BY CHARLES KUMOLU
The Northern States Governors Forum recently set up a committee to look into the state of insecurity in the region. The move considered belated in some quarters, is the first overt move by the northern governors to stem the crisis that has turned the region into a theatre of war.
THE decision of the governors of the 19 northern states to set up a 41-man committee to address the spate of bombings and other terrorist actions in the region came out of the blue. For long the governors had kept mute on the issue with many of them skirting around calls for decisiveness from the populace.
Their silence and that of other notable northern leaders at one point forced the President of the Senate, Senator David Mark, to chide them over what he insinuated was either cowardice or cringing fear.
Speaking during an Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, summit in January, Senator Mark berated Northern leaders over their inability to condemn terrorism in the region. He had fumed: “Won’t we be able to condemn current degree of insecurity in the North occasioned and heightened by Boko Haram? Are we afraid to openly condemn Boko Haram either for political reasons or out of fear of possible attack by the sect? ”
Despite this challenge by Mark and several others, nothing much came from the northern leaders and governors except, calls now and then, for dialogue with the sect by a few northern radicals such as Alhaji Balarabe Musa, Alhaji Ali Monguno, Shehu Sani and the Arewa Consultative among others.
The 41-man rescue squad: The seeming quietness inevitably sent signals of acceptance of the actions of the Boko Haram group by the northern leaders. Even when northerners and Muslims were the subject of the attack as it happened in Kano last January, not much expression of revulsion was expressed. It was as such not surprising that some alleged that Boko Haram had become a tool by the north’s elite to negotiate power ahead of the 2015 general elections.
Suggestions to that effect now seem to be punctured with the recent formation of the 41-man panel to tackle the Boko Haram insurgency by the northern governors. Put together at the instance of the Northern States Governors Forum, NSGF, the term of reference “is to engender the restoration of the most desired peaceful co-existence, unity and development in the entire region.”
The Committee is expected to be inaugurated next Wednesday in Abuja.
Members of the panel are Ambassador Zakari Ibrahim, Prof. Tijani El-Miskin, Prof. Shedrack Best, Alhaji Abubakar Tsav, Prof. Habu Galadima, AIG Hamisu Ali Jos (rtd), Gen. Martin Luther Agwai (rtd), Prof. Muhammad Akaro Mainoma, Hajiya Dije Bala, Maj. Gen.Yakubu Usman (rtd), Prof. Sani Abdulkadir, AVM Mukhtar Mohammed (rtd), Justice Umaru Abdullahi, Hajia Mariam Uwais, Aminu Ibrahim Daurawa, Group Capt. Bilal Bulama (rtd), Col Musa Shehu (rtd), Iliya Ithuve, Ali M. Dandiya, Gen. GP Zidon (rtd) and Justice Usman Baba Liman among others.
Justifying the convening of the panel, a statement signed by the Secretary to the Government of Niger State and Chairman, Forum of Secretaries to the Government of Northern States, Mr. Daniel Shashere, said the mandate is to fashion out strategies to address the disturbing state of insecurity, and proffer practical and enduring solutions.
“The negative consequences of insecurity for freedom, liberties and the thriving economic activities within the northern states are very serious. It is in recognition and total concern for the hard-earned national peace and harmony of our great country, Nigeria that the Forum decided at its meeting held on Thursday July 26, 2012 to constitute a high-powered committee to handle issues bordering on reconciliation, healing, peace and security within the troubled areas across the northern states of the federation,” Shashere noted.
Nonetheless, some are sceptical about this move, given the delay in the action. “For making that move, they have toed the line of wise reasoning, but why doing it this late. It would be a success if there is sincerity of purpose on the part of the governors, but anything short of dispassionate approach to the underlining issues of the insurgency, would be counterproductive to the search for peace,’’ Dr. Ekenwa Anazia, Executive Director, Federation of Peoples Rights and Advocacy stated.
Initiative will resolve the problem — Tsav
But a member of the committee and former Commissioner of Police in Lagos State, Alhaji Abubakar Tsav, expressed optimism that the move would bring about lasting peace in the region. Tsav, who told Vanguard that the committee members had not been briefed on their mandate, commended the governors for initiating the process.
Terms of reference
He noted: “We have not been given guidelines on what to do, but the move is a good one. By the time we are given our terms of reference we can be able to speak on it. However, I am satisfied with the calibre of people in the committee, especially the membership of Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah. He is a very notable person with unquestionable integrity.”
Tsav, however, countered claims that the move was belated saying “I dont think the idea of the panel is belated, the governors did a very good thing. During the Niger Delta crisis when the region was boiling, it was not the governors that rescued the region. It was President Yar’Adua that calmed the Niger Delta region , when he intervened with the amnesty programme.
“But in the case of insecurity that has crippled the north, President Jonathan has not done anything. All he has been saying is that he knows the sponsors of Boko Haram and that they are in his government and other places. Yet, he has not been able to address the issue. And people are almost taking it as a northern issue.
“It is for this reason that the governors resolved to take this step, because they can not keep waiting for the president, who has failed to provide a solution. I am optimistic that by the time we conclude our work, peace would return to the north.’’
Move not belated —Uranta
Corroborating Tsav’s stand, General Secretary of the National Summit Group, NSG, Mr. Tony Uranta hailed the governors on the initiative, saying that the move was for the whole nation.
He said “while some people may see it as belated, I see it as a welcome development that the Northern Governors have begun to rise up to their responsibility, as leaders of not just a region but of Nigeria. All of us need to realise that Boko Haram is not a threat only to the North, nor against Christianity, but a threat against humanity.’’
“We still have not heard Boko Haram come up with any tangible reason on what they are doing. Dialogue must go on, it must begin now and not tomorrow.
“The federal, state and local governments must come to realise that a threat to one is a threat to all and the federal government especially must initiate a process to bring about a better understanding between all component units of Nigeria, ethnic and communal. If we do not talk to one another, we cannot understand one another and friction will build up within and among us and where there is friction, there is no peace.”