The challenge is whether the presidential committee set up to reach out and dialogue with Boko-Haram is relevant and needed. Let me back up and say that Boko-Haram is a complex organisation linked to a larger issue beyond its objective to ‘Islamise’ Nigeria or ‘refute’ Western Education.
At the end of the cold war era, 2 civilizations and ideologies were pitted one against the other, the west (U.S.A) and the east (USSR). There developed a need to fill what Hans Morgantheu eloquently described as the power vacuum. Reagan and Thatcher filled the space by the building of a new ideology about the Evil Empire whose spread created the Mujahidin and Taliban and gave rise to Osama Bin Laden. Very soon this new ideological divide pitted the Christian (West) and Islamic Arabia and parts of the Indian sub continent against each other.
The next story is the rise of Osama Bin Laden and eventually he takes refuge at Bora Bora until captured by the U.S in Pakistan. As Al-Qaeda found Pakistan and Afghanistan too hot, having lost many senior officials, it moved to Yemen, Egypt, Algeria and now Mali .Morocco was unaffected as it is a moderate Sunni State. AL-Qaeda easily found fertile ground in Northern Nigeria where Boko-Haram was beginning to take hold. With training and funds Boko-Haram will not be interested in Amnesty, until the insurgency in Mali is put down by African Union forces, compromising Nigerian troops. I am not surprised that Boko -Haram has rejected Amnesty offers, as links to Al Qaeda compensate.
The challenge Nigeria faces is how to isolate Al-Qaeda from Boko-Haram, and how to give the poor and unfortunate idle boys (Almajiri) an opportunity to work and provide. But by far the biggest challenge is engaging Boko-Haram and building confidence to lay down arms.
Some say, why should the government go through all this trouble in view of Boko-Haram’s record. But I disagree. It is in our enlightened self interest to make Nigeria stable. You sometimes stoop to gain. I support amnesty but think Governments approach is wrong. Many of those appointed to the committee to dialogue with Boko-Haram are not qualified. The best qualified person is Shehu Sani but he rejected his nomination because nobody consulted with him before the appointment. I actually spoke to him a couple of hours before the committee was named.
I was shocked that nobody in government had spoken to him, inspite of the fact that he took Obasanjo to Boko Haram, when Obasanjo attempted to intervene. Boko Haram can come to the table but we have to get it right. It is in our interest. More important is the ultimate lesson in all of this – we are to gain substantially if government will lead a genuine process for a new constitution that recogonises that Nigeria’s future existence will depend on a new political system, built around 6 or more geopolitical zones. And with this, should be extensive devolution of powers from the central government to the regions.