The Presidency, yesterday, urged Northern leaders to prevail on the Boko Haram Sect to embrace dialogue.
A statement by Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe, said: “There is no need for over-politicization of the demand for Amnesty, or to blackmail the President for taking strong, patriotic views that are contrary to those of some of our respected elders.
Such, sometimes is the nature of statecraft and in many parts of the civilized world, situations like this are handled with equanimity and further deepening of consultation, certainly not acrimonious misunderstanding or open hatred.
“The true expectation is that our respected leaders will go back to the drawing board and increase internal consultation and networking with the aim of reaching out to the leadership of the insurgents and convincing them to do the needful and step out to be counted.”
Niger Delta leaders helped Yar’Adua’s Amnesty programme
The president’s aide recalled that prominent leaders of the Niger Delta such as former Information Minister, Edwin Clark; former Governor of Bayelsa State, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha; former Minister for Culture, Alabo Graham Douglas and a few others co-operated fully with the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua by visiting militant camps and persuading them to lay down their arms and allow government address their grievances in a civilized manner.
“This was the way and manner a successful amnesty programme was hatched and effected. Many local leaders and stakeholders bought into the government’s amnesty programme. It was carefully planned, properly structured and effectively implemented with co-operation and willing support of elders, stakeholders and well known and nationally acknowledged open leadership of the militants.
These include: Asari Dokubo, Boyloaf, Tompolo, Atake Tom, Tamuno George, and Soboma George to mention a few. They were clearly identified and they negotiated openly and transparently with the government.”
He continued: “It is for these reasons that there is need for a great restraint when we advocate for Amnesty for those amongst us, who have actually, through criminality engaged in wanton destruction of innocent lives, public and private property; especially when their activities are based on ethnic and religious ideologies that actually strike at the foundation of our mutual co-existence. We also need to be mindful that we have other ethnic militias in the country who have remained essentially peaceful, and who may by these calls for amnesty be encouraged to now pursue violence.
”Grandstanding, undue politicization, blackmail and insincerity will not help us as a nation. We are a nation of strong-willed, socio-culturally well-differentiated societies, with long standing historical ties, and we are one people with a clear destiny to lead Africa and the world. We must at times like this show exemplary mutual respect, affinity and cohesion strong enough to lift us together as one strong and united people, out of this quagmire and National misadventure.”
The Road To Dialogue
The issue of dialoguing with the sect and granting the members amnesty have been on and off.
At a time, the sect declared its readiness to dialogue with the government provided the parley was held in Saudi Arabia. It named prominent Nigerians such as former Head of State, Gen Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) to represent it in the talks. Buhari later distanced himself from the dialogue.
Recently, a faction of the group declared cease-fire in Maiduguri, BornoState after series of parley with the state government. The move was recanted by another faction and the violence has continued.
Thereafter, there were calls for the government to grant the sect amnesty as was done in the Niger Delta to militants. During a visit to Yobe and Borno states recently, President Jonathan punctured calls for amnesty for the group saying he could not grant amnesty to ghosts. The president’s stance was flayed in some quarters and recent waves of sustained Boko Haram attacks have been attributed to it.