Senator David Mark
• Parents of students protest in N'Assembly
Senate President David Mark Tuesday said he had changed his position on previous calls for dialogue with Boko Haram, adding that it was time to confront the insurgents with a full scale war.
Mark, who made this declaration after a debate on the abduction of 234 girls from Government Secondary School, Chibok, Borno State, said given the absurdity demonstrated by the insurgents in recent times, they should be the ones begging for dialogue when the battle is hot.
His position coincided with the protest by parents of the yet-to-be-found 181 girls, who stormed the National Assembly yesterday, demanding the return of their daughters.
The senate president described yesterday’s motion as the most emotional issue ever debated since his membership of the Senate in 1999.
“I have spent many years in the Senate here and I'm not sure there is any motion that has had so much emotional touch as this one. I think Ndume just managed to hold himself and the three senators who spoke also. I think the issue is not so much as to whether Boko Haram is even in the country now or not, but that 234 girls could disappear and up till now, none has been rescued. The 53 who are back escaped on their own.
“The story that Ndume narrated about soldiers going in the wrong direction when they got the information is a clear indication of what we are in for. The people we are dealing with are well trained. They are not terrorists, they are insurgents.
“All along, we have been reactive; if we are not proactive, we cannot deal with it. I have been in the forefront of saying we must dialogue with them but I think we must take the battle to a level where they must beg for dialogue. We cannot do this unless the locals on the ground there cooperate with members of the armed forces,” he said.
Earlier, while welcoming his colleagues back after the Easter break, Mark had condemned the attempts by some persons or groups to resort to name calling over the matter, saying the matter at stake required the cooperation of all and was not an opportunity by any group or individuals to score cheap political points.
He said the insurgents had declared full scale war against Nigeria with the intention to destroy it and called for what he described as a full military response beyond a mere declaration of emergency.
“There is no doubt that our nation is at war. The enemy has clearly and unequivocally served the nation notice of its vile intentions. Therefore, a clear, unambiguous and decisive military response from the government, beyond the imposition of a state of emergency, is urgently required in this circumstance. This is an option we must consider now.
“It is obvious that we are dealing with insurgents and well-funded nihilists who are determined to violently trample upon the secularity of the Nigerian State and destroy the country. A modern, vibrant, progressive, multi-ethnic, multi-religious Nigeria is an anathema to them.
“Because they are fired by zealotry and extremism, they are not likely to be swayed by overtures of any kind. We must henceforth shift from fighting terrorism to fighting insurgency.
“Our emphasis must therefore be on winning the hearts and minds of the communities in the immediate theatres of conflict. The full might and strength of our security services must now be deployed to confront this scourge and we expect our security services to rapidly re-orient their assets and capabilities so as to overcome this difficult challenge.
“And this must be done within the shortest possible time frame with minimal casualties. Let me emphasise that for them to achieve this they require the cooperation of all and sundry.
“The government must do all it can to immediately identify the sponsors and the source of funds to the terrorists and the insurgents. In this connection, nobody who is implicated, no matter how highly placed, should be treated as a sacred cow.
“The breadth and scope of this assault on the Nigerian state makes for sombre reading; places of worship have been violated; pupils have been brutally murdered en masse in their dormitories; schoolgirls have been brutalised and kidnapped from their schools; police stations and army barracks have been attacked and incinerated; lives and properties have been destroyed and whole communities uprooted and made refugees in their own country,” Mark stated in his call to arms.
The senate president amid a protest by scores of traumatised parents of the abducted students who stormed the National Assembly, demanding that their daughters be immediately rescued.
They were dressed in black and carried placards containing emotion-laden inscriptions and decried the continued hostage of their innocent daughters by the insurgents.
They also expressed grave concern that their daughters might have been violated, as the leader of the psychologically traumatised parents, Mrs. Duomi Mukhtar, said they were in the National Assembly to further draw the attention of the whole world to their anguish.
She called on the leadership of both chambers of National Assembly to demonstrate concern for their plights by asking the federal government as well as the military authorities to ensure that their daughters are immediately rescued.
They were addressed by Senators Helen Esuene, Zainab Kure, Barnabas Gemade and Ali Ndume, on behalf of Mark who was presiding over the plenary at the time.
The senators assured the women of their full support and determination to encourage the federal government to ensure the safe release of their children.
Ndume said: “Our thoughts and prayers go to all of you because we are one of you. We stand united in grief with you in your hour of pain, agony and anxiety. We will do everything possible to make sure that the kidnappers release our daughters immediately and unconditionally.”
Also, speaking, the Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs. Zainab Maina, who was also present at the venue, urged the mothers to be prayerful, assuring them that the federal government and military authorities would ensure that the innocent girls are reconnected with their parents in the no distant future.