By Ochereome Nnanna
Boko Haram is as devious as the devil itself. From a ragtag band of misguided Islamic adherents which preached against Western education and everything Western as a whole, it has now become the most talked-about terrorist group in the world.
It has overshadowed Al Shabbab in Somalia, the Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, AQIM, the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Chechen Islamists in Russia and the jihadist rebels that were dislodged from Mali. I will not go as far as glorifying them, as some have done, by saying they are smarter than the Federal Government.
That is foolish talk. Those who say so either do not understand the complexity of the challenge before the nation or they are merely acting out a script perfected by the enemies of the country who want to discredit the government and people of Nigeria to gain access to the Presidency; a mission that failed before and will fail again.
The single most important factor in the rapid growth of Boko Haram is not really because its leaders have “outsmarted” the Federal Government.
They are growing like bubonic sewer rats because of SABOTAGE. There are saboteurs in high and low places; from some of the Northern governors and highly placed political figures to compromise professionals in the armed and security forces down to the hoi polloi being forced or brainwashed to see innocent fellow Nigerians as “enemies of Allah” who must be killed or maimed, as captured fugitive and Nyanya bomber, Aminu Sadiq Ogwuche, was quoted as saying.
Sabotage is viewed with utmost severity in normal, everyday circumstances, let alone situations of war. In Biafra, saboteurs were summarily tried and executed even at village levels. Boko Haram slaughter suspected saboteurs and send assassins after their family members.
But the Federal Government has allowed saboteurs, financiers, advocates, supporters and collaborators of terrorists to strut the landscape without fear of retribution. This is the first time I am seeing saboteurs and enemies of a nation at war dancing naked in the public square without the slightest fear of consequences. This is why Boko Haram has grown exponentially in spite of our huge investment in arms, logistics and human lives in the war against terror.
When Boko Haram killed, attacked villages at night and staged suicide bombings, they were just one of the many terror cells bedevilling Islam-dominated climes in Africa and Asia. But when they veered into burning of schools and massacre/abduction of students, particularly the Chibok girls, they succeeded in touching the sore spot of humanity. Even some of their brothers-in-terror were dismayed and voiced their condemnation when “Abubakar Shekau” boasted he would “sell” the girls, like livestock, into slavery.
Perhaps, this censure by their comrades-in-terror forced Boko Haram to, for the first time ever, offer to swap the girls for their members in Federal Government custody. Of course, their request was rejected outright. To the surprise of many, including your sincerely, as I write this piece, there are media reports that they have offered to return our girls in exchange for their wives, children and family members who are being detained.
I supported the Federal Government rejection of freeing Boko Haram commanders and fighters in exchange for the abducted girls. It is against the national interest to make such a swap. If we agree to such an ignominious demand, they may return the following day to ask us to divide the armoury of the nation and hand half of it over to them in return for the girls. No responsible government will accede to that, and no hostage is worth that kind of swap.
But the offer to exchange their family members with our girls in their custody is, for me, quite another cup of tea. If it is true that Boko Haram actually made this offer, I am encouraged to believe that they may be human beings after all.
Boko Haram has never made any reasonable offer. They have never issued any sensible statement. But this time, they have said something I am willing to consider. I am willing to advise that we set up the machinery towards making the swap take place if they will return those girls and others in their custody alive and safe.
Let us return their wives and children to their families. Let us even treat them well and send their children to school because they are still Nigerian children. Let us show a good example to shame Boko Haram and their misguided ideology.
If Boko Haram is willing to carry out this transaction, I am even willing, for the first time since they embarked on their murderous demonism, to suggest that we offer amnesty to those of them willing to take it and depart from their evil ways. We can ask them to come out, surrender their weapons and denounce their insurgency.
We can devise a means of processing the truly repentant ones back to normal society where they can be useful once again. But there won’t be any post-amnesty payouts. “Abubakar Shekau” and his top “commanders” must face trial.
The offer of amnesty should be the final olive branch to Boko Haram insurgents. Those who remain adamant after the deadline must be ready for the ultimate apocalypse. When we go for the final showdown we must go for broke. Shut down schools in all three flashpoint states, suspend democratic rule and impose martial law during the period of all-out war, evacuate civilian populations and deliver the final blow, even if we have to demolish the entire Sambisa Forest.
After that, we can rebuild, both physically and otherwise.