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Opinion: Still on MEND, Boko Haram and amnesty

Seneca it was who opined that “Men love their country not because it is great but because it is their own.” We may disagree with President Goodluck Jonathan; we may criticise him, still, that is not a good reason to bastardise our country. It is the only country we have. It is ours and ours to save and to protect. Consequently, the people themselves must come to the aid of this President. It is our country, you know.

If the President extends presidential pardon to Boko Haram, that’s fine. But it must be done properly and in an inclusive manner. It must be the type of amnesty that is extended to other individuals. (I had alluded to this in the second part of this series). For instance, Henry Okah and Charles Okah are accused of masterminding the death of 12 innocent citizens – with Henry sentenced to 24 years imprisonment by a South African court.

Now, assuming Henry Okah is guilty of the crimes he was convicted of, why can’t he be pardoned for 12-lives, when Boko Haram is likely to be pardoned for more than 3,000 lives and untold number of injuries and property destruction? This must be an all-inclusive presidential pardon. Forgiveness for all!

Because President Jonathan has established a committee to look into the possibility of a presidential pardon, I will not, here and now, provide a roadmap. Only a hint! And so assuming the committee does not recommend a presidential pardon, or if President Jonathan does not sign off on its recommendations – or, in the likely event that Boko Haram refuses it – then, the President must be bold and purposeful on how he handles the matter. He must let loose the law and the full weight of his government on the group.

How did the United States of America deal with the Mafia (Cosa Nostra) beginning in the late 19th Century? And how is she dealing with domestic and international terrorists and criminal enterprises, today? What we have on our hands is not unsolvable, but it will get complicated and more problematic with the passage of time if not properly attended to. So, pardon or destroy! There can be no middle ground. There is no middle ground.

If Boko Haram accepts the pardon, then, the government, civil society, and other institutions must rally around the President to see that the amnesty programme succeeds. I have said this before, and will say it again: I will support whatever decision the President makes. I am a big believer in law and order; and I am also a big believer in doing what’s right for the good of the country. I am all for a new beginning. I am all for forgiveness and redemption. In the end, we must not forget that we have a country to take care of.

One of the sad ironies of this matter is that Boko Haram is really not that different from the Nigerian government. For decades now, government, at both the state and federal levels, has been killing the defenceless; putting fear in the minds of the people; dehumanising the underclass and the unfortunate; and killing people’s dreams and aspirations. To say that the Nigerian government has been terrorising its people is an understatement. It is! Who in Nigeria does not know how the security and intelligence services frame the innocent, and then collude with the courts to send the innocent to several years of imprisonment while the truly guilty gets probation or a slap on the wrist?

Who does not know of indiscriminate killings and unsolved assassinations by the government? Boko Haram and the Nigerian government have both caused enormous pain and anguish in the lives of the people — the only difference is that one is the state, and the other is a non-state actor. But really, a crime is a crime and terrorism is terrorism no matter who commits it and in whose name the iniquities are committed (God or government, it doesn’t matter).

Every year, thousands of people die because government fails to provide quality health care and proper medicine. Thousands die on our roads and bridges because of poor construction or poor maintenance. Thousands die due to water and airborne diseases. In the Niger Delta region, and elsewhere in the country, people die because of the poor and sickening ecological conditions. People die needlessly when the majority of such deaths could have been prevented. What do you call such a government? Negligence, coupled with institutional indifference, is nothing but criminal. Even though the government is not bombing its people as Boko Haram does, silent bombs kill hundreds of Nigerians every day – all year round.

In spite of my position regarding the similarity between Boko Haram and successive Nigerian governments, and in spite of my thinking regarding the presidential pardon, many of the problems we face require political solutions. Not military. Not judicial. Not religious. Political!

Take the Niger Delta conflict, for instance. A just and lasting solution can only be found through a politically negotiated settlement. The outcome of such settlements needs not be perfect; still, societies benefit more if guns and bombs are silent.

In the end, we must ask why – why is it that year after year since independence – there is one type of skirmish after another in one or all corners of the country. What’s the cause of these agitations and restlessness? There are groups out there that are not totally loyal to Nigeria and would rather secede. Why is it so difficult for many Nigerians to develop an abiding interest in the country? The questions are many. The answers are few, unfortunately.


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Posted by on May 1 2013. Filed under Boko Haram, Books & Magazines, Headlines, Niger Delta. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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