The political atmosphere has lately become heated to a stratospheric height in the last couple weeks or even more since the elders of the troubled city of Maiduguri believed to be the nest of the dreaded Islamic sect (boko Haram) under the aegis of the Borno State Elders Forum began to clamor for a possible amnesty program and unconditional pardon for the members of the Islamic fundamentalists as the easiest and most convenient way of addressing the insurgency that has almost engulfed the nation since according to them, the military or fire-fire tactics employed by the government has failed if a spade must be called a spade. “it has led to the death of many of our innocent sons and daughters since the members of the Joint Task Force deployed to quell the imbroglio has refused to eschew a sense of professionalism in their fight against the insurgents” said Alhaji Shettima Monguno, an elder states man and the leader of the Borno Elders Forum during the presidential visit by president Good luck Jonathan to the state sometime last month.
This position and argument I have come to embrace in entirety since I have lost and the University of Maiduguri Community have lost members of their staff and students as a result of the unprofessionality with which the frustrated members of the J.T.F discharge their duties. The likes of Abdulmumim Abubakar, a final year student of the department of continuing education and one Arinze a final year medical students who all died in almost similar circumstances at the hands of the soldiers and a host of others too numerous to mention vindicates this position. Hence, shettima’s argument will suffice irrespective of the imaginary scale on which it is weighed.
Just like any other national issue, after this development Nigerians have since gone out en masse with each region seeing the issue from an ethno/religious prism which is something that has become synonymous with Nigeria and Nigerians. What am I trying to say? For an average core northerner, he sees amnesty and unconditional
Pardon as the only way to appeasing these agents who have sworn to put a knife to the thing that hold us together just like the white man in Achebe’s Things Fall Apart put a knife to the things that held the Igbo together. As we saw in that story, it wasn’t long before things came falling apart in colonial Igbo land. The average Kanuri man justifies his stand on amnesty by quickly comparing what the late Umar Yar’Adua did with the Niger Delta Militants way back in time when militancy just like present day Boko Haram activities took the front pages in our national dailies both print and online alike. Somehow, he is convinced that once, the president grants unconditional pardon to the members of the sect in detention, they will reciprocate the gesture and surrender their arms in unison so that this storm ravaging this national boat will be calm again. Fair argument it is anyway but he forgets that amnesty is but a two way traffic which comes only when both parties have decided to give peace a chance and not when one party continues to play the hide and seek game.
As much as I have sought for amnesty as an option; somewhere from within, I tend to ask: to what shall we offer amnesty and to whom do we owe this amnesty? If our National Honors have lost its glory we can at least live with that trauma but in the history of nations, amnesty does not just become a solution because it leads to a supposedly cease fire. How do you offer amnesty to a people who do not want to embrace peace? How do you do that to a people who preach the gospel of death and hatred? How do you do that to a people who haven’t come up to give a single reason why they have turned our father land to some kind of Syria or Kigali? How do you offer amnesty to a people who have desecrated the sanctity of a religion (Islam) even though I do not profess to it? The Islam that I know at least from my Arabic text and Islamic Jurisprudence lectures does not preach violence at any length. Respect for the sanctity of the Human life has remained entrenched unconditionally and its status as a religion of peace by virtue of the last revelation remains untainted. So when a people lead a struggle against the state with religious connotations to it, amnesty cannot and should not be a way around it.
To the average southerner, its either he does not care since he sees himself not to be affected directly in any way or he is against the call for amnesty as a lasting solution to quelling the imbroglio for the same or almost the same reasons furnished above and if you go further to ask him, hardly will you find him not stating the reasons that follow thus: the Niger Delta militants led an organized campaign, were open to the press, they never killed or maimed innocent citizens. No one ever heard of them detonating explosive devices in general motor parks in the swampy lands nor were there occasions when mosques were burnt or schools destroyed because they knew the importance of education and the hassles of impacting knowledge to the next man. Did they ever born a police station? An army barrack? Telecom facilities? I cannot go further else I risk not rounding up this piece.
Do we offer amnesty to a people who have made the forgoing their modus operandi? Destroying state monument? Even a fool knows the answer is No. Mr. president may be called all sort of names from being clueless to feminine but I guess he is not as clueless as to quickly pardon the insurgents as easy as the Elders seem to make it look. He won all my admiration when he addressed the elders of Borno and Yobe states on this issue which he claimed has continued to rob him the pleasures of his nap. All I could decipher from his speech was that amnesty to a faceless group is the least of Mr. President’s worries not while he remains the Commander in Chief of this National accident called Nigeria.
To all those who have continued to fan the embers of an amnesty program, they should advert their minds to the fact that the chief executive officer of a the nation as much as he wants to guarantee the security of lives and properties of his subjects also holds the state in trust for them and critical decisions should not be reached emotionally as an emotional captain cannot sail a Leadership boat to harbor and emotions most often than not, blinds reasoning.
Many Nigerians have died; we all have lost at least one or more persons we know since the birth of this brouhaha and many more may still die even the writer of this piece but history will forever hunt to death the one who offer amnesty to a people who haven’t the interest of the average citizen at heart, who haven’t any respect for the labors of our heroes past whose efforts ensured we are today called a sovereign state among the comity of nations marching to the destination of human and capital development.
Reconciliatory process involves forgiving and forgetting what has happened in the past even though the latter is hardly possible but before this is done, the one to be forgiven must show some level of commitment and remorse. An extended hand of friendship must be received from the other end and when this is not so, hardly can it be said that peace may ever thrive.
The government’s hand of friendship remains hanging in the air waiting to be received by anyone who acting in good faith seeks to give peace a chance. Amnesty as the last resort of a government should not be granted as it is been clamored for but must be studied and nursed keenly else we find ourselves losing four running after eight. If the presidency has remained numb about the amnesty program, it is justifiable enough. I may not be the president but I know too well that decisions of such tenacity, if not carefully taken, risks tearing a nation apart. Family dilemma, day to day life decisions should not be compared to what our ‘Oga at the Top’ may be going through right now. Uneasy they say, lies the head that bears the crown. God bless Nigeria.
The writer is a student and tweets @yung_silky. Comments and reactions to email@example.com