Ambassador Hassan Tukur is a Principal Secretary to President Goodluck Jonathan. In an interview with British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Hausa service monitored in Zaria, Tukur explained how discussion with Boko Haram, in which he is personally involved, began. Excerpts:
Can you shed more light on the ceasefire agreement with Boko Haram?
All thanks are to Allah. It is now about one month that we sat twice in Chad under the leadership of President Idris Deby with the Jama’atu Ahlis Sunnah Lidda’awati Wal Jihad. What we have agreed was that they should cease fire and Nigerian government should also cease fire. They (Boko Haram) have ceased fire at about 9:30pm yesterday (Thursday), and now the Nigerian government is ready to cease fire.
How can you describe the Boko Haram representatives and their commitment?
We have sat with them. We have been talking and discussing for a long time, and those that came were confidants of Imam Shekau. Our discussion touched many issues, but at the end we have resolved that for us to have dialogue with them, the first thing is to have ceasefire. Each of the parties should sheathe their swords. From there, we would move to the release of those arrested. If they are released, then Nigerian government would sit with them and discuss all the problems they would bring to the table.
President Jonathan has been saying that he feels pain whenever any Nigerian loses his life irrespective of whether he is member of Jama’atu Ahlis Sunnah Lidda’awati Wal Jihad, Nigerian soldier or any Nigerian. This is why he has been saying that he is ever ready for any meaningful discussion that would restore peace in Nigeria.
You remember the appeal fund for the reconstruction of places affected by the Jama’atu Ahlis Sunnah Lidda’awati Wal Jihad insurgency. Therefore, if there is no peace; there is no way this reconstruction would take place.
You talk about the release of those arrested; are you saying that Boko Haram has agreed to release the Chibok girls and other captives, while on your part you would release their supporters?
Yes, they have agreed to release Chibok girls. At the time we had the discussion, they have agreed to release the girls and some Cameroonian citizens they have captured. The example was the Emir of Kulapat of Cameroon. In our third meeting, we would finalise on how the Chibok girls would be released. If you remember last year, we had many discussions with them, and President Jonathan has since given orders for the release of all children under 18, and women. And all these were released.
In the past there were news of ceasefire, but Boko Haram would come out to deny. Is there not going to be a repeat?
Our hope is that such thing shouldn’t repeat itself, because those we sat with, because I was one of those that sat with them, are confidants of Imam Shekau.
How did you confirm that they were his (Shekau’s) confidantes, which made you agree that they were speaking on his behalf?
This is because the way the discussion started. They (Boko Haram) were the ones that wrote Chadian President that he should mediate the dialogue through his intelligence officials, and that was how the discussion started.
The channels through which the letters came were followed in reaching them (Boko Haram) for the dialogue. And when you are discussing with people, you can understand their commitment from the way they talk. Those of us who are civil servants we know many things that we can understand whether somebody is saying the truth or not. We can know this through our discussion. This is why we are optimistic that these people were representing Imam Abubakar Shekau.