Almost every day, there is one odd scenario, situation and event happening in the world. Same is the situation in Nigeria. It is ever one odd news or another. Some draw temporal public interest and attention, while others go unnoticed. Just recently, it was the case of some terrorists who are allegedly “surrendering” with their families, but we are yet to find whether they are also “repenting” from their sins and radical beliefs. For some analysts, this is a welcome development, a sign that Nigeria is winning the war against terrorism. But to some very critical minds and analysts, it is not yet time to sing hosanna, because there are a lot of questions begging for answers, and grey areas that need clarification by the Nigerian government. To ask again, “are they just surrendering or actually repenting”? In the first place, Nigerians want to know why suddenly, the terrorists are surrendering? What is the motive and rationale for surrendering? Are they running from something?
Are they suddenly quitting their former lifestyles, ideology, beliefs, occupation, and way of life, to embrace a society they have desecrated, offended, profaned, and destroyed? Why do they suddenly prefer life to death, peace to war, save-our-souls to mindless bloodletting, and mercy to vengeance? They now need acceptance into a once-peaceful humane society whose life, dignity, and integrity they vowed to violate, exterminate, and annihilate? What changed? Have they suddenly realized that the game is up, and that it is better to sensibly surrender now before it is too late? But we are not aware of any amnesty programme or policy of the federal government of Nigeria that they are taking advantage of, like in the case of the amnesty programme of the revered, notto-be-soon-forgotten, but late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, towards the Niger Delta militants some few years ago.
Anyway, now that the terrorists are “surrendering”, what is next? What is their fate? Are their sins forgiven them automatically? Have their offences and crimes been expiated? Are they now fully absolved of their wrongdoing and guilt? Have they been told, “Go and sin no more”? It would not be strange though to hear of programmes being rolled out to rehabilitate, deradicalize and reintegrate them speedily into the society, and an unprecedented haste to help them settle down. But why such programmes and initiatives will be grossly immoral, inappropriate, and insensitive, is because it will be sending a wrong message to other outlaws, criminals, and enemies of the sane human society. That you can commit all the crimes and offences ever imagined in human history, and at the end of the day, just surrender, and your past wrongs will be blotted out. It will be very unfair and unjust to the sensibilities of their victims and all those who have been offended and wounded.
When people (like terrorists, bandits, kidnappers, outlaws) commit crimes and offences against the land and the people, certain measures, actions, and sanctions are necessary for a couple of reasons. Those measures are needed to deter other like-minded people from such unwholesome, criminal behaviours. Whether one calls it punishment, it is important to make the offender realize that such behaviours and actions are detrimental and inimical to the good and growth of the society. So, it is meant to correct bad behaviour, and to bring about justice to the offended. When victims of kidnapping, terrorism, banditry, and criminality see that those who are the cause of their misery, poverty, trauma, depression, hunger, homelessness, and destitution are brought to book, that the laws of the land have caught up with them, they find some bit of respite, consolation, hope and healing. It is a different ball game, when such victims watch on television and read from local newspapers something otherwise.
When they see that there are no concrete efforts to compensate those who have been rendered homeless and forced to become destitute, refugees, and immigrants in their fatherland, no formal and official apologies to those whose loved ones (especially husbands, sons) were massacred, no just and fair punishment of offenders who forcefully abducted their daughters and married them off, to assuage the pains, trauma, and injuries of the emotionally-distraught, and no prosecution of self-acclaimed and so called “surrendering-terrorists”, then definitely, the government may be sowing more darnels (bad seeds) that will give rise to heightened agitations, reactions, unrest, What is good for the goose, is good for the gander Inside back cover and acrimony. The Nigerian government must play safe and thread carefully in these murky waters.
It is a dangerous path, and any decision and action must be taken with wisdom and prudence. The government must be seen to be just, fair, and moral in managing this development. There is no need to be carried away with tribal, religious, ethnic, and narrow-minded beliefs and ideology towards one party as to undermine the feelings and emotions of the other party. There is need to compensate innocent people whose lives and lands have been recklessly ravaged and devastated by the “boars of the forest”. There is need for a formal apology to those who have lost persons and property so dear to their hearts. Both retributive and restorative justice must come to play here. We should not celebrate the terrorist and denigrate the terrorized. Neither should we insulate the offender and insult the offended. That would be unfair, unjust, and immoral.
The offender must be made to surrender to the laws of the land, and the offended succoured by the laws of the land. The offender must pay for their crimes and the offended must be pacified for their cries. If Nigeria must remain one, united, and indivisible entity or nation, we must avoid further actions and situations that make this dream and objective unattainable. We only know that the terrorists with their beautiful families are surrendering, but we do not know whether they have repented. They have their families in peace, but they have left other families in pieces.
Nigerians are watching. Justice and fairness must prevail. May this trend not end up as another injustice too many that has left Nigeria where she it is today. Otherwise, many of our youths who are forced into all sorts of activities as means of eking a living for themselves, due to the rate of unemployment and the unfavourable investment environment in the country today, may likewise not have a case to answer for now or in the future. Those who resort to one form of illegality and criminality or the other, may likewise toe the haven of “surrendering themselves” at their desired time, and they too should not be held accountable. It is now over to the Government. Nigerians are watching the “surrender game plan”. But remember, “What is good for the goose, is good for the gander”.
• Rev. Fr. Valentine Anaweokhai is the Cathedral Administrator of the Diocese of Auchi.