By Babatunde Oluwaseun
That president Buhari and his government intend to grant amnesty to the terrorist boko-haram group is no longer news. It has however generated a lot of controversy, with some people taking sides with the government and others saying no, that such move is going to be another wrong one from the government.The president in a statement had said that his government will grant amnesty to repentant boko-haram members. The first question to ask the president and his government is how do they intend to determine genuine repentance from these people? Another question is why the government is considering this move when it had claimed several times that it has defeated this same group of terror? Again, is Dapchi the reason government is changing their position on the supposed defeat of boko-haram?Is the government now indirectly admitting defeat by boko-haram? There are obviously numerous questions to ask, but how much of answers can one get from this government?
Dapchi sure was a turning point in the boko-haram debate. From the withdrawal of security agents from the community a week before the abduction of the innocent school girls, to the abduction proper, then the different stories from the school, parents, and government, the absence of security agents when the girls were returned, the release of the girls in the weirdest of ways, the meeting between the abductors and the villagers on the return of the girls (during which the abductors were reported to have told the villagers that they did not know that the girls were muslims, that they would not have abducted them in the first place, one of them Leah Sharibu who refused to renounce her christian faith is still being held by the terrorists. The abductors were reported to have also warned the villagers to not return the girls to school, else they would be abducted again), to the government’s negotiation with the abductors through ‘’back channel’’. Dapchi only confirms what many people have being saying that this government is one of lies, deceit and shady dealings. Many have said that Dapchi is a scam plotted and executed by the government. Anyone who has seen the three years of president Buhari will not dismiss the possibility of the above assumption that this was a scam by the government, especially as the government claims to have responded better than the previous government on Chibok. It is hard to explain how we got to this state as a country.
Some of the followers of president Buhari who also approve of this amnesty to boko-haram say they buy the idea if it will not involve money. That is an amusing condition for supporting such a terrible move by a government that continually does things that project it as being indifferent to the welfare of the citizens. Supporting this move, whether with conditions or not, ultimately means you support boko-haram and all the evils they have done against our country. If these people have lost loved ones to boko-haram, will they take their current position on the subject? This set of people want to compare boko-haram to the niger-delta militants, saying if the later could get amnesty, why not the former too? When one listens to these people and consider that they claim to have been to school and the seriousness with which they argue, one can only shake one’s head in despair, you almost want to resign and accept that it may never be well with this country, but we would not allow them do this to us, we must continue to stand up to them and tell them they are enemies to our collective good, they are just religious but not godly. This column is not interested in defending the south-south guys, but if you are comparing them to boko-haram, then you are being highly dishonest. It is an established fact that despite the fact that majority of Nigeria’s earnings come from that region of the country, development there does not match what Nigerian governments get from there. The land in the niger-delta has been messed by oil, same thing has affected their water, infrastructure there is nothing to write about. Of course the federal governments are not the only culprits here, even their state governments share in the blame. What we have there is that a few people are made billionaires suddenly through government patronage, while the majority are left to suffer in the midst of plenty. There are certainly several ways of making demands from government other than relative-violence, but you cannot dismiss the genuine things the niger-deltans were demanding for, primary among which is a better welfare for their people. Now, try and compare the idea behind the violence of boko-haram, which they claim is that ‘’western education is bad’’, and they want to force this ill-informed position on everybody. If you think western education is bad, it is your opinion and you have a right to it, it becomes silly when you decide to force it on others, and becomes criminal if you decide to resort to violence as an instrument of intimidation to make others accept your position.
Looking at the kind of evil boko-haram has done to Nigeria, is it not insensitive, heartless and even criminal for anyone to consider amnesty for them? Over 20,000 innocent lives have been lost to these cruel beings, millions have been internally displaced, many have become disabled, orphans, widows and widowers, jobs have been lost, infrastructural damages caused cannot be accurately evaluated and require billions to regain. Aside the civil war, there has not been any time or event that has caused so much pain and destruction like boko-haram has. President Buhari and his government have proven over time that it was a mistake to have trusted them with the governance of this country. On several occasions the government claimed to have defeated boko-haram, but recent events show that reverse is the case, it is boko-haram that has overwhelmed the government, just like every other subject in the socio-political space of Nigeria has been too much of a task for this government to handle. With the proposed amnesty, president Buhari, his government and his party, APC may be confirming the notion many hold that they are the sponsors and financiers of boko-haram. With this amnesty, how does the government think the victims of boko-haram would feel? Does that not bother them? President Buhari and his government have decided to deny the victims and Nigeria as a country the deserved justice that should have been pursued on this boko-haram subject.
A civil rights group, socio-economic rights and accountability project, SERAP, has reacted appropriately to the government intended move, and has written an open letter to the president on it. The group in its letter has urged president Buhari to drop the proposed policy to grant amnesty to boko-haram in the interest of justice. It went further by explaining that amnesty for the boko-haram will be counter-productive and constitute impunity for their members, and will encourage them to continue to undermine peace and stability in the country. SERAP has urged the government to prioritize justice for the victims of boko-haram attacks, instead of trying to aid the perpetrators of this evil in escaping the consequences of their crimes. It also warned about the other effects this amnesty may have which includes the possibility of stirring up anger in the victims, thereby leading to a cycle of revenge that will lead to more violence and conflict. The letter by SERAP read in part; “Any amnesty for Boko Haram would take away the rights of the victims to justice, ignore the needs of the internally displaced persons, and never bring ‘closure’ to the mass atrocities committed by the group against Nigerians. The victims need to know the truth about what happened, and the alleged complicity of our armed forces and security services in the atrocities committed by the group. The offer of amnesty would prevent the government from addressing these fundamental issues. Indeed, both individual victims and Nigeria would be disadvantaged by any amnesty to Boko Haram. Besides depriving the country of its opportunity to bring perpetrators to justice, it would also help to create a culture of impunity where perpetrators can anticipate immunity, and thus jeopardize the governing power of the authorities in the future. The pursuit of justice and accountability fulfils fundamental human values, helps achieve peace, and contributes to the prevention and deterrence of future violence. Thus, to grant amnesty to Boko Haram is to choose expedience over lasting goals and more enduring values’’.
The letter from SERAP captures it all. The government claims to have secured the release of the abducted Dapchi girls through ‘’back channel’’ negotiations, what this means is that the government has a link to boko-haram, so why not use that to Nigeria’s advantage by bringing boko-haram to justice? From the stories the government tells us, it is obvious that the government knows people who are at least in some ways involved with boko-haram. Are these people too strong for the government to bring to justice? Are these people members of the current government? There are just so many questions around the boko-haram subject and its handling by government, but little or no answers are available. Above all, president Buharishould know that he owes Nigeria many explanations and should heed the cries of the bloods of the abels that have been consumed by boko-harm, demanding for
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