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Friday, May 19, 2017

Politics of prisoner-hostage swap

….also published in Daily Trust

On many occasions since the outbreak of the ongoing Boko Haram crisis in Nigeria, the terrorists have done what has always proved their links with some much more sophisticated terrorist groups elsewhere from which they apparently not only learn combat strategies but also learn the politics of negotiations with constituted authorities.

Being a local terror group composed of grossly misinformed gang leaders and ridiculously ill-informed foot soldiers, the way it engages the federal government in the intermittent rounds of negotiations over the abducted Chibok girls, for instance, further confirms the existence of such links.

Besides, the terrorists realize that, contrary to what obtains elsewhere, the life of a Nigerian hostage, whether a police officer or soldier abducted at battlefront, or any other Nigerian for that matter, isn’t important enough to prompt the government to engage in serious efforts to rescue or get him released. Instead, the value of his life, as far as the successive Nigerian governments are concerned, is determined by the amount of local and international outcry his abduction provokes. That’s why whenever they manage to capture a soldier or police officer, for instance, they never bother to offer him for a swap deal to retrieve their fellow terrorists captured by government forces, instead, they would simply slaughter him or blow his brains out him in front of a video camera and release the video clip.

Perhaps, they apparently accord more value to the ordinary people they abduct and keep, for they seek to indoctrinate them and/or keep them as slaves or human shields. In fact, they had perhaps initially intended to keep the hundreds of Chibok school girls they abducted that way, however when their abduction began to attract global media attention that also provoked a global outcry supported by demands from some world political leaders and celebrities for their immediate release, the terrorists began to regard them as high-value hostages to blackmail the federal government into compromising for a possible prisoner-hostage swap deal.

Incidentally, though in the aftermath of their abduction, there had been a public outcry and a campaign for their release in the country, the ensuing global outcry that actually generated global momentum for the campaign attracted many opportunists who infiltrated the campaign and have ever since then been exploiting it for personal interests, which explains the absence of the campaigners’ involvement in the process of facilitating the release of the girls released so far.

Now, the recent prisoner-hostage swap deal between the federal government and the terror group has exposed some interesting instances of mediocrity in government’s handling of the process that culminated in the deal in view of the calibre of the Boko Haram prisoners it swapped for 82 Chibok girls. Though the federal government admitted that the girls were swapped for some few Boko Haram prisoners, hardly anyone suspected that the Boko Haram members released under the deal were, or at least, included some of their top commanders e.g. the notorious so-called Abud-dar-da’a, as it turned out afterwards. Yet, in a display of sheer defiance, and just a few days following his release, he appeared in a Boko Haram propaganda video celebrating his reunion with his fellow terrorists in Sambisa and vowing to resume his role in the group’s terror operations in the country. 

Also, though it’s absolutely understandable that, as far as the parents of the abducted girls are concerned, nothing should be considered too valuable to be swapped for their abducted daughters, yet, the federal government should have resisted the pressure to settle for just 82 girls in exchange for some notorious Boko Haram gang leaders like Abud-dar-da’a and his fellow terrorists released under the deal. After all, inasmuch as the Boko Haram leadership and negotiators were certainly equally desperate to retrieve their fellow terrorists, the federal government negotiators should have pushed for proportionate concessions by the terrorists. For instance, they should have insisted on the release of most of, if not all, the other abductees who had been abducted before the Chibok girls, and have ever since then been languishing in the misery of the terrorists’ captivity.

By the way, sometimes one finds it hard to dismiss the growing suspicion that those non-Chibok Nigerian abductees were largely forgotten simply because they weren’t “lucky” to belong to the ethno-religious backgrounds privileged enough to attract similar amount of sympathy and prompt a similarly sustained campaign for their release by local activists and the international community.

Anyway, another instance that exposed mediocrity in government’s handling of Boko Haram prisoners was the fact that while Boko Haram terrorists seek to, and indeed actually, indoctrinate and radicalize some or perhaps many of the people they abduct, it’s clear that the Nigerian government isn’t committed to conducting serious ideological rehabilitation and deradicalization program for Boko Haram prisoners in its custody. Abud-dar-da’a’s case and some of the abducted Chibok girls shown in another propaganda video rejecting the offer to be released under the swap deal, further confirm this observation. Whereas in some other countries equally affected by similar wave of terror attracts, governments coordinate with qualified Muslim scholars and other relevant experts to engage captured terrorists in purely intellectual discussions in order to clarify the religious injunctions they (i.e. terrorists) misperceive and misapply. And there have been many success stories of many terrorists renouncing terrorism and rejoining the mainstream Muslim community.