Another Failed Attempt
This is about the third time the federal government is initiating a dialogue with the Boko Haram sect, which has been threatening the security of the country. But unfortunately, the efforts have been botched.
The first negotiation comprised Sheik Abubakar Gemuno, Dr. Shettima Mongunu, Alhaji Bukar Abba Ibrahim, Alhaji Junadu Idris and Barrister Aisha Al Wakil. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo, last year attempted to broker peace between the sect and the federal government but the exercise had a catastrophic end. His host, Babakura Baba Fugu, brother in-law to the founder of Boko Haram, Yusuf Mohammed, was killed by members of the sect.
The latest in the effort was made by a group led by Dr. Ibrahim Datti Ahmad, president of the Supreme Council for Sharia in Nigeria, SCSN. Many Nigerians heaved a sign of relief when Ahmad said SCSN had established contact with members of the group through a journalist who had “maintained a close and valuable professional contact with leadership of the sect” and they were ready to talk. But no sooner had the negotiation began than it ended. The SCSN president blamed the failure on what he called insincerity of the federal government towards the dialogue. He said they were shocked that “Nigerian newspapers came out with a lot of the details of the meeting held. This development has embarrassed us very much and has created strong doubts in our minds about the sincerity on the government’s side in our discussion, as the discussion is supposed to be very confidential to achieve any success.”
But the special adviser to the president on political matters, Alhaji Ahmed Ali Gulak told the British Broadcasting Corporation, BBC Hausa Service that Datti was economical with the truth. He denied that the negotiation was done secretly. It was believed that the secrecy Ahmad wanted in the negotiation was the name of the negotiators and not the conditions for cease fire by the sect. He was said to be a supporter of Yusuf Mohammed, the slain Boko Haram founder.
It was gathered that criticisms from the Nigerian media on his involvement in the dialogue may have necessitated Alhaji Ahmad’s withdrawal. The SCSN president is seen as too controversial. He opposed polio vaccination in the northern part of the country in 2003, alleging that the vaccines can cause infertility among other effects. This made many northerners to reject the immunisation of their children against polio. His stand on the establishment of Islamic Banking in the country may have also contributed in making Nigerians see him as a religious extremist who may turnout to be a stumbling block in the peace process with the outlawed sect.
When the negotiation started, the arrested former spokesman of the sect, Abu Qaqa had expressed hope on the prospect of truce between the sect and the federal government but was disappointed that the negotiators were not trustworthy.
With the collapse of these attempts to dialogue and Boko Haram’s latest decision to boycott further negotiations, it is believed that there are political forces that want the insurgency to continue. Hon. Bitrus Kaze representing Jos south/Jos east federal constituency in the House of Representatives decried the politicisation of the activities of the sect. “If we don’t treat Boko Haram for who they are, then we would be making a mistake. My view is that, they are terrorists and if we don’t treat them as terrorists that they are, they shall endanger the corporate existence of this nation. It is not our hope that anything will shake the foundation of this country. But the reoccurring bombing has given rise to a lot of fear about the corporate existence of this country. And that is very unfortunate,” Kaze stated.
Mallam Shehu Sani, president of Civil Rights Congress of Nigeria, CRCN criticised the committee set up by the Northern Governors Forum to resolve the Boko Haram uprising. He said the governors were only playing to the gallery as the committee would not achieve any useful purpose in the resolution of the Boko Haram crisis.
Before the botched negotiation, a splinter of the sect had expressed readiness for dialogue. This was contained in a video tape aired by Nigeria Television Authority, NTA, in Maiduguri. The government has also expressed desire to established contact with the group through “back channels.”
Some of the conditions of the sect are: the imposition of sharia law in some parts of the north as well as the release of its members arrested by security agencies from prison. But government does not see these as possible. A number of arrests have been made by security agencies including key members of the group. Among those undergoing interrogation were Abu Quqa, spokesman of the sect and Kabiru Umar (otherwise known as Kabiru Sokoto). Last week, President Jonathan said Boko Haram activities will end in June this year.