Hard Questions Government Must Answer, By Garba Shehu

The perplexing truce reached between the Jonathan
administration and the Boko Haram insurgents highlights
challenges that Abuja can’t afford to down-play. With the
whole thing appearing like it is unravelling, people are asking
whether anyone was right to have given any weight to the
ceasefire in the first instance.
I have argued with the deaf on this page on the need for
dialogue as the way of resolving the crisis of security in the
North East. Government initially wasn’t interested. In a
country saddled with insurgency, security guards are still being
used by the ruling party to signal their clout and importance.
No politician is considered as important without a gunman
behind him. Where did this policy earthquake come from? To
what effect?
There are many who think of the truce as being weird. Judging
by the international standard of behavior of nations, no
government would sign a truce with insurgents. The norm, as
they argue, is that you either quell them or force them into
surrender. The ones we are dealing with are challenging the
corporate state by laying a claim to territory. As a terrorist
organization, as defined by the Security Council in addition to
a host of other nations, the Boko Haram , according to this line
of argument lacks a legal status on which to sign a truce with
the Nigerian State; that the Nigerian government would be
legitimizing them by signing such agreement. Has Nigeria
conceded the territory they have seized?
Questions have arisen from several quarters in Nigeria and
abroad since the agreement was reached: what did the
government and the Boko Haram agree upon? Who and who sat
on opposite sides of the table? Who signed for whom? Where is
the document?
A truce by definition is the cessation of hostilities for a period
of time. For how long is this one intended to last? What
constitutes a breach under the terms of the agreement? As its
is, barely 24 hours after the so-called agreement, Boko Haram
have had a very successful run over five Borno villages, killing
eighteen persons and taking yet more territory. Does this
violate the truce or not?
Thirdly, government, as argued by many, should speak to
citizens and the world about, not only the nature of the
agreement but the guarantees that would ensure compliance by
both parties. Were there witnesses to the agreement? Who
were these? We know, for instance there are a lot of
stakeholders in this war. Did they call the ECOWAS, the
African Union and the United Nations, all of which are
interested parties? There are, in addition, several foreign
countries that have committed men and resources to the war.
You have the United States, United Kingdom, France and Israel
for instance that have supported Nigeria with intelligence and
weaponry. How much of this truce do they know?
Inside the Nigerian government, we have a Minister of
Defence. He has not said anything about the truce. His silence
is deafening. We have Ministers of Internal Affairs and
Information. None of these has uttered a word. All you have so
far are non-cabinet members – a Principal Secretary to the
President, the Chief of Defence Staff and the head of the
propaganda arm of government, the National Orientation
Agency going up and down speaking on the truce. Where do
these men stand in any serious government?
In addition to these, we have the National Security Adviser,
with vast powers under the Constitution. He has been abroad
trying to a sell a package for soft approach. How does that
dovetail to the truce? Did he participate in the negotiation?
Did anyone remember to call in the National Assembly? The
Yet another question is about the status of the emergency rule
in three states, which is in place very much against the wishes
of the ordinary people resident in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa.
Are you lifting it to ease its hardship on the people?
How about the USD1Billion government has collected as loan,
with the specific purpose of fighting the insurgency? What
happens to the money? Gone with the wind?
And then, what follows after the truce? What are the social
interventions they are planning in the area? Now, five years
down the road, government suddenly comes to terms with the
fact that the hard approach isn’t working. Why didn’t it
work? Who is accountable for this? What guarantee is there
that the soft approach will work?
Questions, questions and questions.
As the 2015 elections come close with arrows flying, sharper
and faster and the PDP facing flak for running an ineffective
government, what are they going to tell Nigerians to dispel
widespread assumptions that the truce is a ploy to give Dr.
Jonathan a breather and lift his profile?
This is a government after all that had squarely placed the
blame for the insurgency on Northern conspiracy, an idiotic
logic that flies on the face of the fact that Northerners –
Christians and Muslims are the principal victims of this
senseless violence. Is this whole thing electoral politics?

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