Northern Elders Bemoan State of Insecurity in the Region

(Being a text of a Press Statement by the Convener of the Northern Elders Forum, Professor Ango Abdullahi)

The Northern Elders Forum (NEF) is alarmed and its members saddened by the recent cataclysmic collapse of security, and the sanguinary and indeed colossal threat to life and property in many parts of Nigeria but more seriously in the North. We at NEF cannot in good conscience, remain silent as criminal activities and bloodletting escalate in Nigeria and our region. We have sadly lived with unfortunate violence in the last few years but this should not continue or escalate.

It would be irresponsible for us to refrain from calling on President Muhammadu Buhari to decisively respond to the existential threats faced by northern Nigerians in particular during these times and beyond. NEF as a matter of social responsibility and tradition, would never shy away from speaking truth to power, irrespective of the partisan, sectional or whatever constellation of political power in the nation. It would be recalled that we strongly engaged President Goodluck Jonathan on the need to address the Boko Haram insurgency and even proffered solutions as far back as 2012. All our efforts seemed to have been vitiated by a weak political will and monumental political corruption.

Today, the North still lives under horrendous Boko Haram threats, a situation which has been aggravated by threats of banditry, kidnappings, armed robbery, marauding youth gangs, herders and farmers mini-wars, and seemingly overwhelmed or indifferent governments. Large swathes of territory in our region are now effectively bandit land. Agriculture, our pride and national economic comparative advantage, the greatest employer of labour and leading contributor to Nigerias Gross Domestic Product is in ruins as animal husbandry, and crops and roots farming is in the throes of war and damage. Our rural folk live in perpetual fear of attacks from sundry terrorist assailants without any reprieve. Our major highways and transportation systems are being abandoned as they have become death traps. We see in all these the cumulative effect of a region whose economy and people, especially the youth have been abandoned. A dangerous youth bulge is indeed a recipe for crime, violence and wars. We understand that poverty and underdevelopment can create a brutish and violent society.

Should the Nigerian people continue to run and hide from criminals under an administration that has enjoyed and received support from especially northern Nigerians that it can address their existential and developmental challenges? We expect the administration to address all the short, medium and long term challenges of security and development in a manner that minimal security and good livelihoods can be assured and sustained. Are these things rocket science? We believe not. What we believe is that given the political will and commitment, Nigeria has the human resources and ideas to address these challenges. Are the challenges those of under-funding the policing and security apparatuses, or is it a challenge of problem analysis or policy failure? Governments world-wide are expected to handle these matters as a primary responsibility.

Nigeria has just emerged from a very challenging and harrowing set of elections. This experience should provide a strategic turning point in the manner that political leaders respond to our basic national challenges. We hereby demand that President Buhari demonstrates higher levels of concern and sensitivity to the plight of traumatized citizens in the country, especially in the states of Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna, Benue, Niger, Plateau, Taraba and virtually the entire North. We demand for decisive, comprehensive and fundamental governmental action against poverty, underdevelopment and insecurity. Above all, we demand that President Buhari shows leadership and compassion which are the reciprocal expectations of the Nigerian people from their President. Should the citizens of the most populous black and African country and blessed with bounteous human and material resources be running away from bandits and criminals and become entangled in a causative web of crime, poverty, misery and underdevelopment?

Without justifying the emigration of our people to other lands, we now see how and why our young men and women seek escape to Europe across the Sahara Desert to pursue menial jobs and Perilous. We now painfully see how desperate Nigerians running away from home, become victims of xenophobic attacks in some countries. We have the resources to build a better Nigeria and we the people of conscience have the will to insist that this happens.

Professor Ango Abdullahi,
Convener/Chairman,
Northern Elders Forum.
Zaria