We were analyzing and ruminating over the amnesty bait the federal government threw before Boko Haram and its implications to the future of our country when my friend and colleague, Mr Dom Isute drew my attention to a post he saw on Facebook. The post, which sought to mirror how profitable and rewarding crime has become in our country, encapsulated in a nutshell the trajectory and direction the nation is headed. It was a summary of the different levels of monthly income for each career.
It goes like this:
At the end was a rider and an advice: “choose your career wisely”.
Choose your career wisely! Funny as this may seem, there is a lot of sense in the import of the message, only that the author forgot to also add that if you are in a position to steal you should steal well and cart away the treasury if possible because, at the end of the day, you may get a state pardon and lionized.
From the table, the highest paying career today in Nigeria is terrorism represented by Boko Haram. The least is civil service, represented by civil servants who go home with N18,000 minimum wage, that is where it is implemented. The message sounds with utmost clarity: be a criminal, revolt against the state and become a hero!
What has befallen our beloved country Nigeria? When a western journalist, Carl Meier, visited Nigeria some years ago and wrote his damning book—This House has Fallen—I got up to write to the contrary that this house had not fallen but was in the process of great renewal. Little did I know that he had the power of clairvoyance: this house has indeed fallen. A house falls when the state loses its direction and becomes incapable of sound leadership. That is the lot of the Nigerian state today.
President Goodluck Jonathan’s belated moves to find elusive peace in the North by dangling the amnesty carrot before Boko Haram appears to me as a poorly thought-out action. If there is any lesson we can learn from it, it is that the president is desperate for peace and can settle for anything to change the miasma in the North. It signposts Nigeria is verging on the conquest of terror.
But, let’s face the facts. It appearsis confused. A voice tells him this is it, he goes for it and another tells him, no, this is the way, he quickly makes a 360 degree turn! Haba Jonathan! I can understand the mindset of the President. He is desperate for peace in the North, and loathes to hear that like Nero, he did nothing while Rome burned.
But what are going to be the rules of engagement for the Committee set up to look into the amnesty issue by the presidency? What are the cards the North may likely bring to the table? Let’s face it, how can Mr President negotiate with a group that is faceless? How can Nigerians be assured that the people the North may likely present to him as the sect are actually the real Boko Haram members? And if you settle Boko Haram, what of JAMBS or Ansaru and other terror groups that may spring up in the future?
On the other hand, if you grant Boko Haram amnesty, what are you going to give to victims of this deadly cult, many of whom lost their lives and property? What can a sect that has left no one in doubt of its humongous appetite for evil say is their grouse to necessitate their insurrection against their fatherland? What are they going to ask in return for peace in the beleaguered North? These and many issues give me food for thought.
I do not have an Ouija board to see beyond today, but I can say with the benefit of hindsight that the North is going to ask for so many things among which is a ministry for Northern Affairs akin to what we have in the Niger Delta. It may equally ask for a ministry to be created especially for them that would offer employment to the millions of unemployable youths in the region. Jonathan should be careful not to trade away our commonwealth because of his personal ambition for 2015.
When the Niger Delta youths rose up in arms against the environmental degradation arising from oil exploration in their land, their grouse was understandable and reasonably justified. As a journalist with Sunray Newspaper in Port Harcourt, I had firsthand information on their plight. The day I was sent to Gokana to interview the father of late Ken Saro Wiwa, I wept when I saw the polluted and poisonous pond that is their only source of water. It was more than words could tell. Till today, there is no one who has ever been to the Niger Delta that will not be enamoured by their capacity for survival after seeing the inhumane condition they have been subjected to. It takes a heart of steel to live there!
But what can Boko Haram count against the federal government or against the Nigerian state? From 1960 to 1999, the Northern oligarchy has dominated the power apparatus in Nigeria in various forms. If they failed to develop the region in terms of infrastructure or send their children to school, it was because the North wanted to develop at its own pace.
Aside from political power, the North has had the advantage of occupying lush and verdant positions in our bureaucracy and corporate world. The top ministerial positions go to them while they sit as chairmen of board of oil companies, parastatals etc. We kowtowed before powerful Alhajis as we bought over their LPOs from them given to them by their highly placed kins, without knowing that they, too, were clay-footed men like us. Thus, they have no reason to complain of neglect.
Sir Tafawa Balewa was the Prime Minister of Nigeria from 1960 to 1966 and had all the executive power on earth to reposition the North within the paradigm of an emerging nation but he frittered away that opportunity. From that period till 1999, the North occupied the centre stage in the political configuration of Nigeria either as Head of State, President or Military President. What again can they ask for? The problem we have is that the North sees leadership of the Nigerian state as their birthright, and that is why each time power shifts away from the zone they cry blue murder. But they have ruled Nigeria for close to 40 out of its 53 year history. What else can the rest of Nigeria give to the North in exchange for peace?
For the few months power resided in the south like during the coupes when Generals Aguiyi Ironsi, Olusegun Obasanjo and Ernest Shonekan were , it was either by providence or like giving a sop to Ceberus. The North, without any equivocation, is the reason why this house has fallen, and if there is any section of the country that should take up arms against the state, it certainly cannot be the North.
We must thread with caution over the Boko Haram issue. The amnesty option which the advisers of Mr President have meticulously packaged and sold to the nation, and which he has accepted hook line and sinker as the magic bullet for peace does not sit well with me for one obvious reason: it cannot work because we seem not to understand the sociological and religious undertones of Boko Haram.
Boko Haram is a contraption of Northern oligarchy meant to perpetuate Northern dominance of the political space. When the Hausa- Fulani called the shots either as Head of State or President, nobody heard of Boko Haram. But when power left them—like when the power of God left King Saul of Israel—they went back to the drawing board to raise up the almajiris who have drank deeply from the cisterns of Koran to wrest power from the south in the name of Boko Haram. Now Boko Haram has become a hydra-headed monster, behaving like a rabid dog which does not know even its owner.
Members of Boko Haram are religious extremists. They see their cause as the cause of Mohammed and the Koran. They see their fight as justified, akin to a jihad or holy war against infidels. They are fed with demonic utopia that they have a palatial place reserved for them in heaven when they fight and die in the name of Allah. Part of Koran like Sura 2:193 enjoins them to “fight against them until idolatory is no more and Allah’s religion reigns supreme.” Koran Sura 9:5 equally says “slay the idolaters wherever you find them. Arrest them, besiege them and lie in ambush everywhere for them.” Reza Safa says that Islam has left a fingerprint of blood through every page of its history, beginning with Hijra up to the very day. That is why we need divine intervention to win the war.
So, how can you convince one with such generational religious programming to lay down his arms? From Egypt to Jordan, from Tunisia to Libya and the rest of the Islamic spring, Islamic fundamentalists in the mould of Boko Haram are taking over governance, overthrowing moderates and foisting Islamic caliphates in the guise of democracies. See what is happening in Mali.
So it is futile to offer an incomparable alternative reward to a sect with such an angelic vision. And that is why Jonathan will fail in his amnesty gambit.