THE LOGIC OF AMNESTY

First, they had no spokesperson and their demands were unknown. Then, they were ghosts and the government was not going to put itself through the indignity of negotiating through psychic mediums, spiritualists and marabouts. Now, it seems somebody’s called the Ghostbusters, told them that their services will never be needed and an amnesty committee has been constituted to make recommendations concerning Boko Haram.

 

This follows hot on the heels of what many might consider a pre-emptive strike, with the Federal Government said to have awarded yet another dodgy security contract, this time in the South-Western region of the country, to yet another leader of a local militia. The contract is said to be worth N2.4bn a month and it is unclear what the duration is. Southern Nigeria is now crawling with guerrilla warlords who have been rewarded for their mutinous behaviour with “juicy” government work. Let’s ignore the fact that we have several security agencies and reasonably-sized armed forces. Let me not say that government is outsourcing the performance of what the constitution describes as its “primary purpose”, when my ogamost oga at the top is clearly saying something else.

My “Ogamost” Oga At The Top

THISDAY reports that the president “bowed to pressure” to shift ground on amnesty for Boko Haram. This pressure came from many elder statesmen and even a branch of the Nigerian Bar Association. The logic behind the pressure is that amnesty worked in the Niger Delta (although this post empirically questions the correlation between the amnesty programme and increased output in the Niger Delta), therefore amnesty will quell every uprising Nigeria will ever have. Alright, so I have laced it with a healthy dose of cynicism but this clearly is untenable not only from a policy position but also from that of logic.

Granted, there is the solitary similarity between Boko Haram and the Movement for the Emancipation of The Niger Delta (MEND) – they are both militant groups with tribal/sectional origins. But that must be where the similarity ends. MEND was ostensibly fighting for the diversion of a greater portion of the region’s mineral wealth to its own people and remediation of all the damage to their farming land and fishing waters. When the government commenced its amnesty programme there, it first of all admitted that it had wronged the people of the Niger Delta. There was some logic to the government saying, in that instance, “your fight is an honourable one; we have wronged you; lay down your arms, come back into decent society and not only will we not punish your insurgency, we will restore all that the cankerworm has eaten.” Or words to that effect, anyway.

On the other hand is Boko Haram, whose cause no one has been able to successfully articulate AND rationalise. “Rationalise”, for me, is the key part of that sentence. Were they formed for an aim that rational society should accommodate? Can any of their demands be met rationally? Is there anything rational in all that they have said or done since they stepped into the international spotlight? If the answer to all these is a resounding ‘NO’, what then is the rationale for granting them amnesty? What has led the government to believe it can reason with them? Above all, what part of their behaviour or rhetoric suggests that amnesty would even be a useful tool? Lest we forget, the predominant MO for MEND was to kidnap oil workers and sabotage oil infrastructure. Boko Haram are suicide bombers.

Now, I fully understand that Borno and Kano have been ravaged by the sect and the people just want peace. But is peace at any price really peace? Boko Haram wants less of an interaction with western civilisation and the implementation of Sharia law nationwide. How do you begin such negotiations? Ok, we’ll ban western education in Borno and Kano States but you have to leave the rest of the country alone? You get to have Sharia in a maximum of 10 northern states and that’s it? And if they renege and pick up their arms again tomorrow, do we show more flexibility on where ‘Boko’ will be ‘Haram’ and how far Sharia will be allowed to spread? Only recently, a splinter group, Ansaru, has been reported to be even more deadly than the original Boko Haram. Should they be offered amnesty too? Is amnesty for Boko Haram justice?

 

 

Location of the four cities in north eastern N...

Location of the four cities in north eastern Nigeria where the Boko Haram conflict took place. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

The message from the government is also quite clear. Arm yourselves, disrupt activity within the nation with as much violence as you can muster. We will reward you from the abundance of our treasury. You will be rich beyond your wildest dreams. Unlike your peers who are busy acquiring an education or struggling to build a career. They would be dead to us, if not for the taxes we need them to pay.