ABUJA— The Nigerian government has declared it is ready to negotiate with the dreaded sect known as Boko Haram. The announcement, coming as it does so soon after a new spate of attacks by the group that has pledged allegiance to the so-called Islamic State, suggests that the recently elected government of Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari is looking for a way out of confrontation. But there is certainly more to the story than that.
“If Boko Haram opts for negotiation, the government will not be averse to it,” Buhari’s spokesman, Femi Adesina, said in a statement released on Saturday. “Government will, however, not be negotiating from a position of weakness, but that of strength,” it said.
As if to add horrible punctuation marks to this reticent dialogue, at least 25 people were killed when a bomb blast ripped through a packed government office in the northwestern town of Zaria on Tuesday in a suspected suicide attack capping a week in which close to 300 people died in Boko Haram violence. Since Buhari was sworn in as president on May 29 the fanatics have killed an estimated 800 people.
The Nigerian government’s apparent willingness to speak with Boko Haram contradicts the earlier stance of Buhari, who promised during his campaign not to negotiate with the insurgents if elected president.