President Good luck Jonathan has reportedly capitulated to the pressure from a section of northern political establishment spearheaded by Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’aid Abubakar to grant unconditional amnesty to the well-armed murderous terrorists operating in Northern Nigeria since 2009 that have killed well over 5000 unarmed and innocent civilians made up mostly of people of South East /Southern Nigerian extractions who constitute the second largest minority residents after the indigenous people of Northern Nigeria.
If the report making rounds that a blanket amnesty would be granted to the mass murderers known as Boko Haram in the North is anything to go by, then it will be the umpteenth time that the current administration of president Goodluck Jonathan has prevaricated and capitulated to a regional agenda promoted actively by the vocal minority among the Northern political elites, so say commentators.
Few months back, President Jonathan fired his then National Security Adviser General Patrick Azazi (now late) to placate the Northern political elites by appointing Colonel Sambo Dasuki (rtd) the eldest son of the deposed Sultan of Sokoto Alhaji Ibrahim Dasuki who now lives permanently in Kaduna.
As if that was not enough, Commentators also say that President Jonathan’s ill-conceived decision to fire the first ever Comptroller General of Nigerian immigration Service of South East extraction Mrs. Rose Uzoma on the flimsy and unverifiable reason that she conducted a recruitment exercise which slightly favoured candidates from the South East, is another evidence that he panders to the whims and caprices of this powerful segment of the Northern Nigerian political establishment.
Her sack followed media campaign mounted by the Northern political elites against her which is largely driven by regional considerations.
To demonstrate how absurd this double standard by the current federal administration is and in what looks like the vindication of the claims in certain quarters that the President panders to the whims and caprices of the tiny but powerful political elites from the North , the Nigerian Customs Service [NCS] headed by a Northerner Mr. Dikko Abdullahi was similarly accused of engaging in a recruitment exercise about the same time with the erstwhile hierarchy of the Nigerian immigration services in which case the customs recruitment drive was alleged to be heavily skewed in favour of North-West geo-political zone where the current Comptroller General hails from but the president has refused to apply standard ethical practices in dealing with the issue.
Not long after the recruitment scam in the nation’s customs institution was reported, the federal House of Representatives blacklisted the Nigerian customs service under Mr. Dikko as one federal agency of government that has failed to properly render accounts of the huge internally generated revenue in the year under review.
Back to our topic of pre-occupation which is the declaration of intent by the current federal government to set up what the media reported as a Boko Haram amnesty commission similar to the amnesty program that the late President Umaru Musa Yar’adua declared for the repentant armed militants in the oil rich but heavily criminally under -developed Niger Delta region, facts are emerging to show that amnesty for these mass murderers may not be long in coming.
President Jonathan who is reported to have agreed to declare amnesty for the terrorists in the North was made to change government’s position by some prominent Northern political leaders who held closed door meeting with him in Abuja on April 3rd 2013 barely twenty four hours after the same president foreclosed any amnesty based on his considered view that the armed Islamic terrorists have to first identify themselves and lay down their arms for peaceful negotiation with government to commence.
About this same time the minister of information Mr. Labaran Maku who hails from the North was widely reported as stating that amnesty was not the first option for the Islamic terrorists responsible for series of bomb attacks against civilians targets.
But contrary to the so well- known government official position, president Jonathan has agreed to offer unconditional pardon to the mass murderers but has remained defiantly silent on the fate of the thousands of victims of the sustained murderous bombing attacks by the Islamic terrorists which sprang up in the North Eastern city of Maiduguri, Borno State.
In fact, only twenty four hours ago, the General Secretary of the over 65 million member Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Reverend (Dr.) Musa Asake was reported in the media as rejecting federal government’s decision to jettison any suggestion for payment of compensations to the thousands of victims of the gruesome mass killings systematically carried out by the Northern originated Islamic terrorists. The Christian Association of Nigeria also rejected any call for amnesty to the terrorists on the ground of being insensitive to the plight of the victims.
In Borno state, reports verified by Independent credible sources say that out of 62 church buildings set up by the Catholic diocese of Maiduguri, only two are left standing even as 60 others have been destroyed by the bombing campaign of the Islamic terrorists who have repeatedly told the World that their primary aim is to Islamize the entire Northern Nigeria notwithstanding the significant presence of Northern indigenous Christians and the millions of Christians of Southern Nigerian extraction that have lived in the North in the last fifty years and still counting.
There are two identifiable ironies and self contradictions in all of these conversations concerning the proposed amnesty for the terrorists as planned by the Jonathan -led government.
First, this government through the ministry of foreign affairs told the world that Boko Haram armed terrorists are affiliates of the globally feared al-Qaeda formed by the late Osama Binladin who masterminded the dastardly attacks on September 11th 2001 in the World Trade center in New York United states which killed over 3000 persons of different nationalities.
But this same government of Jonathan opposed any move by the United States of America to declare the Islamic terrorists in Northern Nigeria as foreign terrorist organization (FTO) which status would have enabled the United States to be more vigorously involved in the anti-terrorism fight in Nigeria to protect the civilian population who are at the receiving end of these murderous campaigns.
The second but unrelated contradiction is the fact that while the national leadership of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) is opposed to the proposed amnesty to the Islamic fighters, the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja one of the national leaders of the Catholic church in Nigeria, John Cardinal Onaiyekan recently during the Easter season canvassed support for the call by the Sultan of Sokoto for the government to grant amnesty to the terrorists who have destroyed virtually all the Catholic church buildings in Borno state.
The Catholic Archbishop of Abuja just like the Sultan of Sokoto completely forgot about the plight of the victims of the sustained bomb attacks who are mostly Igbos and minority tribes in the far North.
For purposes of clarity, the Sultan of Sokoto in his opinion on the amnesty for the terrorists had stated thus; “We have been hearing about terrorism everywhere and every day… We want to use this opportunity to call on the government, especially Mr. President, to see how he can declare total amnesty for all combatants without thinking twice; that will make any other person who picks up arms to be termed as a criminal. If the amnesty is declared, the majority of those young men running would come out and embrace that amnesty and some of them have already come out because we have heard some of the stories in the newspapers”.
John Cardinal Onaiyekan who returned to Nigeria in time for the Easter celebration after attending the just concluded conclave in Rome during which Pope Frances was elected, joined the chorus of advocacy for amnesty to be granted to Northern based Islamic terrorists.
The Catholic Archbishop of Abuja whose members in the North have suffered devastating consequences as a result of the dare -devil terrorism activities of the armed Islamic terrorists canvassed amnesty for the mass murderers but stated that the combatants who have no rational, logical and justifiable cause for these bombing campaign, should first of all repent from the terrorism activities.
His words; “As regards the case of an offer of amnesty to the Boko Haram, I believe that we should not throw away outright the consideration of such amnesty. Faced with an intractable problem, we have to explore all possible avenues of solution. The security response in terms of arms, gadgets and trained personnel is useful and necessary, but obviously not enough on its own. Government does well to reach out to all political forces and currents, so that the nation can be on the same political page and jointly address this common menace, terrorism is”.
In all of these comments, neither the Sultan nor the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja dwelt on what government should do to assuage the anger of the thousands of victims of the coordinated terrorism campaigns waged in the last two or three years by the Northern -based Islamic terrorists.
Again, these two religious leaders failed spectacularly to realize that Nigeria is a sovereign nation governed by law called the constitution whose provisions must not be fundamentally abused on the alter of politics of amnesty for mass murderers.
Chapter four of the Constitution of Nigeria states clearly that right to life is sacred except whereby a competent court of jurisdiction reaches a determination that provides for capital punishment for such offences as created by extant statutes.
What has become of the section one of the constitution which states that the provisions of the constitution are inviolable? What is the guarantee that other ethnic militias wont spring up in the South to press for their own kind of amnesty or is this government saying that the indigenous religious minorities and the Southerners based in the North who are the greatest percentage of victims of these terrorist acts in Northern Nigeria are to be seen as sacrificial lambs?
Former governor of Abia state Chief Orji Uzor Kalu was also reported to have tasked the federal government to uncover the real masterminds of the serial bomb attacks in the North which in his considered findings are too sophisticated and far above the intellectual capacity of a ragtag group of Islamic religious fundamentalists.
Kalu who nevertheless supports any properly negotiated lasting truce to the sustained bombing campaign in the North, however decried a situation where the institutions of law enforcement seems to have collapsed.
Orji Kalu’s well considered opinion necessitate an interrogation on why the Nigerian government made up of educated persons who are aware that the constitutionally protected primary duty of government is the protection of lives and property of Nigerians now suspend the implementation of the constitution so as to negotiate with mass murderers without pre-condition and without consideration of the plight of the victims?
What the current posture of surrender of the Jonathan-led federal administration has demonstrated by this amnesty for terrorists is that it is incapable of protecting the lives and property of Nigerians and since the president loves political power so much, he has failed to resign to allow another set of officials to be elected by Nigerians to look for far more effective ways of protecting Nigerians and ensure enforcement of relevant laws against mass murderers and genocidal killers.
By granting amnesty unconditionally to terrorists, President Jonathan has agreed with the fatalistic conclusion drawn erroneously by Abuja Catholic Archbishop John Cardinal Onaiyekan that the ongoing terrorism acts are ‘intractable’ except amnesty is granted to the armed terrorists.
Make no mistake about my take on this amnesty issue for I am for amnesty provided that only those terrorists with no blood in their hands should be pardoned while those indicted for mass murder are made to undergo transparent prosecution in the competent court of law. I also support payment of heavy compensations to victims of the series of sustained violent terrorism attacks in Nigeria.
By the acceptance of President Jonathan to declare amnesty for the Islamic terrorists and by so doing neglect the plight of the victims, the wise words captured in “There was a country: A personal history of Biafra”, by the globally acclaimed novelist- Professor Chinua Achebe (who recently died) has become infinitely factual.
Writing in one of the chapters of the book aforementioned in which Chinua Achebe addressed the sub-theme of state failure and rise of terrorism, he had stated that; “In many respects, Nigeria’s Federal government has always tolerated terrorism. For over half a century the federal government has turned a blind eye to waves of ferocious and savage massacres of its citizens – mainly Christian Southerners’, mostly Igbos or indigenes of the middle Belt; and others with impunity”.
In his beautifully written book “The was a country” Professor Achebe had rightly narrated also thus; “Even in cases where their hands were found dripping in blood, the perpetrators have many a time evaded capture and punishment. Nigeria has been doomed to witness endless cycles of inter-ethnic, inter-religious violence because the Nigerian government has failed woefully to enforce laws protecting its citizens from wanton violence, particularly attacks against non -indigenes living in disparate parts of the country”.
Achebe had rightly drawn conclusion that; “The notoriously (some say conveniently so) incompetent Nigerian federal government and some religious and political leaders, have been at least enablers of these evil acts I have stated elsewhere that this mindless carnage will end only with the dismantling of the present corrupt political system and banishment of the cult of mediocrity that runs it, hopefully through a peaceful, democratic process”.
Who says Professor Chinua Achebe is not a good prophet?
This writer hereby advise Nigerians in their self enlightened interest to change this incompetent bunch of political elites leading all of us astray and failing to take measures to protect people from the violence by terrorists. The year 2015 may be way too far.
Why for instance won’t the nation’s borders with such terrorism afflicted nations like Chad, Niger and Cameroon be well demarcated; fortified and secured? Why will Nigeria Army formations not be set up in Nigeria’s international borders if truly their duty is to protect the territorial integrity of Nigeria?
* EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is Head, HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS’ ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA and blogs @www.huriwa.blogspot.com.