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Granting amnesty to insurgents with totalitarian agenda is political suicide

BEFORE the imposition of state of emergency on
Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states, the three states that emerged from the old Gongola State had become the hot bed of Islamist insurgency, spearheaded by the Boko Haram sect.

The orgy of violence in the old Kanem Borno empire had become a threat to sovereignty of Nigerian state, and direct challenge to the authority and power of the Federal Government, as the insurgents had vowed to topple  the democratic order by the use of force, to enthrone a theocratic state, based on Sharia’s jurisprudence.

The unrestrained killing of secuity personnel, diplomats, women, children and men in farms, churches, markets, schools, parks, had gone on with glee. Instead, the Federal Government bowed to pressures from Northern leaders to set up the Presidential Committee on Peace and Dialogue to study prospects of granting amnesty to members of the Boko Haram sect.

In this edition of Vanguard Conference Hall, Rev. Ladi Thompson, Special Adviser to the CAN president on Terrorism,  the President of Al-Faith-Ul-Qureeb Soceity of Nigeria Sheik Sulaiman Adangba, a Lagos- based Lawyer, Mr. Godfrey C. Ndubisi, join the Vanguard team of  Mr.Hugo Odiogor, and Mrs. Nkiru Nnorom, to examine the issue of Islamic insurgency in Nigeria and amnesty for Boko Haram terrorists in Northern Nigeria. 

THE recent presidential initiative to set up a committee to study the possibility of granting amnesty to the Islamist insurgents in Northern Nigeria and the payment of compensation to states where we had electoral violence in the 2011 general election, have sent mixed signals about the entire issue of crime and punishment and the capacity of the Federal Government to handle the challenges facing the country, let me start with Barrister Ndubisi, Sir, do you think the Federal Government is getting it acts right?

Barrister Ndubuisi: First of all let me thank you for inviting me to this conference. I want to say first of all that the whole thing borders on the failure of governance both at the Federal, State and Local Government levels and that has caused the uprising that we are seeing now.

Rev Ladi Thompson, Special Adviser to the CAN President of Terrorism, Mr. Hugo Odiogor, Foreign Affairs Editor / Co-Ordinator of VCH, Barr. Godfrey Ndubisi and Sheik Sulaiman Adangba President of Al-Faith-Ul-Qureeb Soceity of Nigeria,at the Vanguard Conference Hall, Lagos. Photo: Bunmi Azeez
Rev Ladi Thompson, Special Adviser to the CAN President of Terrorism, Mr. Hugo Odiogor, Foreign Affairs Editor / Co-Ordinator of VCH, Barr. Godfrey Ndubisi and Sheik Sulaiman Adangba President of Al-Faith-Ul-Qureeb Soceity of Nigeria,at the Vanguard Conference Hall, Lagos. Photo: Bunmi Azeez

If you can remember, the northern part of this country has ruled far more than any other part and yet they are still complaining of marginalisation. When Mrs. Clinton came to this country, she surveyed what was happening, and stated clearly that the Federal Government should try hard to build institutions and not strong individuals. The failure of our governments to do what they were elected to do. This has caused all these uprisings. I want to state clearly that the problem we are having in this country is governance, and until we address the issue of governance, obedience to law, then there will be more problems.

There are laws to deal with what is happening currently in the country, but it seems nobody is ready to enforce the law and people are not obeying the laws. When there is violence like terrorism, the criminal code states what should be done, but because of the inability of the government to enforce these laws, these issues are rising up. I want to align myself with the fact that actually the rise of Boko-Haram or all these sects that are coming up is as a result of the fact that our leaders have failed to tackle the problem of what they want and how to go about it.

The issue of amnesty is even an aberration, if you look at the country, like I have said earlier, you find out that there are laws and some group of people take arms up against their own people and you said you want to give them amnesty. On what basis are you granting the amnesty?

In America, when they were faced with terrorism recently, the US President Barack Obama did not say I want to give amnesty. He ordered the security agencies to go all out and  flush out the people responsible and punish them. That comes down to what I am talking about, governance; as long as our leaders fail to do their duties, so will these kind of things continue. Actually, what we have on ground now is a kind of disaster and I wonder  what will happen. To talk about the issue of amnesty, it is given when there is a show of remorse, even in the court, but such a person must have shown a level of regret.

The same issue still comes back on the governance and it was the late President Ya’Adua that started it and many Nigerians opposed it because it was a wrong decision,if you grant amnesty to  Boko-Haram, I can tell you that tomorrow, some people from the East will start their own, or some people from the other parts will start their own ,and you will continue to grant them amnesty, then there will be a state  of anarchy where the centre can not hold.

Well, my stand on it is that, amnesty should hold on for now. Government should fortify the security agencies so that they can go out and fish out the people who are responsible for these things. They are not ghosts, they are human beings like us, they should be punished in accordance with the law.

Rev. Ladi Thompson: I will like to come in from the more than ten years experience I have in the field during which period I have travelled between Sokoto across to Maduguri and back to the southern part of the country.

Ideology of the insurgents

I would not want us to put the issue of amnesty on the table first, because we are not grounded on the definition of the ideology of the insurgents that has shown up here. I want to tell you  that for the past ten years, one of my biggest challenges is that, just like in the health sector, where the Nigerian Medical Association is not positioned to diagnose certain health challenges, when you have a medical challenge that is beyond what is available in Nigeria, you may not find out what your problems are until you are there.

So, if we bring that into what we are talking about here, my first response is that; it is very clear from the structure of the government, that we are yet to understand the ideology that we are talking about. The challenge we are having in Nigeria is that there is a mixed global resurgence of what we call “Islamism”.  Please don’t mistake it for Islam. And the global resurgence of Islamism has found a confluence with an ancient strain that had always been around in Nigeria slowly being sponsored step by step from outside and has been making progress. But when the global resurgence mixed with the ancient strain, it exploded into what we have today.

Actually, these are complement problems; they are not the root cause. The root cause of what we are facing is an ideology that radicalises any body that it can and the source of this  is that if you enter into  a community where there is peace for years ,you introduce the ideology; it has no respect for democracy, no respect for voting. What they are demanding is that by force or by all means, the nation must change its form of governance and Sharia must be the basis for governance. All those who decide to go against or do not agree with this ideology, will be weakened by terrorism.

This is a group that has made its demand known. By the way, there is nothing called Boko-Haram as a core name of the western press; Boko-Haram came to be in 2008. Before 2008, there were more than 26 radical groups in the North East, radicalising people within this country and their demands are not different from the demands all over the world.

If you go back to the history of the world, in 1956, there was a hajj camp where there was a huge uproar at that time and one of the people who came back to report this was the late Sheik Gumi. The cause of the problem was that in the camp there, the Nigerian flag in those days has a star in its design and a cry went up in the camp that a Zionist symbol was been flown and that was a haram.

Western education

Gumi came back and spoke about the incident to the then prime minister. Sheik Gumi was one of the prime movers of Jamatu Nasril Islam (JNI). Gumi go and study his biography, by his own stories, he refused western education.  When you study the global model of the current trend, you will find that there is nothing that Gumi taught or did, that is different from what Boko Haram sect is demanding today.

Unfortunately, what has happened in Nigeria was because of our military experience, we would have diagnosed these things earlier. But I am telling you that the one that was most popular was the Maitasine, which was an aberration. The reason why I am saying this, is for us to know that we are dealing with and the area where we need a lot of education and consultation, because the more people hear of these things, the more they will appreciate that Nigeria is in deep trouble.

If a medical doctor is handling an HIV case and the actual thing is malaria, what he thinks is the solution will make the case become worst. What I am telling you right now is that the ideology we are talking about is clearly defined, the demands have never changed. Bornu state have nothing less than 1.4 million adherents who are registered. I am citing Bornu state as an example, because I have a mission there and I  monitored what  goes on in the state. Before Boko Haram  emerged in 2009, there were over 29 different groups with different uniforms and colours, some of  them operated Islamic security agents and they have  different uniforms. They have their roots deeply entrenched in Borno state ever before this conflagration. At one point, they have engaged the Nigerian Army in three battles for two weeks.

The report we have been handling and agitating there was that these people are working on an ideology based on a modernized model of Islamism, which was created by Osama Bin Laden. It is easy to get Osama Bin Laden out, but very difficult is to get rid of the ideology that was behind his actions. And to handle the ideology behind it takes a lot of wisdom, experience and clarity of mind. The ideology we are talking about is rooted on four legs but at the momemnt. When Osama Bin Laden was in Sudan around 1991 and 1994; he developed a model for global terrorism which had never been seen on this planet. What he did was to look at the brand of Islam that they practiced and disdained their methodology, ideology and all that.

While in Sudan, he had a favourable environment to create a model of Islam that he wanted, using modern corporate methodology to create a global franchise which will operate on self sponsorship. This brand of Islam stands on four legs and what are the four legs? The terror we are shouting about in Nigeria is just one of the legs. They are those who have been radicalised for bombing missions, but behind them, we have an administration of intelligentsia we have radicalised clerics ,who carry out the task to radicalise and mobilise the Almajiris, to ensure that they will always have a steady supply of recruits. The radicalised clerics do not preach Islam, but Islamism. The fourth arm that we have refused to recognise  is the media management team.  The group that manager the propaganda of the terrorists.

They know that the reporting of terror is very important the way it is handled. First of all, in the earlier years when you want to keep it invisible, it makes progress.  The problem we are having right now is because we have refused to be thorough. The fire brigade approach that Nigeria is always taking towards everything is what has brought us all what we are facing.

Managing propaganda

What we have now is that we are attacking the least  ingenious, those who have been brainwashed and radicalised to throw bombs and shoot guns. We have left those in government who are  moving the money around, we have left those who are colluding with the foreign bodies, we have left those in the media, who are  managing their propaganda. For instance, all of a sudden, the Nigeria media began to erase the word “Boko-Haram sect” in their description of the terrorists and began to call them “gun men”. Now, the way it appeared in all the Nigerian newspapers at the same time, shows that it was coordinated process and the story that came from the Nigerian press was that, “we don’t want to over-emphasise the spread terror.” Unfortunately the media professionals donot understand the ideology behind their action. They have  high intelligence that is doing the thinking and knows best to  manage the information about their actions. They know who to face and  strike terror, so that it further creates panic in the society. Whether you under-report or over-report their action, it is to their favour.

You remember the case of Abdulmutallab, who went to America  to blow off the plane that was radicalised in Yemen. He was not from a poor home. Whereas, poverty is corruption and hunger is complicit, the real problem is the Islamic ideology that has entered Nigeria. It has penetrated the government, and the high places. When it was announced that Nigeria was going to send troops to Mali, members of the the Boko-Haram went to their camp to bomb them.

Moderator: Some people have argued that the proposed amnesty for the insurgents is a double edged sword, yet the likes of Sultan Abubakar Sa’ad, a former military man and intelligence office, believes that the best option to the Boko Haram crisis is to grant Amnesty to a group that does not believe in dialogue or diplomacy outside its own world view so where does this leave us?

Barr. Ndubuisi: The proposed amnesty for Boko Haram is only a ploy by some Northern elders and political leaders to buy time, collect money from President Jonathan, to fight him in 2015 and in the meantime to buy more arms to fight security agencies and kill more innocent people.

Liberal democratic values

I perfectly agree with Rev. Thompson that the insurgency that we are having today is externally directed but it mixed with the local strains caused by mis-governance, poverty among all the segments of the society. The so called Northern elders that are protecting the insurgents will eventually discover that they are on the back of Tiger.

Godfrey Ndubisi
Godfrey Ndubisi

The insurgent have shown that they have no respect for liberal democratic  values, the feudal and  secular authorities. They are opposed to anything outside their own brand of Islam, anti-modernism and anti-Christian faith. We must therefore deal with this insurgency decisively, before we degenerate into Libya, Syria or Sudan. Those who are pushing for amnesty are toying with the sovereignty of Nigeria and my advice is for government to deal with this insurgency decisively. We must deal with this insurgency decisively before it degenerate into Libya, Syria or Sudan.

Rev Thompson:  On the issue of Boko-Haram, the fire brigade approach is not going to work, let us just stop scratching the surface. The issue of Boko-Haram was once arrested in the early days; they have been operating in Maduguri for the past ten years before the explosion. Yusuf was arrested that time and taken to Abuja, but instructions came from above asking for the release of Yusuf. He went back to Maiduguri and later began what the people are now calling Boko-Haram. What I am trying to point out is that; until people understand this ideology, understand how it works and it’s multiple faces of warfare, this country will continue to be at disadvantage while experts  who  have never studied the ideology of Islamism, will come from all corners of the world to profer solution to what they do not know. The insurgents  will  laugh and create more problems. 

Moderator: Sheik Sulaiman: the
issues facingt us now is radicalisation of young people and believers by Islamic clerics; it is now a threat to national security. What is your take on this?

Sheik Adangba:: I want to  thank Rev. Ladi  for all his submissions, but I also want to let him know that Islamism comes from Islam. And all about Islamism is Sharia, and when you talk about sharia, it means a path, a type of rules and regulation. And it is clearly stated in the Quran, chapter 2 verse 234. it is there that there is no compulsion in religion, you don’t force anybody to become a Muslim.

International definition

And even before our own era, in the era of Prophet Mohammed (SWS), the prophet lived with the Jews in Medina and they even prayed together in his mosque. Therefore, Islam is a religion that absorbs everything. If you are a Christian, we can live together, there are even verses in the Holy Quran that make it lawful for us to eat from what Christians prepared.

Sheik Sulaim
Sheik Sulaim

So, when you talk about the international definition of Islamism, who is adopting it?, who are the rulers of the world? The Jews, the Christians or the Muslim? The Jews are the rulers of this world and when we are talking about, Zionism I believe in that, nobody is disputing anything about that, we leave it to them. When you are talking about Islamism, what we are trying to say? Is it that Islamism and Sharia is the same thing?. Is Islamism forcing  Sharia on everybody?

There is nothing like that, if you are not a Muslim  you are not compelled to observe Sharia,  religion  is not to be forced on non believers.  When you are talking about the globalisation or Islamism, my question is who is ruling this world now? Why is Islam not forced on people in America, Germany and all other places?

Be that as it may, this Boko Haram of a thing that we are talking about now but it has been there since 1990, they have been teaching their people the way to read and understand the Quran. Yusuf has been there since 1990, they have been practicing what they are practicing, they are not imposing anything on anybody.

But the fact is that Islam is a fundamental religion and nobody can tell us not  face the Ka”aba when we pray, you cannot change it. Our prayers are just the way they are and that is to tell you that there are certain things that cannot just be changed because that was the way it was revealed to prophet Mohammed (SWS)

In the South-West here, why are there no radicals? Are there no Muslims here?, and do not also have Madrasas in the South West?  What we call Madrasa is the Islamic word for school. What you have in the English schools are in line with what we teach Madrasas too. For instance, I teach geography and mathematics, in Arabic language as a  teacher in Arabic training school in Agege where I taught for 14  years. The radicalisation process can happen in anything not in Islam alone.

What I want to point out here is that we are dealing with radicalisation of the faith, I was in KanoState sometime ago when a Muslim man was told to bring his car for a suicide bombing and he refused.He was killed because of this. Till today, the Federal government has not seen any reason to compensate his family.

After the man’s death, the family came forward and reported those who organised the killing to the Joint Task Force. Based on that tip-off, the JTF  arrested some  Boko-Haram leaders in KanoState. The question I now asked is: has that man died in vain?, That was a Muslim that said: “No, you cannot use my car for radical issues”, nobody has compensated his family. What is the message you are sending to other Nigerians?

What am saying is that look Islam and Islamism and Sharia they are the same thing, radicalism may be the word I am not against that, people could be used for different purposes be it negative, positive or whatever,  the matter with the north is that there is complete followership.

Moderator: Some people have argued that the proposed amnesty for the insurgents is a double edged sword, yet the likes of Sultan Abubakar Sa’ad, a former military man and intelligence office, believes that the best option to the Boko Haram crisis  a group that does not believe in dialogue or diplomacy outside its own world view so where does this leave us?

Rev Thompson:  What I am sayingthat for the sake of your and my children, we must tackle this radicalisation of the Islamic faith,  because if  you think that the radicalisation process has not started in the South, then you are joking.It has  started. As usual when these things started, everybody pretends not to see it,  until it has reached the climax. He has told you the truth, that training is already going on in the South too.

Sheik Sulaiman:  The training that I said is on going here is not to train people to be radicals, but for them to be educated and know the right things for them. We only ask for right we don’t tell people to give duties and responsibility.

The truth is that from his own part of the country, there is no compulsion on anybody to accept Islamic faith.  But there is an ideology that has entered the other side that has found expression in the use of voilence to propagate the faith. The  use of violence is  not based on food, it poverty, corruption, bad leadership  can be catalyst to what is happening but the truth is that until the core problem is properly diagnosed, we will never be out of this problem.

Sheik Adangba:: I was in a meeting with the Sultan of Sokoto which is the meeting of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, and there the Sultan emphatically stated that the more the Almajiri school are coming, the more these people are enlightened, and became literate, then know what they are to do and what  not to do. Like I told you I lived in the north and when taking about the Almajiris, there could be up to about 50,000 or even 100,000 numbers of them waiting for just only one order. So this is what has been used by some politicians to go and serve their purpose and the moment you see people coming en-mass what do you do? if not to run away…, they will attack you.

Even the Muslims are affected and that is to tell you that when you talk about the Islamic radicals, I don’t call them Muslim rather they are human radicals, because they are not professing the faith. This means that anybody be it a Muslim or a Christian who cannot create life, should not take it.

Rev Thompson:  Let me quickly correct this notion because the Sheik is here and he understands that the division you have in democracy, does not exist in his faith. You are the intellectuals, what we are trying to do here is to give insigt into those areas  that can help preserve our nation, and  help to keep our peace. The culture that binds us will rise up and defend itself, when the time comes.

Rev Thompson
Rev Thompson

Islam has been in Nigeria century before Dan-Fodio came, Islam was not killing anybody, nobody was taking anything by force. When the Sokoto Jihad started in 1804, the people in Kanem -Borno axis also became victims of the expansion but they were able to checkmate the expansion of the Sokoto Jihad. Unfortunately, when the British  came, with their indirect rule system, they  empowered Sokoto above Borno, without knowing the implications of their actions. In 1958 when Nigeria was going to come together as a nation, everybody knew that if the issue of Islam and religion was not resolved, there was to be a problem.

After all the White Hall meetings, Northern Nigeria conveyed a meeting in Kaduna, this was in 1958, we had people from Pakistan,  people from Sudan attending the meeting.

And what was the point of the meeting? They knew that if they bring the total Sharia, they knew that the rest of the country (South South, South East, South West) would not agree in an accord to move forward as a notion.

So under the auspices of Northern leaders as at that time, which is documented, 33 compromises were suggested. Out of the 33, 31 were adopted and when they adopted the 31, they were able to bring forward what we call the “Penal Code” and the agreement then was that they will not go for the total application of the Criminal aspect of the Sharia which has Stoning to Death for adultery etc.

This was the accord that was brought to the table on which we all form Nigeria in 1960. now between that time and now, what has now happen is that while Muslim and Christian were happy to live together base on that constitution, base on that simplicity which is “Let me practice my faith and if there is a grey area, let Democracy help usthere was a minority muslim extremists who said “NO” and who have been working since then, to make Nigeria become a Muslim state.

Finally in 1999, they succeeded  when Zamfara state began the movement of adopting Sharia in their states. The basic problem of this country is religion. (Argument…)

Moderator: What started as Boko Haram was a push from north East in Nigeria, using Islam as a faith to achieve political, economic and social aims.

Rev. Thompson: The intelligence behind this are those who have mixed with global insurgence and they are former military generals. They are using their own interpretation of Islam as a faith to achieve political economic and social aims. Those days are gone. Whether we are in the military or Civilian, the objectives and ideology is clear. The people who are behind it know what they want and they are unrelenting. They want more than political and economic power. The ideal they have is totalitarian.

And in that totalitarian ideology, if it is to be put in place, if you and I are to go to court, my witness and your witness, it will have to be four of us to come and testify of an issue to one person who is a Muslim. These people are totalitarian. It is you and I that have a price. The core people behind the ideology don’t have a price. Those behind this ideology don’t have a price, they believe in what they are doing and thei faith is strong enough to influence someone to blow up himself with a bomb and kill others with him,  not minding what the world will say.

The radical process is towards an end. The end is not just political power. A totalitarian regime in the whole of Nigeria which is based on what Afghanistan stand for today.

Sheik Adangba: If we are to get it right, it is either Christianity or Islam. The act of Totalitarian ideology is a bad ideology that will make them take control of everybody that leave in that territory and everything.

If you are talking about amnesty, the Nigerian government is telling you that the Boko-Haram are faceless. They have Kabiru Sokoto in their custody, they know where he is because they talk to him and he talks to them and other Boko-Haram members in their custody,

In 2010, our security vote was N432 million, In  2011, it ballooned to N1.2billion. Who is accessing the money, who is retiring the money? To which office are they returning the money? Sophisticated weapons are been used, at will yet we have security agencies.

Rev Thompson: when the people who taught how to make these bomb came in, initially, Nigerians were blowing themselves up, radicals were blowing themselves up until they master it.

The other day, the Iranians brought in 13 containers loads in Lagos, still today did the matter see any light.

Moderator: where do we go from here?

Giving Amnesty is a miss-normal. Somebody is committing crime and you are now  trying to provide funds for him to commits these crimes. It is a mistake.

So it is not accepted at to grant amnesty but we should go down. When there is a problem, there must be a special solution. The government has tried all means to get Boko-Haram but could not. To the best of our knowledge they have tried. But we know that they have not tried.

But the Sultan now said that his people are being killed. Christian and Muslim are those they governor over in the north. The north is not made for the Muslim alone, the Christians are there making their economic living and they live peacefully before the time of this saga. Now he now said they should introduce a way of so that they can come out but they refuse to say what they want, they just don’t want any price. They are looking for something only them know what the end is- Totalitarianism. But what we are saying is: let us grant amnesty for the insurgents. We are unable to know those who we are to talk to. We had talked to Kabir Sokoto and he was not fort-coming, we believe that if there is amnesty, that will bring them out to talk.

Humans are the ones doing this killing. They are not ghost, they are not angels. Therefore we must bring in the amnesty so that we can bring out Boko-Haram.

Rev. Thompson: If you look at the history of the present Sultan of Sokoto, he was a military intelligence officer and he has proceeds all over the world, Pakistan, Indonesia. Go and take a look at his resume, you will discover that he is a highly intelligent and articulate person who has served in a lot of areas in the world. So he has this extremist problem already.

And while he served there, his eyes could not have been close. So potentially, he is one of the greatest asset that Nigeria has and potentially is one of the greatest enemy Nigeria has. Now this is the truth, when he first became the Sultan of Sokoto, you should listen to his initial utterances, they were a bit costly and very instigative then he softens them down. But I could recall many of his interviews when they will ask him questions and he will tell them that exactly what Usman Dan-Fodio will do is what he will do and he defend a legacy.

But while I listened, my ear could pick the difference. What people were hearing was from him was different. When the man said that he is here to defend a legacy of his forbears what we are talking about ? while, later on Wikileaks revealed that quietly and unknown to Nigerians , every time Islamist radicals were caught for breach of security, they handed over to the Security forces who are then prevailed on to hand them over to the Sultan for rehabilitation. Thereafter, nobody hears of them again.



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