By Augustine Ehikioya
The Theatre Commander, Joint Task Force, North East Operation HADIN KAI, Major General, Christopher Musa, has thrown his weight behind extension of forgiveness to surrendered Boko Haram members who genuinely repented and sought for forgiveness from Nigerians.
According to him, forgiveness should be embraced if it will bring about total peace in Borno State, and the North East in general.
Recall that many atrocities were committed by the insurgents, which resulted in the death of many Nigerians and destruction of properties worth billions of Naira in the area in over a decade.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with Security Watch Africa (SWA), the Theatre Commander also said the military is gradually sifting the conscripted and hypnotized Boko Haram members from the real Boko Haram fighters.
He said “So we sort them all out and the fighters, farmers and other are kept separately and treated separately. The plan we had when we had discussion with the State government is that we are going to discuss with the fighters and also look at the victims.
“The thing about the whole exercise here in Borno State, in particular, is they all know themselves. So, everybody knows what everybody did. So, even the fighters themselves, if they are willing to say we are sorry, these were the things we did and we are looking for forgiveness, and we bring the victims to equally come and listen. We held a stakeholders meeting with the State government some weeks back, where everybody came in.
“There was this particular man that represented the stakeholders. They killed his father, killed his mother, his grandmother and nine of his children. The man came and said if forgiving them will bring peace to the State, he’s ready to do it. And I think there is no greater sacrifice than that.
“So, I understand with people thinking is it real or not real. But like I said, we are all humans, we make mistakes and some mistakes are dear, it costs life. A lot of innocent lives have gone. Anybody who kills innocent soul should not be allowed to go free. This is a situation that happened and we have all been praying for God to intervene. And God has intervene because most of them don’t even know how they came out.
“I think if we handle the situation properly, it will bring an end to insurgency in the North East. If it ends in the North East, I’m sure all other ones will just fizzle out,” he said.
He added “So we are just trying to do that to ensure we bring those ones bearing arms to justice and also bring those ones that are willing to surrender to surrender, and we are seeing what is happening that they are actually surrendering.
“They are surrendering in droves, a lot of them have called to say they want to come out, they are tired. They know they cannot win, they were deceived and now they’ve seen clearly. They were told anytime they meet us, the members of Armed Forces will kill them, we told them no, we are not animals, we are humans like them and that we know not all of them are part of it, some of them were conscripted, some of them were forced, some were deceived, some were hypnotized into it. So, we are sorting all those one out so that we can deal with the main actors and that’s exactly what we are doing,” he stated.
On the fear that the insurgents may not be sincere with their surrendering, Major General Musa, who took over the position from the present Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lieutenant General Faruk Yahaya, said “We are not God, so we cannot say or read the heart of man. You know they say the heart is deceitful above all things. But the truth about it from what we are seeing for now, and the way they are appealing and begging to come out, it showed that a lot of them are willing.
“In fact, we are using some of their Commanders to talk to other ones. And if you hear the sermon from their Commanders, they are telling them they are a lot better than all this while they were in the jungle feeding like animals.
“They thought they were enjoying, now they have come out, they could now see they were physically suffering. Now, they are free, they are here eating well, being treated well. And every human being wants a good life.
“And the funny thing is that, you see them killing other people, but they are very particular about their family members. They don’t joke with their wives and children. And so, if you see them pull out, they are coming with their wives and children, it tells you that they are sure because they know if anything happens, their wives and children might be affected.
“So, if they are not serious, naturally, they would have come out alone hiding their families. But they came out with everybody, in fact, some of them came out with their chickens and animals they were growing to tell you that they have just had it.
“There is a special one, a young guy that was issued a mattress, for the first time he held that mattress and lied down, he started crying. We asked him what was the problem, he said he had never seen a mattress to lie down on. He was always on the tree or bare ground,” he said.
The Theater Commander went on “So, he never knew all these things apart from the lies they were telling them. Suddenly, everything has cleared and they have seen that this is better for them.
“We are not deceived about them coming out with their families. Even at that, we are still going through the process. Once they come out from the bushes, we bring them out, we sort them out, we collect their weapons and keep them by the side. We sort them into their various groups, who are the fighters, who are the farmers and you know they enslaved some people,” he stated.