By Jide Ajani
Indications emerged at the weekend that the Federal Government is not enthused and may, therefore, not accept the peace proposal presented by the dreaded Ahlan Sunnah Lid Da’waati wal Jihad Yaanaa (brothers), popularly known as the Boko Haram sect, Sunday Vanguard can reveal.
The single most important pointer to this can be traced to the experience of former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, President Goodluck Jonathan’s late boss, who had attempted to strike a deal with the then fledgling sect by releasing some of its members.
Upon the release, the sect members regrouped and re-launched its offensive while mobilizing and swelling its ranks.
A dependable intelligence source said, at the weekend, that “that experience is still very fresh in the consciousness of those who were privy to that arrangement when the late President was alive and would, therefore, not want to repeat the same thing.
One of the conditions precedent for the peace talks proposed by Boko Haram is that its members in the custody of the Federal Government should be released.
“What guarantees can we get that once these people are released as a sign of good faith, they would not go and regroup and launch fresh offensive against the government.
“This was what happened between 2008 and 2009 when former President Yar’Adua tried to broker a peace deal which was kick-started by the release of some members of the sect”.
The apprehension of government, independent investigations carried out by Sunday Vanguard suggest, has to do with the belief in government circles that the leadership of Boko Haram may not be in total control of some of the members.
This belief is strengthened by the plethora of criminal activities being carried out in parts of northern Nigeria and which are attributed to the sect but which the sect’s leadership deny from time to time.
The reasoning in government, it was discovered, is that any form of talks opened between it and Boko Haram may not yield the desired result as there are now established splinter groups that sometimes operate independent of the sect’s high command.
In fact, according to a source close to the operations of the sect, “some of the members of the group who are sometimes expected to return the arms that have been used for an operation or operations sometimes do not. It is a few of these guys who give a bad name to the group and that is why sometimes the group’s high command comes out to deny some criminal acts attributed to it”.
Yet, information filtered out yesterday that some of the proposed persons by the sect may not be trusted by government.
Abu Mohammed Ibn Abdulaziz, the second-in-command to Boko Haram’s leader, Abubakar Shekau, presented the conditions on Thursday during a radio conference with journalists in Maiduguri.
The second-in-command named former military head of state and presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, General Muhammadu Buhari; Dr. Shettima Monguno; a former Yobe State Governor, Bukar Ibrahim; Ambassador Gaji Galtimari; and Aisha Alkali Wakil, and her husband, Alkali, as “trusted” Nigerians it would be ready to negotiate with in Saudi Arabia.
To represent the sect at the talks would be Abdulaziz, Abu Abbas, Sheikh Ibrahim Yusuf, Sheikh Sani Kontogora and Mamman Nur.
As for the former head of state (Buhari), his decision not to have anything to do with the Jonathan administration may not grant him disposition to mediate.
Sunday Vanguard was made to understand that one of the persons proposed for the talks may have links with AlQaeda In The Islamic Magreb, AQIM, and, therefore, may not be trusted as a mediator.
A few others are viewed by the intelligence community as not being capable of coming clean because of past frightful experiences in the hands of the sect members.
But again fuelling the indication that the proposal may have been killed on arrival were the murder of General Muhammed Shuwa (rtd) and another deadly attack by men suspected to be members of the sect in Maiduguri at the weekend. The attack on Damboa town, some kilometers from Maiduguri, left four dead, the council secretariat complex, 20 houses and a fire station petrol-bombed with Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).
Also playing out significantly in the consciousness of those in government (while not wanting to be seen as not prepared for peace talks) is the caliber and sensibilities of the names proposed by the sect as mediators.
Already, the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, has objected to the inclusion of Buhari.
4 KILLED AS BOKO HARAM FIRE RAGES
Those killed in the Friday evening attack in the Borno town were identified as a fire officer, Hassan Maina, who was shot when the assailants attacked his office; a staffer of Borno State High Court, Maiduguri, Mallam Ndajara Ndahi, said to be visiting his family in Damboa; and two security guards trying to put out the fire at the council secretariat complex.
Two similar attacks were said to have been carried out on the town in April and August, leaving many dead.
According to an eyewitness, Madu Usman, a resident, said the gunmen came in four unmarked vehicles, chanting, ‘God is great! God is great!!’ meaning Allahu Akbar, and marched to the Damboa Council Secretariat Complex and housing estate and threw explosives and petrol-bomb at the buildings.
The security guards at the buildings, he said, fled, but two of them who stayed back to put out the fire ignited by the bombing were shot in the legs and chests. The both died at the entrance of the secretariat complex.
Usman, in a telephone chat yesterday, told our correspondent that the gunmen came through Maiduguri Road at about 4p.m. on Friday, and fired gunshots to scare people at the Damboa market.
“We had to run for our lives, as the shops and market stalls were hurriedly shut.
The men of the military Joint Task Force (JTF) and policemen rushed to the scene of the incident,”the eye witness stated.
Confirming the incident yesterday in Maiduguri, the spokesman of Borno State Police Command, Gideon Jibrin, said he had just received reports of multiple attacks and bombings of three public buildings, including the fire service station of Damboa this morning (Saturday) by suspected gunmen of Boko Haram.
He said the gunmen used IEDS and cans of petrol in torching the public buildings, adding that no policeman was killed in the attacks.
The torched buildings, according to him, include the fire service station, 20 housing units of the council and secretariat complex.
Gideon said: “As soon as the police area commander of Damboa sends in his report to the police headquarters, the media will be briefed,” adding that no arrests had been made.
CAN queries Buhari’s nomination as negotiator
Meanwhile CAN in the 17 southern states, yesterday, queried the rationale behind the purported nomination of Buhari to represent Boko Haram in the proposed negotiation with government, describing it as an eye opener in the entire debacle.
CAN secretary in charge of the 17 states, Dr. Joseph Ajujungwa, in a statement, said it left to Nigerians to judge what had been happening regarding the issue of Boko Haram which had killed hundreds of Nigerians.
The statement said: “May I use this opportunity to ask why General Buhari? As the secretary of CAN in the 17 southern states, the truth will one day be made manifest.
“General Buhari, as I read in the newspapers, had said that if he was not declared president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2011, he will make Nigeria ungovernable for Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. Other people also said so.
“Since then, Nigeria has not known peace. All the people that said similar thing are moving about freely and, today, one of them is going to moderate the peace talk. The blood of those killed by Boko Haram sect is speaking and God is not happy as we condemn the unprovoked attacks on innocent citizens of Nigeria. The truth cannot be hidden for ever. The president, Dr. Jonathan, should open his eyes.”