By Bisi Lawrence
On the horns of a dilemma, that is where President Goodluck seems to find himself right now. Or, as my friends used to put it in those sweet-scented ghettoes of North DC, “He’s damned if he don’t, and is damned if he do. “
He told the Borno elders he wasn’t about to negotiate with “ghosts” And he was right. It is not given to ordinary human beings to hold any meaningful discourse with ghouls. Let the Boko Haram come out into the open, he advised. Let them present their grievances; then there could be “dialogue”.
But that was after the terrorists had asked for his conversion to Islam as one of the conditions for the cessation of their attacks on innocent citizens, particularly those of the Christian faith; but even before that, there had been the ultimatum of the removal of high security officials and the outlandish demand for the entire country to embrace Islamism. Now is the season for a deeper step into the pool of the absurd – an amnesty, a general pardon and a total forgiveness for acknowledged and self-confessed felons.
The President may seem to have capitulated at last, depending on how anyone interprets it.
He has, at least, yielded to granting the proposal a consideration. That, to me, is the import of the appointment of a committee to outline an arrangement, a feasible and acceptable arrangement, for the processing of the amnesty. It cannot be that the proposal itself has been adopted since its terms have not been formulated, anyway. And it must have rules, especially, to ensure that the safety of the citizens is henceforth protected. That is a viewpoint I can share.
Some people have also mentioned the issue of “restitution”, and remember that we are not talking about burglary or some petty larceny here. This concerns the massive taking of human lives in a wanton and callous manner. We are talking about young lives snuffed out without any sense; of dear ones torn away from their lovers’ arms without any cause; of sudden death visited with sudden viciousness on victims in the prime of life. How do you recompense, or repay for, or “make good’’ on that? It was not even as though as if a war had been declared, or a firm basis for hostilities had been decided. That committee has got its work clearly carved out for it, I must say.
But to read what is reported in the newspapers about what the Peoples Democratic Party leadership’s reaction was from Abuja, the amnesty itself has been granted, bar the shouting. These putative spokesmen of the party describe the declaration of establishing of an “Amnesty Committee” as “the best decision at the moment”. Some of them see it as a “submission to the yearning of the Northern leaders over the plight of the people of the region … “
The man who still parades himself as the PDP National Publicity Secretary (no matter what INEC says) enthuses that the President’s decision further demonstrates “his sincerity and forthrightness in handling the affairs of the country” and typifies him as a “listening leader” to whom the unity of the nation is very dear. We have heard all that before, of course, and from other quarters as well.
Chief Olisa Metuh then added that “the North is the most receptive region in the country.
Indeed, there is no part of the country that is more accommodating than the North which has been home for all people, irrespective of religious creed and tribal affiliations”. Now, does he have to provoke an argument? I could ask him if he has ever heard of a place called Lagos, for instance, if he has to introduce the “accommodation” of non-indigenes by other States into the discourse.
All the same, it is not surprising that some governors of the Northern States have welcomed the constitution of the Amnesty Committee in laudatory terms. Unfortunately, like Metuh, they have not enough vision to appreciate that whatever good might be achieved could not be for the North alone. Their stance portrays a proprietorship of the proposal which, true as that may be, leaves them outside the support of the country which they do need, for this is a problem of the entire nation that will not respond to any solution that does not take in the whole country.
Even now, the mere idea of the constitution of the committee is an abomination to several sections of the country, and so to gloat over-much about it could be more than slightly offensive. It would be counter-productive and a colossal shame and tragedy if what may be intended to foster our unity through the enhancement of our security ends up creating a wider gulf of resentment among different parts of the country.
But even more frightening is the fact that the composition of the committee has been drawing flaks already, even among those that one would have expected to support the issue of the amnesty for Boko Haram. They have been incisively critical of various aspects of the Amnesty panel, especially its composition.
If the members appear to be too close to government, some opine, it would not meet with the approbation of the Boko Haram, and some of the appointees are already being described as “government apologists”.
The valid point is also made that a mediating committee should be able to ensure a ceasefire for at least an appreciable period before it starts its work. There are doubts expressed in these quarters also that the Boko Haram may not even accept the amnesty anyway. So it seems we have been appealing to the physician to make the drug available without first ensuring that the patient would accept the drug.
In all, the constitution of a committee to consider the possibility of an amnesty for the Boko Haram has been further linked with the idea of dialogue. In the perception of some actors in the drama, the entire package consists of a ceasefire leading to an amnesty that would enable the shadowy forms of the Boko Haram to materealize into flesh and blood with whom a dialogue can be conducted.
But the frightening aspect is the mention of some money, hundreds of thousands of naira, that would be paid to the insurgents for laying down their arms. That would be the most controversial point yet. But why not? People are saying there is a precedent. That aspect is even being mentioned ahead of compensation (which is a lifeless issue anyway) for the victims. Whichever way it goes, President Goodluck Jonathan may indeed find that he is at the beginning of a tunnel without an end. Indeed, this proposition has a precedent that time has shown is leading to no joyful end.
maligning the yorubas
Chief Obafemi Awolowo established a leadership that put the Yoruba people on a high pedestal of pride through achievement. At his departure from the turmoil of this terrestrial scene, the break-up with his deputy, Chief S. L. Akintola, had depleted the store of prestige occasioned by his imprisonment which his eventual release, and the chance of rehabilitation as a high government functionary, could not adequately replenish.
The upshot was that an awful vacuum in leadership conspired with an onset of lethargy among the indigenes of the West, and the Yorubas groped around unable to fully defend even their own soil. By the time General Sani Abacha capitalized on the failure of Ibrahim Babangida to maintain the grand edifice of democracy of which he was the architect, the Yoruba pride and prestige had shrunk to an almost insignificant measure, aided by the old penchant for infighting among themselves.
And then gradually appeared, as though from a misty horizon, an organization which called itself the Oduduwa Peoples Congress, OPC. It was not a political party, as such. It was slightly more military than militant, in stages. It was described in many ways by many people, but everyone acknowledged that it had arrived to reclaim the self-esteem the Yorubas had lost.
This was the organization that filled the gap when the so-called leaders that were seeking political fortunes had left the head of their heritage uncovered. The members were young, virile and devil-may-care, whenever the honour of the Yorubas was concerned. They reclaimed a wide expanse of grounds lost to people from other parts of the country, some of who abused the natural hospitality that was theirs to enjoy. Their exploits became legendary.
They confronted and bested their adversaries by various means, including the so-called “ju-ju” at which they were adepts. They became the fear of robbers and hooligans, daring to rout the hide-outs of criminals to which even the police gave a wide berth. They operated under a rigid moral code of integrity and respect for elders. And so they acquired the space for Yorubas to square the shoulders as stakeholders in the commonwealth of the nation once again.
In all this, they received no gratification from anyone but relied entirely on their own resources. They asked for no largesse nor ran dishonourable errands for anyone. They scarcely presented themselves for elective office, or sought any official appointment. Like any organization instituted by human beings, the OPC, at one time or the other, ran into headwinds but it has survived to tell its own story.
I am not here to tell it for them, but what you read on this page today is authentic, and I can add that it may be too late in the day for this organization to even consider obtaining a contract worth any amount of money, for the sole purpose of undermining ANYTHING OF YORUBA CONNECTION. That is of a tall order!
Who is marginalizing —or rather, maligning — the Yorubas?