The senator representing Kaduna Central District on the platform of All Progressives Congress, APC, Shehu Sani, has reignited hopes that the abducted Chibok schoolgirls can be reunited with their families and loved ones but the Federal Government must negotiate with some persons to “extract” the girls from their current danger.
He also said that unfolding events in the polity had revealed that the seven year bloody campaign of the Boko Haram Terrorists was fueled by the greed of a few, who profited from the situation.
Sen. Sani spoke in Akure on Wednesday as a discussant at a symposium held as part of the 40thAnniversary of Ondo State and the seventh anniversary of the Olusegun Mimiko-led administration.
“Something that has bothered some of us here in line with the insurgency is, when the Chibok girls will be freed”, he said.
In veiled reference to former President Olusegun Obasanjo, the senator said “Someone said the Chibok girls will never be free, but I can tell you that they will be free and they are alive”.
Mr. Sani had in the past led a private initiative to open a line of dialogue between the federal government and the terrorists but the proposed negotiation did not see the light of day.
A civil rights activist at the time, the Kaduna senator later accused former President Goodluck Jonathan’s government of not showing sufficient commitment to the proposed talks.
Speaking in Akure, the Ondo State capital, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Foreign and Domestic Debts noted that in addition to the use of force, government must explore other options of rescuing the Chibok girls, who have spent close to two years in Boko Haram captivity.
“There are two ways to get them: the first is to use force to free them and before you apply force, you have to know where they are. You also have to weigh the consequences of raiding the camp with such number of persons, because the insurgents have nothing to lose”, he said.
“The second option is to explore ways of extracting them out through negotiation and negotiation is still possible.
“There are a few people, not a panel of eminent Nigerians or a panel, there are a few people who the government needs to reach out to”, he said.
The senator also explained that the girls could be rescued in the first instance, because the parties could not make concession.
“They said they were going to free the girls on the condition we freed their people. And when we came to the negotiating table, and the government said it cannot free the terrorists because they have done a lot of harm”, he recalled.
Mr. Sani also said that Boko Haram is a terrorist group with a leadership and a theocratic agenda.
“For those who have been following events in the last six to seven years, we have seen how some of us from the north, particularly myself, I tried to find an alternative means of addressing the problem of the insurgency”, he said.
“I took the risk of reaching out to the insurgents and initiating a process of dialogue, about three to four times and it was sabotaged by those who were benefitting from the bloodshed and I think the unfolding events in the country clearly shows to all Nigerians that there were people who see that seven years of bloodshed, of mass murder, of genocide as an opportunity for them to amass wealth.
“It is not possible to say that an insurgent group or people not more than two to three thousand have proved so difficult for a nation of 175 million people to crush.
“A nation like ours with a reputable armed forces and have performed creditably well in peace keeping missions in Liberia and Sierra Leone and Congo and other countries of the world.
“It was so clear that some see it as an opportunity, like the Chinese saying, some people see crisis as a struggle, others see it as an opportunity.
“That is why it dragged on for so long, but I hope with the present administration, at least progress has been made in terms of degrading the capacity and ability of Boko Haram to take up territories”.
The civil rights activist-turned politician further explained that the initial strategy of the insurgents was to send terrorists to bomb targets, but they metamorphosed into an ISIS group, taking over territories and imposing their Islamic rule, but now have been forced to return to hitting soft targets.