Last week, some leaders from the northern part of the country met at Sardauna Foundation in Kaduna to inaugurate the region’s monitoring security committee. Northern Bureau Chief, MUHAMMAD SABIU examines the issues and concerns raised at the summit by speakers like the Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar and former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Honourable Yakubu Dogara on the deteriorating security situation in the region.
Recently, the Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) took everyone by surprise when they launched the Northern Security Initiative known as ShegeKaFasa (I dare you to attack or surrender). The promoters claimed the security initiative was designed to secure the region from the claws of criminals who had held the region to ransom in the last one decade. The spokesman of the group, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman observed that during the period under review the North had lost thousands of innocent souls to kidnapping, banditry, rustling and Boko Haram. According to him, like operation Amotekun which was introduced in the South-West to tackle the security challenges facing the geopolitical zone, ShegeKaFasa is also a coordinated security network which will secure the Northern region from criminals.
The logo of the outfit, a lion, which symbolises the king of the forest, was then unveiled to the public. The unveiling of the security initiative triggered spontaneous public, reactions, with some individuals and groups condemning the youths over the outfit. One of the first groups to dissociate itself from ShegeKaFasa was the Northern Governors Forum under the leadership of governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong. He came out bluntly to say that the governors were not part of the outfit. Lalong remarked further that they were consulted; he also said they did not have prior knowledge about it. “I don’t have information about it and northern governors, to the best of my knowledge, are not party to that,” the governor said.
Also, the Middle Belt Forum (MBF) distanced itself from the purported northern security outfit. The forum alleged that the aim of the group was to provoke reaction, describing those behind the outfit as not serious. National president of MBF, Dr Bitrus Pogu, said the northern group was on its own as far as security in the North was concerned. He said the group had no mandate for such outfit without the consent of the governors and other major stakeholders in the North. “The claim of the group is not genuine. It simply wants to provoke reaction. I have not seen any governor or anybody key into it. So far, you can see different governors within the Middle Belt are thinking of community policing,” Pogu stated.
Two days after the unveiling of ShegeKaFasa in Kaduna, some northern leaders and members of the political elite also met in the city to discuss the worsening security situation and to inaugurate the Northern Security Monitoring Committee. The meeting was conveyed by the Arewa Research and Development Project (ARDP) under the leadership of Dr Usman Bugaje, a member of the northern intellectual class. The percent at the meeting included government representatives from the states in the North, industry giant, religious leaders, academia, retired top police and top military brass. Those Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’adAbubakar and a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Honourable Yakubu Dogara also attended the meeting.
It was, however, the speeches of the Sultan and the former speaker that provoked more pronounced debate and reaction among the audience and, indeed the general public. The Sultan took a swipe at the leaders and political elite in the region, accusing them of failing to provide a meaningful leadership thereby exposing the region to many calamities. He faulted the formation of the Northern Security Initiative by the youths, describing it as illegal. According to him, the unveiling of the security network by the youths was a clear manifestation of the failure by the leaders in the region. “It clearly shows that our leaders and political elites in the region have failed to provide good leadership to the people. How can you allow these youths to be in the forefront? It is your responsibility to provide the right leadership to the youths. When I watch the unveiling in the television, I shook my head. This is clearly unacceptable the upsurge of youth restiveness in the region.” The Sultan stressed the urgent need for northern leaders and elders to rise up to their responsibilities and provide the right leadership for their people.
Also speaking, a veteran journalist, Tajudeen Ajibade aligned with the Sultan. He said security was not a child’s play because the security situation in the North now appeared uncontrollable because security challenges had been allowed to linger for too long. “Most of the security challenges do not start from the North but the South, but the South did not play with it and they were able to tackle it. Look at the South-West; now, they have gone far in Amotekun. “If we allow the youths to continue with their ShegeKaFasa, who will fund the outfit? So, he urged the governors of the North to come together irrespective of their political yearnings to fight the current cause.
Also speaking on the northern security initiative, the chairman of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) in Kaduna State, Comrade Adamu Yusuf faulted the formation of the outfit. He said in the first place members of the coalition should not rush to firm one simply because the South-West took a similar initiative. According to the NUJ chairman the South-West zone has a different culture, different terrain, and different life style.
Reacting on ShegeKaFasa, the Kano State governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, contended that Kano did not need ShegeKaFasa in the state. He said the state had its own mechanism in addressing the various security challenges. To complement the Kano initiative, the Chief Press Secretary to the governor, Anwar Abba, disclosed that Ganduje introduced free and compulsory education to tackle the menace of out- of-school children as well as the Almajiri syndrome.
For Speaker Dogara, illiteracy, poverty and unemployment are other factors that led to the insecurity ravaging the North. He said, apart from Kwara State and Abuja which enjoyed relative peace, the remaining 18 northern states are facing one form of insecurity or another. The former speaker lamented that the North had become a theatre of war, a view corroborated by the Sultan. The Sultan said the poverty ravaging the region was frightening and unless steps were taken to address it, the problem might get out of hand. He also decried the increasing number of orphans in the region. According to the monarch, who is also the spiritual head of the Muslims in the country, there are about 50,000 orphans in the region. He warned that if “we allow this to continue unabated, the orphans might be worse than Boko Haram.”
It should be noted that a recent World Bank report said the North accounted for 87 per cent of poverty in the country. In the report entitled, Advancing Social Protection in a dynamic Nigeria, the Bretton Wood institution said the South-South recorded the most significant drop in poverty between 2011 and 2016. According to the report, “Poverty in the northern regions of the country has been increasing especially in the North-West zone. Almost half of all poor lived in the North-West and the North accounts for 87 per cent of all poor in the country in 2016”.
A couple of speakers like the renowned Islamic scholar, Sheikh Khalid Abubakar remarked that education is the key to tackling poverty ravaging the region. Recalling, the northernisation policy embarked by the late Premier of the defunct Northern Region, Sir Ahmadu Bello, the university of Jos lecturer tasked state governors from the North begin to think of addressing the backwardness of education in the region by investing in the sector.
“So far, we have seen only two states in the region: Kaduna and Kano trying to improve their educational sector. According to him, Kaduna is doing well in providing qualified teachers, school renovation, as well as school enrolment, while Kano is doing well in providing compulsory and free education, as well as in trying to tackle the menace of out-of-school children. He urged other governments in the region to declare a state of emergency in the education sector in order to tackle the scourge of poverty ravaging the region.