Most Nigerians were astonished when the Presidency, through the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, confirmed last Sunday that the Federal Government would grant amnesty to the Boko Haram Islamist insurgents if they would surrender and stop preaching what he termed “negative ideology”.
According to Shehu, amnesty in exchange for cessation of Boko Haram’s murderous and other criminal misadventures would save the country a lot of lives, money and the killing of our military personnel. As if in response to the offer, the terrorists wreaked havoc in Maiduguri through a series of suicide bombings that claimed the lives of 30 innocent people with 89 injured in a crowded area the following day. This was one of the grimmest harvests of death in the embattled Borno State capital since the insurgency started in 2009.
The amnesty offer seriously puts to question as to whether the Federal Government under President Muhammadu Buhari fully appreciates the type of enemy the nation faces in these Islamist terrorists. It is pretty obvious that there are so many irreconcilable differences between the Nigerian state and the insurgents who are pushing a foreign-inspired agenda to destabilise the nation and impose radical Islamic rule. Boko Haram has never wavered from this singular mission.
So, where does the Federal Government pitch its hope that they will agree to lay down their arms and renounce their ideology? We are strongly convinced that this amnesty offer will be read as a sign of weakness. It will embolden the terrorists and create doubts in the minds of Nigerians about the capacity of the government to protect their lives and property. Even if the insurgents accept the amnesty offer, they are likely to capitalise on the advantage of easy access to the populace to revive their cells across the North and take us back to pre-2014 situations when they held the nation to ransom, terrorising Abuja, Kano, Kaduna, Jos, Bauchi. It will be a total reversal of the gains already made.
Besides all this, we still stand on the campaign promises and serial pledges by President Buhari to defeat Boko Haram and rescue all the schoolgirls and other captives in their custody. It is a sacred undertaking, and we hold him to it. Part of the reason for which the Goodluck Jonathan regime was voted out in favour of Buhari was the former president’s perceived inability to arrest this situation.
Having been told several times that Boko Haram had been decimated and defeated Nigerians look forward to total victory. This offer is like begging the enemy to have mercy. It is totally different from what we were promised. And it will never solve the problem. It will only bring the terrorists back into the Nigerian populace.
We say no.