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Honesty not amnesty

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THE media – both print and electronic – have been awash with  stories  of Mr. President’s amnesty to the Niger-Delta militants. A good number of people have praised President Yar’Adua for what they called a laudable initiative.

This set of individuals will quickly tell whoever cares to listen that what the government has done is in furtherance of his so-called seven-point agenda in the troubled region.

Major-General Godwin Abbe, the interior minister, was on NTA 9.00 pm News sometime ago trying to explain  what the amnesty is all about. The talk was primarily about the government’s policy of no cash for arms.

It is also interesting to note that the minister of justice Michael Aondoakaa on the day of the signing of the amnesty document spoke about how government will shut the door against the militants once the grace period elapses.

Good thinking, good talks from the government of Nigeria which we were told by auntie Dora are good people and a great nation.

On the other hand, some people’s stomachs churn each time the word amnesty is mentioned. “Why amnesty? Is Nigeria at war?” they queried. Militant group, Movement for the Movement of the Niger Delta, MEND, was the first to fire the salvo against the government’s amnesty talk. They postulated that the Federal Government is the one that is supposed to seek for amnesty from the people of the Niger-Delta for years of criminal neglect of the region. “It cannot be the other way round”, they concluded.

Before one can pronounce the word amnesty, another one – armistice, surfaces. According to J. P. Clark – the proponent of armistice – “Armistice, by simple definition, is a ceasefire, a truce, during which a formal agreement to stop fighting on all sides can be discussed in the right atmosphere to arrive at peace.

You have put the cart before the horse” J. P Clark told Mr. President in an open letter. A good number of people are also wondering what the fifty billion the amnesty panel is requesting will be expended on since government has declared “no cash for arms.”

Those who are for or against government amnesty plan can argue and move motion or counter motion in the style of our honourable legislatures. This writer’s concern has to do with the sincerity of this government regarding the amnesty.

The government has no credential when it comes to keeping pledges. A well thought-out action plan on matters of national importance still remains elusive to this government. The bitter truth is that the government appears to do everything by trial and error. The estimate of about 20,000 militants may turn out to be a conservative one.

The government doesn’t say what it means, neither does it mean what it says. This is the dilemma that we have found ourselves in. If everybody has forgotten the deafening cacophony about declaration of state of emergency in the power sector, this writer just refused to forget.

I don’t even know what declaration of emergency in the power sector means in concrete terms.

I have also laboured without success to find out  what the seven-point agenda is all about.

The more I read and listen to the government explanation on this, the more confused I become. There is also another one – Vision 20 2020. Ooh! Lest I forget the one our amiable Professor Akunyili is championing with vigour.

Yes, I’m talking of re-branding. What about the much talked about rule of law which has donned  the garb of “the-rule-of-the-thumb” which the father of scientific management Frederick Taylor kicked against while at Bethlehem Steel.

Let me remind us that it took about six months to give the Niger-Delta ministry a minister and, as you read this piece, that ministry is still being starved of  funds.

It was Winston Churchill who rightly observed that “the further back you can look, the farther forward you are likely to see.” The last time I looked further back – that was few minutes ago – I remembered the statement by Mr. President that cement would be selling for  between eight hundred and one thousand naira per bag.

As I write this piece, the price of that product is about double the price that Mr. President had promised. Amnesty or armistice as suggested by J. P Clark is not the issue.

The question should be whether the government has the action-plan and the will-power regarding amnesty. Or could it be the usual hogwash and waiting for the best, through trial and error.

MEND is free to offer its own amnesty to the Federal Government while the government offers same to it. It can only translate to double portion of amnesty and I don’t think that that will harm the two  parties. It is high time we stopped chasing shadow.

The Niger-Deltans and by extension Nigerians should insist that this government stop forthwith sloganeering and be proactive in the act of governance. What is needed now to deal with the  insurgence in the Niger-Delta is sincerity of purpose and honesty not mere talk of amnesty.

*Jeremiah is of the School of Postgraduate Studies, Unilag

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