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N/Delta: The problem with dialogue!

The ongoing brigandage in the Niger Delta is to be expected the moment a government shows an inclination towards dialoguing with bandits. The Federal Government,…

The ongoing brigandage in the Niger Delta is to be expected the moment a government shows an inclination towards dialoguing with bandits. The Federal Government, with its back seemingly to the wall and, contrary to all permutations, has been talking of its preparedness to dialogue with bandits and every roughneck in the Niger Delta suddenly has their eye on a piece of the action.  Government must get its back off and President Muhammadu Buhari will do well not to bring God into this matter.
This is because those with their backs to the wall negotiate from a position of weakness. It is not surprising that many of those who admonish the government to negotiate with bandits were the same set that hoodwinked late President Umaru Musa Yar’adua into instituting an ill-advised multi-billion Naira drainpipe otherwise called Niger Delta amnesty programme. By falling for the dialogue stuff, Mallam Yar’adua created a behemoth that has become a huge distraction for the well-meaning Buhari/Osinbajo administration.
The ongoing banditry in parts of the south-east and south-south is the direct result of what you get when you dialogue with bandits. It was the dialogue the Yar’adua government had with all manner of criminals that spawned the new set of scavengers in the Niger Delta.
It was the same dialogue that emboldened starry-eyed beer fans in the south east to attempt an exhumation of a hatchet that was buried 46 years ago! By extension, it was dialogue that emboldened the lecherous Boko Haram bandits who have elevated mass rape and mass murder to an art.    The only time dialogue becomes relevant is when one of two adversaries has been pummelled to the point of near-capitulation.
No one should delude themselves that dialogue makes sense without the big stick. It doesn’t! And, mind you, you don’t dangle carrots in the face of an adversary to lure them to the roundtable! No adversary gives second thought to an invitation to dialogue until they have been so battered to the point of seeing an invitation for dialogue as a life- and face-saver! This cardinal rule in war diplomacy had not been met when President Yar’adua extended a presidential handshake to the Niger Delta bandits. 
One mistake the Buhari/Osinbajo government will make is to repeat the mistake of talking to implacable bandits who will always shift the post and continue to make outlandish demands. Especially in the case of the Niger Delta, what all budding scavengers are doing is to strategically position themselves for an imminent feast that will come out of a dialogue. Many of today’s scavengers saw how they lost out when their compatriots became super-rich in the name of amnesty and now believe it is time for them to have a piece of the action.
The ongoing hot air is the usual jostling for vintage positions ahead of an imminent feast.   This, precisely, is the problem with dialogue! Honour one scavenger with dialogue and you run the risk of producing more and deadlier scavengers. From the scope and extent of the lawlessness in the Niger Delta, it is clear that somebody has to deliver the telling punch to force an opponent’s hand.
For now, to think and hope and pray for the restoration of peace and sanity at the roundtable is illusionary! It is about time to employ reasonable force to call the bluff of all manner of scavengers!  
Abdulrazaq Magaji [email protected] is based in Abuja +234-805-138-0793

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