From Okachikwu Dibia
In my unpublished article titled “Dialectics of Boko Haram” written on the 12th of August 2009, I decried the mishandling of the then Boko Haram issue by the federal government and in particular, the Nigerian police. That year, the police killed one Alhaji Yusuf, alleged to be the leader of the Boko Haram sect and went ahead to arrest many of its members, assembled them somewhere in the northern part of Nigeria and were busy shooting and killing them one by one. This was shown to the whole world by Aljazeera in its television channel and website. Yet the Nigerian government did nothing about all these. By 2011, desperate and unintelligible northern politicians recruited members of the sect to rig the 2011 elections in their favour and after doing the job, the sect members were dumped. So, in revenge, they decided to use the guns and bombs facilitated by the finances of the politician, to fight against the politicians and the government. This had been alleged to be what happened in Borno, Yobe, Kano, Bauchi etc states and today, Boko Haram while fighting these enemies, remembered the Christian infidels in the north. Indeed, they are said to be against all forms of Western life style in their midst. So they are against the police, government, Christians and Westernization. As at 2009, Nigeria lost about 800 lives (excluding the Boko Haram people massively killed by the police) and between 2011 and today, Nigeria had lost 1000+ lives. Do not ask me the value of properties so far destroyed! What a country?
The “use and dump” practice by Nigerian politicians is not new. It happened in Rivers State between 2001 and 2004 when more lives were lost in Port Harcourt, Wezena, Ogbogoro, Rumuolumeni, Okrika, Emohua, Rumuekpe, Rumukpalukwu-Ugbonwo etc. All these communities are in Ikwerre, except Okrika. We can begin to imagine what Ikwerre people had suffered when militants and cultists in Rivers State were recruited into politics and the politician reneges to fulfill his own part of the bargain. Thereafter, the boys, now with sophisticated guns and ammunition, remembered their immediate and remote enemies in their respective communities. They killed and destroyed many communities in Rivers State and yet, the Rivers State government had not deemed it right to properly reconcile these communities, rehabilitate them and apologize to them on the wrong use of state resources to destroy the people they were sworn-in to protect. Since December 2005, my own community, Rumukpalukwu-Ugbonwo in Rumuakunde Emohua had been refugees and our habitation had become desolate and turned into forest. A shame that may probably live with me till the rest of my life on earth!
In the Boko Haram’s case, a very dangerous dimension had been added to it: they enjoy overwhelming sympathizers across all strata of persons from the North including security officers. If not for these sympathizers, may be the Boko Haram fire may not have raged so fast and President Jonathan is not comfortable with this. So he has opted for dialogue with Boko Haram because this issue truly requires political solution. It was this option that made me remember my 2009 article. My basic idea in that article was that the government should have the political courage to sincerely discuss with the Boko Haram group, get what they actually wanted, present the government’s view, proffer solutions and reach a consensus. This was not done because in our country, political leaders passionately hate contrary views that tend to interrogate the status-quo which is certainly not healthy for a federation with divers religious, social, political, economic, cultural, educational and professional interests. One sure way to build a federation is to consistently welcome opposing views to the discussion table with the aim of convincing each other and reaching a common ground upon which true progress can be made and sustained. Such a common ground or consensus is always better than the uncontested one-sided solution package like the “Doctrine of Nigeria’s Settled Issues” given by General Ibrahim Babangida recently at the 9th Daily Trust Annual Dialogue held in Abuja.
So, what should the government do with the Boko Haram crisis? Obviously, dialogue which, like in the case of the Niger Delta militants, could lead to amnesty should not be the only item in the solution package. Government needs to properly organize the solution by thoroughly thinking-through the solutions so that at the end, we will have solutions that can give us sustained peace that we need; instead of living in fear within fear.
Solution approach should have short and long term measures. In the short term, government should quickly constitute a discussion and reconciliation committee peopled by top respected African social leaders like Captain Elechi Amadi (Rtd), General Yakubu Gowan (Rtd), Prof. Ali Mazrui, Dr. Kofi Anan, Prof. Chinweizu, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, Justice Belgore, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, Justice Eso, Justice Oputa etc. They should be given 6 months to sincerely discuss with Boko Haram, render temporary apology for the past mistakes on the part of the government, seek to know their grievances and interests (immediate and remote), persuade them to understand the secularity of the Nigerian state, reach a common understanding of what should be the solution to their problems, reconcile them with the government and allow the government to execute the agreement.
Government may need to rehabilitate the group and this is where the idea of amnesty comes in. For an ideological group like Boko Haram, Nigeria needs amnesty to support the political solution stated above; the use of force cannot provide such needed support and must be dropped forthwith. Again amnesty will assist in moving them out of their thinking, engage them economically and assuage them. Next is to disarm them and discourage them from bombing, destroying and carrying arms against fellow Nigerians. Thereafter, the government must discretely determine and prosecute any person(s) who had “used and dumped” them or who had encouraged them in any form in carrying out their activities. Also, government needs to vigorously persuade sympathizers of Boko Haram to desist from such habit which is capable of rocking the Nigerian boat. At the immediate end, government need to deeply apologize and provide little support to all those identified to have lost properties and/or lives arising from the insurgence.
On a long term basis, the government needs to re-engage the National Orientation Agency (NOA) to do its work with re-energized focus than it had been done before. A federation in a socio-political crisis as Nigeria cannot afford to have a national agency like the NOA operating but is hardly heard or seen. NOA should put in place a national re-orientation programme through which they can regularly interact with the idling Nigerian youths. NOA needs to learn how to deepen the use of inspirational leaders from across the world to calm the raging nerves of the youths and gradually identify what else the youths can do to earn a living and channel them there. NOA should be able to discover the talents of these youths, retrain them along their talents through a robust free education system.
That takes us to a very important solution in this effort. Nigeria urgently needs a total free education system for all her children of school ages. Since God created talents in every child, the free education should not discriminate in the areas of study; it should be for all talents and faculties. A child’s talent should be discovered at the conclusion of his/her secondary education and that should guide what the child is to study in the university. If a child is passionate about knowing more and developing his/her religion, he/she should be given full free education to pursue same and this should be the case with all other areas of talent/faculty. Talent development should not continue to be on ad-hoc disconnected basis as implemented by corporate organizations under their corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes. It should be ingrained into the formal educational system of the Nigerian state. This will help to discover earlier the talents in our children, train them along their talents, and teach them how to apply their talents as a business, become entrepreneurs and reduce unemployment. Unemployment is chiefly caused by the talent-education-productivity disconnection occasioned by the irrelevant nominal education system adopted in Nigeria and indeed most Third World countries.
There is every need to overhaul the Nigerian security system, starting with the police who messed up the Boko Haram issue. They do not have the basic attitude to deal with such a sophisticated social problem. In the first instance, we need to ask: who should be in the police? This is because the character portrayed by the Nigerian police does not qualify them to be there. The basic problem with the Nigerian police goes beyond the availability of arms and ammunitions, equipment, salary etc. It is about attitude! A well disciplined, behaved and trained Nigerian police can protect lives and properties even without arms. Because of their very negative attitude to work, no matter how much they are paid, they may not be able to deliver. The entry qualification into the police should be degree certificate and those without it at the point of entry should gradually leave the system. When we have a police that understands his/her work and goes about it sincerely, respecting the public and seeing an accused as innocent until proved otherwise, the police will surely have the cooperation of the general public. Without this cooperation, the police cannot succeed.
Nigeria needs a social revolution that will seriously address the issue of discipline. Lack of discipline or indiscipline (that is doing things that are wrong) is what is destroying Nigeria. It cuts across every strata of the Nigerian society especially among the elites. Nigeria aspires to be among the best 20 developed countries by the year 2020, but she does not have the discipline that should support, realize and sustain such an aspiration. To be there, Nigeria needs a fundamental change in behavior. That change is simply to do the right things. Bring back the war against indiscipline (WAI) in a more civil manner and Nigeria may work again. Nigeria also needs to address the issue of how they can respect one another, love themselves and live together in a true federalism. She also needs to determine what type of development she needs? Does she need to have the American or European or Asian or Arabic or African development? The issue is not about capitalism or socialism or communism: it is about any one of them or a combination within an African milieu. These determinations will help to appropriately focus Nigeria’s social, political and economic efforts.
By and large, in seeking for solutions to the Boko Haram crisis, Nigeria stands to gain so much in simultaneously resolving other important issues affecting her as a federation. The key to resolving sectarian agitations is dialogue and not force. Nigerians need to do things that are right. Ethnic Nigeria needs to sit together in a Nigerian Peoples Conference (NPC) and determine how to stay together. President Goodluck Jonathan can become the best president of Nigeria if he is able to resolve the Boko Haram challenge, make Nigerians to become a disciplined people, living together within a generally agreed political structure and working under an appropriate mode of production that reduces poverty and increases happiness to many within the African context.