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Bama, unarguably, is to Nigeria what Aleppo epitomises to Syria.
The arid town, with over 200, 000 population (based on the 2006 national census), located some 68kilometres from Borno’s capital, Maiduguri, symbolizes a summation of the carnage visited upon the north-east region by ragtag Boko Haramists, in the last past 7years. At the peak of its campaign to foist a so-called Caliphate on the vast region, Boko Haram found Bama most enticing to establish a base, perhaps due to its strategic location i.e a pathway between Nigeria and some neighboring counties on the plains of Lake Chad.
The town, lying at the heart of the historic Dikwa Emirate, was reported to have fallen to the insurgents in September, 2014, and soon lost its original identity as marauding terrorists roam uninterrupted with their Kalashnikovs, while civil authority took to flight.
Repeatedly, and unreservedly so, Abubakar Shekau’s men executed dozens of helpless locals and security personnel in some of the most contumelious attacks carried out by the rebels. Despite the occasional but futile denials by the military, eyewitness accounts, supported by verifiable Google map images, confirmed how Bama was literally transformed from a tranquil environs, filled with beautiful aesthetics, to a killing field of, perchance, Africa’s deadliest belligerent group.
While Borno and, indeed, the entire north-east labored to surface from the ruins of war – in the face of renewed vigour by the military – it is apparent that it may take sometimes before normalcy is restored fully, going by a careful evaluation of damage done to the socio-economic orbits of societies in the expansive territory.
The recent unearthing of new cases of polio in Borno, alongside daily dosage of woes of lamentations coming from several IDPs camps housing about 2million people across States of the region, serve as readily available authentication which lays credence to anyone’s pessimism about the journey ahead.
However, in the midst of doubts and cynicism currently saturating the north-east, there seems a beam of welcoming assurance that all hopes are not lost, yet. The Governor of Borno, Kashim Shettima, appears turbo-charged to occupy the vanguard of restoration to the people of the State. He has suddenly become a harbinger of some good tidings, even as cloud of conundrum looks unyielding.
Shettima recently stirs a national debate when he boasts that Borno is more peaceful than Abuja and Lagos, using the largely incidence-free Eid-el Kabir celebrations in the State as yardstick.
The Governor took his claims further with revelations that he has since jettisoned the use of bullet proof cars, and often chauffeurs himself round the town to, in his words, “… dare the terrorists,” and “… see things for myself.”
Beyond the speechifying, notwithstanding, the recent announcement of resumption of public schools, after two years of ‘no show’ could be seen as another positive in the ongoing recovery process in Borno.
To further prove a point that the State is ready to emerge stronger from years of stagnation and hopelessness, Mr. Shettima relocated to Bama, few days ago, as his temporary official base, to personally supervise rebuilding process of the town. Pictures have surfaced of a society that may, one day, see the afflictions of the insurgency as blessings in disguise. Torched structures, including the palace of the Emir of Bama, now wear a new look as renovation assumed full swing.
It is, at this juncture, that Shettima’s efforts should command some kudos.
Following talks with deeds, which the governor is doing right now, would enliven a society that was on the verge of total disintegration. He has opened doors of recovery for a new Borno where a well-managed invigorated system can become the hub of economic resurgence in the region as federal government, local and international donors, and philanthropists commit more resources to the region. This would, of course, translates into a brewing economic prosperity for the people.
Successful wartime leaders are usually those who manage to consummate a high degree of ability to motivate their followers, with the mien of connecting with people’s pains at every point of the journey.
Although Shettima’s stay in Bama was cut short with the sudden passage of the State Commissioner for Environment, Waziri Imam; the Governor’s symbolic gesture may have earned him a place on the positive side of history, as civility gradually returns to Nigeria’s Home of Peace.
· Ajala, a Journalist, works as News Editor with Inspiration-fm, Ibadan.