How To End Boko Haram Insurgency In The North-East – Governor Shettima
By The Nation
Borno State Governor Kashim Shetima spoke with ADEOLA OLADELE-FAYEHUN in Washington DC, United States, on the insurgency in the Northeast and how to tackle the menace.
Why are you in Washington DC?
We are here at the invitation of the United States Institute of Peace for a three-day symposium specially organised for governors of the 19 Northern states. Because of the snow, it commenced yesterday and we’re going to round it off today.
What exactly is being discussed?
I believe that the whole programme is on how to come in and assist the Northern states regarding the creping insurgency, the underdevelopment that has enveloped us, and actually, it’s a very proper discussion. We cross-pollinated our ideas with the American establishments, and this morning, we’re going to meet with the USAID and some other development partners to chart a new course for the North.
We are glad that there’s a renewed interest in the North by the American government, and we’re going to key into it for the benefit of our people.
Has the U.S disclosed its area of intervention?
Well, most of our submissions are really on education, healthcare delivery, on issues of infrastructural development, on job creation, and they’re very keen on rendering a helping hand. We met actually on Sunday; myself and Governor Yuguda; with a team from the Gates Foundation. We implored them to really extend a helping hand to us in the area of agriculture.
They’re doing a ‘Nitrogen to Africa’ programme in some Northern states, and we said, let them give a helping hand to the states in the Northeast because we’re conspicuously absent on the new scheme of things on that programme.
What is the situation on ground in Borno?
I am an eternal optimist. I believe that the worst is over, as per the crisis in Borno. There’s a renewed effort by the Federal Government, to see that the insurgency is nipped in the bud. And I can assure you once the current momentum is sustained, we shall have an enduring peace in the not too distant future.
What is your reaction to the statement by Mr. President that he could pull out troops from Borno?
Well, my own take on that is that I believe he said it half jokingly, he did not meant it, it is a constitutional responsibility to protect the lives and properties of the citizenry, he just said it half jokingly, and I believe he is fully committed towards establishing peace in the Northeast.
What about death toll?
During the last crisis on Friday, miraculously quite a number of the insurgents were killed. But, we also recorded five casualties from the innocent bystanders. Even, five is a huge number. As the late Dele Giwa said, let’s not talk about numbers. One life lost in cold blood is gruesome as millions lost in a pogrom. But, it’s gratifying that only five people lost their lives, including a soldier.
A lot of people believe Boko Haram was started by Northern political leaders. I’ve heard people say it’s possible that your predecessor knows about it. What is your reaction when people say this?
Well, it is amazing because I believe it’s irrational and outrightly preposterous for anybody to insinuate that Northern political leaders are behind Boko Haram. Why should they be the forces behind the Boko Haram? Do they have the intent to decimate their own population? To pauperize their own brothers and sisters? It doesn’t hold water. And I believe that the federal government and the international communities have the apparatuses to dig down to the root of the matter.
Without hauling bricks on my predecessor, I can tell you that the Boko Haram predates his coming to power. The Boko Haram insurgency actually originated in Kanamma village in Yobe State in 2001, when a group of young men went and carve out a territory for themselves and called it an Islamic territory. But, I don’t want to dwell so much, because I do not have the authority to speak on the sources and origins of the Boko Haram. But most importantly, I always emphasise on the linkage and the very high level of correlation between poverty and insurgency.
And I believe that there is a lot of correlation between the poverty that has engulfed the North Eastern Region of Nigeria and the Boko Haram insurgency. Because the World Bank described the Northeast portion of Nigeria, the Republic of Chad, the Republic of Niger, and the Darfur Region of Sudan as one of the poorest places on earth. Hence, the emergency of militant organisations like the Janjaweed militia and the Boko Haram in the Northeastern Region. And I believe that, once we engage the youths, once we create jobs, this madness, this nihilism will evaporate.
How are you able to do your duties as governor in the face of this insurgency?
Well, we have a mandate from the people, and leadership entails some elements of risk and courage. As the saying goes, if you can’t withstand the heat, get out of the kitchen. We have a mandate to work for the people, and we will work till the last drop of our blood to see that we have enhanced the quality of lives of our people.
How exactly can citizens asist in curbing Boko Haram?
People like you, especially those of you in the diaspora, can assist us in terms of linkages as per education and as per healthcare delivery. With regards to agriculture, from here, we’re going to Nebraska to visit some key places and irrigation sites, I believe the wealth of knowledge and opportunities and possibilities at your disposal will come in handy in assisting us towards overcoming the current challenges we’re facing.
Is it true that Boko Haram is actually coming from Chad?
You cannot rule out the possibility that the crisis in Chad, the crisis in Mali and, of course, the crisis in Libya might have cascaded down to our own part of the world. Maiduguri is very close to some of the hottest spots in Africa. Though the roads are bad, with a good car and some little determination, if you leave Maiduguri in the morning, by night probably, you can reach South Sudan. So, definitely because of our proximity to some of the troubled spots, Bangui, Central Africa, Libya, only Niger separates us from Libya. So, I believe there’s a proliferation of wild arms and ammunitions and it has affected us negatively. No doubt about it.
Do you believe Boko Haram members are being sponsored?
You cannot rule out the possibility of some hands behind the whole crisis. But, I am strongly of the opinion that the Boko Haram, which has degenerated more into a cult, because I believe it’s an insult, I am a Muslim, it’s a insult to the religion of Islam to categorise them as Muslims. So, they have degenerated into some sorts of cults, resorting into extortions, kidnappings, and I believe they are funding much of their activities through those barbarous activities.
You cannot rule out even their involvement in drugs because they’re into anything. They have veered off course; they’re more of a gang of criminals, nihilist, of lunatics, hell bent on inflicting pain and destruction on the people. They have been kidnapping people and extorting money.
Would you say they have sponsors in Nigeria?
I do not want to pass judgment on who their sponsors are or where they hail from. But, the only thing I can tell you is that, they are largely a set of sustaining entity. They extort money from people; they’re kidnapping people for ransom, and largely sponsor their activities through the proceeds of such illicit activities. And you cannot even dismiss their involvement in drugs. That’s my own perception and honestly, I don’t want to dwell on issues that I don’t have an authority or pass judgment on people or say that X, Y, Z, are the sponsors of Boko Haram.
What practical things will you put in place after this meeting in the US?
Certainly, we hope that, with the renewed attention the United States on Nigeria, especially on Northern Nigeria, I believe a lot of goodies will come out of this visit.
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