Wednesday, March 6, 2013

There we go, again!

There we go, again! According to news reports, “The Sultan of Sokoto yesterday urged President Goodluck Jonathan to use the opportunity of his visit to Maiduguri scheduled for tomorrow to grant amnesty to Boko Haram fighters in order to restore peace in the North.” I am anguished to read that a fellow human being wants amnesty for the cold-blooded hounds who are referred to as Boko Haram—mass murderers who have sent so many innocent souls, including children, to their untimely deaths. 

Evoking the term, "amnesty" is to make a caricature of and suggest an unwarranted moral equivalency between Boko Haram's terrorism and the conduct of Biafran freedom fighters, who fought for about 3 years to try to ward off ground and air military offensives from the federal side during Nigeria's civil war (1967 to 1970). The Biafrans also had to deal with a federal naval food blockade. The war followed a pogrom against the Igbos in northern Nigeria which cost about 30,000 lives. Due to the pogrom, the segment of Nigeria that seceded and proclaimed itself the Republic of Biafra did so because it felt that the security of its members could no longer be guaranteed within the geographical and jurisdictional confines of Nigeria. 

Despite revisionist histories that we have read since the end of the Nigerian-Biafran civil war, it was this general loss of faith in the ability or will of the Nigerian nation to guarantee the safety of Southeasterners in other geographical parts of Nigeria that caused Igbos, in particular, to demand--through mass demonstrations--that their political leaders should proclaim a separate nation that came to be known as the Republic of Biafra. Contrary to revisionist histories, the late General Odumegwu Ojukwu succumbed to that demand. He did not necessarily spear-head that mass movement for secession; he bowed to it! Such was the tension and mass fury within Igboland (over the dastardly slaughter of their kith and kin in the North) in those days that any person who publicly opposed what became a grassroots yearning for secession from Nigeria would most probably have been publicly lynched!!!

The ensuing war waged by the federal side to crush what was called the Biafran rebellion was really meant to secure oil interests that are situated within the southeast. “Keeping Nigeria one” was a slogan used to mask this federal lust for oil. About one million lives, mostly those of Igbos, were lost as a result of the war. A sizeable proportion of the deaths occurred due to starvation and kwashiorkor caused by the federal food blockade.

When the Biafrans surrendered in 1970, the then Nigerian Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon announced a general amnesty for the former Biafrans with his "no victor, no vanquished" proclamation. That was the sensible and pragmatic thing to do! Without that proclamation, and had the federal government pursued a policy of vengeance and reprisal against the former Biafrans, the Nigerian nation most probably would have wasted vital national time waging what most surely would have turned into an endless guerrilla warfare. Secondly, a reprisal policy would not have earned the victorious federal side accolades from the international community. So, Gowon acted wisely and humanely by proclaiming that general amnesty—an amnesty that perhaps tacitly acknowledged the wrongs that the Nigerian nation had done to the Igbos by not protecting them from the fangs of raging and wild mass murderers during the bloody pogrom. The story of the military coups and counter-coups of the 1960s that transpired during this infamous and ugly time in Nigerian history is all too well known. Civilization demands that the individuals who are responsible for specific crimes or specific political killings are the ones to be held accountable. It’s a mark of barbarism for one group of people to begin to slaughter another group because someone or a set of persons from the targeted group are believed to be responsible for political killings that happened during a military coup. It has always been my opinion that shedding blood need not be a necessary step for actualizing a military coup. Furthermore, it’s also my opinion that military coups must not be seen or accepted as an appropriate means of securing political power. Sovereignty belongs to the people, period! Well, pardon me for that little digression. 

Now, in getting back to the main subject of this blog, I dare say that it’s obvious that Boko Haram did not experience any pogrom; Boko Haram was not forced to flee from one part of Nigeria to another in order to escape mass murders of its religious group by any Nigerian side--as happened to the Igbos. Instead, Boko Haram has been carrying out unprovoked massacres of innocent Nigerians who happen to not share its religious preferences and who also happen to have committed a sin of being regarded as indigenous to other parts of Nigeria than the north. It's favorite point of attack is its victims' place of worship. So, what in God's name, qualifies these blood-thirsty, hate-filled hounds for amnesty? If that happens, the International Criminal Court should step in! Does appeasement quell terrorism? The late President Ronald Reagan once talked about his doctrine of “peace through strength.” I think his doctrine makes a lot of sense in a world in which the weak is invariably vulnerable and is more often than not trampled upon by those who believe that they can do so and get away with it! I fear that rewarding terrorists with amnesty may serve as a tempting invitation to others to follow their example because in the final analysis, the powers-that-be would “amnesticize" them, and thus, absolve them of responsibility for their deliberate bloody acts of inhumanity against fellow men and women.