Leaders: Talks with militants Nigeria’s best option

The terrorists indicated that they would be willing to negotiate, raising hopes that the schoolgirls could soon be set free from their ordeal. After long days and nights of fearfulness for the girls and their grief-tormented families, contact had been made at last and talks could surely now begin to free the girls and re-unite them with their families.

A video released by Boko Haram shows a man claiming to be the leader. Picture: AFP
A video released by Boko Haram shows a man claiming to be the leader. Picture: AFP

But barely had the spirits of the parents risen than more fears and apprehension came crowding to the fore. First, only 130 girls – about half the 270 seized – were seen in the video, sparking immediate concern about the fate of the others. This fuelled fears that the girls had been split up into separate smaller groups, and dispersed, making their detection and capture all the more difficult. As for the girls in the video, they were shown to be wearing hijabs and repeatedly citing the first verse of the Koran as an indication of their apparent conversion to Islam.

Second, the offer came with conditions – the children would be held until all imprisoned militants had been freed. Third, not all the girls would be exchanged. In the cruellest of twists, the Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau has stipulated that only those who have not converted to Islam would be considered for this cynical swap. The girls look clearly cowed and scared. It is thought the majority of the abducted girls are Christians.

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Now Nigeria’s interior minister Abba Moro has rejected the offer to negotiate, saying that it was “absurd” for Boko Haram to try to set conditions.

The Nigerian government, which has come under scathing criticism for its tardy and lethargic response to the crisis thus far, is already coming under pressure to reconsider its position. Rather than shut down any talks straight away, it will be urged to engage with the group and make a full exploration of what may, and may not, be negotiable. This would surely be in the best interests of the girls – and the Nigerian government.

Leaving military action as the only option – tracking down and capturing as the only option – is fraught with problems. The fact that only some of the girls were shown in the video cannot but beg questions as to the whereabouts of the others. Any military action would have to be co-ordinated at all sites and proceed with caution. This, given the terrain and the operational and technical difficulties involved, would be very difficult.

Sending in an Israeli counter- terrorist unit is a move almost calculated to heighten the backlash if it comes to military action and subsequent deaths. Further talks are the government’s best option in this dire and harrowing stand-off.

Trump Triangle changes tune

So was it all just a storm in a tee-off? It seems the US business tycoon Donald Trump has forgotten his threats over the Menie Estate luxury golf project in Aberdeenshire after a blazing row over offshore wind farms. What a pity his fiery rhetoric at the time was not linked up to the National Grid: at least it would have helped Alex Salmond meet his renewable energy targets.

But that was then. Under his new proposals, the Menie Estate course will form part of a grandiose new golf circuit linking it with his Doonbeg course in County Clare and the recently acquired Open Championship course at Turnberry. The three will form part of what he grandly calls “the Trump Triangle” – though cartographers might timidly point out that it is really more of a straight line.

No matter, this is a colossally ambitious scheme by which these luxury courses will be linked by helicopter for the ease of guests and on which – in Ireland at least – no expense will be spared. He says he plans to invest up to £36 million on the storm-ravaged golf course he bought.

This will dwarf his initial investment when he secured the course earlier this year at a knockdown price after storm damage cut the asking price.

Can this be the same Donald Trump who threatened to stomp away from the Menie development, such was his fury over the Scottish Government’s determination to persist with its pesky offshore wind-farm development over his objections that it would spoil the view? It would appear Mr Trump has changed his view without telling the people of Scotland. Luckily for him, we are not a people who hold grudges, but it is to be hoped he has learned a lesson in dealing with people.