Northern Media Forum: Bandits now dictate where, when to campaign in Zamfara, Sokoto

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Worried by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) figures which indicated that 133 million Nigerians representing 63% were living in poverty, the Northern Media Forum (NMF) has urged presidential candidates of the various political parties to stop grandstanding at campaigns.

Rather, it urged them to introduce “concrete plan of action that has the capacity to transform, reform and change the narratives of destitution, poverty, anger and hunger, desolation, tragedies,” especially, in the northern part of the country.

In a statement by the Chairman and Secretary of the Forum, Mr. Dan Agbese and Hajiya Zainab Suleiman Okino, respectively, the NMF quoted the damning NBS figure which says 86million, representing 65% live in the North, adding that “it should not be a surprise that the North which harbours the highest number of poor people is also the most dangerous place to live in the country.

“So, those wishing to take up leadership positions in 2023 must tell us in clear terms, how they intend to lift this huge number from their miserable low life where people cook with dung, wood or charcoal rather than clean energy and where deprivations also exist in sanitation, healthcare, food insecurity and housing. This is in addition to the higher percentage of poverty in rural areas, (where majority of the poor reside) put at 72% as against 42% in the urban areas.”

While decrying the state of insecurity in the region as the direct consequence of the high level of poverty, especially in the North, the group said: “Starting from the North East where Boko Haram insurgents once held sway, (Nigerian troops have liberated many parts) to the North Central where there are incessant clashes between herders and farmers, to the North West where bandits have established a foothold, the North has been bleeding for almost 15 years since Mohammed Yusuf, the acclaimed leader of the then fledgling BH group was eliminated extra-judicially by the Nigerian police. 

“The situation (of insecurity) festered until the 2015 election, the basis of which the APC government of Muhammadu Buhari was elected. Sadly, more than seven years after, insecurity has grown wings; it now manifests in many folds. Already, there are reports that in Zamfara and Sokoto states, bandits dictate to politicians on where to take campaigns to and when to hold them. 

The statement continued: “This is dangerous and alarming. If the trend persists, their (bandits) indulgence will be a fait accompli, and there might be no end in sight for banditry, if they are already providing protection for the political class.

“This is unacceptable. Anybody worth his salt, seeking political office must seek to end banditry and not cut deals with them. Banditry has left families traumatised and only a declarative statement on how to end it should earn office seekers votes. 

“We enjoin voters to be aware of the ugly trend of some politicians in cahoots with bandits. As a dimension to insecurity generally, education of children and teens became a major casualty too. In the North, education of children and teens is in jeopardy. From train hijack to abductions of school children, the halt in education is real.”  

Recalling some sad moments, the group said: “For instance, in 2020, 300 boys were taken from Kankara Science Secondary School, Kankara Katsina state; in May 2021 and 130 Islamiyya pupils abducted from Salihu Tanko Islamiyya School in Tegina, Niger state.

In May 2021, 126 students were herded out of Bethel Baptist High School, Damishi, Kaduna state. In June 2021, 112 girls were kidnapped from FGC Birni Yauri, Kebbi state even as undergraduate students of Greenfield University, Kaduna were affected and many more isolated cases recorded here and there.

“Some of the abducted girls now have kids for bandits in the bush and parents now hold back on the education of their wards especially the girl-child. This obviously has compounded an already bad situation of our out-of-school children. 

“For those seeking to govern us, they do not have to look far. The challenges are known, and the antidotes should not be far-fetched. Nigerians want resolutions of the compound problems. 

“The North is not just the headquarters of banditry, it is home to millions of IDPs who became victims of insurgency, banditry and herder-fulani clashes. They lost their homes and means of livelihood too. Something needs to be done urgently for them to be relocated back to their homes or permanent abodes. No politician should come tomorrow to say they didn’t know how daunting the catastrophe was. They should have no business seeking to govern if they have no antidotes to the challenges that ail our society. 

“The Northern Media Forum however sounds a note of warning on the possible disenfranchisement of this critical mass of people. We urge all security agencies to secure the IDPs, while INEC should make arrangement for them to be able to cast their votes and make an independent decision on who to govern them.

“We condemn the rather new and disgusting angle to campaigns in Nigeria—that is, campaigns centred on personality attacks rather than on issues that afflict us. Politicians resort to direct insults; stoking religious and regional fires at the detriment of confronting issues headlong and how to nip them in the bud. 

“Education is in crisis. ASUU’s clash with government is not yet over, because the former is bruised. There are no jobs for our graduates; they are leaving the country in droves. We need programmes of action that can revive the economy and provide jobs for our over 30 million unemployed youth. We do not want people playing to the gallery; we do not want rhetoric. 

“We want actionable plan against 2023.What the North in particular needs this time is concrete plan of action that has the capacity to transform, reform and change the narratives of destitution, poverty, anger and hunger, desolation, tragedies. We want the North in particular and Nigeria in general reengineered for good.

“Nigerians are desirous of free, fair and credible elections come 2023. Fortunately for us, the Electoral Law 2022 has made the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS), Electronic Transmission of Results to INEC portal (IReV) and other technological innovations integral part of our election. 

“From all indications and its practical demonstration in Anambra, Ekiti and Osun states, these two (BVAS and IReV) have ensured that our elections are increasingly rig-proof. This gives hope to Nigerians that their votes will count. We therefore urge voters to take advantage of the opportunity offered by INEC’s technologies to vote. In the near future, even the monetisation of votes will no longer be relevant,” it said.

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