By Frank Garriba in Abuja, Nigeria
The rejection of an amnesty offer from president Goodluck Jonathan by Boko Haram Islamist militants who have been waging a violent campaign against the government, might lead to another civil war, a former Justice Minister has said.
Prince Bola Ajibola told journalists recently in this Daily Post story that the militants must accept the peace offer from President Jonathan or risk another civil war in the country. Nigeria went through a brutal civil war between 1967 and 1970 when late General Emeka Ojukwu declared independence by creating a Biafra Republic. Prince Ajibola called on the militants to accept president Goodwill Jonathan’s Goodluck offer of an olive branch as the best solution out of the crisis.
In reaction to the offer, Abubakar Shekau, the shadowy leader of Boko Haram in a statement said President Jonathan could not be offering them an amnesty because they had done nothing wrong. He insisted they want to create an Islamic nation in Nigeria and nothing will stop them from doing that. A similar amnesty by late President Musa Yar’Adua to militants of the movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) in 2009 effectively ended their rebellion. The MEND militants initially rejected the amnesty offer but were later persuaded to accept it. Boko Haram militants might also need some persuasion to accept the presidential amnesty.
After Islamist militants forced France to Intervene in Mali, Africa’s most populous nation might now need to use ultimate force to defeat Boko Haram. Unlike in Mali where the militants completely overran the northern region, the Nigerian army is managing to keep the situation from degenerating to a Mali-type conflict but they still have failed to crush the rebels. The cost in human life and property has been heavy.
The French connection
There is need to resolve the crisis in Nigeria urgently because it has already spilt into neighbouring Cameroon. Some Nigerian militants are reported to be fighting against French forces in Mali. Militants kidnapped a French family of seven in northern Cameroon including two children in February. Their whereabouts is still Unknown. The militants want their comrades arrested in Cameroon and Nigeria to be released before they will free the hostages. The Cameroonian, Nigerian and French governments have refused to bow to their demands.
Offering the Militants an amnesty could be a swift way to resolve the crisis but with the militants refusing to contemplate at amnesty, Nigeria might be left with no option other than an all out attack against the militants. A military source in Nigeria told Iroko that they have not yet raided the militants for fear of endangering the lives of the French hostages. “The militants are looking for an excuse to kill the hostages so we need to be careful” he added.
French forces will soon pull out of Mali but they are no immediately plans by president Francoise Hollande to move his forces into Nigeria following the abduction of the French family of seven. If anything happens to the french hostages, President Holland might pay a high political price as a result.
Could Crisis extend across West Africa?
Cameroonian security forces are now on high alert in the Northern region of the country where the French family was kidnapped. Special forces were dispatched to the region to make sure it does not become a convenient hideout for the militants from neighbouring Nigeria.
The Cameroonian government like most across the region is frightened of the prospect of having to fight against Islamist militants in Northern Cameroon.
The Rise of Boko Haram
Boko Haram which literary means “western Education is a sin” was created by Mohamed Yusuf in 2002 in Maiduguri, Northern Nigeria. Yusuf was arrested and killed in detention in 2009 but they regrouped under a new leader in 2010.
The activities of the sect have taken the form of attacks and bombings launched on strategic locations across the country. Their atrocities include the bombings of the Police Headquarters and United Nations building, churches and even media houses in Abuja in which several lives were lost. Attacks were also launched on police installations, churches, mosques, private homes, markets, schools and other public places, leaving thousands of people dead and causing enormous damage to property, with Northern Nigeria being the greatest hit by the insurgents.
The Nigerian government has been carrying out periodic raids on the hide outs of the militants killing hundreds in the process.
The government blamed former military president, General Muhammadu Buhari, for igniting the insurgency. When Buhari failed to win the 2011 presidential elections, he vowed that he was going to make Nigeria ungovernable for Jonathan, and shortly after his threatening utterance, the Boko Haram sect came to being.