MURIC LAUDS FG BOKO HARAM DIALOGUE
The recent confirmation by the Federal Government that it is currently holding talks with the dreaded Boko Haram group is welcome news. The group, otherwise known as the Jamaat as-Sunnah Lil-Da'wah wal-Jihad has engaged in fierce guerilla warfare with government troops and the Nigerian Police for about two years. The most deadly attacks launched by the group include the bombing of the United Nations building in Abuja on August 26, 2011 and the Christmas day bombing of a church in Suleja.
The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) welcomes the bold move by the Federal Government to engage the sect in talks. This is a step in the right direction as it is most likely to stop the carnage which has engulfed the nation for several months with no solution in sight.
We however note the government's hesitation and precautionary measure as it describes the talks as 'indirect'. We regard this as a small step forward for the administration. We urge the Federal Government to take the giant step forward for the country in its search for durable peace by boldly transforming the 'indirect' talks to direct bilateral talks capable of leading to a general amnesty, disarmament in the volatile region and an economic empowerment programme that will take the gullible and jobless Northern youths off the streets.
The Federal Government must learn from events in other countries. America is currently having problems in Afghanistan because it chose to engage the Taliban in indirect talks via Qatar instead of direct, frank and open discussions with the second party. It is our considered opinion that the Federal Government should take the bull by the horns by holding direct bilateral talks with Boko Haram.
This is possible because we have precedents. Britain dialogued directly with the Irish Republican Army (IRA). Italy held frank talks with the Red Brigade. Spain sat down in roundtable discussions with the Basque Separatist Movement. Britain, Italy and Spain are today reaping the fruits of their sincerity and respect for their erstwhile enemies.
It is also on record that this country once sat down in direct talks with the Niger Delta militants. We cannot afford to underestimate any foe. Nigeria needs a peaceful atmosphere to develop its economy. The Federal Government can stoop to conquer. The time for direct talks is now. We must make hay while the sun shines.
Professor Is-haq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)