MALACHY UZENDU, Deputy Editor, Abuja
CURRENTLY, Nigeria is on suspended animation. Information concerning the cease fire agreement signed between government and the Islamic sect, Boko Haram has elicited mixed reactions; while a section of the society welcomes the idea, the vast majority do not believe the ‘Haram’ boys have any modicum of respect in the agreement which, in any case, they have never claimed to have signed.
So, the entire issue of cease fire is seen by many as either a ploy by their sponsors to use the period of the moratorium to re-stock their arsenal, or plan more deadly and coordinated attacks aimed at humiliating the nation.
The agreement said to have been signed in Saudi Arabia, but perfected in Chad is generally believed to be more of a “Greek gift” and so, should be treated with the highest level of suspicion. This is especially so as the leaders of the sect still maintained anonymous identity. They have also remained taciturn as far as the “cease fire” is concerned. Following this development, questions have been raised to the fact that “having signed this agreement with these ghost personalities, can anybody among the sect members be held responsible for any breach on the part of the sect”?
This optimism was immediately provided concrete support as the Boko Haram, less than 24 hours, violated the agreement, attacking and killing people. Reports say that no less than 20 Boko Haram fighters in two pick-up vans, stormed Maikadiri in Abadam local government area in the northern parts of Borno state last Friday evening shooting ‘mercilessly into homes’.
According to the reports, “a member of the local vigilance group, Adam Kolo, who witnessed it all, stated that the sect had shown that there was no cease fire agreement with the latest attack. He informed that the insurgents killed the father of the former Speaker of the Borno State House of Assembly, Alhaji Goni Ali-Modu.
Another indigene of the attacked communities, Masta Ibrahim, lent credence to the statement in Maiduguri when he told journalists that, “My parents were there and my brother called from Monguno to inform me early this morning (last week Friday) but we couldn’t get across to our aged parents”.
Similar reports also informed that in a renewed attack on Shaffa, Hawul local government area, south of Maiduguri last Saturday morning, scores of Boko Haram insurgents rode to a village near the town in the early hours of the day, shooting indiscriminately.
“Eight people were killed,” according to a resident, Elijah Msheliza. He corroborated that many of the residents of the town had fled into the bush for fear of being killed by the insurgents, who, it seemed, have gained advantage by the withdrawal of Soldiers from several strategic places in respect to the cease fire agreement reached.
Msheliza said: “There was pandemonium in Shaffa as Boko Haram invaded the nearby village, shooting at everybody at sight. We had to flee into the bush and as I am talking to you, many of us are taking refuge in the bush,” he was quoted to have said. Shaffa is about 230 kilometres from Maiduguri.
Prophetic as those who doubted the Boko Haram side in the agreement, the French President François Hollande welcomed the ceasefire and maintained that the Chibok schoolgirls release was imminent. Said he: “Boko Haram have said they will free these young girls and we have information that this will happen in the coming hours or days”. Holande spoke at a meeting at the OECD in Paris.
The ceasefire agreement was announced by the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh at the end of the two-day Coordinating Conference on Cameroon-Nigeria Trans-Border Military Operations at the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA), Headquarters in Abuja. He however, did not name those who represented Boko Haram so as to make Nigerians ascertain whether the Haram boys were posting an alibi or not.
But, the peace deal came on the heels of the confirmation by the Director-General of National Orientation Agency (NOA) and Coordinator, National Information Centre (NIC), Mr. Mike Omeri, that the abducted Chibok schoolgirls were hale and hearty. While the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe, attributed the success of the deal with Boko Haram to President Goodluck Jonathan’s shuttle diplomacy to Niger and Chad Republic. On his part, the Borno state governor, Alhaji Kassim Shettima welcomed the ceasefire, describing it as “a most welcome development”. Shettima said: “We hope it leads to a long lasting peace in Borno State and the nation as a whole. It can help us to facilitate the process of reconciliation, rehabilitation and development”.
Badeh however disclosed that the ceasefire agreement with the terrorists would not affect the accord reached with Cameroon for joint security border operations. But, he directed all the service chiefs to comply with the new ceasefire agreement.
Said he: “Without any prejudice to the outcome of our three-day interactions and the conclusions of this forum, I wish to inform this audience that a ceasefire agreement has been concluded between the federal government of Nigeria and the Ahlul Sunna Li Daawa Wal Jihad (Boko Haram).I have accordingly directed the service Chiefs to ensure immediate compliance with this development in the field”.
The Director of Defence Information (DDI), Maj-Gen. Chris Olukolade, also confirmed the ceasefire agreement. He said that “a ceasefire agreement has been reached and you heard the CDS that this meeting was without prejudice to any agreement or arrangement”.
Okupe on his part, provided insight on the role played by the Prime Minister of Chad, Idris Derby and raised expectations that the Boko Haram menace would eventually become history. Okupe further disclosed that “the implementation of this ceasefire was signed today (Friday) and further agreements on this deal, including the release of the kidnapped Chibok girls are part of this agreement. Discussions and negotiations started several months ago. This agreement is also part of the release deal of the wife of the deputy prime minister of Cameroun, Kidnapped Chinese officials and the traditional ruler of a border town between Nigeria and Cameroun. There will be further meeting to discuss other issues relating to the agreement and ceasefire”.
Even at that Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili, former Education minister and the leader of #BringBackOurGirls stated: “We’re cautiously optimistic. We receive the news of the ceasefire with cautious optimism. While we await official confirmation from our President over this development, we are extremely anxious but cautiously optimistic that the abducted Chibok girls will be released swiftly or at least in a matter of days.
“Beyond the release of the Chibok girls, we call on the federal government to also ensure the release of all other Nigerians and non-Nigerians that have been abducted by the sect before and after the Chibok girls were kidnapped. Early evidence of the workings of the ceasefire will help considerably to boost public confidence. So we encourage the FG to release as much information as possible, within reasonable constraints.
“The #BringBackOurGirls Abuja Movement will continue to monitor the situation and provide any update as events unfold. We thank all our partners and supporters globally who’ve supported the movement since inception and continue to do so till date”.
However, apart from the Ezekwesili group, all other people interviewed advised government not to be deceived as the “cease fire” could be a ploy by the West to further equip the body, plan series of strategis attacks on the country and actualise their dooms day dismemberment of Nigeria.
Said Abubakar Nasiru, Jonah Aduku, Clement Magoro, Suleiman Ibn’Mohammed, Zakari Mohammed-Shuwa and Abigail Shenge: “we believe this is a ploy to lure the Nigerian Military to relax their now water-tight operations so the Boko Haram will easily surreptitiously cross that ‘red lines’ and strike spontaneously at different locations so as to embarass both the Military and the federal government.
I urge President Goodluck Jonathan not to buy into this sham. The only way that it can be done is if the leaders of Boko Haram unmask themselves, accept amesty, first release the innocent Chibok girls,m assist in disarming their members and then, be seen as denouncing their evil deeds. It is then, we can ask government to re-radicalise them and provide them with means of employment but they should be put under strict surveillance for no less than 10 years. If this is not done, I am afraid, we shall sooner realise that we are being led to the slaughter slab,” Ibn’Mohammed stressed.
Others advised government to factor how to rehabilitate all the community members and businessmen who either lost their family members or their means of livelihood. “If government do not factor the victims into whatever arrangement that is being packaged, I can assure you we shall have more deadly groups springing up because it will mean that compensation would only be for the bad guys and tell me, why should someone not become a murderer. You know the constant protection of the human rights of these killers have been major sources of impetus for them as the human rights groups have passed a verdict that only the human right of such criminals matters. That is why they never asked after the human rights of the security agents and innocent hapless citizens daily killed by the Boko Haram,” Magoro stressed.
Whatever be the case, even with the silence of Boko Haram on the cease fire violation less than 24 hours after signing the agreement, Nigerians are not comfortable with government seeming acceptance of the agreement and for being the source of such information; after all, if the Boko Haramites were sincere, they should be the ones making the announcement. Or, are we being deceived? We should all watch with cautious optimism. The Igbo adage “Nkwucha abughi ujo” remains appropriate at this very moment. Nothing short is appropriate.