Life and Issues with Tunde Thompson
“Terminating innocent lives through terrorist acts is primitive, so perpetrators and sponsors of terrorism through Boko Haram cannot be anything but uncivilized.” Those were the words President Goodluck Jonathan uttered in Dutse on Tuesday, November 6, during a two – day visit to Jigawa State.
And they left anybody who thought the Federal Government was prepared to bend over backwards by accepting any conditions of settlement pronounced by the sect, amply informed that the Government was unwilling to take dictation from any quarters on ways and means of restoring peace to some parts of Northern Nigeria which Boko Haram had turned into theatres of war in the past three years.
While announcing their readiness for a ceasefire at Maiduguri on November 1, the group had given some conditions for peace: That the Federal Government must arrest and prosecute Borno State’s ex-Governor, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, and that the families of its group members who had been killed must be compensated and that “their property destroyed during encounters with security agents” must be rebuilt.
They also named those to represent them during the peace negotiations as well as prominent figures of northern extraction and Islamic faith who they would like to be involved in handling the dialogue with the Federal Government. Their spokesman, Abu Mohammed Ibn Abdulaziz, said the sect believed it was “time to end this thing (attacks and killings)”, and that they had lost many members “while fighting the cause of Allah,” adding: “If the Federal Government means peace, we will want compensation especially for most of our members killed, our properties and belongings destroyed, so as to resettle our families. But then, we prefer to have the dialogue in Saudi Arabia Insha Allah because we have seen this dishonesty and insincerity on the part of the Federal Government…”
Those who see wisdom in the ceasefire signal believe that this is an opportunity which the Federal Government should seize without hesitation. For example, the Sardauna Samaru, in the Zazzau Emirate Council of Zaria, Kaduna State, Alhaji Mohammed Bello, welcomed the payment of compensation to Boko Haram, noting that if that would ensure peace and stability to the country, then the Federal Government should do so.
In his own words: “We are interested in what will bring peace to the country and if compensating Boko Haram family members will bring peace, so be it.” While not disputing the need for peace, it is necessary to consider the actions of the sect since 2009 to verify whether or not the mere fact of compensating their members for lives lost and property destroyed, is all that is necessary to guarantee long-lasting peace in the country.
The attacks and killings as well as destruction of public and private property by the Boko Haram, no less than their public statements proclaiming their Jihadist intentions, reveal that this is not a problem which requires only money for a solution. When the lives of fellow citizens are given less value than those of rams and fowls and people act without showing any love and consideration of the welfare of fellow citizens,which have since become standard practices in the modern world, any charge such as the one from the President cannot but be regarded as justifiable and fair.
The fact remains that the major grouse of the “rebels” is the wrong they felt was done against them in 2009 when their leader, Mohammed Yusuf, was killed in police custody. As Abduaziz said on November 1, “If this former governor (Senator Ali Sheriff) is arrested, this thing (attack) will end.” Why then do they have to resort to the killing of innocent souls and asking Christians to move away from one part of the country to another instead of piling up pressure on the various governments for justice as perceived by them?
And if the N100million and other sums provided as compensation before now were considered insufficient, did they need to resort to an orgy of deaths and destruction to make legitimate demands for an upward review? As far as one is concerned, the Federal Government needs no special negotiations with them to take a decision on their allegations against Sheriff and other causes of their subsisting anger. We also do not need to embark on a jamboree, going all the way to Saudi Arabia at public expense, to offer complaints or admit that some persons were killed unjustly. The laws already have consequences stipulated for such undesirable behavior.
No harm would have been done between 2009 and now if a well-respected judge (serving or retired), had been put at the head of a powerful judicial inquiry to thoroughly investigate the unfortunate developments. One can now recall listening to a discussion on the matter. Someone had said Yusuf should not have been killed in custody as he was kept there to be produced during any scheduled hearing in court. The reply was: “Why? Most of those people taken into police custody after commiting all sorts of atrocities eventually get to the courts only to be discharged and acquitted. Sometimes, they do not even get tried in court because some eminent personalities in society often intervene them to get them released, on the promise that they would personally rebuke them for their actions.”
That fellow ended up presenting a stout defence of extra-judicial killing, which most people around the world find revolting because those who truly believe in the rule of law will normally not allow such actions in their environments. Even now, it is not too late for remedial actions to be taken on what was done wrongly three years ago. It will obviously not be unwise to respond to all previous appeals for the appropriate legal steps to be taken on what Abdulaziz said during the proposed ceasefire announcement in Maiduguri: “We are highly offended due to what happened three years ago with reference to the killing of Mohammed Yusuf, leader of the sect.”
Certainly, the Federal Government headed by President Jonathan could not have given an order that the sect leader be killed in custody(at least no member of the sect made such an allegation), and it is rather baffling that instead of empanelling competent and trustworthy jurists to ascertain “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth” on that issue about which some people have very strong feelings, the Boko Haram members have been left to carry on with their one sided “war” against the Nigerian State,which many regard in all seriousness as an act of treason.
The least the Federal Government can do now is to make it less attractive for Boko Haram to seek justification of its war by claiming that it is punishing the State because the State “failed to right a wrong done by its citizens”, as philosophers like Augustine and Aquinas contended in their ethical reflections on the justness or otherwise of wars. The group had made it clear that it was avenging the injuries suffered in 2009 by resorting to killings and destruction of property, but has not done anything yet to explain why it has since been killing Christians and also a few fellow Islamists, in different parts of Northern Nigeria.
Roman Catholics appear to have been the main targets as witnessed on December 25 at Madalla, Niger State, and October 28, in the Mallali area of Kaduna, Kaduna State. Are they telling the world that Christians have no place in their own concept of the Nigerian State? Or that Nigerians with alternative views and faiths must take orders from them? Any civilized person must acknowledge and respect the basic human rights, especially those of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, especially all those “Fundamental Rights” enshrined in Chapter Four of our constitution, including the “right of life; dignity of the human person, and right to personal liberty,” as well as aspire to live up to the values outlined in the U.N.’s “Universal Declaration of Human Rights”, which pre-dated the constitution. Without hatred and bigotry, those expectations can easily be met by well-meaning individuals, anywhere in the world