“We want Dr Jonathan one on one. No police, no nothing. And if he doesn’t address us in the next 78 hours, we are going to strike, and, this time around, we are coming to Abuja and Lagos. We are not hiding it; we are going to see to it.”
With these words, a caller on phone, who claimed to be speaking on behalf of the Islamist group, Boko Haram, on the television station, AIT, yesterday, indicated the sect’s preparedness to negotiate truce terms with President Goodluck Jonathan.
The call came on the heels of the advice by the secretary general of the Nigerian Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs, NSCIA, Dr Lateef Adegbite, that the Federal Government should negotiate with the group that claimed responsibility for several bombings and gun attacks in some northern towns.
But the Prelate of Methodist Church Nigeria, Dr Sunday Ola Makinde, asked Jonathan to be courageous in the face of the security challenge posed by Boko Haram.
The Presidency kept mum, yesterday, just as the minister of interior, Comrade Abba Moro, called on Nigerians to stand up against terrorists in the country.
The caller, purportedly on behalf of Boko Haram, yesterday, on AIT, gave “the reasons of what we want.”
“Many, many things,” he stated.
Asked by his interviewer to tell Nigerians what he thinks the president should do to stop the bombings, the caller went on: “First of all, when (former President)Obasanjo visited our brother Mohammed Yussuf’s family to make arrangement for us to make an agreement, when he left, soldiers arrested our brother and handed him to the SSS and the police had to kill our brother.
I am going to summarize what we want. Firstly,release some people he (the president) arrested.
Secondly, if Jonathan wants to cooperate with us, he must follow what the letter we sent to…. He must accept to our proposal which we demand. He knows what we want. Second…..You know…. the application of Sharia Islamic law … (in the north) and the reason he permitted …and how our members who were detained.
“…Ali Modu Sherrif, Alhaji Abubakar, and all must be arrested; former Minister of Police Affairs and Mr. Ibrahim Yakubu must be arrested.
“So ,now, I will tell you what we want so that we can stop our riots: we want Dr. Jonathan one on one. We want to meet him one on one. No police, nothing …nothing. And if he doesn’t address us in the next 78 hours, we are going to strike and, this time around, we are coming to Abuja and Lagos. We are not hiding it, we are going to see to it. And this time around, it is not something that we are going to take easy. Because…..He knows what our problem was…do you understand me?”
Then the interviewer asked, “You people want to negotiate with the President directly”…
The caller replied:”They are the ones causing our riot…it’s a problem, and if he wants to make negotiations with us directly here, two conditions: First, he must come to Yobe State, with no police or security with him…Second, he must appear at AIT station, we will put a number, he will call us an dwe tell him our reason. We want to talk to him openly, we want the public to know what is the problem, we don’t want to say something privately. We want it openly.”
Meanwhile, the Presidency refused to comment on the Boko Haram offer on talks and negotiation.
All the officials contacted, yesterday, kept mum.
‘ Negotiate directly’
The NSCIA scribe, Adegbite, last week, advocated dialogue by government, among other measures, in the efforts to tackle Boko Haram.
He told Sunday Vanguard in an interview: “I think the efforts of the Federal Government should continue, government should continue to put in more efforts to effective dialogue because there is no solution other than dialogue. Those who are saying no, don’t talk with violent people, there is no where in the world that you don’t talk with violent people; even after wars, you must come around the table and dialogue to have terms of peace.
“We must stand up for solution through dialogue and then we must carry on other programs, incentives; the poverty issue is important. If I were in government, I will concentrate on poverty battle, the flash points like Boko Haram , so that they themselves will say there is something good for them to seek in the Federal Government.
Incentives, employment generation, special programs should go side by side with the dialogue especially in the areas where there are conflicts, as the number of Boko Haram members continue to increase because many of them are unemployed and an idle hand is the devil’s workshop.
“Then, government should also take tough measures against the recalcitrant ones amongst them, and those who are extremists; we cannot allow them to be killing innocent people. Those of them who want to be violent should be flushed out and dealt with, and those who are reasonable, you draw them down through incentives. Those who are violent and extremist, deal with them, but you must do things according to the law, without provoking more violent reaction.
President needs courage – Makinde
Speaking on the Boko Haram issue, the Methodist Church Nigeria Prelate, Makinde, asked Jonathan to show courage.
Makinde’s words:“I want to urge Mr President to pray more that God should expose those sponsoring Boko Haram in the county. There are lots of enemies surrounding him and I know that God of our fore fathers—Ahmadu Bello, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, and Herbert Macaulay, who sacrificed their all to win independence for us—will expose the enemies of the nation they fought for. I am assuring all Christians that God will fight the battle for us; some may trust in chariots and horses and bombs but God of Abraham will vindicate and save us from all these security challenges.”
The prelate spoke to SundayVanguard in an interview.
‘Stand up to terror’
Yesterday,the minister of interior, Moro, called on Nigerians to stand up against the perpetrators of terrorism in the country by availing security operatives the information that would aid the government’s onslaught against criminality.
He warned that the call became necessary because the “failure of leadership in any part of the world is also the failure of the society”.
The minister pleaded with Nigerians to remain focused and supportive of the transformation agenda of the Jonathan led administration, stressing that the time has come for every discerning mind in the country to set aside parochial issues and interests that creates divisions among Nigerians but focus on ways to building a one indivisible entity called Nigeria.
Moro made the call at Okpoga, Okpokwu local government area of Benue State where he engaged the people in a sensitization exercise after receiving an award of stewardship from the youths of the community under the auspices of the Noble and Elite Club of Okpoga. He noted that the country was facing a historical challenge as Nigerians now watch their backs as they carry out their daily activities.
The minister, who stressed that though the situation was not peculiar to Nigeria, however, noted that the development called for serious reorientation by all Nigerians whom he urged not to be dampened or demoralized by the activities of those who did not mean well for the country.
Reps okay Boko Haram talks
Also,yesterday, members of the House of Representatives backed the proposal by Boko Haram for open dialogue with Jonathan, saying the president should take advantage of the offer to advance peace in the land.
In separate interviews with Sunday Vanguard, a cross section of the lawmakers said the offer was a welcome development.
The Deputy House leader, Hon. Leor Ogor, said the call by the Islamist group was a welcome development if it was true that they called for open dialogue. “ There should be absolute sincerity from them. The people suffering the bomb attacks are innocent people. I will appeal to President Jonathan to listen to them and hear what they have to say. Let us hear what they have to say so that we can move the country forward. We can agree to disagree but violence is not an option. I therefore appeal to them to cease violence and embrace dialogue”, Ogor said.
Another member of the House from Borno State, who did not want to be named, said: “If it is true that the group is calling for dialogue, government should move fast to embrace it. This is an indication that an end is in sight to these senseless killings and this opportunity should not be lost”.
Another member from Bayelsa State said, “While dialogue is necessary, we should be cautious. A group cannot just come and give the president conditions and expect that he would jump at it without weighing the security implications for the country. We have to assess their readiness and seriousness.”