There is no form of dialogue between the terrorist group, Boko Haram, and President Goodluck Jonathan, the Special Assistant to the President on Research Documentation and Strategy, Mr. Oronto Douglas, has said.
Douglas spoke in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State on Thursday as a guest lecturer at the 3rd Annual Public Lecture organised by the Federated Correspondents’ Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists.
Douglas, who spoke on the theme, ‘National Unity: Imperative for Growth and Development in Nigeria’, said Jonathan and the Federal Government had maintained their earlier position that members of the Islamic sect were faceless.
There have been reports that some African countries including Senegal were facilitating talks between the leadership of the terrorist group and the Federal Government.
Douglas, who denied the ongoing talks, however, said Jonathan would hold negotiations with the group if its leaders identified themselves.
He said, “You can’t discuss with the people you don’t know. You can’t discuss with the air. You have to talk with human beings. If members of Boko Haram come out today to say ‘we are Boko Haram’, Mr. President will give an audience for a dialogue either directly or through identified committees.
“So, at this moment, there is no dialogue going on between the Federal Government and Boko Haram.”
Douglas said Jonathan had ruled out the use of the “Odi strategy” in tackling security challenges in the country.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo had in 1999 approved military invasion of Odi, a community in Bayelsa State, after some policemen were killed in the area by suspected Niger Delta militants.
But Douglas insisted that instead of addressing militancy, the military operation, which reportedly killed 2,284 innocent people, escalated the problem.
He said Jonathan would continue to adopt humane approach in his efforts to tackle the wave of violence in the Northern part of the country.
Apart from insecurity, Douglas who was accompanied by a Nollywood actor, Kanayo Kanayo, listed corruption, sectionalism and bigotry as the bane of national unity in Nigeria.
He said corruption was so entrenched in the country that it required collective action in reducing the menace.
He said building of strong institutions was the only viable way to fight corruption adding that the political class must not interfere with the functions of such anti-graft institutions.
“Jonathan never interferes with the EFCC. He even reconstituted the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission with persons of integrity,” he said. He added that the agencies were expected to do their jobs.
But in a keynote address, a lecturer from the Niger Delta University, Dr. Ibaba Samuel, blamed the disunity in the country on the entrenched poverty.
He said despite having abundant natural resources and selling oil since independence, Nigeria had consistently been classified as a poor country.
“Nigeria since 2005 has been classified as a country vulnerable to fail. We have a responsibility to rescue it from failing,” he said.