In 2009, I wrote an article where I advocated for a Ministry to handle the amnesty and disarmament issue in Nigeria. At that time, it was the Niger Delta militants that were being considered for amnesty. That amnesty was planned to gulp about fifty billion to start. I guess by now since its inception we may have spent much more. Many have argued whatever is spent is being spent well. At least the oil output has greatly increased and we have made more money compared to when the boys in the creek crippled our oil economy which the country solely depends on. Also we hear some of the boys are now trained in different aspects of work. Amnesty comes with forgiveness and training of those forgiven. So invariably it is a package.
The recent call by the Commander of STF in Jos Major General Henry Ayoola that there should be a gradual disarmament of militants through a larger disarmament programme as a means to curtail the proliferation of small arms and ammunition would therefore seem to give credence to my earlier advocacy.
When I saw the various headlines resonating ‘AMNESTY for Boko Haram’ in many of Nigeria's newspapers recently I told myself, we have come again. I cry for my beloved country. Like the Niger Delta issue, a committee is being set up to advice on the modalities and the feasibility. If I remember, the Niger Delta Technical Committee earlier set up headed by Mittee submitted their findings and recommendations that in some way might have influenced the overall amnesty deal. So I am hoping we will see a similar situation. In the Niger Delta, different states in the region also set aside different amounts for rehabilitating warring youths who were known to them and had meetings before the Federal amnesty. So I wonder what the Northern states are doing now. Do they know these Boko Haram boys? Have they been meeting with them?
In 2009 I asked what we were trying to achieve - Then it was obvious we wanted to provide a peaceful environment for the Federal Government and the oil companies to help the exploration, extraction and exploitation of oil and gas as the Federal Government's fortune was going down! Yes that was the reason. No more, no less. I hope we know what we want to achieve this time.
It was obvious even in the face of all the kidnaps and blown up pipes, certain groups of Nigerians were benefiting from the organised chaos. So we knew Nigerians from North, South, East and West were aiding and abetting it and shouted. As Bodie Thoene rightly said in his Warsaw Requiem, it is true that what is right is often forgotten by what is convenient. Would Amnesty therefore be more convenient for those of us Nigerians behind this sorry occurrence of killing, maiming and destabilisation? I am uncertain about how much will be proposed by the Presidential Committee on Amnesty of Boko Haram militants in the North to make peace in the Northern region. I guess this will be much more than that for a single geo political zone because here we are talking about three zones.
We seem to be running around like headless chickens but I believe there is nothing confusing about what to do to bring peace. As I said earlier, amnesty is a package and so those who will be offered amnesty should undergo training so that they will become useful to the society. This means individuals will need to come forward to accept what is being offered. If I understand, the Boko Haram is against western education. I am therefore wondering what type of training they will be subjected to in-order to be useful.
Wait a minute lest we forget! There was the Niger Delta Ministry created before the amnesty in the Delta. Will the Northern amnesty protagonists not also ask for a Ministry for rehabilitation and development of the north? After all what is good for the goose is good for the gander.
Some persons I have discussed with suggest that there will be no need to create a Ministry for rehabilitation of the North but have a Presidential committee for the rapid development of the region and handling the burning issues which should bring about peace believing underdevelopment is the reason for this chaos. The argument is that a rapid development by a Presidential fiat would assuage the so-called militants. Because once they are involved they are not likely to carry arms as these protagonists do not believe Boko Haram is about religion. We will wait and see.
There appears to be a common knowledge that there is a cartel behind the Boko Haram problem and they will do everything to ensure money is spent carrying out meaningless and unproductive ventures to their benefit. How long shall we continue to punish ourselves? I hope the President remembers that time is not his best friend. It is obvious that he has shown he listens as a President. I do not think this U-turn should be seen as a weakness. The ball is now in the court of the protagonists to ensure the faceless have faces and that this is not about religion but development.
It is obvious our problem is within us. As Victor Hugo said "Have no fear of robbers or murderers. They are external dangers, petty dangers. We should fear ourselves. Prejudices are the real robbers; vices the real murderers. The great dangers are within us. Why worry about what threatens our heads or purses? Let us think instead of what threatens our souls". We are our own enemies. The real enemy of the North, South and Nigeria is the cartel that is always looking for new ways to siphon Nigeria's wealth for their personal benefit wanting to be in power by all means and perpetuating aristocracy.
It is true that any security issue especially this Boko Haram problem is a national issue though most manifest in the North. We do remember that the Niger Delta States spent funds to fight the militancy menace individually before the Federal Government Amnesty. It is therefore pertinent to ask how much is being spent in Kano, Sokoto, Borno, Kebbi, Zamfara, Kaduna, Bauchi, Niger, Yobe , Gombe, Jigawa, Taraba and Adamawa to rehabilitate these Boko Haram militants or what efforts are being made by the individual states. How are the various states working together for this single task of disarmament and rehabilitation?
Insecurity in Nigeria has a national outlook. Come to think of it, there are arms everywhere in the country from the North to the South. During the various riots that have taken place in the country at different times, arms have been used indiscriminately. It is true that those arms used did not cripple oil production leading to loss of income for the country but people used arms and they destroyed lives and properties and they still have them and more may still be coming in. I believe there is therefore enough justification to create a Ministry my fellow country men. Yes a Ministry of Disarmament, Amnesty and Rehabilitation.
With the Ministry, disarming militant youths and giving amnesty could be extended to all parts of the country. What shall we do about the militants in the western states, or the eastern states? When are we going to give amnesty to them? This is why I think piecemeal zone specific Presidential committees are not enough any longer. We need a Ministry! We need offices of the Ministry in each state. I remember that the Niger Delta presidential panel's recommended concept is the return of arms for full rehabilitation and freedom from prosecution. I believe that will also be the bait for Boko Haram and all other groups.
I remember that part of the past panel's recommendation is that Governors should compile the list of those that will embrace this golden opportunity. Can this be started in the Northern and other states? I am mindful that like in the Niger Delta this is likely to concretize the opportunity for some of the politicians also to gather their boys in preparation for 2015? We all know that all militancy in Nigeria have political undertone.
The amount of money to be budgeted can be a take-off grant for the Ministry of disarmament, amnesty and rehabilitation. We can hire a secretariat for the Ministry from one of the houses owned by top politicians which they have built with stolen funds. We can start the lobbying for who is going to be the Minister. May be then the state with the largest cache of arms will own up as the Minister will come from there. Even if the elders and leaders of the states refuse to own up, I am sure youth groups who know their armoury capacity will write petitions to the Presidency to justify why their person should be the Minister highlighting the number of AK47s, GPMGs and IEDs they have. There may even be groups like the militants that will give reasons why one of their leaders should be made the Minister. Boko Haram leaders may even be appointed into committees or may head MDGs. After all they are they ones who know where the arms are and the quantity. This is our country Nigeria. This may therefore be the best approach to amnesty and disarmament.
Blaise Pascal (1670) once said "The strength of a man's virtue should not be measured by his special exertions, but by his habitual acts". Let us as a country have a way of doing things that will positively impact our lives now and in the next generation by stopping piecemeal regional approach to issues. We should stop doing things for convenience rather than them being right. The truth is that as it is usually said he who demands equity must come with clean hands. Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria and may God grant our leaders both spiritual and temporal wisdom.