups perceived to be disadvantaged and their sworn affidavit is to extract concessions through psychological warfare, political mobilization and military confrontation.

Under the first category, the primary antagonists are the insurgents and a national government which has national legitimacy. Usually, insurgencies of this colouration are often triggered by identity, racial, religious and ideological factors. On the other hand, liberation insurgencies are aimed at liberating an occupied territory from an alien nation. The Al-Qaeda in Iraq, Taliban in Afghanistan, the Chechnya insurgency against Russia and the Palestinian insurgency are a few examples of Liberation insurgencies.

In Mexico, the Zapatista Movement was started by the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN), in 1994. The EZLN declared war on the Mexican government and proclaimed a revolutionary agenda against the government. The Zapatista Movement created increased pressure for democratic reforms thereby raising the specter of instability.

In Sri-Lanka, the Tamil Tigers raised a strong guerrilla movement, which actively negotiated the creation of a separate State. In 1956, the administration of Bandaranaike introduced a “Language Policy” of Sinhala Only Act, which replaced English with Sinhala as the “Lingua Franca”. By this policy, the Tamils were placed at a disadvantage. The Tamils came to the conclusion that their socio-economic aspirations could only be fulfilled within a separate Tamil State. Again, in Sri-Lanka, there is the problematic of the “wedlock” between political ideology and communitarian hagiography. It was just last year that the movement was finally crushed by government.

In the Philippines, there is the security dilemma associated with the continuing conflict of the government with armed communist and Islamic insurgent groups. The government and insurgents trade accusations and denounce each other as the cause of the nation's economic stagnation. The communists had since the late 1960's started to pressure the Filipino government for policy reversals. Government also reacted with brutal suppression of the insurgents. The Muslim insurgents unlike the communists are not intended to supplant the national government. Under the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the Muslims seek to establish a separate Muslim state in the Southern Philippine Island of Mindanao. So if Boko Haram is angling for the creation of a separate State then it would be regarded as a political movement that would lead to the creation of either a Boko Haram State something like it. If that is the goal of BH, then, the imperatives of a Sovereign National Conference of separation have become all the more imperative.

In the Sudan, John Garang led an insurgency, which raged for about 25 years over the control of resources and power. Only recently, Sudan held a referendum and people voted massively for a separate State in South Sudan, with its capital at Juba – thus becoming the 193 State in the world. A similar trend is noticeable in East Timor, Turkey, Indonesia and Peru by the Tu-Pac Amaru.

The modus operandi of insurgents differs, there are some common techniques employed by insurgents irrespective of the time or geography they operate. The most common techniques include the use of propaganda or information warfare which is used to popularize the struggle and demonstrate the incompetence of the legal regime. Propaganda is often used to inspire recruitment by defiance. When insurgents use “armed propaganda” they attract the angry, disillusioned and unemployed and appeal to the articulate segment of the populace.

The only thing I know about BH is that “Western Education is evil”. I know that may not be the reason for the vile and belligerent posturing of the politicians using religion as a veil. If the BH members say they are peacefully protesting against mal-governance in the land, I will also carry a placard for them, but the magnitude of mayhem and atrocities BH has committed has de-letimized whatever the intentions of the Group might be. If BH is begrudging the Amnesty granted the youths of the Niger Delta, then one may be forced to ask what commodity they are producing of how much do they contribute to the economic viability of Nigeria? It will be a piece of injustice for the Jonathan administration to buy is peace when the circumstances do not arise.

Amnesty was granted the ex-militants because they will secure oil facilities and ensure the uninterrupted production of crude oil – which is the live-wire of the economy. There is massive evidence that since the Amnesty was introduced, the quota of oil production has not only increased, and Nigeria sometimes burst the ceiling of her quota. For the likes of Sarah Jubril flying the kite of amnesty, what will Boko Haram give if government gives them amnesty? Is Isam a commodity that has market value? No true Muslim will reduce the Islamic Religion to that level. It is one of the religions, which teachings I cherish. Sarah Jubril is one of those over-recycled politicians being rehabilitated by the Jonathan administration. She is a beneficiary of Western education. Is she saying that since Boko Haram abhors Western Education, will Western education be withdrawn from the North? Who is blackmailing the Federal Government to open negiotiations with a faceless group?

He advised that the Nigerian government should solicit the help of partners that have a lot of experience in handling terrorism, pointing out that the military must remain in Borno in order to check the group. “They are villains and must not receive any sympathy. In a democracy, the government is elected by the majority and this small group wants to overthrow the government by violence and that should not be allowed to happen.” He pointed out that failure of the government to protect the lives and properties of the people they swore to protect should lead the government to resign or call for another election in which the Boko Haram can field a candidate and see if the people like their alternate system of governance.

It is against international law for Government to negotiate with criminals. If BH says Western education is unacceptable the members should stop the use of mobile phones, dynamites, bombs, writing in Newspapers, radios, Television, etc all of which are products of Western education.

I smell double standard in this country. When the Niger Delta Youths protested the full weight of the federal might was deployed to raze down Odi, decimate Okerenkoko, Agge, Odioma, Ayakoromor, Kaiama and several Niger Delta Communities. Now some youths now provide security to guide the pipelines from being vandalized. Kidnapping is now a thing of the past. The Kingsley Kuku led Amnesty programme has done very well in the court of public opinion. Countless number of youths has been sent to different countries to learn skills such as under-water and pipeline welding; marine engineering, boat building, piloting, Information and Communication Technology, petroleum engineering and many skills that would make Niger Delta Youths employ themselves. My recommendation is that the Federal Government should increase the funding of the Amnesty Programme to avoid a relapse to the status quo ante. Those blackmailing the federal Government to negotiate with BH are patrons of the group and they should be treated as fifth columnists in the Jonathan administration.

Idumange John, is Fellow, Association of Certified Commercial Diplomats, City of London

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Articles by Idumange John