For the past two years that Nigeria has been held ransom by the deadly activities of the Boko Haram terrorist sect, many people have implored on the government to explore negotiations as a way to end the loss of innocent lives and properties. This is largely because the purely military approach employed so far has not yielded the desired results. Instead, it has even created situations where the military has been accused for extra-judicial executions and the arrest and torture of innocent people.
It was a big relief when in the past month, the sect has come out twice to indicate their willingness to negotiate, a huge departure from the past when they turned down offers of peace talks and even threatened those said to be negotiating them. This time around, they even nominated those who should negotiate for them. Gladly enough, the government has also accepted the offers of negotiations.
However, it seems that different arms of government are executing their own strategy at restoring peace and quelling the terrorism. The military, said to be against negotiating, has gone ahead to even place bounties on the leaders of the sect. they are also said to believe that they can crush the sect using their firepower.
On the other hand, President Goodluck Jonathan in his media chat last month denied that his government had accepted to negotiate with the sect, because in his words, “you cannot negotiate with a faceless group.” This is coming after his spokesperson, Dr Reuben Abati issued statements previously accepting the negotiation offers, and as reports leak of secret peace talks involving a Federal Minister in far-away Senegal.
All these adds to the confusion of not just the Nigerian people, but also of the sect itself. You cannot on one hand accept to participate in peace talks, and on the other hand, still want to pursue a strategy of force against them. Peace talks such as these require both parties to trust each other, and as much as possible, come to the negotiating table with no double talk and hidden agendas.
Beyond that, it also shows the level to which within the government, there is no coordination of its different agencies and arms towards a common policy and strategy of execution. It is expected that once the Presidency adopts a policy and outlines a strategy, all agencies of government are to fall behind the policy and fine-tune their strategy to achieving it. However, even within the Presidency itself, what we now have is a situation where the President contradicts his own spokesperson.
Nigerians, generally, are tired of this situation where people are killed like chickens daily and are helpless in protecting themselves. Even worse, there is no assurance from the security agencies can protect them. Hence, we all have now placed our safety in God as our only protection.
The least they expect from the government is to make up its mind about how to solve this crisis and pursue it assiduously until peace has been restored, be it negotiation or military might.
Whatever strategies are going to be taken to end this state of insecurity, it should be one that is effective, quick and comes with as little shedding of innocent blood as possible.