By Tony Akowe
A member of the Presidential Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution of the Security Challenges in the North, Dr. Hakeen Baba-Ahmed, has attributed the renewed activities of the Boko Haram insurgents to the inaction of President Goodluck Jonathan on the committee’s report.
Baba-Ahmed said it was sad and unfortunate that many months after the committee submitted its report to the President with far reaching recommendations, the government had not considered it necessary to implement any part of the report, which includes suggestions that a standing committee on continuous dialogue be set up by the government.
The Kabiru Tanimu Turaki-led committee submitted its report to President Jonathan on November 13, last year, but Baba-Ahmed said on a Liberty Radio programme, Guest of the Week, monitored in Kaduna that before the final report was submitted to the President, the committee told him that some of the recommendations would require immediate action.
He said: “I wish I knew why the report is being delayed. Nobody is more worried than me because of the immense amount of work that we put into that report. We put in huge amount of efforts, took personal risks and made excellent recommendations to this President which has just been dumped. Not even a single recommendation of that committee has been implemented.
“Some of those recommendations are so vital that they were tied to specific things. We went to the President before we submitted the report and said some of the recommendations we were going to submit would require immediate actions.
“For instance, the recommendation that he should set up a standing committee on continuous dialogue. We said don’t allow the momentum we have gathered to be lost because we had gained a huge momentum and gained the trust of the Boko Haram leadership.
“We engaged them in dialogue. We established very strong foundation for resolving this problem. But as a committee, we had to wind up. So, Mr. President, set up another committee that will build on the confidence we have gathered because these people are talking to us now.
“They have told us their grievances; we have told them what can be done and what cannot be done because we were not told to just go there, but to go there and help resolve the problem and we did that. But they took the report and dumped it.”
Asked whether the inaction on the report may have vindicated Mallam Shehu Sani who opted out of the committee, Baba-Ahmed said: “I am bitterly disappointed, like many other Nigerians. Shehu Sani took his decision not to take part in the committee work and I took mine. I know why he did not participate and he knew why I did. I don’t know whether or not he has been vindicated or not.
“All I know is that my decision was informed by my consideration that it was important to try and see if we can help. But I can tell you that all the 26 members of the committee are very honourable Nigerians.
“We worked very hard, put ourselves at great risk; we gave the insurgents undertaking and assurances that the government was serious because there was a lot of cynicism and doubt because they did not trust us at first and we eventually gained their trust.
“We told them that some of the demands they were making were unreasonable and we negotiated some of those things and put them in the report and gave the President a very good report. I should know what I am talking about because as a Federal Permanent Secretary, I have seen lots of reports and it was part of my job to look at those reports.
“Speaking frankly, the report of the Committee on Dialogue and Resolution of Security Challenges in the North was one of the best work I have ever done and yet, till now, there is nothing on ground and Boko Haram is literally recreating itself.”
Speaking on the President’s comment that the government has succeeded in moving the insurgency to the fringes, Baba-Ahmed said: “If you move a problem, has it stopped being a problem? Those lives that are being lost are not fringe lives. The children that are being killed daily are human beings and not fringe problems.
“If the President is claiming that as victory, then it is unfortunate and sad. Those people are still Nigerians. Even if it is Nigerians going to other people’s country and killing them, it is still a disaster, not to talk of the fact that people are being killed like cattle. These are Nigerians and so, how can it be less of a problem just because they have moved from Borno towns to the villages.
“However, I didn’t see the aspect where he talked about the fringes. What I saw was when he said that dialogue was still continuing and I was shocked. The Minister for Special Duties was the Chairman of the Committee on Dialogue and Peaceful Resolution.
“We did all the work with him and submitted that report and the minister knew we recommended that President should set up a small committee on continuous dialogue. If the President is saying that the same minister is continuing the dialogue, who is he dialoguing with? Again, we should ask, why is Boko Haram becoming more and more vicious?
“I was shocked because I never knew that the Minister was still involved in dialogue and I am curious to know who he is talking to because it is clear that it is not working. It is possible that it is a one man continuous dialogue committee.
“But whatever it is, the fact remains that the Boko Haram threat is alive and making more inroad whether on the fringes or not. But this problem must be brought to an end because we can’t continue like this”.
He lamented the seeming decline in the Nigeria military to the extent that they have not been able to curb the Boko Haram insurgency in the north eastern part of the country.
He said: “If there is a strong political will, you will see it impacting on critical sectors like the security institutions. I can’t at this time see, how Boko Haram can defeat our military. There maybe operational reasons and there may be other reasons.
“As we speak, Boko Haram has not defeated the Nigerian military, they have clearly defied the Nigerian military and that is a very sad commentary on one of the most professional military in Africa and there is no excuse you can find for that.”
By Tony Akowe