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After Northern leaders meeting, still a long walk to peace

By Saxone Akhaine, Northern Bureau Chief
05 February 2017   |   3:41 am
The leaders also used the occasion to attempt to proffer solutions to the myriad of problems plaguing the North, especially the Boko Haram insurgency and the worsening cases of insecurity threatening the area.

Without doubt, the recent meeting of state governors and traditional rulers of the 19 northern states was instigated by the uncontrollable herdsmen attacks and killings in Southern Kaduna.

The leaders also used the occasion to attempt to proffer solutions to the myriad of problems plaguing the North, especially the Boko Haram insurgency and the worsening cases of insecurity threatening the area.

However, the communiqué issued at the end of the two-day meeting penultimate Tuesday, did not expressly indicate how the northern political and traditional leaders intend to tackle the endemic problem of killings by Fulani herdsmen, and the Boko Haram insurgency, which apart from the thousands of deaths it has induced, has also decimated the region’s economy.

At the commencement of the meeting with the traditional rulers, there were high expectations from the 19 governors that the occasion would address most of the serious problems behind the crisis in the north, especially the herdsmen attacks, and killings in Southern Kaduna. Interestingly, most accounts of the killings were blamed on herdsmen that came in from neighbouring countries including Niger, Chad, Cameroon and other nearby West African countries.

Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, at the height of the killings by the Fulani herdsmen had confessed that government had to pay ransom to some of the herdsmen coming from outside the country, in order to appease them from engaging in further attacks and killings in the troubled zone.

During the meeting, Chairman of the Northern Governors’ Forum and Governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima, and the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar, in their opening remarks gave the impression that at the end of the two-day parley there would be concrete step to stem the violence in Southern Kaduna, as well as the Boko Haram insurgency that has bedeviled the North East.

Governor Shettima, who expressed displeasure at the plight of the North in his address said, the “fundamental debate bordering on the educational backwardness, pervasive poverty, and underdevelopment, as well as persistent insecurity in northern Nigeria should not only form the basis for holding this extraordinary meeting, but must continue, in our enlightened self-interest as leaders, to perpetually preoccupy our thoughts, plans, programmes and actions.”

According to him, managing multiculturalism and heterogeneity is a major challenge and indeed a litmus test for leadership, good governance and progress, not just in northern Nigeria, but in the entire global society, pointing out that “as leaders of government, traditional rulers and community, as well as, religious leaders, we must unite to tackle the challenges that stare us in the face.”

Shettima pointed out: “Like all the northern governors acknowledge, development is not just about building roads, bridges, houses or what we refer to as infrastructure, and the provision of social services. Yes, these are very important, but then, there are pro-social livelihoods, peace and good life, which are the fundamental attributes of meaningful existence.

“Our core challenges in the North today revolve around
intolerance, absence of peaceful coexistence, poverty, illiteracy and lack of unity. How can we address these critical concerns? We, the 19 governors of northern states believe that a gathering of some of the key leaders of the North, is more than able to provide solutions to our problems. As governors, we are more determined than ever, to sincerely walk the talk
generated from this important meeting.”

The Sultan, who spoke on behalf of the monarchs said: “We at the Northern Traditional Rulers Council are very worried and sad with the situation of insecurity in the north, especially the happenings in Southern Kaduna, kidnapping, cattle rustling, the state of IDPs in the North East in particular, and other parts of the country.”

He also lamented the utterances of some clerics over insecurity in some parts of the country saying: “We are more worried with the usage of places of worship to preach hatred, violence and other issues that tend to divide us, rather than strengthen our unity as a people created by one God.”

The sultan said: “We believe, one of the numerous reasons why violence continues to thrive in our midst is the impunity that is allowed to thrive in our midst. Nobody is punished for criminal doings that they commit. We are therefore strongly supporting more measures taken and to be taken by governors of the northern states, especially the Governor of Kaduna State. We must all strive to achieve lasting peace in the North in particular and the whole country in general.”

Host governor El-Rufai expressed the hope that the meeting would “resolve towards uniting and building a peaceful society and promoting stability and socio-economic development of the region and people of the North.

He said: “All political, traditional and religious leaders must rise in condemning the incessant killings and destruction of lives and property in our region. The security situation has become ever more worrisome, as people who have co-existed peacefully for several years have now allowed some unscrupulous elements to instigate them to take up arms against one another, leading to the wanton destruction of the lives of innocent and law abiding citizens.”

By and large, the meeting failed to produce practical steps needed to stem the tide of killings and wanton destruction of lives and property taking place in the North by terrorists, and in Southern Kaduna by herdsmen.

The governors only resolved in their communiqué to fight the insecurity bedeviling the region as an entity, just as they pledged to end the crisis in Southern Kaduna soon. That notwithstanding, many consider the resolution of the northern leaders meeting as mere rhetoric.

A public affairs analyst, Mallam Rasheed Ado, who lamented the outcome of the northern governors and traditional rulers’ meeting, described “the gathering as disappointing because the generality of the people were expecting to hear and see practical steps taken to end the troubles in the North, but they came and gathered without that happening.”

“It was the usual promises and pledges that made up their communiqué. What are they doing to ameliorate the sufferings of families of those who were killed?

“Fulani herdsmen are still attacking and killing, what are they doing to stop them? Boko Haram is still using suicide bombers to kill people. What are they doing to stop them? You can see that all what the governors
and traditional rulers are saying is just paper work.”

Meanwhile, former governor of Kaduna State, Balarabe Musa in his reaction to the Killings in Southern Kaduna, accused politicians and the elite of exploiting the Southern Kaduna killings to make money and advance their political interests, while the victims wallow in trauma. As the meeting went on, the killings continued unabated, even up till this moment. So, when are northern leaders really going to walk the talk?