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‘Trapped in prison of mirrors’: North finally admitting to self-inflicted woes

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Hundreds of dignitaries from various parts of the country recently converged on Kaduna, the Crocodile City, to celebrate the 60th birthday of the governor of the state, Malam Nasir el-Rufai and shower encomiums on his leadership quality, in the face of the challenges confronting his state and the country in general. Most of those who graced the occasion were governors, lawmakers, ministers and other public office holders, who had come to celebrate with Governor el-Rufai.

Unfortunately, the birthday celebration came at a time when the security challenges facing the north and the entire country had assumed an embarrassing proportion, which many blame on the worsening poverty level facing Nigerians. What is more, most of the northern governors whose states are battling with the wave of insecurity posed by Boko Haram insurgency, banditry, kidnapping, and poverty were in attendance. This provided opportunity for the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Sanusi Lamido Sanusi II, to admonish the leaders to live up to their governance responsibilities.

Sanusi spoke frankly to the northern political leaders, and urged them to wake up to the responsibility of governance and find solutions to the high rate of poverty, illiteracy, almajirinci, and other problems of insecurity militating against the region.

According to Sanusi, a situation where the poverty index in the north is 87 per cent is unacceptable. He then urged the northern leaders to stop pretending as if all is well. He challenged them to find lasting solution to the problems of drug abuse, poverty, illiteracy, and insecurity before they consume the region.

However, the traditional ruler told the northern political leaders to emulate the modest contribution of Governor el-Rufai to development, especially in the areas of education, health and infrastructure. Sanusi said, “If the north does not change and tackle some of these social problems, it will destroy itself. When we talk about birthday, we talk about happiness. Just last week, someone asked me, ‘are you happy?’ And I said, ‘I am not.’ And the person was surprised. Nobody who is a leader in the northern Nigeria today can afford to be happy. You cannot be happy with about 87 per cent of poverty in Nigeria being in the north.

“You can’t be happy with millions of Northern children out of school. You can’t be happy with nine states in the North contributing almost
50 per cent of the entire malnutrition burden in the country. You can’t be happy with the drug problem; you can’t be happy with the Boko Haram problem. You can’t be happy with political thuggery. You can’t be happy with all the issues, the almajiri problem that we have. We have been saying this for 20 to 30 years. If the north does not change, the north will destroy itself.”

The former banker-turned traditional ruler said quota system that the country adopted for the north to gain parity with the south in terms of education, economy, and placements in federal establishments and which has consequently lowered national standards and erased competitive spirit just to accommodate an ostensibly backward north has long become outdated in modern national discourse.

“The country is moving on. Quota system that everybody talks about must have a sunset clause,” Sanusi declared. “So, we wish Nasir a happy birthday, but we do not want him to be happy as a leader. Because you are happy when you think you have reached a state of delivering and taking your people to where you want them to be.”
 
The emir added that with ‎the condition of northern Nigeria, it’s almost correct to say that if a governor or a leader in the north is seen as normal in the sense that they continue to do what their predecessors have been doing then there is something wrong with them, because they are part of the problem.He further noted, “the real change in the north will come from those who are considered mad people because when you look around and say, ‘if this is the way people have been doing things, and this is where they have ended up, maybe there is the need to do things
differently’”.

Sanusi is not alone on the quest to make the north better. Other prominent opinion leaders and elders have hitherto canvassed the same thoughts Sanusi expressed at el-Rufai’s birthday at different occasions while condemning the negative security and social conditions in the region. In fact, it recently prompted the call for President Muhammadu Buhari to resign over the endless shedding of blood of
innocent Nigerians both in the north and other parts of the country under the current administration.

 
For instance, a prominent Islamic cleric, Sheikh Ahmad Abubakar Gumi, had called on Buhari to immediately resign as Nigeria’s president following his inability to provide purposeful governance to end insecurity and other social problems facing Nigerians. Gumi reminded Buhari that the killings under his administration since he assumed office in 2015 has tripled that of former President Goodluck Jonathan, when Buhari called for his resignation when Jonathan was in office.

According to the Islamic leader, during Jonathan’s administration, Boko Haram was throwing bombs everywhere, including destruction of churches and mosque, which led to the death of many innocent Nigerians, and insisted, “National security challenges under President Buhari is worse than Jonathan’s”.Sheikh Gumi argued that it was unfair of him to call for the resignation of Jonathan while in office and spare Buhari under whose administration killings and kidnapping have become worse.

According to him, “Why I blamed Jonathan was because there was blood in his hand because Boko Haram was putting bombs everywhere and government then was not doing enough. You are responsible for the blood of anybody killed under your regime. If you’ve done your best I can say Allah will forgive you but if you relax, no, Allah will not forgive you. So is the same thing now.

“The bloodshed now is more than combined together with the bloodshed under Jonathan regime. So now you can judge yourself. Our religion is religion of fairness. We have to be fair to ourselves. During Jonathan’s time, when blood was flowing too much in mosques, churches and streets, I said let him resign because I foresaw he could not handle it. So, I said resign with immediate effect because you could not handle the killing of innocent people, and government and private newspapers, editors published it, in English. Is that possible today?

“Now more blood is being shed because of laziness, sleepiness, negligence and ‘I-don’t-care’ (attitude). I mean, ‘I-don’t-care’, because more effort should have been made. It’s not possible; people are dying and the president and governors are attending wedding ceremonies. That’s what I mean by ‘I-don’t-care’. It’s either if I’m truthful to myself, as I called for the resignation of Jonathan, I should also call for resignation of Buhari, and with immediate effect and government newspapers and others should carry it also if there is truth. As bad as Jonathan’s time was, he was more democratic. He allows people chance to speak even against him.

“You could see that he saw that there was going to be problems during election, and he relinquished power, saying that his ambition was not worth the blood of Nigerians”.Gumi commended the Jonathan’s development strides in the north, but said his inability to stop the bloodshed was a major minus to his administration.“He (Jonathan) built nine Universities in Arewa areas; 150 almajiri schools. He did a lot on the Kaduna-Abuja railway. But I was attacking him because of the blood of people wasting, which is the most expensive thing in life. There’s nothing I did not said – resign, impeach him, this and that. So, I’ve now one or two options: if I can’t tell my brother what I told that man then I have to take a plane to Abuja and go to Jonathan and say, ‘please, forgive me for castigating you in public.’ I’ll rather do that or castigate this president (Buhari), too”.

Gumi continued: “If it is another person in power, and people are dying everyday, to God, it would have been more than this in terms of
talking. Even yesterday, we heard somebody was kidnapped. People are suffering and nobody can talk because the leaders have taken away our freedom of speech because they don’t want anybody to talk bad against the man. There are lots of people who can do better than this man in the north”.

EARLIER, when prominent Northern leaders like the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Muhammadu Abubakar, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, Usman Bugaje gathered in Kaduna, they also blamed President Buhari and the governors across the country for their failure to rescue Nigerians from the unabating security challenges. They then set up a security monitoring committee in the
region to proffer solutions to the problems of insurgency and kidnapping in the region.

At the inauguration of the Northern Security Monitoring Committee under the Bugaje-led Arewa Research and Development Project (ARDP), a total of 42 prominent northerners in the academia, former military leaders, ambassadors, and others were named as committee members. In his address at the occasion, the Sultan blamed government for not finding lasting solutions to Boko Haram insurgency, banditry and kidnappings, which have turned
Nigeria into a killing field and created more orphans, widows, and widowers in the country.

According to him, if Nigerians failed to find lasting solutions to the army of orphans the security challenges have created today for the
country, “This teaming population of orphans may constitute a time bomb for Nigeria in the near future”. Besides, the Secretary of Jamatu Nasril Islam (JNI), Sheikh Abubakar Aliyu Khalid, while condemning the inability of the Federal Government to end the security challenges bedeviling the country, attributed it to the “clueless nature of the leadership”.

According to Khalid: “The leaders we have in government have shown a level of cluelessness in handling the insurgency, banditry, and other
criminal activities in the country. The government seems not to show concern; it’s primary responsibility is to provide security, safety for the citizens. And it is pretending as if it doesn’t know what is happening. Is it other individuals or non-governmental organizations
that are supposed to guide the government of their constitutional responsibility? This is why I am saying that the government and leader
are clueless”.

Khalid directed a question to the former Speaker, Dogara, and asked: “What does the lawmakers in other countries do to such government when it fails to resolve such fundamental issues, in an event that it refuses to meet up with the wellbeing and security progress of the people? I know that up till this movement this government has not been able to find answers to the security of the people”.

However, Dogara, who chaired the occasion, lamented that “the north is now the epicentre and theatre of violence – from Boko Haram ISWAP-led Albarnawi, Boko Haram led by Shekau and Ansaru insurgency, to farmer/herders’ conflict, banditry, kidnappings, ethno-religious conflicts, cattle rustling, etc, “and we are confronted with a crisis that is unparalleled in our history. The death spiral is unstoppable. Increasingly, it is becoming harder and harder to distinguish us from our enemies”, adding that the north has now become “a society that is driven at the very core by death instinct.

“As it is, we are now trapped in a prison of mirrors, where revealed lies are answered with new lies. With all these, it is like our slow motion walk to self-apocalypse is assured. We have seen this movie before in Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan, Afaghanistan, and Syria to name but just a few but not in northern Nigeria.

“I must say that one mistake we are all guilty of is to fold our arms and wait on governments at all levels to solve this problem for us. Government has its own share of the blame. What are we doing ourselves?”.Representing the Governor of Katsina State, Aminu Masari as guest of honour, the Secretary to the State Government, Alhaji Mustapha Inuwa, lamented the increasing wave of kidnapping and other crimes in the country, saying that Nigeria’s security apparatuses had now been overwhelmed.

“I have the opportunity to go round and I saw the bandits and had interviews with some of these young people in the forest,” he said. “Most of the areas are open land and you can even see motor cycles going round the places. But, the problem is that the agencies responsible are not
doing their job.

“The security agencies are lacking in terms of manpower, arms and ammunition. You can see some of the security agencies; when they go out they borrow arms from some of these bandits, because they are better armed in terms sophistication”.

The ARDP Coordinator, Dr. Bugaje, said that their terms of reference included making regular evaluation of the impact of the current effort by both federal and community security agencies, installing an effective tracking system, leveraging on the latest technology, and tracking and keeping records of all security breaches in the north.Also, “exploring new ways of augmenting and supporting the existing efforts and to engage
both state and non-state actors in the field; this include exploring the best way to organise community policing in the northern states,” Bugaje stated.


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