Hard Questions Government Must Answer, By Garba Shehu
The perplexing truce reached between the Jonathan administration and theBoko Haram insurgents highlights challenges that Abuja can’t afford to down-play. With the whole thing appearing like it is unravelling, people are asking whether anyone was right to have given any weight to the ceasefire in the first instance.
I have argued with the deaf on this page on the need for dialogue as the way of resolving the crisis of security in the North East. Government initially wasn’t interested. In a country saddled with insurgency, security guards are still being used by the ruling party to signal their clout and importance. No politician is considered as important without a gunman behind him. Where did this policy earthquake come from? To what effect?
There are many who think of the truce as being weird. Judging by the international standard of behavior of nations, no government would sign a truce with insurgents. The norm, as they argue, is that you either quell them or force them into surrender. The ones we are dealing with are challenging the corporate state by laying a claim to territory. As a terrorist organization, as defined by the Security Council in addition to a host of other nations, the Boko Haram, according to this line of argument lacks a legal status on which to sign a truce with the Nigerian State; that the Nigerian government would be legitimizing them by signing such agreement. Has Nigeria conceded the territory they have seized?
Questions have arisen from several quarters in Nigeria and abroad since the agreement was reached: what did the government and the Boko Haramagree upon? Who and who sat on opposite sides of the table? Who signed for whom? Where is the document?
A truce by definition is the cessation of hostilities for a period of time. For how long is this one intended to last? What constitutes a breach under the terms of the agreement? As its is, barely 24 hours after the so-called agreement, Boko Haram have had a very successful run over five Borno villages, killing eighteen persons and taking yet more territory. Does this violate the truce or not?
Thirdly, government, as argued by many, should speak to citizens and the world about, not only the nature of the agreement but the guarantees that would ensure compliance by both parties. Were there witnesses to the agreement? Who were these? We know, for instance there are a lot of stakeholders in this war. Did they call the ECOWAS, the African Union and the United Nations, all of which are interested parties? There are, in addition, several foreign countries that have committed men and resources to the war. You have the United States, United Kingdom, France and Israel for instance that have supported Nigeria with intelligence and weaponry. How much of this truce do they know?
Inside the Nigerian government, we have a Minister of Defence. He has not said anything about the truce. His silence is deafening. We have Ministers of Internal Affairs and Information. None of these has uttered a word. All you have so far are non-cabinet members – a Principal Secretary to the President, the Chief of Defence Staff and the head of the propaganda arm of government, the National Orientation Agency going up and down speaking on the truce. Where do these men stand in any serious government?
In addition to these, we have the National Security Adviser, with vast powers under the Constitution. He has been abroad trying to a sell a package for soft approach. How does that dovetail to the truce? Did he participate in the negotiation? Did anyone remember to call in the National Assembly? The Media?
Yet another question is about the status of the emergency rule in three states, which is in place very much against the wishes of the ordinary people resident in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa. Are you lifting it to ease its hardship on the people?
How about the USD1Billion government has collected as loan, with the specific purpose of fighting the insurgency? What happens to the money? Gone with the wind?
And then, what follows after the truce? What are the social interventions they are planning in the area? Now, five years down the road, government suddenly comes to terms with the fact that the hard approach isn’t working. Why didn’t it work? Who is accountable for this? What guarantee is there that the soft approach will work?
Questions, questions and questions.
As the 2015 elections come close with arrows flying, sharper and faster and the PDP facing flak for running an ineffective government, what are they going to tell Nigerians to dispel widespread assumptions that the truce is a ploy to give Dr. Jonathan a breather and lift his profile?
This is a government after all that had squarely placed the blame for the insurgency on Northern conspiracy, an idiotic logic that flies on the face of the fact that Northerners – Christians and Muslims are the principal victims of this senseless violence. Is this whole thing electoral politics?