Boko Haram, MEND and the road to paradise

Casmir Igbokwe
A few years ago, an 18-seater bus was involved in an accident. All the 18 passengers, including a Catholic cleric, reportedly died. The bodies were taken to the morgue and embalmed. But the spirit of this cleric met two beings presumed to be angels. The angels took him to another superior being called the Lamb who was on a throne. The place was so beautiful that the priest did not want to leave again. There was no electricity, but everywhere was bright. No need to bore you with what transpired in this heavenly kingdom. As God would have it, this man was sent back to earth after some days in this paradise. Now, he longs to go back to this beautiful place.
A common saying in this part of the world is that everybody wants to get to paradise, but nobody wants to die. These days, we now have people who want to get there and are ready to die to achieve that. They have not gone there like the Catholic priest who is of the Ikot Ekpene Diocese, but as the scriptures tell us, blessed are those who did not see but believe.
Thus, members of the Islamic sect, Boko Haram, believe strongly that one major way to get to that paradise is by suicide bombing. Their main belief lies in the supremacy of the Sharia legal system and the foolishness of going to school to acquire western education.
They have killed thousands of people and burnt many churches and public buildings in order to advance their cause. In December 2011, they bombed St. Theresa’s Catholic Church, Madalla in Niger State. Scores of worshippers died in that incident. The terrorists have also bombed the United Nations building and the Police headquarters in Abuja.
Most recently, the group attacked a luxury bus park in Kano State. As many as 60 travellers, especially South-Easterners, reportedly perished in that attack.
This group has no respect for anybody. They attack anybody they feel like attacking without showing any remorse. Even school children and their teachers are not spared. The other day, we read reports that the dreaded Islamic sect killed six secondary school teachers in Monguno Local Government Area of Borno State. Last Saturday, the terrorists reportedly ambushed students in the same local government and slaughtered them. What else could drive one to commit this type of atrocity if not a promise of an assured place in paradise complete with an assortment of virgins and other good things of life?
To put a stop to these killings, the Federal Government is contemplating granting amnesty to members of the Boko Haram. It has inaugurated a committee to tackle this, but there are hiccups here and there. Many people are opposed to the idea of amnesty. Many others are also for the amnesty.
Those who support amnesty point to the one granted the Niger Delta militants. In other words, what is sauce for the goose, they reason, is also sauce for the gander. Some also feel that the shedding of blood is becoming too unbearable and the only way to put a stop to it is through amnesty. The Sultan of Sokoto is in this particular boat.
Unfortunately, members of the sect have dissociated themselves from any amnesty. As far as they are concerned, they have not committed any offence. It is the Federal Government, they say, that needs the amnesty.
Just as we are still talking about granting or not granting amnesty to Boko Haram, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta has come up with its own route to paradise. A few days ago, the group threatened to attack mosques and Islamic clerics in retaliation for the killing of Christians by Boko Haram.
The question is, when did the meaning of MEND change from Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta to Movement for the Emancipation of Christians? Alhaji Asari Dokubo, an ex-militant leader, and a Muslim himself, has come out to condemn the threat.
Let’s not deceive ourselves. The initial agitation for resource control by the Niger Delta people was genuine. That was why there was need to grant amnesty to the militants. The late President Umaru Yar’Adua granted them amnesty and since then, there has been relative peace in that region. The recent threats to that peace are mere criminality.
Boko Haram and MEND are currently dragging us backwards. We may have survived many battles. We may have coexisted for decades as one country. But the moment religious war erupts in this country, that will be the end of Nigeria. Boko Haram is not fighting for Muslims; neither is MEND fighting for Christians. What they are doing is to use the instrument of Armageddon to get to their own paradise.
The Federal Government should be careful about this amnesty talk. It shouldn’t give the impression that it pays to commit mass murder and to destroy public places. Once that impression is created, many more MENDs and Boko Harams will emerge elsewhere. The consequences will be grave for this country.
If we must prevent the United States Central Intelligence Agency’s prediction that there might not be any Nigeria by 2015, from happening, then we must not give more money in the name of amnesty to groups that will use it against us.
Many Nigerians want to get to paradise too but they don’t want to get there via accidents, bomb blasts and guns. Those who want to go there through these means should realise that they may end up being asked, like our priest, to return to earthly suffering and gnashing of teeth.

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