Condemnations, fears, and pessimism have rented the air since the Federal Government of Nigeria through the Nigerian Army disclosed its plan to reintegrate over 600 repented ex-Boko Haram fighters to the society, having undergone rehabilitation and deradicalisation sessions. According to a report, Borno State residents strongly rejected the reintegration policy. Umar Ajetunmobi spoke with Taofeeq Adegoke, a political scientist on this development.
What is your view about the policy of the Federal Government on reintegration of over 600 ex-Boko Haram fighters into their communities?
Basically the government scored an own goal with this move on many grounds. Number one, it fails to properly put into consideration the lot of the friends and family of those who have gone or lost one thing or the other because of the insurgents. Secondly, it gives a bad signal to other people/ group who might also have one grievance or the other to take up arms against the state. As they will have the notion that at last, the government will take them back, and fulfill some of their dreams if not all. Thirdly, do we really have the capacity to reintegrate these fundamentalists back into our society considering the level of social transformation and experience they have gone through? I do know that in some places, terrorists are being taken back into the folds. But religious fundamentalists as is the case with Nigeria? In addition, this tactic is clearly not working as it is meant to woo the heart of other insurgents into giving up on the fight and embrace peace. But rather, it is the other way round. And the implication of this is two. One, the Nigerian army is incapacitated to fully deal with the threat of the insurgents and I foresee an endless end to this battle if nothing drastic is done to stem this tide. Two, the government again has failed to address the root cause of insurgency in the country which is poverty and acute social stratification currently going on especially in the nation. This can only be addressed by genuine efforts towards bridging this generational gap and not seeking a shortcut by pardoning hardened criminals who have people’s bloods in their hands. Finally, Islamic wise- though they claim Nigeria is a secular state, can we divest religion from our affairs? The answer is NO. He who kills a fellow Muslim should also be made to die except on occasion where he is pardoned by the families of the deceased and made to pay an hefty fine. That’s telling us something about the sanctity of human life in Islam. It’s just a pity that the life of a commoner not to talk of a Muslim is not valued in Nigeria.
Will you say the government is pampering them too much? What implications does this action have on the fragile ethnic and religious composition in Nigeria?
Using the pampering analogy would be tantamount to throwing up a red herring to this issue. I would rather submit that the government at this level is clueless towards getting things right as far as this counter-insurgency is concerned. On the question of ethnic or religious implication, I don’t think it goes that way because firstly, the insurgents are not necessarily fighting a religious war and even if so, pardoning them cannot be misconstrued to the government taking sides of those who have sinned against it as this will bring out an entirely new narratives.
Residents of the North-East, especially Bono, have rejected the reintegration. What are the ways out?
The residents have every right to kick against this. Like I said earlier, it’s unjust and a slap in there faces for the government to embark on such journey. However, the grand corruption currently going on in the country and the military operatives inclusive need to be addressed for any meaningful progress to be made. This is also not to forget the social stratification, poverty and inequality that pervades our corporate existence.