Nigeria has had more than its fair share of controversial senators since it returned to democratic rule in 1999. From former governors and ministers who contest for senatorial seats as a a form of immunity against prosecution for their crimes while in office to others who see the senate as a protracted retirement home, we’ve seen all sort of politicians call the senate their home and use the mandate of Nigerians to push their own personal agendas. But none have been as controversial as the senators of this present dispensation. From social media bills targeted citizens freedom, to hate speech bills targeted to gag citizens from speaking up against political incompetence, to an immunity bill to protect themselves from prosecution when they are voted out of office. We have seen it all. But what no one expected was that any senator would be brazen enough to put up a bill that seeks to not just reform former Boko Haram fighters, but give them choice positions of education abroad. It seems we just hadn’t met Senator Ibrahim Gaidam yet.
Senator Ibrahim Gaidam represents the Yobe East Senatorial District, one of the epicentres of the violence perpetrated by religous extremist group Boko Haram. For those who do not know, Boko Haram has terrorized the North East, even going as far as kidnapping and killing dozens of young boys in Buni Yadi in Yobe state. They have proven unrepentant in this decade, and resilient, taking territory from the Nigerian government and declaring it property of the Islamic State. Of course, as with every terrorist organization, a portion of their ranks were forced into indentured servitude with Boko Haram and threatened to perform acts of violence. However, that does not and cannot justify Senator Ibrahim Gaidam’s proposal: A bill that would not only absolve ‘reform’ Boko Haram fighters of their crimes, but would also, on tax payers naira, fund foreign education for these fighters under an organization he proposes to be called the National Agency for Deradicalisation, Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Repentant Boko Haram Members.
A mouthful, yes. Preposterous, yes.
We are at YNaija aren’t the only ones who see it this way. The senator representing Borno South Senatorial District Ali Ndume had this to say about the bill.
“I personally disagree with that. The war is not over and some criminals that have been killing people, you say you are doing Operation Safe Corridor for them. I am completely against that idea. They know my position on that; you can’t do that. It is when you win the war and some people surrender that you think about something like that. You are just telling people to go and join Boko Haram and then repent and become something; that’s a totally unacceptable idea and a way of solving the problem.”
The Arewa Youth Consultative Forum, normally on the side of Northern Senators have also distanced themselves from the bill and have gone as far as calling it a “stupid piece of legislation”.
Senator Ibrahim Gaidam remains undeterred. How wouldn’t he be, when in the very same Senate, Nigerian senators are conspiring to deny Nigerians their fundamental rights and have to be cautioned by the ECOWAS regional courts. Gaidam’s bill mocks all the internal displaced persons who have suffered greatly as a result of the violence perpetrated by Boko Haram and have not had their pain compensated by the government. Perhaps it is time he started to advocate for them instead.