Friday, 11 May 2012

A conversation with Oludare Ogunlana, on Nigerian government’s plans to dialogue with Boko Haram.- By Abimbola Adigun


Nigerian Government says is ready to dialogue with the Boko Haram Sect; what elements should be included in a comprehensive, long - term, diplomatic counter terrorism strategy?

Oludare Ogunlana and Abimbola Adigun
I have said it several times; there is no simple solution to terrorism; There is no "magic bullet," there are no easy solutions, and there will never be a clean victory. Therefore, Nigeria government must adopt an open-ended policy, which enables the country to apply diverse approach towards, solving problems of terrorism. This must include public diplomacy or let me call it political tool to end the Boko Haram menace. There is no problem if the government wants to engage them in a dialogue provided it will bring peace. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo in one of his interview identified ignorance as one of the reasons for violence. It means those people need to be enlightened and dialogue should be part of it.

However, we must understand the terrorists are smart, discipline and committed; they may want to turn the dialogue to negotiation, particularly when you are dealing with a religious motivated terrorist group. In fact, to convince or negotiate with such group will be a hard nut to crack. Their religious beliefs always override their sense of reasoning. No amount of negotiation will convince members of a group with a false religious orientation to drop their weapons and embrace peace; they are Jahadist of Salafiyah movement with the intention to create Islamic nation. Of course, you can identify their mission from their name: The group’s official name is Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati Wal-Jihad, which in Arabic means People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet's Teachings and Jihad.

Cut…are you saying the dialogue will not work?

The chances of success are very slim. Let us get things straight, the dialogue is just part of the strategy; it will never end the Boko Haram crisis. Ok, for instance, if in the course of the dialogue, Boko Haram demands President Jonathan should step down for the sect leader, Mallam Abubakar Sekau, to take over as the president of Nigeria or that the entire nation be governed under the Sharia law; how possible is that?
Mallam El-Rufai said there is real Boko Haram, political Boko Haram, criminal Boko Haram, and security Boko Haram. Which one is the government going to dialogue with? I know by training, you can never dialogue with the “real Boko Haram”
Dialogue is good and beneficial from the position of strength. Today, the United States engage Taliban in dialogue after the first phase of the struggle.
The dialogue can commence but the demands, which will emanate from such parley, may be unrealistic for the government to fulfill.

What elements should be included in the long term strategies?

Nigeria government needs the support of every citizen to achieve meaningful results and there is a need to be proactive about it. Public diplomacy has been identified as a pillar towards the war on terrorism.  A comprehensive long – term counterterrorism strategy will have to include solid public relations base on policies and understanding toward building the bridges with the aggrieved members of the society. We must all stand up against corruption, injustices, violation of human rights, unemployment and other things that could encourage young people towards terrorism

There is a need to deepen our democracy through good governance. Most importantly, we must have a common definition of terrorism for us to know how to deal with it better.   Also, we need to strengthen our relationship with neighboring countries like Niger, Chad and the other Arab African nations such as Libya, Algeria and Egypt.  Such elements must include exchange programs like cultural immersion, media exchange, education program that targets young people in order to break the generational links.

Furthermore, messages of hope, freedom, tolerance, promise and opportunity to new generation will go along way and form a long term diplomatic counter terrorism strategy. The message must clear and the content must be understood by the consumers about our values. The struggle of ideas, promotion of human rights and good governance are very important elements to sustain the campaign.

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