The catholic cleric said the use of force would rather worsen the whole issue.
Onaiyekan spoke in Abuja yesterday at the National Inter-faith Dialogue Meeting organised by IPCR and International Dialogue Centre (KAICIID) in collaboration with the Interfaith Media Center (IMC).
He said: “We have been hearing about Boko Haram; we have been hearing about Niger Delta militants and others and it probably seems to be taken for granted that all we need is better arms, better trained soldiers and we shall solve the problem.
“I am afraid it has never worked that way anywhere in the world. At some point, after the soldiers have finished their job, human beings must sit around the table and talk. There is nobody that you cannot talk with because everybody is a human being – the child of a mother and maybe the sweetheart of a woman.
“Our own Boko Haram has not taken 52 years. We are only talking of three, four years. Surely, it is not too late to now move seriously in line of dialogue. That does not mean impunity. That does not mean that nobody cares about atrocities committed.
“What it does mean is that no matter the atrocities, it is always possible for human beings to see one another as brothers and sisters.”
Cardinal Onaiyekan urged the government to show more interest, put more effort, resources a bit more and a little bit of interest in getting some dialogue going.
He said: “The Federal Government should be prepared to dialogue with everybody. Very often, the military reaction or response can prepare the way for a fruitful dialogue, but you must keep dialogue constantly in mind. My fear is that we are not thinking of dialogue now. Things can go hand in hand.
“And dialogue is not something you do in front of cameras. Generally, it is a bit quiet, in the background; there is not much noise and even when the whole thing is over, people, who were involved in the dialogue, or that prepared the way would not even be seen or heard.
“People who want to work for peace are not there to score political points or to appear in public. They just want to do the right thing and I think there are many people in Nigeria who are ready to work for peace.
“If you take Boko Haram for example, I have always said that government should encourage Muslims who want to talk to them to do so instead of seeing everybody who has any link with Boko Haram as terrorists, which is what seems to be what I am seeing.
“It is only people who are closed to them who can talk to them and that needs to be consciously promoted because you can never kill every Boko Haram member and even if you do, it is not in the interest of Nigeria to kill our brothers and sisters. We must find a way of getting back them as brothers and sisters that they are.”