‘Repentant’ insurgents, unrepentant Boko Haram

For the eleventh year running, Boko Haram – a band of religious fundamentalists with its own brand of Islam – has been engaged in relentless terrorism and mass murder with three of the six states in the North-East of Nigeria as its main theatre of operation.  It has metamorphosed from what initially looked like a pain in the arse to a serious security problem.  Its leader, Abubakar Shekau, said to have been killed at different times, has continued to bellow threats of death and destruction from his hideout.  The more the claim that Boko Haram has been defeated, the more vicious it has become.

While the unceasing onslaughts of the fanatics on military and civilian targets have always made newspaper headlines, the reported release of 1,400 Boko Haram ‘’suspects’’ and a bill currently before the senate for the establishment of a national agency to educate and rehabilitate ‘repentant’ insurgents have heightened public interest in the Boko Haram menace.  According to the news report, the released 1,400 – believed to have renounced insurgency – have been reintegrated into the society. What remains unclear is the yardstick applied in drawing a distinctive line between the so-called suspects and Boko Haram fighters involved in the orgy of dehumanising killings which have been the hallmark of the sect’s activities.

The bill before the Senate is being sponsored by an All Progressives Congress member representing Yobe East Senatorial District, Ibrahim Gaidam, who was the immediate past governor of the state.  Among other purposes, the proposed agency is to deradicalize repentant insurgents and equip them with requisite skills.  Expectedly, the bill has been condemned in strong terms by most of the interest groups and individuals that have reacted to it. The Christian Association of Nigeria sees in it an ulterior motive which will end up making insurgency lucrative and attractive.  The Kilaku Community Development Association in Chibok sees the bill as a very dumb idea and contends that the people of the north-east and not the insurgents should be the focus of attention.

It cannot be a moot question that Boko Haram insurgency, in spite of all said and done, remains a raging inferno costing so much in human and material terms.  The resources that should have been committed to crying needs, in a country that lacks more than it has, are being channelled to the containment of the serious threat to Nigeria’s territorial integrity by a maniacal group that has attempted to carve out an Islamic caliphate from the country.  The assurance that Boko Haram would soon be history has become trite.  It has been by words and not by deeds – the converse of the latin maxim:  ‘’factis non verbis’’ which means by deeds and not by words.

Boko Haram has continued to be ruthless and unrelenting.  Its members gleefully celebrate the decapitation of fellow humans and the casualties resulting from their incursions into military camps and civilian settlements.  The indoctrination to which they have been subjected has rendered them totally disorientated.  Their lust for blood is fuelled by the illusion of virgins waiting for them in the netherworld as compensation for mass murder in the service of their brand of Islam.   Only former Governor Gaidam and others of his ilk can explain the rationale behind the idea of creating an agency to rehabilitate veritable savages when the victims of their atrocities are languishing in displaced persons’ camps.

Boko Haram is engaged in an insurrection – the synonym for which is rebellion – against the Nigerian state.  It  is amazing that a ‘’safe corridor’’ into the community of sane human beings has been  opened for its members hastily adjudged as repentant when they should be charged with high treason and subjected to condign punishment.   In their service to the fatherland, so many officers and men of the Nigerian armed forces have made the supreme sacrifice fighting Boko Haram. To enable the government to stay afloat and confront the challenge of terrorism, it has resorted to constant borrowing while the people – the ordinary people – have been sorrowing.  Should Gaidam’s bill become law, the government will have to spend borrowed money to rehabilitate those who have immensely contributed to its financial crisis.

Will the proposed agency engage mind-readers who will distinguish between pretenders and genuinely-repentant insurgents?  What is the guarantee that many, if not most, of the supposedly-repentant insurgents will not find their way back to the fold of their fellow fanatics after gathering information that will enable them to wreak havoc in greater measure.   Boko Haram has continued to be on the rampage leaving behind a trail of death and destruction anytime it strikes.  How reconcilable is unceasing terrorism with the idea of establishing an agency to take care of the terrorists?  Is the rehabilitation of members of the lunatic band the appropriate action to assuage the grief of widows and orphans left behind by those who died fighting against these same fanatics?  Gaidam’s  bill offends the sensibilities of all the victims of Boko Haram’s bestialities.  If passed into law it will be an indication of appeasement if not outright capitulation.

Olatoye,a veteran journalist, lives in ibadan

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