‘Government Must Negotiate With Boko Haram From A Point Of Strength’



Captain Umar Aliyu, a retired military officer and security consultant speaks on the fresh negotiation between the federal government and Boko Haram members.
As a retired military officer and security expert, what is your position on the Federal Government’s confirmation of ongoing negotiation with the Boko Haram members in the light of failure of such negotiation in the past?
There is no gainsaying the Boko Haram insurgents has in the past left no one in doubt as regards their appetite for botched negotiations. We have seen it and it is quite fresh in our memories too, a stillborn ceasefire agreement. Should the government take any preparedness of the sect for negotiations seriously, it should be done with two things in mind.

Government should negotiate from a position of strength, given our troops’ upper hand in the region presently, and the reported surrender of insurgents in their droves.

Again, while negotiations are ongoing, military and other relevant operations to reclaim, redeem and secure our nation-space will stay on course… there will be no break, pause or downtime in this regard.

Intelligence chieftains will track every aspect of the negotiations, particularly that which the insurgents claim or offer, while cross checking same with what is known and feasible on ground; this way we vouchsafe any repeated attempt to subject the exalted position of our commander-in-chief to ridicule or time wasting antics as was sadly the case in the stillborn ceasefire purportedly conceived of in Chad in the last dispensation.

In fact, the outcome and pace of the negotiations, not less so the commitment levels of the insurgents should directly inform the mood and tempo of security operations therein.
If truly the military is winning the war as we were made to believe, why is the government negotiating with the sect?
That there is an improvement in the situation as it concerns military operations in the North East is best discerned by doing a little appraisal of the timelines, and occurrences therein.

While the sources of the figures here mentioned are not entirely exhaustive or all-inclusive, one can draw inferences as to the trend of events; more so, to the degree that such inferences are in tandem with the mood of our troops and reports from local residents within the battle space localities.

From my database, I can say that, with an average of 2500 deaths per annum 2011 through 2014, the death toll rates in the same region have fallen by 74 per cent post May 29 2015 inauguration.
While suicide bombings trends saw a surge post inauguration, this may not be unconnected with the severe losses in territories incurred by the insurgents within the post inauguration timeline. Suicide bomb attacks naturally became the next most feasible option to sustain the cause for these insurgents.
Kill ratios, military to insurgents has also seen a rise in favour of military operations, not less so sacking of hideouts; all these are informed non-speculative pointers on the dashboard of military operations in the north east. Sadly, one must bemoan the non- availability of information in this regard particularly from military and allied law enforcement agencies.
Most of what my Risk Consults Group has been able to gather comes from local populace, the media, and families of victims and soldiers across board.
In my opinion, negotiating with the sect leaders as indicated by the Federal Government underscores the option of our president and country being magnanimous in victory, even as this must be done with vigilance and caution, given the sects diversionary antecedents as regards negotiation, amnesty and other allied leeway for conflict resolution.

How sincere do you think this fresh negotiation with the sect is?
Sincere or otherwise will come to rest for the most part of it is on the insurgents themselves. As was said earlier, we approach the negotiation table from a position of strength; what this means is, given the present situation in the north east, vis-a-vis the considerable gains the Nigerian armed forces have made, the insurgents cannot bring to the table a zero sum option; in the same vein the Federal Government is not obliged or constrained to accede to any such requests.

Put aptly, the government is more or less in a position to approach negotiations with a carrot and stick posture… where it is clear, our negotiators, in the words of a former US President, will “speak with a little voice, but carry a big stick; It’s left for the insurgents to read between the lines.

What happens to the sect members after the negotiation or when the war has ended?
Repentant members can be re-absorbed into our society only after a series of processes have been properly dispensed with, not the least of which will include proper profiling and de-radicalisation among others.

Relevant regulatory agencies in this regard (NPF, DSS, Immigration, Customs, NSCDC etc) will come to play key roles in ensuring things are done properly. How well these processes are initiated and executed will have a correlation with the ability or inability of the repentant insurgents to relapse back to their old heinous ways, or show up elsewhere in the West African sub-regions or continent, to be recruited by other terrorist groups.

Some have argued before now that the sect members are faceless, so who will the government negotiate with?
Those who have wisely indicated a resolve to negotiate and surrender automatically become the face and spokespersons of the sect; it is as straightforward as that. Their preparedness to negotiate is the sensible and wise thing to do.

Given our penchant for polemics and shenanigans, I daresay our President is not given to such cheap and base lines of thought, where politics and pecuniary gains inform the inversion of reason and logic, especially in matters of the northeast as was seen these few years past.
If anyone elects to negotiate for or on behalf of the insurgents, such a person or persons tacitly endorse their closeness and or membership to the sect and as such become personification of same… I stand to be corrected on this line of thought.

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