Again, it is with a heavy heart I conclude republishing my letters to northern leaders. This is because history is boldly and unambiguously repeating itself. And, what makes it more painful is that we don’t seem to have learnt any lessons from our previous experience.
When the Boko Haram insurgents attacked the Chibok school and took with them hundreds of girls it took many days for the Goodluck Jonathan government to acknowledge the atrocity. The group took advantage of the ensuing confusion to ferry the victims to places only they knew. But the Chibok girls’ plight was only one of many of such abductions in which thousands of Nigeria disappeared into the terror group’s dungeon without anyone noticing or doing anything.
We all criticised the Jonathan regime’s handling of the Boko Haram menace and the Chibok abduction, in particular. And when elections came it was a major weapon against the regime. The rest is history.
I do not share the opinion that progress has not been made in the fight against Boko Haram since President Jonathan’s last minute ‘rise from slumber’ and when the present regime of President Muhammadu Buhari came to power in May 2015. The fight against the terror group has been quite difficult and full of setbacks. But, methinks, some of the setbacks are self-inflicted.
For example, based on a BBC report, the Nigerian soldiers combing Sambisa forest for Abubakar Shekau came close to capturing him, recently. But, according to the report, the soldiers received a certain sudden order that halted the search and while they waited, for four days, the insurgents remobilised and launched a massive attack on the troops, which killed some of the soldiers. And, very worrying too, Shekau made good his escape.
The Nigerian government strategy of piecemeal deals resulting in monetary ‘incentivisation’ in addition to releasing the group’s fighters in the custody of the government in exchange for some Nigerians in the group’s captivity is also self-destruct.
Each time such deals are agreed the group comes back fighting ferociously. This is because the incentives they get from the government are used to replenish the group’s supplies and resuscitate it in order to carry on the insurgency.
This strategy has to change. The government needs to begin a serious discussion and consultation on how a combination of military and political solutions can be applied to end insurgency.
Northern leaders need to agree that they have a big role to play and begin planning how to step in. Most importantly, a clear policy to prevent rogue groups like Boko Haram from emerging again has to be put in place. This is why I think this letter is as relevant today as it was about five years ago, when it was first published. Enjoy reading.
Sirs, as much as we blame you for most or all of our ills we must also accept our own culpability for some of those. You might have defaulted in handling affairs handed over to you since you stepped into Sardauna’s shoes after his demise.
But our biggest fault is we are your cheerleaders and are often entirely willing to not ask appropriate questions about the way things are managed. We, as if God decreed that we should be condemned to such abjectness, accept it as our destiny.
The biggest problem of the northern oppressed is that he does not think his situation is man-made. He takes it as God-sent. This sweetens the minds of those in some form of leadership roles because it rules out any possibility of ‘people’s revolt’.
So the rogues who took advantage of our ignorance to claim to speak for us and are now mobilising some of us to capsize the ship know too well we are very bewildered and badly needing some kind of herding. And herding us to disaster, to satiate their and their sponsors’ greed, is an agenda they must achieve.
In spite of everything you are our leaders and, by implication, role models. Even as we revel Sardauna’s indelible footprints on the sand of time many of us did not live in their time and only know them from the stories told of them. But the glad tidings of their deeds are transmitted through generations. Even though we ought to aspire to be like them we can hardly be because you, their legacy, are what we see each time we look into the scope.
And the real consequence is that things will continue to be like this because even after your time, long after you are gone we would continue with your legacies and pass them on to our inheritors. This issue brings me to the real motive of my missive.
We need you, for our sake and of successive generations, to change and bring about a positive alteration of this trend. For history to remember you with full kindness as we remember Sardauna and his generation, who for our today and tomorrow people’s tomorrow sacrificed theirs’, we need you to rethink your stance vis-à-vis this calamity into which our home, our part of the divide, is enmeshed and seriously consider ways to steer it out.
No doubt there’s leadership in the region (and country) to which allegiance is paid and whose responsibility it is to ensure our safety and well-being, but we still do not think you should be as mute as you are.
Neutrality has no place in the battles these vices that are plainly inimical to our collective survival wage on us. And they are determinedly aiming to vanquish us. And sadly the vices succeed not because they are so formidably rooted to defy efforts to uproot them but because the purported antidotes are programmed to aid such resistance.
For example we cannot claim to be hoping to have no more of fraudulent cults like those in the forefront of this appalling violence without addressing its underlying causes like poverty and unemployment.
If we plan to put a check to the growing number of those waiting to be enlisted into the army of these cults then we must find something for them to do. Rather than investing in a gang/cult culture we should put our money and energy in producing a generation of usefully productive men and women.
Ignorance is one evil we have malevolently invested in. Now is the time to turn the table by building schools and equip them with the tools to bring our people to positions where they can confidently compete with their equals around the world.
If they are prepared for and they are aware they have a future to look forward to I doubt they would allow themselves to be rented out as murderers (who could get killed too) or suicide attackers or your (our) hunters.
You have the clout and resources to bring about all this change but no one expects it to happen easily. It is a major challenge, which you can confront by first agreeing you have a responsibility to do it and could unite us to support you.
In conclusion, sirs, lets ask ourselves: if we do not show similar unselfishness towards making others’ tomorrow how would posterity treat us when we are gone and in places we cannot be of any help?