Boko Haram (Jamaatul Ahjlil Sunna lidawati wal Jihad) recently announced a cease fire in its violent campaign in Nigeria. Since 2009, Boko Haram has created a fountain of blood, bullets and bombs, claiming over 1,000 deaths. Although the announcement may have momentarily doused tense nerves, it has not translated into a national jubilation. The reasons are legion.
There have been no prosecutions of the previous killings by the sect; no one has gone to jail yet. Also Boko Haram is a ubiquitous organisation, not like the hierarchical al-Qaeda. How does one fight or engage a faceless organisation? The leader of the sect admitted to various factions within the group and this diminishes the validity of the truce. Besides, on the day of the declaration, eight people were slaughtered in Gajiganna town in Magumeri in the local government area of Borno State, about 45 kilometres from Maiduguri. In a situation like this, the cease fire raises more questions.
Expectantly the Nigerian government is not so enthusiastic:
But the Federal Government said it would properly study the conditions (if any) for the ceasefire before a decision and pronouncement could be made on it. A top Presidency official, who pleaded anonymity, said, “From our experience, the sect is not reliable and their words cannot be taken at face value. All facets of governmental apparatus would be consulted before a final decision would be taken on the matter. We are not in a hurry to jump at their offer”.
Nigeria’s population size is famed to be around 162 million. A Pew Research survey of 2010 gives a roughly equal mix of both Christians (46%) and Muslims (52%) while African Traditional Religions tag behind with a mere 1% (Pew Research Centre, 2010). However, this number remains contentious as the national census does not have categories that classify religion.
The sect’s attacks on Christians – among others – have already created an erroneous impression that this is a religious pogrom. This monochromatic simplification has gained grounds at home and has been amplified abroad by the foreign media. The fault line between Christians and Muslims is significant in Nigeria. As I have argued elsewhere in MercatorNet, the culture of impunity in murky Nigerian politics makes it difficult to attain retributive justice. And with years of oppression, the single tale of a Christian-Muslim war is easy to ascribe to. With this scenario, it will take more than a mere announcement to erase the end of the so-called butchery of Nigerian Christians.
The recent assassination attempt on the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero, is an incident that destroys this stereotype. Although Boko Haram did not claim responsibility for the attack, the fact that a much revered and highly adored Islamic monarch could be attacked sent shivers down the nation’s spine.
Ross Alabo-George thinks that this may be a reflection of the mass illiteracy and poverty that has afflicted Northern Nigeria. “The attack on the emir is quite unfortunate, but the attack that happens to the North everyday is the millions of Northern children living in poverty and illiteracy. In this generation driven by information and information technology, only education and proper mentorship can build children with smart minds, minds that can reason”.
Also another fact is the conditions that the Boko Haram group may give for their unilateral withdrawal of war on Nigeria. It is assumed that they will ask for amnesty from the Nigerian government, which will include immunity from judicial prosecution. This, in my view, might be a hard sell to Nigerians, especially families of victims of their attack.
As events unfold, one thing is certain; this apparent road to peace is still strewn with debris. The muted breath of Nigerians is not because they do not love peace or the serenity that comes with security. Unless some of the issues outlined before are addressed, it might be difficult to jump into wild jubilations. At least not, not yet!
Nwachukwu Egbunike is a writer, blogger and publisher in Ibadan, Nigeria.