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Before We Grant Amnesty To Boko Haram, By ‘Fisayo Soyombo



fisayo soyombo

I’ve been observing with keen interest the National Assembly’s recent efforts to solidify President Muhammadu Buhari’s offer of Nigeria-Delta-like amnesty to ‘repentant’ Boko Haram members. Buhari first made the offer in March 2018 while receiving the 107 of the 111 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram in Dapchi, Yobe State, two months earlier. The following month, the military established a rehabilitation camp to “rehabilitate and reintegrate surrendered and repentant Boko Haram terrorist members” via an exercise known as Operation Safe Corridor (OPSC).

Last week, the Senate started considering a bill for an Act tagged ‘National Agency for Education, Rehabilitation, De-radicalisation and Integration of Repentant Insurgents in Nigeria 2020, SB. 340’, sponsored by Ibrahim Gaidam, the immediate past Governor of Yobe State who now represents Yobe East Senatorial District in the National Assembly. If it sails through, there will be legal backing for the reintegration of killer insurgents into the society. The agency to be created will be dedicated to “rehabilitating, deradicalising, educating and reintegrating the “repentant and detained members of the insurgent group to make them useful members of the society”.

It’s not like nothing happened between Buhari’s 2018 declaration and last week. Earlier in the month, the Borno State Government confirmed that some 1,400 repentant Boko Haram suspects had been released by the military and rehabilitated into society. Also this month, after visiting the camp where former fighters were being trained in vocational skills, Goni Alkali, Managing Director of the Northeast Development Commission, revealed that over 600 ex-Boko Haram fighters were being deradicalised under the OPSC project. Earlier batches comprised 97 and 243 ex-combatants. And in November 2019, the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) confirmed that the OPSC handed over 86 Boko Haram child fighters, “who voluntarily surrendered to troops”, to the Borno State Rehabilitation Centre in Bulumkutu.

Since the release of the 1,400, numerous groups have voiced their frustrations. Understandably, some of these positions have been influenced by Nigeria’s ethnic, religious and political cleavages. But if there’s any group whose dissent must be treated with utmost seriousness, it’s the soldiers. “A lot of soldiers are not happy about this,” one soldier told TheCable. “We were there at the Maimalari barracks when some of these Boko Haram people were released. The authorities are releasing them, but Boko Haram are killing soldiers that they capture. This does not make sense to us at all.”

For now, yes. I agree with that soldier’s misgivings about this kind of amnesty, but only for now — for the reasons of exigencies, voluntariness, timing and priority. At some point in the future, we will eventually need it. The current idea of amnesty for Boko Haram emanated from the tried and tested amnesty programme for Niger Delta militants begun by the late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and finalised by the Goodluck Jonathan regime. But these are two completely different warfare, particularly regarding the triggers. The Niger Delta militancy was triggered by agitation for improved economic wellbeing of oil-producing communities and their people. The needs were clear regardless of the criminality of the approach: Niger Delta militants simply wanted a better life, whether or not they were ready to work for it. A money-spinning amnesty was always going to quell their anger.

Conversely, Boko Haram doesn’t want money. Its demands are unrealistic and downright impossible. The secular government isn’t going to give way; neither Buhari nor his successor will give up political power. Nigeria is never going to become a wholly Islamic state; Christianity and other religions won’t vanish anytime soon. And, yes, western education has come to stay. So, what exactly are you promising Boko Haram in exchange for a laying-down of weapons?

It’s bewildering to see that the government indeed thinks captured Boko Haram members have any choice other than repentance. The hallmark of any amnesty is the voluntariness with which its beneficiaries accept it. Majority of Niger-Delta repentant militants were youth in possession of arms and ammunition that they voluntarily laid down in moments when they were free men — not that they were subdued and left with no other survival option but freedom-motivated repentance. This is why many of these supposedly deradicalised insurgents will find their ways back to the forest to wreak more havoc on soldiers — because majority of them only surrendered and repented after their capture.

READ ALSO: Senate Moves To Create Agency For Repentant Boko Haram Members

And the timing. It is inconceivable that a government is offering killers amnesty when the armed forces and the people continue to suffer heavy casualties; it’s, quite simply, handing the opponent the advantage. Only exceptions are if the supposedly repentant insurgents were not captured or if the war itself is indeed over. The Buhari government has been saying for years that Boko Haram has been technically defeated, but attacks upon attacks show nothing could be further from the truth. Even if it is sporadic, this is certainly an ongoing war, and it’s terribly difficult to see the logic in handing amnesty to captured enemies in a war that is ongoing, one in which the field warriors are still harming the state.

One of the most astoundingly successful examples of reconciliation and amnesty is the Rwandan genocide. After the Rwandan genocide, during which over a million Hutus were killed by Tutsis, President Paula Kagame freed tens of thousands of genocide suspects from prison in a precarious attempt to balance justice against reconciliation. Those who were freed were required to confess their crimes and seek forgiveness from their victims. The Roman Catholic Church, being the most powerful institution in the country after the government, was heavily involved, encouraging ordinary people who participated in the genocide to ask forgiveness from survivors, and for survivors to grant it. The key thing here is that the survivors were a central part of this amnesty; it wasn’t imposed on them.

In Nigeria, though, the government doesn’t consider survivors of insurgency as stakeholders. Women whose husbands were killed, girls who were raped, sons whose fathers were kidnapped, people who were maimed are expected to accept supposedly de-radicalised insurgents back into the community. Just like that? Importantly, while ex-Boko Haram fighters are receiving attention, the victims aren’t. I have previously reported the conditions in one of the country’s biggest IDP camps — the corruption, the theft of foodstuffs, the misery, the child mortality. The government is moving to rebuild the cities in the North-East but it is overlooking the people who will inhabit them. Strange. As of September 2019, the North East Development Commission (NEDC), whose board had been inaugurated since May, was still talking about how it would “soon swing into action to execute all humanitarian plans that will be fashioned out by the management and board”.

At some point, we will need amnesty for the truly repentant — not the arrested — insurgents. But first, the government and people like Gaidam must understand it cannot be hinged on the Niger Delta amnesty. The government must be able to differentiate captured from repentant insurgents. The focus, for now, must remain squarely on strengthening the military to defeat the insurgents and giving governance a truly humanitarian face by rehabilitating victims/survivors of insurgency. Only when all these have been accomplished, or at least driven to a substantial level, can any serious government begin to talk about amnesty for killer Boko Haram fighters.

Soyombo, former Editor of the TheCable, the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) and SaharaReporters, tweets @fisayosoyombo


Who Will Explain Coronavirus To Buhari?



Coronavirus (COVID-19), an exorable doom, threatens life on the planet. It is exorable because it is conquerable. This explains why world leaders are taking the charge to combat this ominous apocalypse. It is a time for leadership from the fore-end; a time when citizens must hear their leaders speak to them; see them take action, making assurances and fulfilling those promises. The counsel, consolation and firm statement of a leader is imperative at this moment.

In Canada, Justin Trudeau, prime minister, despite being in self-isolation and his wife battling the virus after contracting it at a conference in the UK, is leading the fight against this dreaded disease from the fore. He is providing regular updates of the efforts of his government to roll back this scourge, listening and speaking to citizens.

In a popular broadcast on March 13, Justin spoke to citizens of Canada announcing measures to relieve the financial stress brought on by the pandemic on Canadians.

“We do not want any Canadian to have to worry about whether or not they’re going to be able to pay their rent, whether or not they’re going to be able to buy groceries, or care for their kids or elderly family members. We need to make sure that Canadians have the options and the ability to follow the best public health advice and keep themselves safe,” he said.

In the UK, Boris Johnson, prime minister, leads the struggle against coronavirus. He provides updates, alongside health experts, on the measures his government is taking to tackle the spread of the disease. And in the US, Donald Trump is not shying away from speaking to Americans on the virus.

As a matter of fact, President Muhammadu Buhari’s lapses are often easily dismissed by his supporters or by Nigerians who do not know better. Some of them say, ‘’ Why must the president speak when the minister of health and the NCDC DG are already doing that?” This is a contemptible rationalisation of incompetence. Are they suggesting the president lacks the capacitance to understand the issues?’’

Really, I surmise the president has been walled off the ‘’candid cameras’’ over the years by his handlers – not just now – because he lacks the intellectual propensity to understand and discuss incisive issues. The last presidential media chat he held was in 2015 and it was a woeful outing. Also, his non-choreographed media interviews have been abysmal to say the least.

The truth is the unfiltered Buhari is a vacuously gaffing one. On October 14, 2016, standing beside Angela Merkel, German chancellor, Buhari said his wife, Aisha, ‘’belonged in the kitchen and the other room’’, when he was asked to comment on the first lady’s criticism of his government.

On April 18, 2018, at the Commonwealth Business Forum in London, the president said the young citizens of the country he leads are lazy.

“More than 60 per cent of the population is below 30, a lot of them haven’t been to school and they are claiming that Nigeria is an oil producing country, therefore, they should sit and do nothing, and get housing, healthcare, education free,” he said during a panel appearance with world leaders at the forum.

In a February 2016 interview with UK Telegraph, Buhari dropped another clanger. He said the young citizens of his country have a knack for criminality and should not be granted asylum in the UK.

With the Buhari experience, it is indubitable that Nigerians must place a high premium on education — not just certificate – in choosing their leaders. The cost of electing leaders who do not have the intellectual grit to understand and handle matters is far too high.

The senate has asked the president to speak to citizens on this threat, and Nigerians are also asking the president to speak to them. This is an abnormality. Citizens must not beg to hear from their president. But because it is Buhari involved here, we have to beg and even excuse the crass inefficiency and vacuity.

Perhaps, the president is still trying to get a hang of it. I think he has ‘’capable handlers’’ who can break it down to him in ABC.

Mr President, speak to your citizens. The words of a leader are more resounding and assuring than the blandishment of proxies.

PS: Let’s follow all health protocol as advised by the NCDC.

• Wash your hands regularly with soap under running water.

• Cover your mouth and nose properly with handkerchief or tissue paper when sneezing and/or coughing. You may also cough into your elbow if a handkerchief is not available.

• Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.

• Avoid self-medication, report to the nearest health facility when you experience any of the above-mentioned symptoms.

Fredrick Nwabufo is a writer and journalist.

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Sanusi: Once Upon An Emir, By Wole Olaoye



Dethroned Monarch, Sanusi

We are all potential Ex-es: ex-student, ex-director, ex-lecturer, ex-senator, ex-governor, ex-president, ex-oba, ex-emir…. The inimitable Zik famously reminded us when he had a spat with Ukpabi Asika that Ex was an inevitable prefix for any human being as was evidenced by the fact that a certain young man who would someday become an ex-Administrator, was the son of an ex-postmaster!

So, what’s so apocalyptic about Sanusi Lamido Sanusi joining the ranks of ex-potentates? Nothing? Everything! Don’t ever think that bell you are hearing is tolling for the former Emir of Kano. No. It could be signalling the beginning of a comprehensive demystification of traditional rulership by plebeians holding tenured political power. In centuries past, no plebeian messed with the traditional institution. The halo of nobility, the sheer vastness of a prince’s hereditary powers, rights and privileges, made the subject know his place.

Yesterday’s subjects are today’s political sovereign. They make no pretences to sophistication. They load a gun to kill a spider. When you dethrone a monarch and then deprive him of his liberty, forcefully banishing him to a place without electricity and potable water, you are playing god. If it was all a public relations Olympics, the calm dignity with which Sanusi handled the humiliation made people all over the world admire his chutzpa and hand him the gold medal. A

Life and its many puzzles! Why is it that for some men and women, “their sleep is taken away unless they cause some to fall”? What do you do about an ego that knows no satiation? As the Preacher in the Good Book timelessly says, “All the rivers flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full… The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear content with hearing… there is nothing new under the sun”.

The Yoruba have a poem that says just that. “The horse struts and frets and then dies. Being a veteran walker is no immunity to getting lost. Nothing new under the sun. I’ve seen kings reduced to slaves; and servants who mounted the throne. Haven’t my eyes beheld both river and sea? Haven’t I seen a hunchback on spindly legs, and a midget climbing a ladder to add condiment to the soup pot? Tell me, has anyone ever started a building from the roof?

The new Emir of Kano, Alhaji Aminu Ado Bayero, is a cousin of his predecessor. As royal intrigues go, when the dust is settled the sword will be sheathed and brother will embrace brother. That is the way of princes. Eventually, outsiders will realise that all they can ever be in palace politics is outsiders. Our very own Nobel prize winning Kongi was not amused by the scandalous extra-judicial detention of the former emir.

He put the emir’s travail down to his progressive stance: “Emir Sanusi was a one-man EFCC sanitisation squad in the banking system, taking on the powerful corrupters of that institution…. “Most important of all, and most pertinently for the nation, Sanusi was one of the early warning voices against religious extremism whose bitter fruits the nation is currently reaping….

The doors of enlightened society remain wide open to Muhammad Sanusi. As for his current crowing Nemesis, a different kind of gates remain yawning to receive him when, as must, the days of governorship immunity finally come to an end.” Support for Sanusi is not limited to radical voices.

Veteran technocrat Alhaji Ahmed Joda penned a panegyric in support of the ex-emir: “The purpose of this letter to you is not to commiserate with you, because I know that you must have known the likely consequences  of the principled position you have taken. The reality we must face in Northern Nigeria is that the evil forces of feudalism that have kept us in bondage for so long are still there and fighting. You have been the only voice that has been telling us this truth….”

It is easy to kick a man given a pin-fall by fate, or piss on the grave of a fallen warrior. Dead men don’t bite. Real friends show up when you are in life’s valley. Say what you will, I would rather have a friend like Nasir el Rufai when the chips are down. In the midst of all the turmoil, conspiracy theories have surfaced to the effect that the dethronement is but a political sleight-of-hand to propel Sanusi to Nigeria’s presidency in 2023. Caution! Let’s separate the issues. Political succession is totally different from fundamental human rights. Sanusi is not my next president.

My views on power rotation are well documented. The ex-emir will go down in history as a champion for the rights of the poorest of the poor. He advocated for a new Northern Nigeria where old backward practices such as the almajiri system and irresponsible parenting will be abandoned. His was the voice crying out in the desert, lift my people up from the cesspit of penury. The attempt to demonise him after dethronement through various allegations, including one on religious fundamentalism, is dead on arrival. The same fate will befall the vilification of El Rufai on account of his loyalty to Sanusi. Please quote me: Modern challenges can never be resolved with a resort to medieval solutions.

Christopher Hitchens’ Q&A may someday apply to the ex-Kings College boy who’s now an ex-king.

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Sanusi Dethronement: The North Only Beheads The Bearers Of Truth



Emir Sanusi

By Fredrick Nwabufo

Northern Nigeria is prostrate. It is the axis of uglies – banditry, insurgency, kidnapping, diseases, ignorance, and drug abuse. Alas! The region’s elite are aware of the problems, but look away because the disequilibrious status quo sustains them. What is petrifying, however, is that they maul and clobber at anyone who spits the truth in their faces.

I think, this is the mortal sin of Muhammad Sanusi II, emir of Kano – beyond his politics with Abdullahi Ganduje, governor of Kano.

But wait!

The World Bank says 87 percent of Nigeria’s poor are in the north. And that while poverty is plummeting in the south, it is rocketing in the upper region.

READ: Dethroned Sanusi Will Be Under House Arrest – Ganduje’s Aide

“Poverty in the northern regions of the country has been increasing especially in the north-west zone. Almost half of all poor lived in the north-west and the north accounts for 87 percent of all poor in the country in 2016,’’ the Bretton Woods institution said in its report entitled ‘Advancing social protection in a dynamic Nigeria’ in February 2020.

In August, 2019, the federal government revealed that 1,460 people were killed by bandits in seven months. And that the north-west is the worst-hit by this bloody enterprise. The killings have steadied, expanding in proportion and execution in the region.

In his accustomed manner, Sanusi recently vocalised these depressing figures of retrogression in the north – as regards the World Bank report — earning himself praise from progressive Nigerians and reprimand from the usual suspects — those stuck in the cesspit of bigotry.

Also, the gadfly emir of Kano, whom I regard as the John the Baptist of the north for his vociferous condemnation of this status quo, is alone in his advocacy against irresponsible polygamy, Al-majiri and child marriage – practices the northern elite espouse. He is the face of a progressive north; the northerner of the new age.

As a matter of fact, on different occasions he had complained about the northern elite whom he said wanted to silence him for speaking the truth about the region.

‘’Our colleagues and compatriots among the elite do not like statistics. Numbers are disturbing. I recently gave a speech in which I said the north-east and north-west of Nigeria are the poorest parts of the country. This simple statement of fact has generated so much heat; the noise has yet to die down. The response to this speech has been a barrage of personal attacks and insults aimed at silencing any voices that dare shine the light on the society to which we are saying Bring Back our Girls,’’ he said at a lecture held to commemorate the Chibok girls abduction.

READ: Sanusi Breaks Silence After Dethronement As Emir Of Kano (Video)

And I guess they can only take the throne away from him but cannot take away his royalty in the community of decent humans. Really, I believe the emir would rather give up his throne than be gagged by the shareholders of iniquity.

To say the least, Sanusi’s dethroning was not unexpected. Ganduje had always shown his hand in this plot. Really, the emir of Kano never hid his dislike for him. But what is there to like about a governor who was allegedly caught on camera stuffing wads of dollars into his babariga? In the build-up to the 2019 governorship election in the state, the emir was not shy in expressing his disapproval to Ganduje’s candidature.

So, Ganduje, who considers Sanusi a ‘’loud mouth’’, plotted a bitter revenge after he was re-elected. He had moved to remove the emir in 2018 but for the intervention of some ‘’higher powers’’. However, he whittle-down the power of the emir by creating new emirates from his domain. He was not done though. He rustled-up allegations, set up probe panels – all in the desperation to embarrass Sanusi.

But Sanusi was still talking.

Really, one of the most abrasive places to exist is in the circle of non-progressives. You talk different, think different or act different, they will feel threatened. Even when you try to clown around; the aboriginal clowns will still feel threatened because you do not look the part.

I think, Emir Sanusi is light-years away from the people he is dealing with in Kano government. He is needed more at the top echelon of government where he can contribute more meaningfully to the development of Nigeria.

Northern Nigeria is not ready for an emir like Sanusi. He is ahead of his time.

Fredrick Nwabufo is a writer and journalist.

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