Tuesday Platform

May 14, 2013

Security precedes defence

Security precedes defence

From left: Chief of Air Staff Air Marshall, Alex Badeh; Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Dele Ezeoba; and Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Dikko Abubakar, after a security meeting with President Goodluck Jonathan at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Friday.

By John Amoda
I HAVE written this piece to show why the PDP and for that matter all electoral parties must understand the causal connection between the Jihadist Politics and the possible extinction of liberal constitutionalist electoral politics in Africa. It is a must understanding for the BoT Chairman and Mr. President.

The trip to Abeokuta to discuss security with OBJ is mere politics. OBJ does not understand security- if he did, the Civil War would have been transformed into statemaking war, not a war to restore the territorial scope of the pre-civil war government. And the U.S need to be informed on the fundamentals of African security in the post colonial period, a knowledge- deficit that only Nigeria can help remove.

At the time the Federal Government is spending “an average of N1 trillion yearly because of the heightened insecurity caused by the insurgency of Boko Haram, the security discourse is now in disarray. In inaugurating the Amnesty Committee, the President enjoins the Committee to “help end excesses of Boko Haram” (Vanguard Thursday April 25, 2013). The Saturday Vanguard April 27 carries the following explanation of the Presidency’s unilateral decision to offer Amnesty to Boko Haram.

“Defending the administration’s decision to explore the prospects of amnesty for the insurgents, Okupe said it was based on the preponderance of opinion of Northern leaders whom he said have borne the brunt of the attacks of the insurgents. “You have the President of a nation taking a logical, decisive and correct step. The Sultan of Sokoto is the spiritual leader of the entire Muslims in the entire north. He is also the paramount traditional leader in the entire north and he was the one who spoke first. Later on, virtually all the spiritual leaders in the north except for Sheik Ahmad Gumi, came together and said they supported the suggestion given by the Sultan. “All the traditional leaders in the north came together to state their position. The leadership of the elite class in the north came together to state their position. Should they be ignored? These are the frontline men; the people who bear the brunt and the assault of the insurgency. These are the people, that common sense tells us ought to know how to handle these issues.

… The desire of the government and every right thinking Nigerian is that these hostilities should end. This carnage and wasting of lives and properties should be brought to an end so that we can return to peace”.

The logical question that is suggested by Okupe’s explanation of the President’s decision is Amnesty the relevant peacemaking recipe? Amnesty is a general pardon of offenses against a government; it is a proclamation of such pardon.

It is a deliberate over looking an offense, it is the exoneration and acquittal of the offenders. Government grant amnesty to defeated foes or to encourage the surrender of foes who know their defeat is certain but may prefer to continue the war to their last man in order to avoid shame- it is in this case, a face saving device. Seen in this light amnesty was never the appropriate solution to the Niger Delta Militancy nor is it applicable to the Boko Haram insurgency.

The Niger Delta militants’ accepted Amnesty on a quid pro quo basis: it was the cost of a negotiated settlement. The Niger Delta Militants are still capable of resuming their war as was recently indicated by the ambush and killing of the police in the creeks.

Likewise in the case of the Boko Haram in the Baga conflagration in Borno, barely two days after the inauguration of the Amnesty Committee. Surely whether Amnesty is pardon or appeasement it is clear that Boko Haram insurgency is an offensive war and their response will be based on their aims for the insurgency; is their aim revenge or revolution?; are they a wholly local insurgency or they an affiliate of Al-Quaeda? Are their fighting troops and leadership Nigerian or multinational? Whatever the answers to these questions may turn out to be, the inaugural stance of the presumed spokespersons of the sect is that they have rejected the offer of Amnesty.

This rejection has thrown the Amnesty discourse into disarray. The Saturday News of the Saturday Vanguard carries the headline “We doubt Shekau’s existence- Presidency. He is a virtual person”.

“Acclaimed leader of the Boko Haram Islamic Sect. Ibu Abubakar Shekau is a virtual personality, whose real existence remains in doubt, the presidency has declared”.

ThisDay, The Sunday Newspaper, April 28, 2013 quoted Bauchi State Governor Isa Yaguda as telling journalists on April 13 that the group that had spurned the amnesty offer by the federal government was the “criminal and political Boko Haram”. Yaguda said “The amnesty has been given to the real Boko Haram and I believe they are willing to accept that.

That is my belief. But you know there is the criminal Boko Haram and there is the real Boko Haram. But the criminal and political Boko Haram are the armed robbers and that arm of politicians that call themselves Boko Haram and they go about attacking people”.

The question that is raised by Yaguda is what is the relationship between the two Boko Harams? If the real Boko Haram accepts the offer of amnesty will that bring the insurgency to an end? Which is the dominant force driving the insurgency? If it is the political and criminal Boko Haram that has rejected Amnesty will the acceptance of Amnesty by the Real Boko Haram isolate and weaken the armed insurgents? Most importantly has the Real Boko Haram come out to and accept government’s “olive Branch” of Peace? Will it do so?

Doyin Okupe’s explanation of the issue differs from the Bauchi Governor’s. “Expressing the administration’s determination to combat the insurgency in any way possible through carrot or stick, Okupe pleaded for patience from the populace. He further said “in terms of feasibility, most of us are very anxious, things take time to crystallize and mature.

Negotiating with terrorists are not things that will happen overnight, they are not also things that will be sorted out at the snap of the fingers. We are in for a long haul, but we just have to be patient and see how things will work out.”