By Obike Ukoh
The constructive engagement option adopted by the Federal Government to tackle the Boko Haram insurgency seems to have generated a lot of controversy.
While some citizens welcome the option, others consider it incongruous to dialogue with a group that hitherto seemed faceless.
However, some analysts say that the dialogue option is not a “surrender or capitulation but a bold step in conflict resolution.’’
The 26-member Presidential Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution of Security Challenges in the northern part of the country, to constructively engage key members of the Boko Haram sect in a dialogue, was inaugurated by President Goodluck Jonathan on Wednesday, April 24.
However, two members of the committee headed by Minister of Special Duties, Alhaji Kabiru Turaki, Messrs Shehu Sani and Datti Ahmed, turned down their appointments on the grounds that they were not consulted.
The members were picked based on merit as Datti Ahmed is the president of the Supreme Council for Sharia in Nigeria, while Shehu Sani is the President, Civil Rights Congress of Nigeria.
Sani is also the leader, Civil Society Coalition in the North, known to be “ close to members of the sect.’’
President Jonathan, who spoke at the inauguration, told the members that: “Nigerians are expecting this committee to perform magic, and we pray that Allah should give you the wisdom to do so. This is because without peace, we cannot develop no matter how committed we are,’’ he said.
The president charged the committee to establish a link with members of the Boko Haram sect, while developing a framework through which disarmament would take place.
Jonathan also enjoined the committee to evolve ways to grant amnesty to members of the sect, while developing a comprehensive victims’ support programme.
While the rejection of the offer to serve in the committee by the duo of Sani and Ahmed did not prevent the committee from carrying out its assignment, many stakeholders decried the rejection of the offer, especially by Sani.
They noted that Sani is very “close’’ to the leadership of the sect and was in a position to assist the federal government to end the insurgency.
That Sani is very close to the leadership of the Boko Haran sect was clearly stated in his rejection of the offer.
“My friends called me this afternoon to inform me that they saw my name in the list of the Presidential Committee on Amnesty.
“This is to thank our president for giving me such an honour and consideration.
“However, I humbly and respectably wish to decline to serve as a member. My advice remains: reach out to the persons I mentioned their names in my interviews in the dailies to discreetly consult with the group to get their input on the idea,’’ he said.
In a recent interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Sani further defended his refusal to be part of the amnesty committee, claiming that he did so out of patriotism.
“Some people think my rejection is unpatriotic, but to me it is the highest form of patriotism.
“If I am not patriotic I couldn’t have risked my life and that of my family to go and sit with members of the Boko Haram.
“I couldn’t have been communicating with the Boko Haram members in order to bring about peace at the beginning,’’ he said.
Sani had told newspapers that: “There are two ways of tackling this insurgency; the use of force and the use of dialogue’’.
He also said that “no matter the high-level committee set up, as long as that committee cannot reach out to the leaders of the Boko Haram sect, it is technically and virtually impossible to pin down on these insurgents’’.
And not quite long ago, the newspapers were awash with comments by Sani when the Joint Task Force (JTF) said in a statement that the Boko Haram leader, Sheikh Abubakar Shekau, might have been killed in a cross-fire.
Sani still remains doubtful that Shakau was indeed killed by the JTF, leaving most Nigerians to be suspicious of him and his true intention for members of the sect.
Stakeholders want Sani to support the peace initiatives of the federal government to end the insurgency, as by his utterances he is very close to them.
They also want him to borrow a leaf from other activists, like Mr Olısa Agbakoba, a former President of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), who said it was in the interest of the citizenry to make the country safe, by supporting the amnesty programme.
According to Agbakoba: “Some say why should the government go through all this trouble in view of Boko Haram’s record. But I disagree.
“It is in our enlightened interest to make Nigeria stable. You sometimes stoop to gain,” he stated.
It is on record that Sani in September 2011 led former President Olusegun Obasanjo to the Boko Haram’s centre in Maiduguri.
Stakeholders want the likes of Sani to lend their support to the Presidential Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution of Security Challenges in the North in order to end insecurity in that part of the country.
Peace is gradually returning to the troubled states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe, after the declaration of a state of emergency in the north-east area.
Cooperation of activists and those `close’ to the leadership of the Boko Haram sect would ensure the return of normalcy in the states facing security challenges. (NAN)