How About Ministry of North? By Aku Igono
As you read this, the Federal Government led by the man of many surprises, Mr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has constituted another COMMITTEE to sort out the feasibility of granting amnesty to members of the terrorist group, Boko Haram. Jonathan is expected to see the committee’s report when he meets with the National Security Council (NSC) in two weeks time.
I have read all shades of opinion: in favor and against amnesty for the terrorist group, Boko Haram, ever since the Sultan of Sokoto and president of the Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, His Eminence, Alhaji Abubakar Sa’ad III dropped the recommendation for Federal Government to grant amnesty to the group that has terrorised the North for the past five years or thereabout, and similar calls from Arch. Bishop John Onayekan and Rev (Sir) Hassan Kukah. Social Media, especially Twitter was also awash with reactions, some were unprintable, abusive and dismissive, while others savvy and analytic. However, that is not the interest of this piece. Though give and take, the Social Media is here to bridge the invisible gap between policy makers and the citizens on one hand, and bringing people to the government in terms of feedback on the other hand; even though the latter is often vehemently shoved aside by those hired by government do just that.
Ab initio, I did not want to choke anyone with ‘another’ piece on amnesty for Boko Haram, but my curiosity put me at alert to read or hear any balanced propositions or arguments against the suggested amnesty for the terrorist group so I conceded.
Albeit, not oblivious of the fact that many people have expressively written on this, but none was devoid of biased emotions. I am also yet to hear directional suggestion to government as a way out of the quagmire of CITIZENS TAKING ARMS AGAINST THE STATE IN RETURNS FOR AMNESTY. Bucks passing took the centre stage.
No one knows how to deal with our present security challenges than the president himself. Mr. Goodluck Jonathan who was then the Vice President to late President Umaru Yar’Adua was fully in charge of governmental structures (committees were not in fashion then) that recommended to government the establishment of Ministry of Niger Delta and subsequently, the amnesty granted Niger Delta Militants. In September 10, 2008, a year after the inauguration of their government, late president Yar’Adua announced the creation of this new ministry to amongst other things draw up developmental plans for the region and take on the supervisory role of Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) – another floating government agency whose primary mandate is to fix the region of decades of degradation and alienation. The current president was part of it all: from the framework to negotiations to granting of the amnesty in June 25, 2009. So I am not buying the rhetoric that suggests government is helpless and cannot to deal with the insurgency.
Hold your rage yet! I am not advocating or starting another brief for the ‘People’ of the North. My concern really is to ask mildly the dangerous question: How About Ministry of North? I saw this piece by Abubakar Sadiq: “What’s Sauce for the Goose is Sauce for the Gander” and I was tempted to ask, not as a rejoinder though, the above question. We cannot continue this way; government cannot continue to reward assaults and terrorism. This is certainly not the reason why government was formed. This cycle of REGIONAL citizens taking arms against the state and getting people to ‘talk’ with the quest of getting amnesty is not sustainable. This is not going to work. 21st Century crime fighting has gone beyond “amnesty”.
I should appreciate the generosity of those who operate state’s apparatus at the highest level of government in this country, but ‘amnesty’ is not going to work. I won’t counter claims that amnesty is fixing or has fixed the Niger Delta crisis. However, Italian Oil firm, Eni is exiting Bayelsa State due to what they termed ‘oil theft/vandalism’. Isn’t policing oil installations part of the amnesty deal for the Niger Delta and Nigeria at large? That Eni oil firm is suspending operations in Bayelsa state confirms the failure of amnesty; it confirms its weakness. The militants are warming up again to pick their weapons where they left them in the wake of ‘Amnesty’ granted them. Even though, progress has been recorded, the recent threats from the ‘men of the creeks’ (MEND) is worrisome.
The heart and conscience of this piece is going out to the government. In as much as government of the day tries to exonerate itself from the complicities of the insurgency, I am almost led to believe that it has since taken a political dimension and the hand of Esau is in the open. The actions or inactions of government in response to this security challenge is sending wrong signals to the international community and setting dangerous precedent in our march to a more democratic society.
Government and proponents of ‘amnesty’ must thread with caution. Amnesty is becoming a cycle. And I think the cycle is not sustainable and does not appeal to modernity and all sense of seriousness. We are people of ‘geo-political zones’, and from all indications proponents and granters of amnesty are beginning to make insurgency look attractive. Insurgency has taken over the second mandate of Federal Character Commission in terms of equitable distribution of social amenities and even empowerment. This is not right. The gradual submission to crimes by the Federal Government and its failure to curtail large scale insurgency is akin to the fact that government is accepting that the security structures and its application has woefully failed.
Anybody that wants ‘AMNESTY’ or ‘SETTLEMENT’ would take up arms, terrorise the country, kill scores of people and voila! AMNESTY.
Again let me add my voice to the urgent call for a total overhauling of our archaic security structures. Our security agencies cannot work at variance. Kathryn Bigelow’s controversial film, Zero Dark Thirty which chronicles the search and eventual killing of Osama Bin Laden, a man alleged to have masterminded the 9/11 attacks on US, exposes the tricks, tactics and intelligence gathering skills that must be employed by our many ineffectual, or almost moribund security outfits. Security operations must tide along the dynamism of everyday societal challenges. So as members of the presidential amnesty committee on Boko Haram sits and eventually submits another REPORT to Jonathan, perhaps, a contingent committee should be constituted for the creation of MINISTRY OF THE NORTH?
I am @IGONO on twitter
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