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Opinions of Wednesday, 17 February 2021

Columnist: Ayo Oyoze Baje

A big ‘No’ to amnesty for killers

From the moral, political, social and economic perspectives, an objective and critical analysis of the ever-worsening insecurity situation in the country points to the failing factor on the part of the current leadership, to live up to its constitutional mandate and public expectation to protect the lives of the citizens.

In fact, the very idea of granting amnesty to supposedly ‘repentant’ criminal elements, who are nothing other than rampaging terrorists, bandits and kidnappers, by embracing them with free feeding, clothing, accommodation, all from the public purse is reprehensible, obnoxious, immoral, highly unpatriotic and totally condemnable! On a curious note, some of these beneficiaries are offered western education on a silver platter; the same policy they have been fighting against, going by the interpretation of “Boko Haram”. How hypocritical can some of us get in this country?

In saner climes, such heartless vampires, whose stock in trade is unmitigated blood-letting are arrested, given speedy trial and publicly executed, if found guilty. Such would send a note of stern warning to upcoming criminals that those who kill would pay for it with their own life. But over the years, the weak treatment or outright impunity these mindless murderers have enjoyed here in Nigeria gives the nauseating notion that their lives are more precious than those of their helpless victims. This is most unfortunate. And that explains why some concerned Nigerians are raising their voices by several decibels to say a vehement “no” to the amnesty for the killers.

Recall that in March, 2013 when the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar, openly canvassed the amnesty idea for Boko Haram, it did not go down well with patriotic Nigerians. Indeed, I wasted no time in writing an opinion essay titled, “No Amnesty for Boko Haram”, as a response to his call.

But here we are again eight years after, with another renowned Islamic scholar, the Kaduna-based Sheikh Ahmed Gumi, making a similar call to the Federal Government requesting amnesty for bandits in exchange for peace in Zamfara State! Gumi believes that dialogue with the bandits or even Boko Haram is an important strategy. The aim is to douse tension occasioned by the current insecurity in the country. He is also canvassing compensation for the victims. Yes, you read that right!

But the all-important question this regime has to answer is, if indeed there is any morality in granting amnesty to the terrorists and bandits then, why fight against them in the first instance? Why has it not stopped the killings and kidnappings across the country? Is the government not supposed to be a father figure, to inculcate in his children high moral standards and punish the wayward ones, to serve as a deterrent to others?

Similarly, is the government not expected to put in place practical, proactive measures and mechanisms to forestall bloodshed or when and where it erupts to nip it in the bud? Should a father not treat all his children as equals and castigate the wrong doer immediately he steps out of line and crosses the boundary of decency, so as to correct others watching?

So, the critical question is this: Why did prominent northerners (Gumi, Nasir el-Rufai, Bashir Tofa, Paul Unongo) now crying foul not say a word of public condemnation when the criminal elements amongst the Fulani herders were busy maiming, raping and killing innocent citizens in the states of Benue, Adamawa, Taraba, Enugu, and down to the west until one Sunday Adeyemi, (aka Igboho) took up the gauntlet to say that enough was indeed enough of the open maltreatment of his people? For some Northern elite to have brazenly attacked Governor Rotimi Akeredolu, for protecting his people from the fully armed killer Fulani herdsmen is telling Nigerians that the killers are superior to their victims! That cannot and will never work in the 21st century Nigeria.

Let us be reminded that open cattle grazing is an outdated form of pastoral farming and thank God that the northern governors have recently admitted such, even if it took them eons to come to terms with the harsh reality. Animal husbandry is strictly a private business. It is the branch of agriculture concerned with animals that are raised for meat, milk and hides. It is therefore painful that it has become a dominant factor in Nigeria’s insecurity challenge, all of because of some self-serving agenda. Painfully, it is gradually snowballing into a storm of disunity, unless urgent and decisive steps are taken to reverse the drift to anarchy and a state of anomie.

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