BEYOND NEGOTIATION - Issues With Shola Ola

Negotiation is one of the Alternative Dispute Resolution methods employed when people consider the demerits of traditional method of resolving conflicts, which is through the court. It is a viable tool that could lead to a win-win situation when properly deployed to resolve conflicts. However, should the instrument of negotiation be used when dealing with issues of terrorism?

Although most Western countries have a policy of not negotiating with terrorists, some of them still go through a network of proxies. Remember the prisoners exchange between Hamas and Israel where the former released a soldier, Gilad Shalit, in exchange for 1027 prisoners held by the latter. Some would say that’s a country that values the lives of her citizens. One terrorist organisation that appears to have reaped the fruit of negotiation is Al-Qaeda. Investigation by The New York Times revealed that Al-Qaeda and her affiliates have taken at least $125 million in revenue from kidnappings since 2008. These payments were made almost exclusively by European governments that funnelled the money through network of proxies, sometimes masking them as development aids. Negotiating with terrorists no doubt is similar to giving a dog fresh meat, once it gets used to it, the dog may one day devour the owner when it’s get hungry and fresh meat is not forthcoming.

Considering the embarrassments the abduction of the Chibok girls brought the nation and trauma the parents had gone through, the whole country felicitated with the government and the girls’ parents when some of them were released from captivity. Aside those rescued by the military, the government through Red Cross ICRC first negotiated the release of 21 girls in October 2016, followed by another set of 82 freed in May 2017. It was evident that government being under pressure had limited choices since it could not secure the release of the girls through military operation and must have danced to the tune of the insurgents. The insurgents had tasted blood and just as the government was assuring the ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ Campaigners and the general public that the remaining 110 girls would be released, the insurgents got thirsty again. Thus, in June and July 2017 respectively, the news of the abduction of some policewomen along Damboa road and some lecturers from UNIMAID made headlines. Again, the government had few options and being under intense pressure had to negotiate their release. Hence, in February 2018, we received the news of their freedom which was made possible by Red Cross, ICRC.

The Chibok abduction was definitely not the first; many women and children had been adopted in the past but did not make headlines. Some of them are probably still in the hands of their captors. However, the public outcry and condemnation that followed the Chibok abduction may have suggested to the insurgents the way to get the government to dance to their tune – kidnap individuals or group that is able to make embarrassing headlines. This, perhaps motivated the kidnapping that took place on Monday, 19 February 2018, at Government Girls Secondary School Dapchi in Yobe State where 110 girls were said to be missing. Not sure of the ability of the military to rescue the girls, the government appears to have to have opened the line of negotiation to secure their release.

Without being insensitive to the plights of the parents and the loved ones of all those who had been abducted in the past, the question is, “can we afford to continue to bend to the wishes of terrorists and criminals?” Should the government be the one seeking for negotiation or should it be the other way round? For me this is a trend that should not be allowed to continue.

The big difference between ours and those of developed countries is that the terrorists do not have their roots on their soil and of course, they have the capacity to respond to acts of terrorism on their soil. In most cases, their intelligence network is able to arrest terrorist intents even before they are carried out. Where terrorists succeed, they are identified and brought to book. This is why it has become extremely expedient to increase the capacity of the military and other security agencies to be able to keep Nigeria and Nigerians safe in other to avoid a situation where criminals would always bring the government and the people to her kneels.

Increasing the capacity of security agencies does not end with increasing their workforce and providing basic equipment to function or respond to Nigerians in distress. Giving them the right training in line with current challenges and access to modern technology would make their job easier. The ease with which these terrorists carry out the dastardly acts shows that our intelligence network is either too weak or not functioning. This is why government must look in the direction of the agencies responsible for intelligence gathering in the country review their operations. Those agencies need to do better than their traditional method of gathering information.

Aside ensuring that our security agencies recruit the right workforce, the government owes them a duty to ensure that our men and women in uniform are highly motivated. Motivation in this instance is not limited to increasing their take home pay and allowances; the families of those of them who paid the supreme price in the course of keeping the country safe should not wait endlessly to collect whatever entitlement they are supposed to get and their children must not drop out of school on the ground of school fees. In short, they must not be seen to be living in penury after the demise of their breadwinner. That is the only way to motivate those alive that they would need not worry about their loved ones should they also fall while defending their country. Likewise, those who became permanently disabled in the course of duty must be assisted to live as normal life as possible.

Like the previous abduction and the current one, the military and the police should get a fair share of the blame for what they did and did not do. But we forgot that they cannot give what they do not have. Until we invest heavily in the security architecture of the country and tackle the associated societal issues that breeds insecurity, these heinous crimes which portray us to the world in bad light would continue: and we would continue to dance to the tune of Boko Haram and other criminal elements in the country.


Shola Olayiwola is a freelance writer. He loves to write and defend the course of his country.