Presidential aide, Hassan Tukur, who was the butt of an accusation at the weekend as the person who scuttled the peace talks between the federal government and the terror organization, Boko Haram, has denied the accusation, and calling the claimant, Mr. Datti Ahmed, as malicious but untruthful with an agenda far from promoting peace.
Mr. Datti, a famous kano-based medical doctor, and influential Islamic cleric, and leader of the nation’s sharia council, announced himself late last year as a good-party negotiator, representing Boko Haram, in the quest of the administration to engage the sect in peace talks. He pulled out of the talks in a dramatic way accusing the administration of bad faith, and press leaks against the terms of the negotiation.
Last Monday, Mr. Ahmed gave a controversial interview to the Voice of America [VOA] placing all the blames for the botched talks on the laps of Hassan Tukur, a career diplomat, experienced negotiator, and current principal secretary to the president.
In a vigorous pushback this morning, destined to drag into a major controversy, Mr. Tukur, in a reply interview on VOA from Abuja, portrayed Mr. Ahmed as a bungling peacemaker, a showy publicity-seeker, and mere dilettante who probably does not even believe in peace talks.
Below is the full text of Mr. Tukur’s interview:
“In actual fact Datti Ahmed did not present the facts right. He was only guessing. This is because when four of them met with the President, I was not in the country. On my return the president told me that he would be sending the group to come an meet with me.
“When we met I told them to produce a list of those who have contact with Ahlis Sunna (Boko Haram) and produce a blueprint on how to negotiate peace with them. They never showed up again.
“Actually they never told us those who have direct contact with Boko Haram among them and they had no idea of how to negotiate. Suddenly they came out in the media with this claim that a top government official had disclosed the initiative with the press. And what he said was that he had been chosen to negotiate with Boko Haram. In actual fact, nobody appointed him. He offered himself as a negotiator but he had no contact with the Boko Haram.
“Furthermore, he did not mention the pressmen that the government official or I discussed his initiative with. Journalists have names and newspapers have names and he never mentioned any of those. I think he only made a mistake.
“In this dire situation that this country is facing I think it is incumbent on each and every Nigerian, especially of northern descent to make concerted efforts in quelling any problem in this country.
“But this position which Datti Ahmed decided to tow, to accuse some phantom government official of being the one against his move to negotiate with Boko Haram is ill advised and unIslamic.
“Besides, I thank Allah that I have served government for 32 years and at least people know who I am, principled stand on issues, sincerity, and fearless disposition to matters, no matter whose ox is gored. Whoever knows me knows where I stand on issues.
“It is no longer a secret that as a public servant I have been part of the resolution of several problems at home and abroad. In places like Sao Tome I single handedly assisted in the resolution of the problems that followed their coup plot and I was also part of the resolution of the crisis in Corte de Voire and several other problems that I helped in resolving so why would I look away from the crisis in Nigeria or be a stumbling block to the initiative to work it out? Why?
“If there is anyone who would like to bring an end to the issue of Ahlis Sunna it is first the president and then myself and whatever it takes we shall facilitate its resolution but people should not see this as an opportunity to take advantage of the plight of the Nigerian people. This matter involves the people of Nigeria. People must be patient. Even I who happens to be in the presidency and saddled with the onus of handling the matter must be tolerant I know because these are mere small talks which is the main preoccupation of the people of Nigeria.
VOA – So since it is not the disclosure to the press that aborted the initiative in your estimation what would lead to a truce with Boko Haram?
Tukur: Well you know he did not provide clear roadmap of who to negotiate with and there is nothing on ground to show that we are truly on the path to negotiating with the group. There is only a suggestion and a press statement that since the initiative has been disclosed to the media he is withdrawing his effort. Does it make sense to you that it is enough reason to withdraw from this initiative simply because a government official has disclosed that it is about to take place, assuming that were true?
“Methinks if there were a sincere initiative to negotiate this would have given the initiative more pep and not discourage the negotiators. Datti Ahmed should have hurriedly forwarded a list of his negotiators and moved swiftly. But alas! But you are the ones in the media and he is there. You people should ask him what his motives were because as government officials we are privy to a lot of information that are not always for public consumption and we do not jump at every opportunity to engage people over the media but time will come when the truth shall prevail.
“The truth will prevail and we shall see through every scheme and those who have been standing in the path of this truce shall obviously be exposed and at the end of the day it will turn out that it is not people on the side of government but some others. This is what I am sure of as a muslim.
“I can assure you that if there is anything that this government wants to resolve as quickly as possible it is this problem. We are both northerners, I went to school both in Maiduguri and Kano. In the last few months I was in Maiduguri more than thrice and I have been to Kano as well I know what these places are going through. I know how our brothers from the muslim and Christian folks are going through because of the unrests. Schools are shut down, healthcare is not available and sources of commerce are cut; there are no fresh investments and nothing works. Why would it therefore be a government official or a northerner or even a Muslim who would want to see this destruction continue?
“Besides, the Ahlis Sunna group are Muslims like us, so why would we not sit together on the negotiation table? Didn’t our Prophet (SAW) sat in negotiation with the Huddaybiyya of Mecca. Please we are Muslims and we know that the Prophet sat side-by-side with Jews in Medina, so why wouldn’t we? So if anyone says he withdrew his effort to negotiate peace for Nigeria on this lame excuse that it was disclosed to the media, then I think there is more to it than what we are hearing and I hope the situation of this country becomes clear to him.
“There were allegations from the general public and even the Boko Haram sect itself that some people were using the opportunity to feather their own nests. Could this have stalled the truce initiative?
“I wouldn’t say but even Allah in his infinite mercy said in the Quran, “Inna linsana li rabbi lakanut, meaning even He that created us can be disappointed by us humans. So I cannot say anything other than that there is a semblance of truth in what the sect had suspected.”