President Muhammadu Buhari was right in his remarks in Washington that he would talk with Boko Haram to secure the release of the Chibok girls from captivity. He made this pledge in response to the prodding of his interviewer.
His words, which were obviously carefully chosen, were to the effect that if there was a genuine offer for peace from Boko Haram, he would not be against it. We support his position.
Now, the media are awash with reports that a certain “Centre for Crisis Communication (CCC)” has been approached by some “members” of the terrorist group to initiate a dialogue with the Federal Government. That this announcement was made by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media, Mr. Garba Shehu, indicates the level of seriousness that the government is attaching to this issue.
Shehu told the press that a faction of the Boko Haram group came forward claiming to have the mandate to negotiate with the government.
It is apparent that all Nigerians want an end to terrorism and will do anything to stop it at the earliest possible time. But, Nigeria must not be quick to jump into talks with this group, even if it is assumed that it genuinely wants to negotiate with the government.
This is because the group has not been known to respond to reasoned arguments and human feelings.
If the Boko Haram members that have approached the CCC are, indeed, genuine and they have the mandate of the sect to seek negotiation, the government must tread cautiously on this offer, because terrorist organisations such as Boko Haram are known to seek peace only when they sense defeat, or need time to reinvigorate their operations.
There is hardly any discernible strategic reason for Boko Haram to seek a peace settlement at this time, so the Federal Goverment must take this negotiation offer with a pinch of salt, and not rest much hope on it.
Secondly, Nigerians have a sense of déjà vu on this issue because it is not quite nine months that Nigeria was disgracefully taken for a ride by conmen, who claimed to be Boko Haram commanders.
The red flags are everywhere in this new proposal. As happened last year, the so-called representatives of the sect now seeking peace claim they are only representing a faction of the group, which was precisely what the Jonathan administration was told. Mr. Garba Shehu has said the group claims it has a mandate. That is a clear obfuscation, because a self-confessed faction cannot have the mandate of all of Boko Haram.
As has been demonstrated throughout history, dealing with a faction of a terrorist organisation is counter-productive and self-deluding.
The Federal Government should not have any dealings with factions. As happened last year, Boko Haram denied ever negotiating with the Jonathan administration, after the Federal Government had spent a huge amount of money on fruitless meetings in Ndjamena.
The Nigerian military and its allies – the multinational force – should ignore these real or imagined peace overtures and proceed with their battle against the insurgents.
The allied forces should streamline their strategies and move as quickly as possible to rid the sub-region of this insurgency.