By Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu
French poet Victor Hugo once stated that “amnesty is as good for those who give it as for those who receive it. It has the admirable quality of bestowing mercy on both sides”.
Indeed as much as we have witnessed broad steps taken by Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan towards embracing this noble ideology and attempting to understand our would-be adversaries, Boko Haram, we must truly incentivize and steward talks as best we can – perhaps on their terms – in order to bring about lasting peace and reconciliation.
Nigerians are facing many challenges, perpetual stumbling blocks hindering a smooth transition to prosperity and geopolitical competition. Yet there is none as blaringly obvious as the complacency our national leadership has emanated while our citizens routinely put their lives in jeopardy simply walking to school, attending church or checking in at work. The threat of domestic terrorism (in-part spearheaded by Boko Haram) looms large and weighs heavy on our consciousness; in fact, Nobel-prize winner Wole Soyinka remarked no more than a week ago that Nigeria is on the verge of a ‘potential civil war’.
At present, we have nowhere collectively to neither hide nor turn to but government, looking to accountable leadership to provide a lasting solution. But there are questions lingering in the air, on strategic execution rather than simple theorization.
One must nonetheless commend the Federal institutions for standing steadfast in a commitment to restore peace and attempting to quell international criticism while nations encourage their citizens and with them their businesses to ‘escape’ from Nigeria. We must continue to applaud the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) for suggesting that offering a reprieve to members of Boko Haram remains an important option in order to right the insurgency in the North, a plague systematically destroying the region’s socio-economic fabric.
However, as I have remarked over the course of the last weeks and indeed months across the globe, we must be willing to dialogue directly one-to-one and moreover seek alternative solutions under an umbrella of amnesty should the broad theoretical suggestion not take flight in practice (as the notion has thus far been unilaterally rejected by Boko Haram spokesmen).
We must make a concerted effort in order to return our national reputation to its lost glory, as a bright light emanating throughout West Africa, beaconing international integration.
As I and separately MURIC have suggested, one viable option remains that a dedicated civilian-based initiative be implemented, supplementing or perhaps replacing military exercises in the Boko Haram entanglement. Much like the hiring of outside counsel in a civil matter, (an advocacy role I have aimed to secure for the last year), negotiations should be held from spokesman to spokesman, in a manner that befits all parties involved.
Indeed our officers are no safer than our families in dealing with those we do not fully understand, as we learn of twelve souls now missing after an attack by the armed Movement for Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), perhaps in-part due to such a call for amnesty being promoted while concurrently exercising combative operations.
We must refresh our own appreciation of the ramifications of un-checked intimidation. Continued violence not only plagues the lives of our citizens in-country but promotes instability and a lack of infrastructural confidence to communities in the Diaspora and our colleagues on the global stage. Infighting, as this truly is, perpetually erodes Nigeria’s aspirations of joining the echelon of the BRICS and pigeonholes us in a vicious cycle of violence begetting poverty and poverty begetting violence once more.
We must work closely with our international colleagues as this is not simply ‘our problem’ anymore. We are a symbol of African economic power and potential; with the help of our trusted investors and trade partners, we have in front of us an opportunity to sustainably develop our nation above and beyond the wildest dreams of our children.
Ultimately, we must settle our differences in the interest of unified, national healing and mutual prosperity, whether coming to such a binding resolution is the drive of a governmental committee, executive leadership or achieved from a single actor speaking on behalf of his people. Though the threat to our fiscal trajectory remains a sincere concern, the human toll has penetrated our bureaucracy and elevated the urgency in ending our veritable self-implosion.
Though it is in our hands to create tangible change, we must be willing to break the barriers of old and seek innovative answers to solving the challenges of our new Nigerian century.