By Ochereome Nnanna
THE moment the Sultan called for amnesty for Boko Haram, I knew Nigeria was headed for bigger trouble. It was a major shifting of grounds by His Eminence, Mohammed Abubakar Sa’ad III, the Sultan of Sokoto and the head of the Nigerian Muslim community.
His earlier stance in public forums both in Nigeria and abroad was that the sect was evil, and their mission un-Islamic, with strong support for the security forces to decision them accordingly.
With this change of tone, I knew more and more Muslim and northern leaders would join the chorus. It was not long in coming, and it did not come only from Muslim quarters. The Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, threw his weight behind the call. The Northern States Governors’ Forum (NSGF) followed suit. To cap it all, the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) with the respected Alhaji Maitama Sule in their company, visited President Goodluck Jonathan at the Presidential Villa and tabled their call for amnesty for these terrorists.
Professor Ango Abdullahi, who spoke to the media after the event, went as far as making the usual parasitic call for an “Amnesty Commission” backed by law. The implication of this is obvious. Every Nigerian amnesty comes with “post-amnesty” bonanza, which will be administered by Abdullahi’s Commission.
It was also a matter of time before the opponents of this idea would make their voices known. The President of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Bishop Ayo Oritsejafor, called amnesty for unrepentant terrorists an act of “wickedness”, while the Northern Christian Elders Forum (NORCEF) described it as a “suicide mission”. As if to justify the fears of amnesty’s opponents, Mallam Abubakar Shekau, the alleged leader of Boko Haram, was quoted as dismissing the amnesty offer, saying it is the federal government that should seek forgiveness from them, a plea which will not be granted until Allah permits them to do so.
For me, that settles it all. That is the end of discussion. You cannot say you are granting mercy to someone who has not asked you for it. How can you offer forgiveness to somebody who has not repented of his sins? Somebody who sees YOU, rather than himself, as the offender? An enemy who believes he has pinned your back to the wall and has you begging for mercy? An enemy who has thrown fear into the northern traditional and political establishments, forcing them to their knees saying “politically correct” things to save their hides? An enemy who believes he is on the path towards victory? Put yourself in his shoes. Would you do what you are asking of him if the situation was turned the other way round?
There is no logic or even commonsense in the whole thing. What we see is that as 2015 rapidly draws closer, political expediency is beginning to dominate the thoughts of politicians and those who work with and for them. President Goodluck Jonathan is in a tight corner. On the one hand,if he continues to maintain the hard line stance which he exhibited when he visited Maiduguri recently, he might lose the support of the traditional and political establishment of the North, especially if by this time next year the security situation in the region has not changed.
On the other, if he grants amnesty to Boko Haram to please the North, he will be doing a grave injustice to the thousands of Christian families and denominations, as well as their perceived moderate Muslim counterparts who have lost dear ones, suffered grave injuries and been deprived of their hard earned property. What conscience would guide the President in setting up and funding an amnesty commission when the victims of Boko Haram terror are yet to be consoled or compensated in any way? Christians, moderate and patriotic Muslims and the people of Southern Nigeria will feel betrayed and diminished over filthy politics and Jonathan may begin to lose the support of his home base.
Let us make no mistakes about it: amnesty for Boko Haram, indeed, is a suicide mission. A man like Professor Ango Abdullahi, a baleful political enemy of President Jonathan, will relish giving perfidious advice that will sink him politically. Imagine setting up an Amnesty Commission. What is happening in the Niger Delta should warn us of the danger in it.
Millions of ragged, plates-clutching al majiris from all over the North and surrounding countries will line up to benefit from post-amnesty rehab for Boko Haram. Politicians, mallams, criminals and hustlers will mobilise them and through them smile all the way to the bank, just as the ex-“generals” and ex-“commanders” of the ex-militants of the Niger Delta are doing. After all, the call for amnesty is a cheap copycatting of the amnesty granted to the Niger Delta ex-militants.
Any attempt to stop the programme will have the sponsors of the “repentant” ex-Boko Haram causing a couple of bomb explosions and gun attacks and the government will once again panic to resume funding of this insane parasitic proposition.
An Amnesty Commission pumping money to “repentant” Boko Haram members will only end up giving federal government grants to terrorists to procure more arms and bomb making materials to intensify their campaign to Islamise the North. Boko Haram’s stances are clear and unambiguous. It is the northern elite that are attempting to corrupt their mission with misrepresentation of their intentions to deceive and blackmail the federal government.
Shekau’s Boko Haram is simply not interested in the hustling that northern politicians are turning their mission into. When former President Olusegun Obasanjo turned himself into an emissary of the federal government to appease the family of the slain Boko Haram leader, assassins came the following day and killed the man who spoke on their behalf, Alhaji Babakura Fugu. These chaps have operated with an admirable level of honesty as opposed to the deceitful antics of the politicians who, for their own safety, pretend to be their advocates before the federal government.
Now that Shekau has rejected amnesty, perhaps the politicians will now realise that the game is up and it is time to face the enemy squarely.