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Yes, My Lords!

You cannot get ahead while you are getting even– Dick Armey

When on February 20th, 2020, the prolific legislator representing Yobe East constituency, Ibrahim Geidam, introduced the National Agency for the Education, Rehabilitation, De-radicalisation and Integration of Repentant Insurgents in Nigeria bill, he suffered some tongue-lashes from a large number of Nigerians active on social media and many more with words of mouth. His innocent motive was maligned as tending to aggravate cases of insurgency. So, it is very much predictable when my opponent chooses to follow the crowd, but before we started mixing facts with fiction, let me take you through the path of logical arguments.

The giving of preferential treatment to Boko Haram insurgents – education, rehabilitation, de-radicalization and integration – is not in itself a radical approach. Nigeria is not the first nation to suffer attacks from insurgents. France has suffered terrorist attacks from Al Qaeda and Daesh. However, they did not take up arms against the insurgents. Rather, they implemented rehabilitation, reconstruction and stabilisation objectives. In the same vein, the United States adopted different rehabilitation programmes, and so did China and the United Kingdom. It is therefore not out of place for Nigeria to adopt a policy for the education, rehabilitation, de-radicalisation and integration of insurgents.

Your Lordships, those who rebuff the passing of the bill for the preferential treatment of insurgents would be arguing in ignorance of facts if they base their arguments solely on the gravity of crimes perpetrated by insurgents. However, with the profound understanding on the manner of recruitment, initiation and operation of insurgents, it will be clear there is more to insurgency than meets the eyes in the daily reports. A number of terrorists were in fact terrorised by inhumane treatment meted to them and their families until they were eventually coerced into joining the group. Even upon joining, some who are too conscientious for the belligerent acts their membership of the terrorist group demands are pressured into the acts. It is no gain saying that these experiences will have affected them socially and psychologically and remedying these adverse effects is why the proposed national agency must be established.

My opponent may be quick to play an advocate of victim protection. However, as noble as his intention may seem, following his path will do more harm than good. Paula Strokes once asked, ‘Where does seeking justice end and seeking vengeance begins?’ My terse answer is: When we focus on vengeance rather than justice. The victims of terrorism are not only the Chibok girls, the outgunned security operatives and the other innocents. The victims of the terrorism are also the low-rank insurgents coerced while their family were brutalised, drugged while their will was stripped, and threatened to be killed whenever they waver. These victims of insurgency, who also deserve a new life despite the strange circumstances that have altered their lifestyles, need to be re-integrated into the society through whatever just means possible.

The opposing side may also argue further that the radicalised insurgents who, as a matter of duty, oppose western education will be impossible to subject to some form of western education put up by the federal government in a bid to rehabilitate and deradicalise them. However, this thought can only stand the test of conception if the only form of education that exists is western education. Since education is myriad, and the insurgents themselves have a leaning towards some form of education, it is only reasonable to give unto them a learning technique they can better relate with.

As a nation, we can gain some insight from the words of Dick Armey, ‘You cannot get ahead while you are getting even.’ When we begin to prioritise vengeance over justice and costs over results, we would be unworthy of our name and incapable of fulfilling the pledge to serve our motherland. May God bless our country.

Not At All.

Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least – Johan Wolfgang von Goethe

My Lords, this year marks the eleventh anniversary of active terrorism in Nigeria. Delving into insurgency in 2009, the Boko Haram group has blossomed as a vibrant entity for the destruction of properties and the generous migration of innocent citizens to eternity. It has not just grown into a household name, its impending destruction of lives and properties has left everyone expecting it like the Judgment Day. While I would not proceed like a cold-hearted scribe calling for the blind crucifixion of all insurgents regardless of age or condition, I absolutely believe that a line has to be drawn between what needs the proper attention of a country and what entices the consideration of a select few. I understand that opposing counsel has juggled the two, well it is his right to miss the point, but it is my sworn obligation to set him aright.

My Lords, how do we explain the idea of creating an agency to give preferential treatment to insurgents when the victims of their mayhem are still counting their losses in IDPs? May I remind this courtroom that till now, little or nothing has been done to assuage the emotional trauma caused to the victims. Not even a law has been put in place to cater for the special needs of the IDP, yet some have re-prioritised our needs to begin sending ‘repentant’ insurgents abroad for schooling at the neglect of victims and their families. This does not just offend the sensibility of all victims of this insurgency, it makes them feel used and abused.

Besides, No one would deny not knowing that the insurgents are a sect who represent a radical resistance to anything western, including western education. Hence, sending them to receive western education that is against their core ideology is like pitching a man against himself – it simply will not work out. Reintegrating terrorists in the society of sane people is merely recreating an unsafe society and recycling sophisticated terrorists for a more grievous attack. Such a move has a tendency of making insurgency more attractive, particularly since there are no telepaths to determine their genuine repentance.

The opposing counsel may try to derail this courtroom by pointing us to the satisfying peace promised by the holy scriptures in forgiving and forgetting the atrocities of the insurgents. He may even play on our emotions by saying the least we could do for humanity is to prioritise the needs of these repentant insurgents who are helpless and homeless. Saying any of these will only show that he has a leaning for missing the point. First, with repentance, the holy scriptures also command restitution – an arrangement which requires paying back all that was wrongly taken. So, we are only following the Word to allow repentant insurgents remain with the ruins they have created. Second, prioritising the needs of those who brought us here only portrays us as a nation of inhumane people who would focus on curing the ringworm at the neglect of leprosy.

Finally, my lords, my grandfather once recounted to me the story of how Nigeria was declared the country with the happiest people on earth. I could see the smile on his wrinkled face when he spoke of the peace and safety that filled the air, the story of how there has never been this much attention paid to security, because no one ever dreamt of wiping innocent lives with bombs and war machines. But here we are debating what sort of preferential treatment should be given to those who took away our peace and tranquility. Well, my lords, maybe the sun will rise again or even the stars will smile on us once more, but before then, giving preferential treatment to “repentant” insurgents at the neglect of victims is not a path we genuinely want to tread as a nation – at the tail end of the road awaits our collective destruction. I rest!