The Nigerian government has announced what itsays is a truce with Boko Haram militants and a dealto free more than 200 abducted schoolgirls.

If this turns out to be true it will be some of the best
news Nigerians have heard for decades.
The fact that the announcement comes from the
top of Nigeria’s military ought to give it considerable
weight. This is not a whisper or a rumour of a deal. It
is a statement from the Chief of Defence Staff, Air
Marshal Alex Badeh.
But there is massive scepticism here, and some
question whether the announcement was in any
way timed to coincide with the imminent
announcement that President Goodluck Jonathan is
going to run for re-election.
Air Marshal Badeh gave very few details apart from
saying a ceasefire had been struck with the group
known as Boko Haram and that the Nigerian military
service chiefs had been instructed to comply.
Then he walked away – no more details and –
certainly – no questions from the media, who had
been expecting a somewhat duller statement
following a meeting between the top brass of the
Nigerian and Cameroonian military.
Then it was over to the politicians and spokesmen
to fill in the large gaps, including the fate of the
Chibok girls, who have to an extent already become
political pawns.
President Jonathan’s principal private secretary,
Hassan Tukur, told the BBC that as part of the deal
219 abducted schoolgirls who have been missing for
six months would be freed by Boko Haram.
But (and it is a very big but) he said more talks
would take place next week to work out exactly
how the girls would be released.
One-sided announcement
But what is the position of the jihadists who have
been causing havoc across the north-east? That is
the big question.
It would, of course, be more convincing if the news
of the deal had come from both sides.
On Friday, the Voice Of America broadcast an
interview with Danladi Ahmadu, a man calling
himself the secretary general of Boko Haram
(hardly a regular title for a jihadist group).
I have failed to find anyone who has ever heard of
him. He said a deal had been struck with the
government.
The surprising thing is Nigerian officials had not
given any indication that negotiations with Boko
Haram were taking place.
There had, however, been plenty of rumours of
talks being held in neighbouring Chad sparked by
President Jonathan’s surprise visit to Ndjamena last
month.
The presence at those talks of the controversial ex-
governor of Borno State, Ali Modu Sheriff, added
fuel to the rumours. He has long been accused of
having links to Boko Haram – an accusation he
denies.
With Nigeria’s elections due early next year, it
would be a major boost for the governing People’s
Democratic Party if a deal were to be struck soon.
Political games?
A deal with Boko Haram now would fuel the belief
that this conflict is more to do with Nigeria’s
internal politics than to do with religion.
It would also prompt the question as to whether
there are politicians from whichever party who are
willing to see thousands killed and entire
communities torn apart for their own personal
gain?
Many Nigerians will remain extremely sceptical
about the news of this deal.
The military and the government have in the past
released statements about the conflict which have
turned out to be completely at odds with the
situation on the ground – including one report
which said almost all the Chibok girls were free.
The celebrations here will not begin unless the
violence stops and the hostages are home.

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