President Goodluck Jonathan has given the new National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.), the go-ahead to commence dialogue with members of the violent Islamic sect, Boko Haram.
The NSA has also got the President’s backing on the steps he has so far taken to end the violence the sect unleashed on some states in the north and the Federal Capital Territory.
Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Reuben Abati, told The PUNCH exclusively on Thursday in Abuja that Jonathan was favourably disposed to all lawful steps that might be taken by the new NSA to bring about peace in the country.
Following his appointment as a replacement for the ex-NSA, Gen. Andrew Azazi (retd.), Dasuki has been visiting the troubled states and holding talks with leaders in the affected areas.
He was on Thursday quoted as saying that he had obtained the contact details of some leaders of the sect with the aim of reaching out to them.
In the interview with one of our correspondents, Abati said, “The man (Dasuki) is only doing the job given him by the President. His assignment is to restore peace to the country. The President will support whatever lawful steps he may be taking to perform his assignment.
“By establishing contact with members of the sect and holding talks with leaders of the troubled areas, the NSA is only doing his job.”
On whether the steps being taken by Dasuki were indications that the Federal Government was ready to enter into dialogue with the sect, Abati said, “The position of President Jonathan is clear on this issue.
“He has said it many times that once members of the sect come out openly, his government will talk with them.
“That of course does not mean that the government will support or encourage impunity.
“He made it clear during a recent visit of the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Mrs. Fatou Bensounda, that his administration would not condone impunity.
“The President promised Bensounda that his administration would support the ICC in its efforts to check impunity.”
Dasuki, meanwhile, on Thursday accused the media of sensational reporting, saying his experience with journalists since his appointment has not been pleasant.
He said this in Kano during a visit to the state governor, Rabiu Kwankwanso.
The NSA told journalists after the visit that, “My experience with the media has so far not been a very good one. Normally, what happens is that some people record what I have said and once they are out, everybody tries to translate what I said and somehow in the process of translation the meaning is lost.
“And some of the things I said were not reflected and those that I didn’t say were somehow stated as having been said. I would like to caution you that you should be very careful with what you report. In most of the places I visit, the media have been one of the problems and it is all this idea of sensational journalism that everybody wants to publish a story, that is not necessarily a story, to make good headlines.”
Dasuki said he was in Kano as part of his tour of states to impart experiences about how to handle the security challenges in the country at the moment.
He urged the Kano State Government to ensure that it intensified efforts in securing the state due to its status as a commercial nerve centre in the country and the West African sub-region.
Dasuki assured that the Federal Government would equally do its best to secure Kano and the country as a whole.
“Considering the importance of Kano, a major economic hub, the last place anybody would want any disruption is Kano. The effect of anything in Kano is like say when Nigeria sneezes, the sub-region catches cold,” he said.
The NSA, also in Kaduna, held talks with political, religious and traditional leaders in the state and reiterated the Federal Government’s readiness to work with state governments in the north to solve the problem of insecurity in the region.
According to his media aide, Kunle Karounwi, the NSA told the leaders to check their wards from acts capable of putting the country’s peace in jeopardy.
Meanwhile, the northern socio-political organisation, Arewa Consultative Forum, on Thursday gave its nod to the NSA’s peace moves toward resolving the Boko Haram problem.
The spokesman for the ACF, Anthony Sani, said the use of military might had never contained violent acts anywhere in the world.
“Since President Umaru Yar’Adua used force and killed about 700 members and their leader, yet failed to subdue them and instead stoked their violent activities, it is in order to bring the leaders of the sect to the negotiation table for the common good,” Sani told The PUNCH.
The Nigeria Labour Congress said that the Federal Government must take necessary actions to prevent the disintegration of the country.
Acting General Secretary of the NLC, Chris Uyot, said all efforts geared towards ending the activities of the violent sect should be encouraged.
“Dialogue is just one of the options. If there is a window to do that, it should be exploited to the fullest. We should not forget the fact that some of our leaders have said that the situation can lead to the disintegration of the country. Anything that can affect the unity of the country should be taken seriously and dealt with,” he said.
Also, the Congress for Progressive Change said that the Boko Haram problem was political and should be solved politically.
The CPC’s National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Rotimi Fashakin, said the new NSA’s move was indicative of the fact that Boko Haram was political.
“We have heard it over and over that there are three variants of Boko Haram, with the most lethal or vicious being the political Boko Haram,” he said.