By George Agba, 27 August 2012
Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, who disclosed this in Abuja, yesterday, urged Nigerians to disregard any controversy on whether or not there was dialogue going on and focus on efforts to reach Boko Haram.
He said that those who think such dialogue involved face to face meeting in which government officials and members of the Boko Haram sect sit on opposite sides of a table miss the point.
The Presidential spokesman said that what President Goodluck Jonathan needed as he tackled the issue was their support.
The group had, last week, denied engaging in any talks with representatives of the federal government and stated that an earlier press statement confirming an ongoing dialogue by one Abu Muhammad, who claimed to be the second in Command to the sect's leader, Abubakar Shekau was false.
But Abati insisted , "When government says it is already talking to Boko Haram, the form of that dialogue must be properly understood. I think a lot of people are under the impression that the dialogue involves a situation whereby government officials are sitting on one side, Boko Haram persons are sitting on the other side in an air-conditioned room and there are negotiations across the table. That is not the form of the dialogue.
"The form of the dialogue is that back room channels are being used to reach across with the sole objective of understanding what exactly the grievances of these persons are, what exactly can be done to resolve the crises, in the overall best interest of ensuring peace and stability in Nigeria and the security of life and property. "All of this is consistent with the position of Mr. President. So what is called dialogue is at many levels: through back room channels and through multi-level, constructive interventions to address a difficult issue that is multifarious.
Clarifying on Boko Haram's denial of an on-going dialogue, Abati said, "one thing that is noteworthy is that the Boko Haram spokesperson made it clear that they were prepared to go a step further to ensure that persons who are using the name of Boko Haram for political and criminal purposes are identified and checked. What that original statement indicated was that indeed Boko Haram has many faces. It confirms that this thing called Boko Haram is such a multifaceted phenomenon. The true situation has already been stated by the Honourable Minister of Information on two different occasions.
"First in an interview, second through a press release, namely that the Federal Government is involved in dialogue with Boko Haram. You will recall that what led to this is that a spokesperson for Boko Haram issued a statement confirming that government and some leaders of Boko Haram were already discussing; in that particular statement the issues being looked at were clearly identified.
"You will recall that in one instance, during a Presidential Media chat, President Jonathan had made it clear that the Boko Haram phenomenon, the terror phenomenon in Nigeria, is quite a novel phenomenon and that many of the persons involved in the low level insurgency are not known, they have not come forward. However if such persons should come forward, government will grant them a listening ear to know what it is that they are after.
"Again the President is on record, as having made it clear that government's approach to checking the Boko Haram insurgency is at many levels. The available option according to Mr President is not solely one of military action or police action and it is on the basis of this that he had reached out to leaders of political thought in the parts of the country that are affected.
"There is even a third level of intervention, the economic and social level of intervention. In this regard, President Jonathan has made it clear that many of the efforts being directed towards the affected parts of the country are meant, in fact to redirect the energies of the youths and this is the whole point of using the agricultural sector to transform lives, to create wealth, to create a value chain, the end of which is to create jobs and to engage young people more effectively.