American civil rights leader and Baptist minister, Rev. Jesse Jackson, has thrown his weight behind the decision of President Goodluck Jonathan to offer amnesty to members of the Islamic sect, Boko Haram.
Jackson, a two-time United States of American presidential candidate, also said Nigeria “is divided, not so much by religion, region and tribe but by greed.”
Speaking in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State on Friday, Jackson, who was a guest speaker at a lecture organised by the state government as part of activities marking the 2013 edition of Isaac Boro memorial anniversary, said if properly handled, the amnesty programme would tackle insecurity in the country.
For the programme to work, he said all its terms and conditions must be honoured.
According to him, the amnesty must involve economic restitution and rebuilding of mosques and churches destroyed by the terrorists. He described such rehabilitation as a goodwill that would sustain coexistence in the country.
He said the state of emergency declared in three northern states should be as temporary as possible, advising Nigerians to abandon the battlefield and return to negotiation.
He said, “The amnesty must involve economic restitution, jobs and training. Within the United States,when there was civil unrest,there was a kind of state of emergency.
“But I hope the country will soon get back away from the battlefield and get to the negotiation table. In the end, it will be the bargaining table, not the battlefield, that wins victory.You cannot battle forever.
“You can bargain and resolve the conflict in the North. That is why l believe so much in non-violence. Non-violence does not mean fear, but courage and thinking, and it means the ability to figure it out and fight it out. You must have the ability to resolve conflict, and not fight aggressively. It must not resort into killing and being killed.”
Jackson insisted that greed had torn the country apart, saying the disunity in Nigeria should not be blamed so much on region, religion or tribe.
“In Nigeria, too few have too much; too many have too little,” he said, adding that great nations “are measured not by how much they have but by how much they share.”
He noted that God had blessed Nigeria with intelligent, ambitious and industrious people, in addition to fertile soil, oil, fish and farmland. However, he said Nigeria should strive to give peace a chance, saying justice was key to peace.
“Peace does not equal quietness or the absence of noise. Often the oppressed are quiet, intimidated; their pains are suppressed but their predicament does not suppress their aspiration. Their thirst for justice and oneness must be quenched,” he said.
Jackson further regretted the economic irony in Nigeria, saying, “It is not right for a people to starve on a farm full of fertile soil, fruits and vegetables.”