Assessing the ‘ceasefire’ proposal

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Life and Issues with Tunde Thompson , [email protected], 08056180022

The news that a section of the aggrieved ‘Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’ awati wal-Jihad’ (the infamous Boko Haram Islamic sect) announced a unilateral cease-fire in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital, on January 28, is somewhat worrisome in the answers which it leaves unprovided. The first of these is why the rest of the Nigerian public and Governments have to be saddled with responsibility of handling the faction not positively disposed to the cease-fire idea.

As the group’s spokesman, Sheikh Muhammed Abudlazeez Ibn Idris (Idris henceforth), told media representatives at the briefing: “………there is a faction within us, but the larger faction is the one in support of this cease-fire move. Moreover, once top members of our group including Imam Abubakar Shekau are in support of the need for ceasefire, other smaller factions can be dealt with easily…..”

This statement is one of the reasons for being only cautiously optimistic about this professed ceasefire. Before the decision to announce the move was made, it ought to have occurred to the leaders of the movement that as long as there was no consensus among all the protagonists of destruction, killings and terrorism that there must be an end to all actions which had threatened the peace and unity of the country since the year 2009, nobody can or should see any meaningful ceasefire being in place.

It is therefore clear that the assertion that the “smaller factions can be dealt with easily”’, was merely an assumption that the government can be made to accept a ceasefire term with undefined terms regarding the commitment of both sides to making the idea workable. However enthusiastic and happy one may have wished to be over the new development, this lack of unanimity on the part of the group presents really serious problems which cast doubts on the ultimate success of the announced plan.

After all, what is the point in wasting time thinking there is any progress because one faction is smiling at a conference table with you, when the other-minded dissenters are busy killing, maiming and destroying in the affected areas? For this ceasefire proposal to work, the Nigerian polity expects nothing less than a united front on peace from those who felt disgruntled enough to take up destructive weapons against their fellow citizens.

In other words, while appreciating the intention of the ceasefire proponents under the leadership of Shekau to “stop the war now”, pausing to deal with a smaller faction while the agreement subsists, if it does, will amount to unnecessary diversion from the works of rehabilitation and reconciliation that should normally come after genuine cease-fire initiatives.

Also, the scope of negotiations regarding the ceasefire proposal is rather narrow. With some foreign governments already notifying their nationals to get out of some parts of the country because of the activities of both the pro and anti-ceasefire jihadists, it appears simplistic to have even initially limited the negotiations to the Jama’atu Allis Sunna Lidda’awati wal-Jihad top notchers and the Borno State Government. Certainly, the government headquartered in Maiduguri does not speak for the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the full participation of which cannot be ruled out of any meaningful ceasefire consideration and implementation. One imagines that, in all seriousness, an effort should have been made to broaden the representation of all sides in the negotiation processes.

Again, the issues of trustworthiness and credibility are important: Why did the public have to be reading about eight more people being either shot or slaughtered around 2a.m. in Gajiganna, only 40 kilometres from Maiduguri, the same time as the intention of embracing a ceasefire was made public last week? Did that suggest sincerity on the part of the group? Any surprise then that an anonymous Federal Government source told the Sun reporters that “from our experience, the sect is not reliable, and their words cannot be taken at face value…….”, as reported on Tuesday, January 29, at page five? Nothing, however, baffles this writer more than the love of the sect’s members for themselves, which they fail woefully to show towards their fellow citizens, which makes it really imperative to critically assess this ceasefire proposal , even if one is favorably disposed to acknowledging peace overtures, as a matter of principle.

Members of the group recognize the fact that their women and children had suffered. What about the other persons who are not related to them by religion, blood or marriage? And what about the churches that had been set on fire? And the schools destroyed in Borno State and other parts of the North? What about the assaults on the basic freedoms of worship, movement and other rights in our constitution? These issues should precede any accord on a ceasefire. Trying to be more Islamic than the Sultan of Sokoto and rushing through a ceasefire cannot solve the present problems facing the country. And that is the plain truth.

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