‘Boko Haram Insurgency Not A Religious War’


Chief Paul Iyorpuu Unongo, elder statesman and spokesperson of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF), tells ADAMU ABUH why the proposed amnesty to members of the Boko Haram could bring to an end the bloodshed in the polity.

DOES it make sense to dialogue with people who take the laws into their hands?

Did we not dialogue with criminals even here in Nigeria? In the First World War, those people who caused war for the whole world and cost the death of millions, didn’t we dialogue, as human beings, with the criminals that eliminated almost eight million Jews? How did the war end? Was it killing of all the Germans?

Why do Nigerians want Mr. President to fail, lying to him that these are religious problems? I am a Christian and as a Christian, why is Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor lying to the president that it is a war against Christians even when large numbers of Muslims are killed?

Boko Haram is a more complex phenomenon and they should leave President Jonathan alone. He is on the right track.

This is not a religious war. The Muslims in Kano, the Muslims in Borno, the Muslims in Yobe all hate Boko Haram more than you do because Boko Haram has wreaked such havoc on their families: they have lost their wives, they have lost their monies, they have lost their trade, and they have lost everything they had. How can they support Boko Haram?

I am from the North; I come from Makurdi, Gboko in Tiv land. I am a northerner and they say northerners are killing people. These are agent provocateurs; these are enemies of Nigeria; these are people pushing Jonathan to make a mistake. The problem of Boko Haram is a problem of terrorism.

Niger Delta militants were considered criminals yet, we dialogued with them and we got results. When we sent soldiers to go and kill people in Odi and we killed them, they fought back and eventually produced all kinds of militants equipped with proper arms. Did that action end the fighting in the Niger Delta through killing of all the people of Niger Delta?

If the Nigerian nation wanted to commit genocide, they would have killed everybody in the Niger Delta, but would it have been the solution?

It was the President, unknown to many of us, that was pivotal to the solution of the Niger Delta problem. He went and talked to the people that were the criminals and killing people and he convinced them by talking. So, what is wrong in talking to the people that come from other parts of Nigeria in the North and give them a chance to have a change of heart? You wouldn’t know what would happen until you give them that chance to change their heart.

Why would the Christianity come into this as if it is a Christian matter when the evidence on the ground is so emphatically convincing that these people, who are opposed to dialogue and amnesty, are the main enemies of Nigeria?

Mr. President has a serious problem of terrorism in the country on his hands, which is much bigger than all the thieves in Nigeria, much bigger than all the enemies of Nigeria, much bigger than all the people who want this country harmed and have bought in this problem. The people arrested by the police, are they only Muslims? Some of them are Christians.

Can there be negotiations with a faceless group as Boko Haram, as against the case of the Niger Delta militants that were identifiable?

We told the President that if we create conditions and define the conditions of amnesty and there is protection and there is the sort of things we provided the people of the Niger Delta, we could negotiate with them.

You can’t end a war by perpetual war, which is the theory presented to the President by the president of the Christian association of Nigeria (CAN) because he doesn’t want the President to talk to the warring people. He wants soldiers to kill them, finish them.

These people (Boko Haram) tie bombs around themselves, ready to be blown up; do they care about their lives?

They see innocent people in the church, in the mosque and with their children, with their wives, in universities, in their homes, and they tie bombs around their bodies, and when they go (on their mission), who do they kill first? They kill themselves first.

They press the button and blow themselves up and it becomes a bomb. Do they care if you kill them? Can you solve the problem by killing them? How many would you kill?

Those people, who make the president feel he can get solution by killing them, are naive. I am a psychologist; I know the human mind; and I taught it in the university. When you make somebody feel that there is worth in what you are doing, even if you don’t believe in him, let’s talk, they need to be encouraged to talk.

Security operatives have arrested many of their leaders; so, what is so difficult in talking to the leaders that you have arrested? We have jailed a lot of them; we have tortured a lot of them; they are still in our cells; why not talk to them?

If we can talk to the militants in the Niger Delta, why would it be difficult to talk to those from the upper part of Nigeria? Is it because Nigeria’s oil comes from the Niger Delta? As Nigerians, we can dialogue and tell ourselves the home truths.

Yet, terrorists in the Niger Delta are still killing innocent persons..?

But it has reduced. Some of those that were killing people then are today big moneyed men that that the Federal Government rehabilitated; they are happy today. They took their money and told their people that this thing was for real and the majority of them listened to them.

You can’t get 100 per cent in matters of human problems. Today, oil production has resumed and there is stability in the region. This shows that the policy is a success. All we need to do is to refine the policy and apply it to the insurgency in the North.

Those who say the Boko Haram insurgents are faceless are liars; they are the tribal jingoists and enemies of Nigeria.

Have you come in contact with some of the Boko Haram insurgents?

Well, let me talk about myself; I am not in contact with them. But if the President tasks me to use my professional knowledge, I will tell him that you know some of them. I will advise him there are some in detention.

It is not only out there that you can recruit. The people in the intelligence service should have given him the advice on what to do. Sometimes, the American CIA recruits people without them knowing.

So, we could have used our mind (intelligence) to recruit the people we have in the detention centres. We could work on their minds. If we like, we can indoctrinate them and it can be done. And then, we use them as a point of contact to the larger group.

Is there any nexus between power shift to the South and Boko Haram insurgency?

There is nothing like that; I repeat, there is nothing of that nature. Those who think that way are crazy. They are bombing everybody. If they get an opportunity to bomb me, they would do it.

I have heard some people saying it is Buhari doing this (unprovoked attacks) because he couldn’t become president. When the first bombing incident occurred in Abuja, we later got to know those that masterminded it.

Even Oritsejafor, in a lecture somewhere told the President that Boko Haram came because they didn’t want him to govern Nigeria. These are the types of people that should be arrested and detained for thinking along that divisive line.

There was amnesty to the Niger Delta militants; now, we don’t want to extend the same treatment to the Boko Haram insurgents. Are we not laying a bad precedent?

There is nothing in Nigeria like the next time. We didn’t sit and decide that there should be Niger Delta militants; we didn’t sit and decide that there should be Boko Haram; we didn’t sit to decide that there should be kidnapping; the criminals did it; the zealots did it.

I wish there is no more insurgency in Nigeria. The problem is that I have been so baffled with Nigeria. Why do we react whenever there is a problem? Haven’t we reached the time that we should be proactive and provide for the intelligence, as we see happen in Europe, so that we can have intelligence available to the head of government so that he can harmlessly tackle any problem that may affect the country?

Why can’t we do that? Is it because our skin is black that we wait until people kill others before we come and confront the problems before us? It’s unfortunate that everything in Nigeria has been politicised and this is why we are having problem talking about our problems.

If America that can annihilate North Korea in a matter of seconds from the face of the earth is exploring dialogue, why can’t we dialogue with the Boko Haram insurgents to bring to an end the mayhem they are unleashing on the country?

Source http://www.ngrguardiannews.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=118671:boko-haram-insurgency-not-a-religious-war&catid=73:policy-a-politics&Itemid=607

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