The thoughts in this piece are prompted by Rev. Bishop Matthew Kukah’s piece titled ‘from amnesty to repentance’ and I’ll say point blank that it is an expression of disagreement with the crux of his argument in the said article.
I know I am going into a very sensitive area and as such I’ll thread cautiously.
Let me start by saying Bishop Kukah is for me a highly respected man and he still remains so irrespective of my disagreement with him on this issue. I have read his writings and I hold him in high esteem, I believe he is a deep thinker and a highly principled one, this country needs more people like him.
Again, I’ll state that I’m a bible believing christian and I believe in the precepts therein including the verses cited by the revered Priest in support of his argument.
I consider the arguments and appreciate the frustration of those who consider amnesty as the only plausible solution to the Boko Haram menace, given the fact that the government has given us assurances over and over, of dealing with the group and yet has failed to deliver.
We must however look at the Boko Haram issue in the light of its history. First, BH had existed long before 2011 and had been carrying out its activities with relatively minimal violence until 2011 shortly after the Presidential elections which affirmatively brought President Goodluck Jonathan into power.
The sudden increase in the spate of BH violence is apparently a reactionary response to the seeming betrayal by President Jonathan of the North in effectively abandoning the zonal arrangement within the PDP which would have made the north retain power for another 4 years from 2011.
The sheer unreasonableness and lack of clarity of the demands of the BH group makes this more apparent. It is the reason several leading muslim leaders have denounced the group and its tactics.
It is clear that while poverty and injustice in the distribution of resources made the group a fertile ground, the crux of their angst is definitely beyond that.
Onto the issue of love, clearly, the bible prescribes love and forgiveness even for enemies and ‘those who persecute us’. I am in agreement with the revered Rev. Fr. on this.
I equally agree that a leader’s morality and convictions should not be divorced from his politics, nay, I believe that a leader’s convictions must necessarily be reflected in his choices and decisions as a leader and indeed, a true leader should and would not allow his party’s manifesto to upturn his moral convictions.
However the BH group goes way beyond that. The points that must be noted here is that, BH is not (or, at least no longer) a homogeneous group with one united front. This was why when some weeks ago, the group called a cease fire, the violence continued unabated. There is no longer a single chain of command to which all members pay allegiance.
Of very serious importance is the issue of the ripple effect a grant of amnesty to BH is likely to create. A grant of amnesty to BH will be like opening the doorway for impunity and criminal activities like those of BH as any group with convictions of injustice would simply rally members, kill and maim and turn around to ask for amnesty. This is a likely consequence, but we certainly don’t want it.
Now the refusal to grant amnesty should not be a reflection of our lack of forgiveness or love, but rather a display of a positive decision to discourage future terrorists (which is what in my candid opinion, BH has become).
The above is the reason why responsible governments make it a policy not to negotiate with terrorists. This reasoning is further supported by the realisation that BH as it is today is a reactionary movement with the sole aim of getting President Goodluck Jonathan out of power.
In the face of the likely problems and uncertainties that a grant of amnesty may present, the certain option therefore is to ensure that President Goodluck Jonathan leaves office through constitutional means, the first being denying him a re-election in 2015. While 2015 may appear to be very far away, it is also possible to remove him by merely impeaching him.
Sadly for GEJ, his non-performance in office coupled with his open endorsement of corruption as a policy makes this easier than it would otherwise have been.