Positive Letters

June 19, 2009

After the Mayhem, what manner of Amnesty?

By Tony Uranta
“The only alternative to war is peace and the only road to peace is negotiations”. — Golda Meir
Dear President Yar’Adua, Guinness has hinged most of its advertising of the last couple of years around the word “GREATNESS”, and has tried to symbolize the classification in terms of achieving one’s dreams (a la Udeme) and, more recently, the best of Nigeria’s national football stars (a la Odegbami).

It would not be out of place to try to write one’s name into the annals of extraordinary human beings in the area of Nigerian governance (maybe a Fashola who is doing the seemingly impossible of bringing sweet order to Lagos State).

But greatness in the field of governance is not easily earned. No, sir! The great Sir Winston Churchill strove hard, indeed, through a blistering German offensive on Britain, before he won his compatriots’ (indeed, the world’s) acclaim to being one of Britain’s greatest leaders…monarchical or constitutional.

Abraham Lincoln won more than a Civil War to be recognised as one of the greatest Presidents the United States of America has ever been blessed with, or will be blessed with…regardless of how Obama, for example, shines one cannot imagine what feat will outshine the achievements of Lincoln.

Oh, this writer prays that history proves one wrong…but to Abe Lincoln must be attributed a greatness that embodied his very being, his decisions and his victories.

But when the word “greatness” comes to mind, Mrs. Golda Meir’s name comes immediately to the forefront. Her commitment to her land and to her people was the paragon of human dedication. Her complete involvement, tempered with love, fired by fierce devotion, caused the world to know that she was a true mover of mountains.

Dates and positions do not begin to explain the lasting positive influence of Golda Meir.
But born 1898 in Kiev, in the USSR, she ended up as the one of the greatest  Prime Ministers of Israel…voluntarily  resigning from office in 1974, even though her party had won the elections of December 31, 1973!

Great people quit the stage to resounding ovation, Mr. President! She is still deeply loved today by her people and by millions more throughout the world. Her dedication to her country and her personal concern for all people are legendary.

Whatever Golda Meir did, she did for the people. And to her we owe the one-liner quotation that headlines today’s missive to you, sir.

She fought in the many guerrilla battles that birthed the modern state of Israel and later graduated to becoming that nation’s Commander_in_Chief in decisive wars that defined and redefined the ever-expanding borders of that resolute nation-state…despite jihadists’ refusal to acknowledge the state of Israel. She knew war, and the bloody goriness of war, on a first hand basis…as many Arab states came to learn too late and firsthand.

She never shrank away from the hard decisions that deploying Israel’s troops came with…and yet she recognised humbly (as only a great one does) that the only alternative to war is peace and the only road to peace is negotiations.

The world respected Mrs. Meir for choosing the path of peace based on negotiations as often as she possibly could.

Meir was the architect of Israel’s attempt to create bridges to the emerging independent countries of Africa via an “assistance programme” based on practical Israeli experience in nation building.

One wonders if today’s Abuja’s Aso-cabals would not have benefited tremendously from Mrs. Meir’s “Assistance Programme”, as many of your policy-makers appear to be confused and not too sure of “which way is up”?!

For example, Mr. President, pundits all agree that you are not being served right by advisers who support your “scorched earth” and “compel them as conquered people” approach to resolving even the façade-issues of the Niger Delta…who appear to have reassured you that the fundamental elements that are fuelling discontent in that beleaguered region (and others yet to boil over like this!) will disappear if you ignore it.

Of course, you (like many before you) would like posterity to remember you as great! But have you really earned such a ranking by your actions, Mr. President? Or has anybody fed you old wives tales about how you are fated to be great without walking in the footsteps of the great.

We have chosen Prime Minister Golda Meir to show how you can achieve greatness…even after a blunder like the carnage visited on women, children etc in the probably-legitimate name of “looking for militants” (who, by the way, everybody knew spoke with you regularly on the phone, and were physically accessible to members of your cabinet!).

Put in your not-so-enviable position, Golda Meir would still have salvaged the situation…even in spite of you having created so much anger to cause sixteen international NGOs to call on the International Court of Justice to charge you for “crimes against humanity” including “genocidal acts”.

For example, a Golda Meir would have, by last week, published the White Paper on the Report of the Technical Committee which you yourself set up to review ALL extant Reports on the Niger Delta and submit Recommendations to you (being what the elders, youths, civil society … in short, ALL the peoples of the Niger Delta … demanded of you last year).

Golda Meir would have adopted wholesale the Recommendation by the Technical Committee that you set up a Committee comprising Government Representatives (including, of course, members of the Security forces), the Region’s Representatives (including elders and youths), and the civil society (especially Amnesty International and any other bodies so agreed upon by the first two parties) to fashion credible win-win terms for Amnesty, Disarmament, Demobilisation, Demilitarisation, Rehabilitation and holistic Reintegration.

Mrs. Meir would never have believed that pounding her opponents into submission, then subjecting them to spurious Amnesty etc terms arrived at without any input by them or the region, will win a sustainable peace.

In fact, in the short term, and all great conquerors do this, the Great Golda Meir would have had her military forces, by now, fully commence post-conflict operations including those minimum essential non-military activities that are required in the wake of any conflict. After the invasion of Gbaramatu, her army would have moral and legal obligations to restore order, provide a safe and secure environment for the population, and prevent a humanitarian crisis by ensuring that people are fed and preventing the spread of infectious disease.

In contrast, what is happening in Gbaramatu today? Thousands of Internally Displaced People are scrambling for insufficient food provided by the few local NGOs that are willing to brave the “area of conflict” and the people are susceptible to epidemics caused by unhygienic environments.

The Sultan of Sokoto is having to appeal for access to be granted, on behalf of the International Red Cross that desires to help the devastated communities and your Army is being accused of random extrajudicial killings of innocents.

This is alongside media campaigns meant to paint both sides of the conflict white; but regardless of who is winning that media war (or any other war in that region, for that matter!) between JTF’s Colonel Rabe Abubakar and the faceless Jomo Gbomo of MEND, the fact still remains, Mr. President, that winning the peace will take more than you just “humbly” condescending to receive any armed youths from the creeks who “embrace” your “Amnesty of the Conqueror”!

Winning the peace is a feat that requires real (not “ojoro”) magnanimity and true humility, and an ability to distinguish between the armed youths (whom the JTF claim to have slaughtered on the battlefield, anyway) and the overall minority population, whose concerns about equality (which concerns are fundamental to all the unrest and agitation in the Niger Delta) remain valid and unsettled.

And by the way, Mr. President, just so you don’t go on air again to try show Nigerians how “humble” the Great leader of Africa’s giant-nation is, let us poetic with another set of the truly Great Golda Meir’s words, “Don’t [try to] be humble. You’re not that great.”