Edward Judge and John Langdon tell us that appeasement is a “policy of giving in to a potential aggressor in order to maintain the peace.” This policy arose “not out of cowardice but from a sincere desire to avoid another Great War by addressing German concern over the severity of the Treaty of Versailles.” The Versailles Treaty was signed on June 28, 1919 at the Palace of Versailles, France, ending the war between German and the Allied Forces after World War 1.
In the intervening years, appeasement has come to connote an appalling and cowardly policy of acquiescing to unmerited demands from state and or non-state actors.The idea here is that giving in to such demands emboldens the aggressor, and weakens the conciliator. It further implies that appeasement in the name of peace may, under certain context, worsen an already fragile situation. Thus, appeasement is generally frowned upon.
Today, opinion seems to indicate that the general public is against appeasement, against granting Boko Haram amnesty (as it has yet to abandon its killing and destructive ways). For me, this litmus test is neither here nor there. I had earlier stated that presidential pardon is within the purview of the President: it is within the range of the President’s authority to grant pardon. However, should the amnesty deal fall apart, President Goodluck Jonathan will bear the brunt; he will pay a heavy price. There is no doubt about that.
Nonetheless, he will not be alone in incurring the cost of an amnesty-gone-wrong. Traditional and religious rulers in the northern part of the country will also suffer — and so too would the formal and informal power structure and regime that have been in place pre and post-1914. What do I mean? Simple: The ascendancy and supremacy of Boko Haram will redefine power equations in the north (because) if a latter-day group like Boko Haram becomes omnipotent and omnipresent, where would that leave the traditional power sources?
Where does that leave the Gbong Gwon, the Lamido, the Etsu Nupe, the Mai-Bedde, the Sarki, the Modibo, the Shehu, and the Ata? What would happen to traditional relationships if Boko Haram becomes the leading force in the north; and where would that leave the Amir Argungu, the Sarkin Zazzau, the Mai, the Tor Tiv, and the Aku Uka? And, where would that leave the various Emirs that preside over northern emirates? If the group is left alone, what would happen to the preeminence of the Sultan?
It is projected that by the end of May, some 3,000 innocent citizens would have been killed by Boko Haram and its affiliates. It is a mistake to think that the indiscriminate killings and destruction that have been going on for the better part of 18-months are Jonathan’s problem and his alone. Oh no! The sooner the north helps to bring these atrocities and carnage to a halt, the better it would be for everyone. The bigger and deadlier the group gets, as it has the potential to, it will defy even those who control finances and provide training and logistics. It will become so big, so thirty and so hungry that it will consume those who created it.
After all, when monsters get very big, no amount of blood is ever enough to satisfy or pacify them. Never! Is the group afraid of killing or harming anyone? Was the brutal killing of Gen. Muhammed Shuwa not attributed to the group? What group was blamed for the attempted assassination on the Shehu of the Borno Emirate, as well as the Emir of Fika in Yobe State? And consider also the recent attack on the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero — considered by many as the second most important institution in northern Nigeria after the Sultan of Sokoto. This is a group with no scruple and with no respect for anybody and for formal/informal institutions.
And so, the questions become, Who will be its next target? What religious and or traditional building is it going to bomb, next? What power structure is it looking to destroy or undermine? Should the aforelisted happen, then what? In essence, what do all these portend? Well, it looks simple to me: if the north does not help a helpless Jonathan, then, the coming Tsunami by Boko Haram and its affiliates may not spare anyone. If the political and economic elites in the north genuinely refuse to help Jonathan clip the wings of this group, they too will suffer. Jonathan may be the President, he cannot do it all and alone. He can’t!
Aside from its affront to and challenge of traditional and religious institutions, Boko Haram is also a threat to the intellectual and artistic community in northern Nigeria. If it has its way, modernity, westernisation and globalisation will be a thing of the past. Schools and intellectual pursuits will be curtailed – when none of these is curtailed in Iran, Iraq and in the United Arab Emirates. When you visit places such as Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Indonesia, you see great evidence of many of the things Boko Haram is against and killing people for.
Perhaps, Boko Haram members do not know that until it was destroyed by the Mongol Empire in 1258, Baghdad — a great Arab and Islamic city — was the centre of cultural and intellectual activity in the High Middle Ages. They also may not know that Saudi Arabia was once a “waste land,” but is today the centre of Arab and Islamic universe. That is progress. That is change. That is modernity. But for the Boko Haram sect, modernity, change and progress are sinful and injurious and for which it has been killing. This has to stop. The intellectual and artistic class must team up with the religious and traditional institutions to put a stop to the calamity that has gained ground in the north, and which has the potential to set the nation on fire.
The time has come for all – for all Nigerians – to know and to accept the fact that Boko Haram is not just a Jonathan-problem, but a problem for all Nigerians in the east, west, south and north.
There will be no place to hide! If traditional and religious leaders look the other way as President Jonathan gasps for breath, sooner or later, they too will collapse under the weight of Boko Haram. And if the intellectual and artistic class acts indifferently to the pain and anguish of this President, then, they too shall be asphyxiated by the tentacles of Boko Haram.