By Ochereome Nnanna
YOU know the story of the Greek gift? I’ll give you a brief summary. It is the story of how the ancient Greeks were able to destroy their enemies through the gift of a wooden horse filled with soldiers.
Written by Homer in a 15,693-line epic poem about 800 years BCE, it tells of how the Greek/Trojan war had gone into a ten-year stalemate with both sides totally exhausted.
The great generals of the Greeks and Trojans respectively – Achilles and Hector – had been killed, yet the Greeks were unable to invade the city of Troy because of its extraordinary defences.
The Greeks suddenly offered to lift the siege and go home. They withdrew their soldiers to the ships and placed a large wooden horse at the gates of the city of Troy.
The gullible Trojans took the wooden horse into their city. At night the soldiers disembarked from the horse and sacked the city. What they could not get through sheer military subjugation alone they got through the use of wiles and wits.
If you read the story of how Genghis Khan, the great Mongolian emperor, was able to breach the Great Wall of China in 1215 through (as some accounts have it) the bribery of some of the gatekeepers on its northern border, you will understand the need to tread with caution when a sworn enemy makes a sudden peace offering.
I am pleased with the initial cautious response of the Presidency when it was announced on Monday, January 28th 2013 that a faction of the terror outfit, Boko Haram, had offered a ceasefire, with demands attached.
According to the story, following a series of meetings between the Borno State Governor, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, and alleged officials of the group, its “commander” in Borno, Abu Mohammad Abdulazeez, briefed the media.
He reportedly disclosed his group’s decision to lay down their arms following “intervention and pleadings from respected individuals and groups in the state”.
However, he tabled two demands: (a) that the sect’s members who are in government custody for their roles in the unprovoked and heartless murder of about 3,000 Nigerians, especially Christians in their places of worship during the past 42 months of the upsurge in the group’s violent campaigns, “must” be released; and (b) the mosque of the slain founder of the group, Mohammed Yusuf, “must” be rebuilt.
Curiously, they did not demand any financial compensation or rehabilitation of their members.
This was an item contrived by their supporters in the media who obviously were eyeing the post-amnesty deal offered the ex-militants of the Niger Delta.
I have always maintained that those noisy Boko Haram apologists putting spurious pressure on the federal government to commit funds to the “rehabilitation” of Boko Haram felons after an offer of amnesty were not speaking for the group, as their known objectives are far more revolutionary and ideological than a quest for financial gratification.
This unfolding scenario comes with several matters arising. What exactly is the nature of this “ceasefire”? For instance, I did not notice any tone of regret for the actions taken against the Nigerian state, its security personnel, government and private property (particularly schools) and ordinary Nigerians killed or disabled through their bombings and gun attacks.
Laying down arms is not the same as renouncing violence. The use of “must” speaks volumes. And the gleeful declaration of unilateral ceasefire after listening to “interventions and pleadings” of local leaders shows the group intends to be seen to be doing the nation a favour; a “magnanimous” gesture that will be withdrawn when their “demands” are not met.
Governor Shettima, his officials and leaders in Borno state may be tempted to go on a self-congratulatory binge following this “breakthrough”.
After all, they are the ones wearing the pinching shoe. Anything that restores normalcy and permits government to perform its duties will be welcome. But the manner in which this “offer” was made leaves me unconvinced of a “happily ever after” ending to this story.
If the federal government swallows this “offer” it will amount to drinking a poisoned chalice. I want to join Virgil in cautioning the government and people of Nigeria to “beware of Greeks bearing gifts”. Boko Haram may have settled for the “ceasefire” because of a broken backbone and the depletion in its membership. The demand for the release of members waiting for a date with the laws of the land might be a ploy to enable them to regroup and rearm for a bigger bounce-back.
How are we going to live side by side with individuals who have killed thousands of innocent Nigerians without bringing them to justice? The blood of those killed is calling for justice. Their families are waiting for the state to give them justice.
The laws of this land, which bind us all together as citizens, expect those who trample upon it and levy terror on other law-abiding citizens to face justice. If this justice is not done it means this nation has, for the first time in its violent history, surrendered its legitimacy to terrorists.
We must stay the course with the original policy of bringing all anarchists to heel and dealing with all terrorists on our own terms, not theirs. It is the only way to send the signal that Nigeria is not a failed state and would always guarantee its own sovereignty and territorial integrity.
We cannot declare people wanted for terrorism, place prices on their heads only to turn around and rejoice when they declare conditional and threatening ceasefire, like victors!
We have to study very carefully all steps taken by the Borno State Government in its dealings with this murderous group and see whether they conform to the laws of the land. Where they are not consistent with our law, we must reject them to the extent of their inconsistency.
Borno State is still under the laws and sovereignty of Nigeria.