By Pini Jason
IN the heat of the Niger Delta violence, many Nigerians engaged in what former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair accurately identified as “glorification of terrorism” following the 7 July 2007 Underground bombings in London. One of the oft repeated lines then was that the Nigerian government must not be seen as fighting its citizens. I said, good; don’t fight the Niger Delta militants, but go after the oil thieves, those engaged in pipeline vandalism and illegal bunkering. I warned that it would be a tragic mistake if we didn’t separate all the strands of criminality in the region so as to know the real agitators for economic and environmental rights of the people.
As usual with our governments, that advice was ignored. Today, criminality masquerading as militancy still stalks the region and the nation is bleeding from oil theft in the region, long after we have granted amnesty. The nation’s daily loss to oil thieves is put at N160 billion. This is threatening the 2013 Budget. I believe that if we first went to war against oil thieves in the Niger Delta, we would have first reduced the capacity of some remnant militants threatening havoc their today. Another possibility was that the ignoble activities of some big men behind illegal bunkering would have been exposed. But you know, in Nigeria, the big men hold the levers of the law and therefore will always be above the law!
The question Nigerians must answer is this: When did it become the law that if you are angry, you can take up arms, levy war on the nation, trash national assets and kill as many innocent people as you can, then you get adequately rewarded for your dastardly efforts? Whether we admit it or not, the haste in granting amnesty to the Niger Delta militants and lumping oil thieves and murderers with genuine agitators got the North salivating in the mouth. The Northern elite glorified mass murder of Christians in the North, as if the lives of other Nigerians did not matter in their quest to recapture lost power. See how they are all jumping all over the place at the mention of amnesty. They want amnesty even when the mass murderers have rejected it! Let us wait for the primed dynamite!
The elementary lesson in conflict resolution is to first of all remove or neutralise the power behind the combatants or, in this case, a would be terrorist. That is why today, travellers cannot take metal objects or liquid substance into the cabin of planes. You cannot take cell phones or flash drives into any of the Western embassies. CCTVs cameras are installed in strategic places to reduce the power of malevolent people to cause havoc. But in Nigeria, we are a different kind of people. We believe that dubious sentiments will solve all our problems. We all know that the power behind violent crime, whether it is kidnapping, armed robbery or terrorism as we have in the North, are guns and explosives.
What in the last four years have we done to neutralise their effects in the hands of criminals? Areas of violent crimes should have been quarantined and the cities locked down as we searched for and decommissioned these illegal weapons. Anybody found with them should have been jailed under the law for such criminality. If people were being inconvenienced, they would quickly cooperate to abet the inconvenience. You don’t have to do Odi or Zaki Biam to cripple violent criminals all over the country. To set up a Committee on illegal small arms and light weapons now, at the same time you are toying with the dangerous idea of amnesty begs the question. Anybody caught with illegal arms now would invariably qualify for your amnesty.
The argument, as some apologists for terrorism proffer, is not whether “the use of force has solved the problem of insurgency definitely”. (Please for the word “insurgency” substitute “terrorism”). Such argument is clearly intended to weaken the Federal Government’s resolve to take firm stand against crime. Such argument has emboldened terrorism in the country. The United Sates and most of Europe have not succeeded in solving the problem of terrorism definitely, but they have succeeded in putting measures in place to protect their nations from a free reign by Al-Qaeda. They simply put in place measures some of the travelling world did not like, but which put Al-Qaeda in check.
That is probably why terrorists found fertile grounds in Africa. We have never done what we needed to do to stem any crime, be it terrorism or corruption! That makes me to ask, what can we today say is a crime that would make the Nigerian State show sufficient outrage and appropriate response? None! Two brothers bombed the Boston Marathon on Monday. President Obama told Americans that they would be found and brought to justice. By Friday night, one had been killed in a gun battle. Hours later the second was in custody! That is how a serious country treats crime, not appeasement. Let the human rights lawyers shout. A crime is a crime, no matter who commits it. To ignore this is to destroy the very fabric of a society.
Amnesty, since it has become the silver bullet for all crimes in the country, is NOT a matter between the President/Federal Government and the Northern leaders/Boko Haram alone. Those thousands whose husbands, wives, daughters, sons, sisters, brothers, uncles, nephews and friends as well as foreigners who were murdered in cold blood, unprovoked, those maimed and those whose property were destroyed in the mindless orgy of bloodletting also deserve justice. Any amnesty talk must first discuss how to offer reparation to families of those innocent people murdered in cold blood before discussing how to compensate those who killed and maimed them without provocation. And let me give President Jonathan this tip. He is being tricked into the very slippery shoal of Northern politics.
By the time he is through with this amnesty booby trap, he would have, at least, five million “ex-terrorists”, including Chadians, Malians, Somalis, Nigeriens and Libyans lining up for compensation for killing innocent Nigerian Christians! They will then go out and buy more arms to fight a brutal war for an Islamic Republic of Nigeria! Is that not what terror leader, Shekau, wants? Where will the money come from?
NFF Yobo and Keshi
BEFORE he was loaned to Fernerbahce FC of Turkey, which later became a permanent move, Joseph Yobo was on Everton bench for almost a season. Did he ever question his Manager, David Moyes? Could he have demanded that Moyes should take permission from him before benching him? He knows that such indiscipline would have earned him a fine of some weeks’ wages.
So what is this about reconciling Keshi and so-called “senior members” of the Super Eagles? I sympathise with Yobo’s quest for a 100-caps record. That he can easily get at a safe march, but not at the expense of our football. Is Keshi responsible for the problems tweeting Osaze is having in his club, West Brom, for which he is routinely fined by the club? Why has NFF not gone there to reconcile Osaze with his Manager? This talk about reconciling Keshi and some so-called senior players is just a subterfuge for a more sinister distraction. Keshi is rebuilding the national team. Did that rebuilding process end with the fortuitous winning of AFCON? Or will he rebuild the team with old tired players who are allied with the mischief of the NFF, all in the name of “senior players?
It is obvious that the gifts showered on Keshi and the players have enraged the NFF to plot vengeance. Why should they hold Keshi and the players responsible for the gifts showered on them by a grateful nation? It is not as if Keshi and the players solicited the gifts or told the givers to ignore members of the NFF.
The job of the NFF should be to fill the stadia with paying spectators on March days, not to precipitate indiscipline in the national team by pretending to be settling non-existent quarrels between players and the national coach.