By Saleh Dan Galadima
Alhaji Kashim Shettima, Governor of Borno state is in a dilemma. His attention is torn between delivering upon his promises to the people and resolving the security challenges facing his state. The Federal Government has waded in with full military might, yet the situation looks grim, and the citizenry is being stretched to a point of despair. Kashim Shettima has opted for the carrot option as he strives daily to win the hearts of members of the Yusuffiya or Boko Haram to a roundtable. He has initiated some other moves in the hope that peace will be restored in Borno, hitherto acclaimed as the home of peace.
From his pronouncements and actions, the young Governor has very good programmes for the people of Borno state, but the security situation occasioned by the activities of Boko Haram has even made it more imperative for him to insist on his first line of duty, which is the protection of lives and property of citizens.
With the public apology tendered to Boko Haram members by the trio of Danjuma Goje, Isa Yuguda and Ali Modu Sheriff, Nigerians expected the situation to abate, but contrary to that expectation, Boko Haram seems to have defied all logic and has continued to grow in sophistication, no thanks to the political dimensions the crisis seems to have assumed. For sheer political reasons, those who are supposed to sympathize with the governor by making reasonable inputs towards resolving the crisis have been busy plotting further mischief, if only to rubbish the All Nigeria People’s Party Government in the state.
It is true that Kashim Shettima came in when the citizenry is at a point of despair, as killings and bombings become the orders of the day, even as fear becomes a mode of perception in the minds of everyone. The challenges seem to be growing by the day to both Government and the security agencies. To most Nigerians, Boko Haram seems to be winning the war. What started like a minor insurgence against the Government of Borno state has metamorphosed into a national calamity, capable of undermining the security of the entire nation.
Six weeks in the saddle, not many people are giving Kashim Shettima a chance, yet he looks determined to redress all perceived injustices and give a listening ear to all aggrieved persons, including adherents of the Boko Haram. Shettima’s offer of dialogue with leaders of the Boko Haram, was a departure from the combative approach of the past, and has attracted commendation from a variety of other leaders. In the same vein, Sherrif’s public apology was considered a statesmanlike response.
Kashim may have opened a new chapter in the management of the crisis by not only offering to dialogue, but going ahead to offer amnesty to those willing to lay down their arms. I do not have any cause to doubt his sincerity of purpose when he first muted the idea, and he has remained consistent in his call for Boko Haram members to give him the benefits of doubt. Reports in the media gave the impression that Kashim’s proposal is getting attention. And as tough as the conditions for dialogue as given by the sect may be, it is indicative that for the first time there is the tendency for parties in the conflict to correspond.
Whether the Governor’s overtures are acceptable or not, and or whether his offer of amnesty is the appropriate thing to do or not, are issues for another day. What is paramount at this juncture is the fact that there is a significant change in approach from the authorities, and it should be given a chance. Comments from international and local analysts indicate that the option of dialogue has a wide appeal, and it may be the magic wand needed to resolve the imbroglio. Recent events point to the fact that physical force may only give a temporary respite. So far, the incidents recorded show that physical force is becoming less fancied.
What appears more worrisome to the Governor is perhaps the fact that, whether as members of the sect or victims of their strikes, those affected are his citizens, whom he has the primary duty to protect. More than every citizen, Governor Shettima is worried by the growing sophistication in the operations of Boko Haram and the attendant casualties, and he appears prepared to do anything if only for peace to return to his state. What Governor Kashim may not be prepared for is perhaps a dialogue with political marauders and criminals who hide under Boko Haram to perpetrate atrocities in the state.
The State Security Service recently confirmed to the world that Boko has elements of political vendetta. The disposition of opposition political parties in the state, coupled with the curious finds where political party insignia and posters of politicians were found on the vehicles of some suspected bombers, nothing could be more factual that the Boko Haram menace has gone out of the seeming religious realm, and has assumed the colour of political vendetta war. To this end, one may be right to attune that Governor Kashim’s quest for peace may be frustrated, unless members of Boko Haram clear the air on the perceived politicization of their struggles. As much as Nigerians cherish a quick resolution of the crisis, using Governor Kashim’s approach, the political coloration to the conflict seems to suggest that, any peace achieved under the circumstances is peace of the graveyard.
For now, it is on record that Governor Shettima of Borno state is offering to negotiate peace with real adherents of Boko Haram amidst competing threats from politicians and criminals.
It is also on record that members of the sect have offered to negotiate on conditions. It is unmistakable that the Governor’s desire for peace outweighs all other plans for the development of Borno state. What the world is waiting to see is the day Borno will return to take its place as the citadel of peace. How soon that comes is the thing to worry about.
*Galadima is a Public Affairs commentator, who wrote from Yola.