Polscope with Eddy Odivwri
Many heaved a sigh of relief penultimate Tuesday when President Goodluck Jonathan finally summoned the courage to do the needful: declaring a state of emergency in three northern states troubled by the murderous acts of the Boko Haram Islamic sect. Even many more wondered why the President held back this option all along, while the Boko Haram members had a field day killing innocent persons at will, including even security agents. The declaration of the state of emergency on the three states of Borno, Yobe and Adamawa were thus hailed, almost roundly. That is why there was a rave of condemnation of the opposition parties when they tried to pooh-pooh the action of the federal government. And every passing day, the action of the federal government has been lauded.
And for a good measure, the military action in the affected states have proven to be very exciting, as they have truly “pounded” and raided the several training camps and hibernation grounds of the Boko Haram members, so much that they have been seeking how to flee Nigeria. Many Nigerians are happy that at last, the State is demonstrating capacity in reclaiming parts of the north from the sect which had literally seized it, what with the strange flags that had been hoisted in those “conquered territories”. But it all bore a streak of irony. Here was a country that deployed a chunk of her army to go and reclaim northern Mali from a bunch of insurgents, whereas its own northern block was under the siege of another brand of insurgents. It was the case of a doctor not being able to cure himself. But after the mindless massacre of its security agents across several states, in differing circumstances, the federal government finally got the kick and decided to rise to the occasion. And the Commander-in-Chief, commanded the army
In one week, the Joint Task Force and Special Military Operation in the states, have thus far, stuck to the rules of engagement. In fact, the stringent conditions imposed on the people were already being relaxed. Some sense of normalcy was gradually returning to the states, albeit faintly. And hope was rising that in no time, the foes would have been completely routed and ravished by the unsparing actions of the military.
And suddenly, there is a stud. The Federal Government decides to release some detained terrorists, staring from women and children and then a select number of those who had been arrested and detained all the while. It was shocking. In just one week, the government seems to be undoing its own actions. Why order the release of suspects when the war has indeed just begun? The Chief of Army Staff, apparently taking the directive of the C-in-C, explains that the release of the suspects will be in phases. What phases? Why the release? The Conflict resolution committee, headed by the Special Duties minister, Mallam Kabiru Turaki had recommended that the release will facilitate dialogue with the Boko Haram members. Yet, just three days ago, he was yet pleading with those who have contact with the sect members to link the committee up with them.
That means that his dialogue has not even commenced. So who gave the release of the detainees as a condition for the dialogue? These are the same people who rebuffed the amnesty offer. What is the guaranty that they have become remorseful for all the atrocities they committed? What is the assurance that after the release they will not join force with other sect members to inflict deeper cuts on the taunted flesh of innocent Nigerians? What is the guaranty that the so-called rehabilitation scheme by state governments to whom they will be released, will indeed rehabilitate them? What indeed is the content of the rehabilitation scheme? Why the haste to offer this Good Samaritan gesture? Is it all about the so-called 2015 politics? Is it all to make the President appear friendly to the north so they can vote for him in 2015?
Pray, amnesty or no amnesty, the guys arrested must have committed a crime against the state. If no case has been established against them, they should be released. But if otherwise, I guess there should be restraint in wiping away their “sins”, so the impression is not given that no matter how murderous you are, the state, somehow, will set you free someday.
Pray, what happens to the soul and families of those killed in Madalla, in Kano, in Kaduna, in Adamawa, in Minna, in Kogi? Won’t the bodies of those killed writhe in greater pain to hear that those who maliciously killed them have been released by the same state who promised to protect everyone? How unfair we are to the dead!
Yes, for peace to come, there must be some compromise. But that has to be conditioned on some variables. And one such variable must be remorse and penitence. Even some of the arrested terrorists are still baying for more blood, even in custody. One of them, the other day was threatening the man who came to bear witness against him in court, with death. That explains why many of the witnesses have been testifying wearing masks.
The release of these categories of persons, I fear, will further endanger society, as they may go after those whom they perceive had helped to trade them in, including security operatives, neighbours or just anybody they suspect. It is like releasing a notorious armed robber back into the society. He will always be a troubler of the community.
Dr Doyin Okupe, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, has explained that the release will be in phases and that the detainees will be treated on their own merits. I don’t know what the merit will be. There is what is called accessory to crime. Those who have aided and abetted the attacks on innocent people should be made to face the music. Even minors found culpable should be given “minor’s punishment”. More than 30 per cent of the war in Liberia was fought by minors. Those proven to be wrongly arrested or detained should be allowed to go.
I don’t mind either the amnesty plan or the ongoing dialogue. But the Federal Government must demonstrate strength of character and firmness by allowing the rule of law to prevail, even on suspected terrorists.
The presidential order to release the suspects smacks of haste, powered by inner fear or lack of courage, to allow the law squeeze the guilty.
We can only sit back and watch and see the wisdom or folly in this gesture, especially as the template of the rehabilitation is unknown and unsure.