The Peace Offer that Died

Buhari rejects Boko Haram nomination
Buhari rejects Boko Haram nomination

Federal government turns down peace talks offer by Boko Haram insisting that it can’t negotiate with a faceless group.

|  By Ishaya Ibrahim  |

THE coast is still not clear as to how and when Boko Haram insurgency will end in Nigeria. The sect had, few weeks ago, at a tele-conference with reporters in Maiduguri, Borno State, agreed to peace talks with the federal government.  Reuben Abati, special assistant to the President on media, in response to the peace offer, said that government was happy with the move.

But a few days later, President Goodluck Jonathan, while answering questions from panel of journalist at media chat on November 18, said there was no room for dialogue with the faceless sect.  “We don’t have anyone to dialogue with. They wear masks and we don’t know them. There is nobody to dialogue with,” Jonathan said.

There are a number of reasons to doubt that those who made the peace offer were genuine members of Boko Haram. For instance, the initiator of the peace talks, Abu Ibn Abdulalazeez, a man who claimed to be second-in-command to Abubakar Shekau, the spiritual leader of the sect, has never spoken on behalf of the group until that day. He also spoke in English, a language the group view as Haram {sinful} instead of Arabic and Hausa, their preferred languages of communication. Abdulazeez did not also remember to add a long time demand of the group, which is full implementation of sharia in most parts of the north. .  

But more than three weeks after the peace offer, the group has maintained a dubious silence. One of its nominees to the peace talks, Major General Muhammadu Buhari, presidential aspirant of Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, in the 2011 presidential election, has since turned down the offer to lead its team to the peace talk. The sect has also not ceased fire as a sign of good faith preparatory to the proposed dialogue.

Shekau, Boko Haram spiritual leader
Shekau, Boko Haram spiritual leader

The question people are now asking is: Could it be that Boko Haram has run out of ideas and is confused on what it wants? The answer may be yes. With reports suggesting that Nigeria, in league with the government of Mali, is now closing-in on the group’s operational base in Mali; it seems that the proposed dialogue was simply a ploy to cause distraction.

Opinions are also divided on whether government should continue with its earth scotching approach towards resolving the insurgency or negotiate with the group. For Wole Soyinka, Nobel laureate and professor of literature, trying to end the Boko Haram insurgency through dialogue would amount to “abysmal appeasement.” He favours the use of force to crush the fanatics.

But others like Mohammed Haruna, a columnist and Tam David West, professor of virology, have a contrary view. They are in support of negotiation with the group.  For instance, David-West has argued that fighting Boko Haram is like fighting spirit because the insurgents ignorantly feel they are doing the right thing. “You cannot stop Boko Haram by force of arms. You cannot kill a spirit with guns. Rightly or wrongly, if you have a spiritual motivation for what you are doing, no amount of guns can kill it. That’s why America lost Vietnam”, he said,

Although the President has said there would be no dialogue with Boko Haram, it is also worrisome that the Joint Military Task Force, JTF, which has been in Maiduguri for close to two years now, has not succeeded in destabilising the network of the sect.

Last week, the Joint Military Taskforce offered various cash rewards for information leading to the arrest of leaders of Boko Haram. Lt. Col. Sagir Musa, in a statement placed N50 million bounty on Shekau and N25 million  each on Habibu Yusuf, aka Asalafi, khalid Albarnawai, Mododu Bama and Mohammed Zangina. The four men are described as members of the “Shurra Committee ” an inner circle within the sect that is responsible for major decisions. Another fourteen members of the sect  described as Boko Haram commanders have a bounty of N10 million each placed on their heads.

— Dec. 2, 2012 @ 12:11 GMT

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