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Exploiting the dialogue option to end the Boko Haram crisis

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By Sani Adamu

By all accounts, Abdullahi No-Sweat remains one of Nigeria’s most adventurous journalists in history. This is because the 74-year-old veteran journalist had spent a greater part of his productive years in some of the world’s most dangerous spots in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Kashmir and Algeria, among others.
Presumably talking from personal experience, No-Sweat faults the use of force in addressing the Boko Haram crisis.
He says from his personal experience, there is no country that succeeds in fighting religiously-motivated armed struggles through the use of force alone.
“We have seen what happened in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Kashmir and Algeria.
“The U.S., initially during the administration of George Bush, said it would not negotiate with “terrorists’’ in Afghanistan; but now, President Barack Obama is negotiating with the Taliban through Hamid Kharzai, Afghanistan’s President.
“Nigeria should take a lesson from what happened when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979 and pledged never to negotiate with the Mujahideen; but at the end of the day, it was a disastrous withdrawal for the Soviets after 10 years of fighting.
“Force should not be the only option to solve the Boko Haram problem, because if government insists on it, no one can predict the end of the problem,’’ says the partially blind seasoned journalist.
No-Sweat, who in the 70s and early 80s, worked and lived in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Algeria, believes that the best way to tackle the Boko Haram crisis is for the government to negotiate with the militant sect.
He says that countries with similar problems such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Kashmir and Algeria have all realised that negotiation is the best way out of the problem.
He specifically advises government not to worry about the “hard conditions’’ initially given by the Boko Haram sect for dialogue.
No-Sweat believes that once the process of genuine dialogue with the sect members and their leaders starts; the group’s position might shift to more acceptable conditions.
“Government should enter into negotiations so that tempers can be cooled down,” he says.
No-Sweat, nonetheless, emphasises that the security challenges facing Nigeria are more of a sociological phenomenon, adding that its solutions should also be viewed from that angle.
Sharing similar sentiments, security experts and psychologists insist that apart from adopting the dialogue option, security agencies should intensify their surveillance and intelligence-gathering efforts across the country.
For instance, Mr Mohammed Sabo, a Psychologist at the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University (ATBU), attributes the Boko Haram crisis to factors such as social injustice, maladministration, nepotism and favoritism within the Nigerian society.
“These are some of the grievances which the leaders of the sect were agitating against. 
“It is only that the sect members are bold enough to use force to seek redress.
“The authorities should, as a matter of fact, emphasise the use of diplomacy, as against force, in curtailing the spread of the phenomenon.
“Realistic efforts should be made toward finding a way to reach the leaders of the sect, with a view to initiating a dialogue with them to resolve the crisis,” he says.
Sabo, who is a member of the Nigerian Psychological Association, insists that in building public confidence in the country’s governance, the leaders should be seen as serving with the fear of God, equity and fairness in all their dealings.
Sharing similar sentiments, Alhaji Hamma Misau, a retired Assistant Inspector-General of
Police, stresses that for the security agencies to gain the people’s confidence and acceptance, they should strive to get across to the sect’s leaders for genuine dialogue.
The retired police chief also urges security operatives involved in patrol duties to desist from unduly harassing the public, stressing that they should be rather civil in conducting their operations.
Misau says that it is only through such civil dispositions that the security operatives can attract public confidence.
“If they treat the public in a civil manner, some of them will be willing to feed the security operatives with important intelligence data which can give a lead on how to reach the Boko Haram leaders for dialogue.
“Members of the sect are part of us; they live among us. Therefore, it is important to reach them and dialogue with them so as to know their grievances and address them.
“Besides, security chiefs should also avoid making inflammatory statements,’’ he says.
To achieve a fruitful dialogue with the Boko Haram sect, Misau advises government to contact some respected personalities to act as mediators between it and the sect’s leadership.
“Non-partisan opinion leaders should be contacted to play the role of mediators,’’ he adds.
Malam Sanusi Mohammad, a social commentator, corroborates Misau’s viewpoint.
Mohammad says that genuine dialogue is the most potent way out of the current security challenges confronting the country.
He urges the government to critically look into the conditions given by the Boko Haram sect for the initiation of dialogue in order to resolve the impasse.
Mohammad expresses optimism that once negotiations start, the two parties would be able to reach an agreement on the way forward, adding that the people, particularly those living in troubled areas like Maiduguri, would then be able to have a respite and live without the fear attacks.
Besides, he urges the government to urgently address the issue of poverty in the country to enable the citizens to earn a living and fend for their families.
However, some religious leaders have been blaming the government for its failure to tackle the security challenges in time
Dr Lateef Adegbite, the Secretary-General, Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), belongs to that school of thought.
Adegbite, who support calls for amnesty for the Boko Haram sect as part of measures to end the crisis, stresses that the sect members should be “pacified, rather than punished’’.
“While the Federal Government should do everything possible to curtail their excesses, those of them who are ready to embrace peace should be granted amnesty,” he says.
Adegbite, who insists that poverty, illiteracy and unemployment are part of the factors behind armed struggles in any society, calls for the immediate rehabilitation of all militant groups so as to reintegrate them into the society.
He also urges the government to initiate plans to provide jobs for members of such groups, as part of efforts to keep them busy.
However, a former Inspector-General of Police, Alhaji Ibrahim Coomassie, holds a contrary opinion.
For him, the current security challenges in the country have to do with the lack of accurate intelligence on the activities of militant groups by security agencies.
The ex-police chief stresses that the sporadic bomb blasts, threats of Boko Haram militants and other security lapses could all be traced to the lack of effective and accurate intelligence by security agencies.
“We have dealt with militant groups such as Maitatsine sect in Kano and other parts of the country with the help of efficient intelligence,’’ he adds.
Coomassie advises the Federal Government and other stakeholders to go back to the drawing board and evolve highly effective strategies that will engender improved security arrangements via accurate and efficient intelligence gathering.
He insists that the Boko Haram crisis should be addressed through “restricted dialogue” with members of the sect once the government is able to ascertain its leadership.
“However, the security operatives should watch their utterances, especially on issues pertaining to Boko Haram,” Coomassie adds.
However, Sheikh Yakubu Hassan, the Katsina state Chairman of an Islamic group, Izalatul Bid’a wa Ikamatul Sunna, blames the current security situation in the country on factors such corruption and injustice.
“The only solution to the security situation in Nigeria is for our leaders and other stakeholders to ensure fairness, justice, honesty and transparency,’’ he says.
Hassan, who is a member of the Supreme Council of Sharia in Nigeria, urges the Federal Government to dialogue with the Boko Haram members the same way it did with the Niger Delta militants.
Some observers, however, attribute the deteriorating security situation in the country to the neglect of the traditional and religious leaders in the country’s scheme of things.
This, perhaps, explains the call by the Emir of Ningi, Alhaji Yunusa Danyaya, for convocation of a national unity conference to address the security challenges threatening the country’s unity.
“If we really want to address all the problems bedevilling Nigeria, we must call all stakeholders to a meeting where we will address all the challenges facing the country, especially those relating to security, indiscipline and corruption, among others.
“Presently, we have deviated from the footsteps of our forefathers like the late Premier of Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello, who mobilised all northerners without discrimination and made them members of the same family.
“During the proposed meeting, stakeholders will be able to discuss openly what they have observed and proffer solutions in the interest of the country’s unity, peace and stability.
“There is still time; I believe if we make pragmatic efforts, we will succeed and we will surely come out with solutions to all our problems.
“I am not hiding under this proposal to seek for a constitutional role for traditional rulers. If government decides to give us specific roles to play in the country’s affairs, it will be a welcome development but in my own opinion, it’s not a constitutional role that matters.
“Even, if constitutional roles are not assigned to us, our subjects have given us roles to play; they came to us to settle squabbles and disagreements on land matters and others. Whether Muslims or Christians, our subjects respect traditional institutions,’’ Danyaya adds.
Sharing similar sentiments, Sen. Anyim Pius Anyim, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), believes that dialogue should be used as a tool for enhancing national security.
Speaking while receiving a delegation of the Forum of Former Members of House of Representatives in his office, the SGF says: “We can overcome crisis through dialogue. Through dialogue, we can solve problems and our country will be better for it.’’
Some human rights, including Mr Shehu Sani, President of the Civil Rights Congress of Nigeria, however, insist that efforts to tackle the security challenges facing the country should also be hinged on strategies aimed at promoting justice and protecting human rights.
Sani argues that the process of initiating genuine dialogue with the Boko Haram sect ought to have started with the payment of adequate compensation to the family of the late leader of the sect, Malam Mohammed Yusuf, who was extra-judiciously killed.
He says that the fight against armed groups should not be an alibi to promote “arbitrariness and human rights’ violation’’.
As part of efforts to resolve the crisis, the Northern leaders and elders have also called for resumption of talks with the Boko Haram sect.
At their recent meeting in Abuja, the northern elders, who comprise elder statesmen, former ministers, former university administrators, former ambassadors and businessmen, stressed that with the emerging scenario and circumstantial evidence; the current security threats might surpass the handiwork of Boko Haram sect.
For them, the level of sophistication displayed in the attacks is obviously beyond the local competence of the Boko Haram sect.
“The sophistication in the professional way targets are chosen suggest a deliberate attempt to broaden the insurgence effects with a view to creating widespread disaffection within and outside Nigeria.
“Mr President himself suggested in a declaration that Boko Haram elements have infiltrated his government, including the security agencies of the nation. Our country and people deserve to know who these infiltrators are, while appropriate actions taken.
“The escalation of the Boko Haram crisis has unfortunately provided a convenient cover for all manner of criminal elements to perpetrate other forms of atrocities such as armed robbery, kidnapping and  assassinations in the society,’’ the elders said.
All the same, analysts insist that government should now start to think seriously of how to engage religious and traditional leaders in efforts to manage country’s affairs.
They say that such arrangements can also be achieved via the establishment of a national commission on religious affairs to serve as a platform for addressing various religiously-motivated crises threatening Nigeria’s unity and survival.

Source: NAN

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