The recent appointment of the governor of Borno State, Prof Babagana Zulum as the Chairman of the newly created North East Governors Forum is indeed a welcome development. It can only be hoped that the vision behind the creation of the forum is achieved given the security challenges in North-East Nigeria.
I have longed advocated for a body that would assist in finetuning strategies that would lead to the implementation of policies that would address the security challenges in the region as well as bring about the much-needed reconstruction of a region that has witnessed phenomenal destruction since the Boko Haram insurgent group began its violent campaign in 2009.
I do not know whose brainchild is this. However, if the motive behind the establishment of the forum is indeed for the best interest of the people and not an avenue to score political gains, then North-East Nigeria would be better for it.
I recall that in some forums, it has been speculated that one of the challenges of the region is the lack of commitment from the political authorities in the fight against the Boko Haram insurgency. It was also posited that there had been a lack of cooperation from the governments of the states in the region with the military authorities in the prosecution of the war against Boko Haram insurgency.
I am glad the North East Governors Forum is coming up now even though there hasn’t been any clear cut mission statement other than the fact that the governor of Borno State was elected as its pioneer chairman for a period of two years and the headquarters of the forum situated in Maiduguri, Borno state.
Suffice to mention the meeting was attended by governors of Adamawa- Ahmadu Umaru Fintiri, Gombe- Mohammed Inuwa Yahaya, Borno- Prof. Babagana Umara Zulum, Bauchi- Sen. Bala Mohammed, Deputy Governors of Taraba- Engr Haruna Manu and Yobe, Idi Barde Gubana.
Like I mentioned earlier, this is a fantastic initiative but in all honesty, not the way to go because this is not the time for political grandstanding of any sort given the myriads of challenges in North-East Nigeria, with Borno State the worst hit.
I had expected that the emphasis should be more on asking critical questions on why the activities of Boko Haram insurgents have continued to fester in Borno state, unlike other North-Eastern states that have recorded fewer cases of Boko Haram attacks in the past years. We must ask critical questions because nothing happens in a vacuum. We must also ask questions as to what the governors of other states in the North-East states did that reduced activities of the Boko Haram group in their domains drastically.
Make no mistake, that Borno state remains the only state where Boko Haram has continued to operate raises a red flag. While some have questioned the political authorities in the state, some have also alluded to the fact that there may be some level of conspiracies that have continued to bolster the activities of the terror gang in the state.
This is my challenge and why I have issues with the governor of Borno State, who seems to be more interested in media grandstanding that facing the real issues on the ground. I expected that as a professor, he should have deployed his intellectual proficiency to researching on why Borno State has remained the haven for Boko Haram insurgents.
I also expected that the governor of Borno State ought to have done more by convoking a parley where Borno elites and technocrats would be in attendance to deliberate on the issues affecting the state and proffering a solution to it because as they say all politics is local.
I make bold to state that one of the reasons why the Boko Haram activities has festered in Borno State is a function of misplacement of priorities and living in self-denial. This is on the heels that other states in North-East Nigeria that experienced the nefarious activities of the Boko Haram insurgent group have been able to galvanize the needed support and resumed their normal lives while Borno State continues to make headlines for the wrong reasons.
The fact that the governors of Yobe and Taraba states sent in representatives indicate that they probably have moved on to other ventures in the task of delivering the dividends of democracy to the people. In contrast, Borno State has remained the epicentre of the Boko Haram insurgency despite the efforts of the Nigerian military.
My take is this: Governor Babagana Zulum and others of the Kanuri ethnic stock have either by commission or omission refused to come to terms with reality to understand that the task at hand is to ensure that Borno State becomes uninhabitable for the Boko Haram insurgents, just like other states in North-East Nigeria.
It must be realized that indeed charity must begin at home and home is Borno state because it is no longer tenable why other states in North-East Nigeria have nipped in the bud the activities of Boko Haram, while the state continues to make headlines for the wrong reasons. It is either the governor is accusing the military or undertaking ventures that does not address the issues at hand.
We cannot run away from our shadows because the Boko Haram members are not spirits. We cannot also walk before crawling. That would be the height of self-deceit and essentially my grouse with the governor of Borno State.
I had expected a more proactive approach that would translate the hopes and aspirations of the millions of Borno indigenes that have been displaced by the Boko Haram insurgency. I had also expected that the governor would have drawn from lessons from other states to find a lasting solution to the threats posed by the Boko Haram insurgent group in the state.
Charity must indeed begin and this much governor Babagana Zulum must come to terms with as the Chief Security Officer of the State. I dare say that the solution to the Boko Haram crisis in Borno State lies in Borno State and this much the political elites must admit. They must also acknowledge that the people have suffered untold hardship hence the need for the sincerity of heart and purpose in the governance of the state. I don’t want to believe that the political authorities do not know what to do in the state with regards to bringing the activities of the Boko Haram group to an end.
As mentioned earlier, the establishment of the North East Governors Forum is a good start but not the way to go for now. In my opinion, it should be the overarching medium for the entrenchment of peace and development in the North East region, but not after the Boko Haram insurgency has been adequately addressed in the state and the region.
The various stakeholders in Borno state should begin the process of convoking a summit to address the issues at hand. The religious and community leaders must be called to question, and they must justify the positions they hold in the state. The political leadership must also put the interest of the people at heart in the governance of the state. They must act where they need to and admit their shortcomings over the years instead of engaging in a blame game that serves no good to the deprived and famished people of Borno state.
They must also take a position to end the Boko Haram conflict in the state. Not after all of these are in place, nothing else would make sense to the people of the state that have witnessed years of sorrow, tears and blood. This is possible if only the governor spearheads the process of rebirth. He should look no farther because charity must indeed begin from home. This is my take.
Bulama is a UN trained peace facilitator based in Damaturu.