When Dialogue Becomes a Government’s Last Resort!

Since when news had it that the federal government led delegation and the representatives of the radical fundamentalists are to be engaged or involved in a jaw-jaw kind of settling the current spate of insecurity bedeviling almost the entire Muslim populated northern part of the country and also like wild fire, raging towards other parts of this entity called Nigeria, it has become a pill too bitter to swallow by some,. To some others who have no option but only crave for a peaceful atmosphere, they have lended the whole development on the hands of God and fate saying “if that is what would stop this ship of a nation from wrecking aboard, let it be. After all, security lies not in the hands of man but those of God” they have agreed that the torrents of security outfits littered the metropolis would only contain the situation but cannot absolve it.

For me, it has succeeded in leaving me in a dilemma. I have been torn apart by the government’s resolve as to whether it will be for the better or another step in the wrong direction. This moment, I see dialoging with the extremists as dragging this nation to its Achilles’ hill by its leaders who are meant to scold it away from such and the next minute, I see myself reasoning with the government and their bid to engage in a dialogue with the sect members whose sole bid is for our social system destroyed and delivered into their hands; for terrorism is carried out purposefully in a cold-blooded fashion. The declared goals of the terrorist cell may change from place to place and time to time as is seen with the boko haramians, but in all this problems, his only chief aim, is the demolition of the whole structure of the society. No partial solution, not even the total re-addressing of the grievances they complain of, will satisfy him/them but just like I said earlier on, until the entire nation is delivered into his/their hands.

As much as that part of me that says yes to the option of dialogue, continues to gain more weight than the part frowning at it in all entirety, it hasn’t  stopped  me from putting forth the following questions that have  betrayed my immediate answer to them to this  effect: is there anything dialogable about the extremists? What are we going to the round table to discuss with these fellows whom our honorable minister of information has termed our ‘children’ albeit which am not in dispute with? Are we going to bargain the solid foundation on which this nation is rooted even though it has continued to show signs of an impending quake lately? Shall we be going to the bargaining table to bargain the provisions of the grund norm which my constitutional law lecturer told me is never an item to be traded not for any reason, at least not in such a setting but rather in the parliament? Shall we be taking to the bargaining table with elements whose sole and chiefly bid is the institutionalization of the Nigerian state as an Islamic state where the shariah law would reign supreme? Though I have no bias for Islam as a religion, but the provisions of the holy Quran to the effect that “let there be no compulsion in religion” has forever stocked in my sharp memory and the constitution has made it even clearer that Nigeria shall be a secular state with every citizen having their own right to choose a deity to profess to. Finally and most significantly, shall we be going to the dialogue table to hand over the giant of Africa to them? Certainly and most certainly I hope not, our leaders despite being corrupt would not be that stupid for if they do, it will be perilous to their pockets and bank accounts which is the only thing they will never forget.

After going through the column of a guest columnist in the daily sun newspaper of 22nd August, 2012 which was titled “entering into a deaf dialogue” wherein the writer though without any prejudice to him, frowned profusely at the bid by the government to play the peace card by going into a dialogue with the representatives of the radical sect as according to him, it will only amount to weakness on the part of government and an embarrassment to everything Nigeria stands for and also authenticate the notion that the good luck administration is only but a rudderless ship taking Nigeria nowhere close to shore,  I have chosen to reply his column by this media, I only hope he comes across this piece.

For what it is worth, courtesy and rationality demand that we look at things the way they are and try solving it from how bad it has degenerated and not keeping faith with the conservative, how it ought to be tradition. What tent am I trying to pitch here? Now, many years have passed and this ugly trend has continued to eat deep into the fabrics of the Nigerian society, gaining more ground, causing many wounds than it has healed, bringing more tears on the faces of Nigerians whose loved ones has fallen victim of the gun man in one ugly circumstance or the other. The almost one trillion naira of our national budget for 2012 allocated to security has had little or nothing to show for it despite the committed efforts of the armed forces. Am sure we do not need a score boxto tell us who is winning in this fight against terrorism thus far or who has suffered more? If anyone does, I do not to say the least cause the facts on ground are just too glaring for even the blind to be able to decipher.

No day has gone by, in the last few years without a soul dying as a result of either the wickedness of the fundamentalists or the recklessness of the frustrated members of the armed forces in the name of accidental discharge. I hate to exaggerate. We have been in this fight against the ills of this sect in all manners we ought to have; be it financially, tactically, mentally, physically, forensically and otherwise but if we must be sincere to the dictates of our conscience it hasn’t taken us anywhere near victory in this peculiar kind of war. We have only ended up taking more dead to the morgue and burying a lot more, families have continued to be broken reason being that we are to war with a people we claim to know but whom we know not by any margin. How can you be in a fight with a ghost or at best a fifth columnist and hope to win the fight? Hoping so, for all I know will not be too hard to be separated from a kind of living in a fools’ paradise. It is really sad but then a truism.

I have lately being absolved from my dilemma and gained the conviction that engaging the sect members in a dialogue may be the watershed in the fight with terrorism for not even the most powerful military in the world can invade, kill, capture, a network or destroy every loose weapon on the planet let alone our own military. The best response to this network of terror is to build a network of our own- a network of likeminded individuals of integrity and honor who would engage them in a dialogue on our behalf for hardly is it true that no man or any group is beyond the strings of clemency. More so we should advertise our minds to the fact that these are no foreign terrorist cell unleashing mayhem in our land therefore, to say that entering into a peaceful dialogue with them would b surrendering Nigeria’s national interest to them, is not only false but also preposterous because they are not an international terrorist organization in our country; the link with Al-Qaeda remains a hypothesis subject to be proved.

Just like Mallan Labaran Maku commented, they are our children, so we can always ask them why their ox is gored and work out modalities to see it resolved so that we can regain our peaceful rhythm which they say has no merchantable quality. If the United States of America did not negotiate, with the Al-qaedian forces, I am convinced to my marrows it was because they are an international terrorist organization operating from afar and no government would have done so. If they were to be home grown, they would have toed the way of engaging in a similar dialogue situation no doubt. So taking on the fundamentalists alone isn’t necessary, it isn’t smart and if continued would not succeed. Forgive my pessimism.

Terrorism for all I know Is more difficult and far reaching than the oppositors of this idea of reaching a truce have assumed. We may be advancing the ball down the field at will running after our opponents defenses at will, but winning the war is another matter all together. How many more heads would roll in the fight against terrorism? and if we are ever able to win the war, we cannot win back the peace through the barrel of the gun. America may have won the war in irak but they have not won the peace and history books are replete with similar scenerios.

Already, uncountable lives have been lost to this fight against this insurgency, innocent civilians maimed and annihilated which altogether culminates into another form of terrorism and not just the camouflaged fighting of terrorism it is called. “A war against terrorism is an impracticable conception if it means fighting terrorism with terrorism” John Mar timer in his book where there’s will said.

If there is ever an option open to us as both government and citizen, it is the extension of a hand of friendship to these fellows, who have taken the wrong path in a dialogue. It is true they have killed more than enough in their infinitesimal bid but shall we continue living in terror in our own land as a result of their activities is the bigger question we should put to our conscience.

Fighting terrorism through the barrel of the gun only determines who is left behind and not what is achieved. There never was a good war or a bad peace so we must learn to put an end to our disputes and differences without cutting throats or spilling blood. However belittling this proposed dialogue may seem to be, it is undoubtedly one option we have not explored in our quest to restore parity to this already quaking nation. The government’s resolution to engage the group in a mutual dialogue is not in any way selling out this nation to band of terrorists but on the contrary a good step in the right direction. Whether it will translate into a lay down of arms, we do not know now but we can only go down in prayer and hope it does. A SNC would have been a better option but that would be the stepping stone to the disintegration of this nation no matter the rich words with which columnists have used to portray it of which I am not an exception to nonetheless.

To all those clamoring against this bid, let me make it clear here that this fight is not some kind of James Bond or Tom Clancy’s fiction. Here are group of guys with bombs and are ever ready to detonate them irrespective of their victims’ status or affiliations. He walks the same road as us, thinks the same way we do, but he has got bombs strapped on him and graciously awaits his ruins when he detonates same.

Howard Zinn, in his article terrorism and war said “it is not right to respond to terrorism by terrorizing other people. And furthermore, it’s not going to help. Then you may say, “Yes it is terrorizing other people, but it is worth doing because it will end terrorism” but how much common sense does it take to know that you cannot end terrorism by indiscriminately dropping ‘bombs’? ……..This I think should be a food for thought.

I hate to repeat, but the bid by the government to go the way of dialogue is not a show of cowardice as is been rumored in some quarters but a step towards a peaceful rebuilding. The best we can do now as citizens is to hope and pray it works and not merely crucifying the bid on the cross of sentiments subsumed in ignorance. Fighting terrorism is no better than chasing the wind. No man does harm by venturing into trial and so also the government of any nation of which Nigeria cannot be an exception. God bless Nigeria.

Yungsilky is a level 300 student of the faculty of law in one of Nigeria’s federal universities; he is a blogger for informationnigeria and the editor of the campus ambassador magazine. Follow him on twitter @yung_silky for your comments and critics