Maj.-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) reminds me of Jesus Christ. Not that I think he’s a Messiah but how you can be webbed in a double-bind trap. Jesus was asked if the Jews should pay taxes to their Roman overlords. Had he replied in the affirmative, he would be labelled a state apologist; a position antithetical to what a Messiah should be. If he replied otherwise, he would be risking treason. So he gave what Ibadan indigenes call Mesiogo answer – a witty response to idiocy.
Boko Haram’s choice of Buhari as a mediator appears like even a triple-bind. If he accepts the role, he would fall into the hands of those who would say, in local parlance, something like, “We no talk am? He has been their sponsor all along!”
And if he succeeds in brokering peace, he becomes the proverbial hunter who killed a notorious elephant with just his cap. He would have proved he had Boko Haram’s remote control all along.
If, still, he mediates and fails, he would be demystified because his famous influence among northern youths would seem mere exaggeration.
Now he has rejected the poisoned chalice, there are commentaries that he is sore that he lost last year’s Presidential election and would rather sit back and watch Nigerians bombed than offer his goodwill.
There is, clearly, no way he can win.
He has given a not-so Mesiogo response, and I think it is sensible.
Nigeria should not waste time negotiating with Boko Haram. One, up till now, nobody knows precisely what the angst of its members is. Sometimes, they claim they want a religious state. Other times, they are anti-corruption and, infrequently, they are just as confused as everybody else. I doubt if the members themselves can point to their grouse. So, how do you talk with nebulous anarchists?
Certain mischievous commentators have made a case for negotiations by comparing them to the IRA. This is quite disingenuous. The IRA had a valid basis, however faulty methods, for their uprising. The fact that Britain eventually capitulated via the Good Friday Agreement is not the same here.
Nigeria does not owe Boko Haram what Britain owed Ireland; neither does Nigeria owe Boko Haram what it owes even the Niger Delta. What Nigeria owes Boko Haram is not different from what it owes millions of Nigerians.
Two, which of the sect’s factions is ‘mandating’ a negotiation? They are not a single group whose manifesto is pasted on a plaque at their Headquarters’ reception. It has splinter groups and factions. So, how does Nigeria deal with the politics of which to meet?
Three, where does Saudi Arabia stand in this? Personally, I have always found Saudi Arabia’s stance on Islamic terrorism worldwide curious. I wonder why they do not actively denounce it since such a move might burst the bubble of people who believe they are killing for God (although I also understand they’ll like to avoid meddling in local politics). Yet, using their country as a meeting place between Nigeria and Boko Haram is bad diplomacy.
Four, I think it is time Nigeria stopped talking about this balderdash of negotiating with Boko Haram. I know how it is to wake up to news of people dying in the hands of these killers. It might be wearying dealing with them and might even be taxing on the Nigerian Army but after mindlessly killing an estimated 3,000 Nigerians, they should be made to pay, not compensated.