The Politics of Amnesty: Ghosts vs Politicians and the rest of us


FOR the purpose of this article, amnesty means general pardon being proposed for members of the Boko Haram Sect by the Federal Government. As matter of fact, the definition of a ‘ghost’ is not that clear, considering its usage in the Nigerian political scene. I must confess that though I have heard about ‘ghosts’, I have not been that fortunate to have seen one. Leaders should therefore, excuse my flight into the world of fantasy.

Many Nigerians in their benevolent disposition have called for amnesty for the murderous members of the Boko Haram Sect, piously hoping that mere call of a general pardon would signify the cessation of hostilities. These beautiful Nigerians have as a nice precedent in that amnesty granted to those clever militants of the Niger Delta.

The result was the end of attacks on the oil installations; production of oil(mainstay of the Nigerian economy) has increased from the lowly figures of 700,000 barrel per day of those war years to the present promising figures of about 2.6million barrels per day. It should be realized that uninterrupted supply of oil has made possible the monthly queue of states and local governments at Abuja for their share of the national cake.

However, the call for amnesty became more serious and emphatic when the Sultan of Sokoto, spoke. He was reported to have stated that, ‘we want to use this opportunity to call on the government, especially Mr. President, to see how he can declare total amnesty for all combatants without thinking twice; that will make any other person who picks up arms to be termed a criminal’.

The Sultan’s call was ridiculed, without perhaps that sober moment of reflection by those who see in every word traces of religion or ethnic bias. The Sultan of Sokoto, Abubakar III, the head of Muslims in Nigeria and also a Fulani, is a descendant of the illustrious Fulani Jihadist, Uthman Danfodio – the founder of the Sokoto Caliphate. The Sultan’s view was widely supported in the North.

Writing about the Fulani race, a notable Yoruba historian of the last century, Rev. Johnson noted in his History of the Yoruba,  published about 1920, that, ‘Their mere generous treatment of fallen foes and artful method of conciliating a power they could not openly crush, marked them out a superior people in the art of government’. Before I am crucified by hack writers as a Yoruba Coward, it is necessary to hear from those who have tasted the honey from Umar Yar’Adua’s Amnesty Programme.

As it has been argued in many enlightened quarters, the Jonathan administration failed to seize the initiative against the Boko Haram marauders and murderers earlier until they have now become more organized, stronger with  greater capability to strike and cause havoc,  at will. Perhaps that has been the misunderstood message of former President Obasanjo on limited military action in Odi (Bayelsa).

In his book, ‘The State And The Citizen’, J.D. Mabbott noted that , ‘In 1928 I came across two valleys in Roumania where all civilized activities had ceased, owing to the presence of  a band of brigands. Markets were empty, fields untilled, houses barricaded. The terrorized population must have numbered some thousands. The brigands were finally rounded up by the Army; they numbered thirty-five’.

A mere serious problem is that the Boko Haram insurgency in the country has been politicized beyond the realm of common sense. The opposition parties see the problem of insecurity as that of the federal government alone for President Jonathan to solve.

The serious situation is being viewed in the narrow political sense and some politicians have become paranoid and others, ambivalent. In their ‘it’s your problem, not mine attitude,’ security situation is worsening, threatening the foundation of the country. Security is a national problem and should be viewed as such by all Nigerians.

President Jonathan should be congratulated for being realistic on the question of amnesty being thrown at his doorstep. He was applauded when he told his Maiduguri audience that he could not negotiate with ‘ghosts’, but he should have known better. There are no ‘ghosts’ anywhere but real human beings who had either been killed or arrested. ‘Ghosts’ do not throw bombs or carry guns and they are still armed to pursue their act of destruction.

If there is another opportunity to dialogue and put a lasting end to disastrous insurgency, this is the time. A gate is now opened to bring happiness and help to the innocent and unfortunate victims of the Boko Haram evil gangs while at the same time evolve a mechanism for curbing or preventing future acts of terrorism.

This is a case for all Nigerians and not for a particular party that has not shown enough capacity to solve the power problem in the last fourteen years. The simple truth is that it might be too late before the Opposition is organized and strong enough to provide an alternative and better government.

And for the rest of us, there is still hope.  Nigerians love and believe in the efficacy of prayers – a former Head of State is reputed to be a ‘Prayer Warrior’, and so are many politicians. The country is deep in the ocean of political, social and economic turbulence, begging for salvation. The government and the opposition preach the same sermon of prosperity and security. But how? That is the dilemma at the moment. Apart from Boko Haram insurgency, there are other problems of armed robberies, kidnappings, ritual killings and random killings by ‘unknown gunmen’.

Many analysts attribute these criminal activities to one cardinal problem – POVERTY. This is by itself is a product of mass unemployment arising out of continuous application of wrong economic policies or right economic policies at the wrong time. May God bless the country with visionary leadership.


By Adisa Adeleye (via Vanguard)

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