PMB And The future Of The North East By Louis Okoroma
The North east region of the country have had a raw deal in recent times. This is due to the unsavory and murderous activities of the Boko Haram terrorist insurgency which has ravaged the region since 2009. From a situation where the problem was the irritating disturbance of a radical religious group, through poor handling, excessive political consideration and sheer negligence on the part of officials of the state, the matter grew and snowballed into a religious- based terrorist insurgency that led to death and destruction on a massive scale.
For some anxious period, the activities of the insurgents, their fire- power and the ill-prepared and ill- equipped response by the nation’s security forces resulted in a situation where the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the nation was at stake. This happened when the nation’s security forces could not contain and defeat the terrorists, and in shocking moves, swathes of Nigeria’s territory in the form of some local governments and communities in places far from the presence of our security forces were commandeered and taken over by these insurgents. At that time, the terrorists in romantic fashion, and aping their colleagues in Somalia, Syria, Iraq and elsewhere, talked of creating an Islamic Caliphate in those areas of the North east of Nigeria!
However, all that is now history as the coming of Muhammadu Buhari, put a stop to the romantic idea of a Caliphate, in any part of Nigeria! Being used to fighting rebels and putting them on the run, in his days as a young army commander, the coming of Buhari, as a democratically elected President changed the turn of events on the battlefield against the terrorists. His reputation and resolve to defeat the insurgents and his personality, as well as diplomacy involving regional countries, imbued the nation’s security forces in the North east combat theatre with new resolve and determination, and with time, the terrorists who were talking of establishing a Caliphate were now on the run! The security forces, as well as their sister armies from neighboring countries, organized as the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) are now engaged in mopping up operations to clear the North east region of Nigeria and adjoining areas in Cameroun, Niger and Chad, of the remaining bandits.
Having achieved significant and spectacular victory against the terrorists, the challenge before the country and the international community, is to embark on reconstruction, rehabilitation, resettlement and return of the millions of the displaced persons in the three most affected States of the region. These States are Borno, Yobe and Adamawa.
Towards this end, the government of PMB is already moving fast in a no nonsense manner. To cater for the feeding and wellbeing of the refugees or IDP’s, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) is present at most of the IDP camps with the help of the Red Cross and relevant NGO’s, providing relief materials and health services to several thousand women, children and the elderly in these camps. Secondly, the President ordered the Nigeria Custom Service to distribute seized contraband items cleared by the Courts as government property to the IDP’s. Third, the President has set up a Development and Rehabilitation committee for the North east under the Chairmanship of retired General T. Y Danjuma and comprising eminent and committed Nigerians to oversee the rehabilitation effort that is due to commence in the next couple of months. Four, the government has given permission and access to friendly nations, interested NGO’s and other foreign partners of the country who are interested in restoring and re- developing the devastated region, to enter the affected areas to assess the situation to determine the level of their participation in the reconstruction process.
With all the above plans and endeavors, there is little doubt that under the focused leadership of PMB, the devastated North east region of the country and the traumatized people of the area would smile again and become once more, part and parcel of the evolving great Nigerian family. It should be noted that for the period when the insurgency held sway, and the Boko Haram rode roughshod over the area, the economy and infrastructure in the area were damaged while to a large extent, the affected states were separated from the routine activities of the Nigerian economy. All that would soon be a thing of the past, as the rehabilitation and reconstruction programme gets under way.
It should be noted that the story of the North east region even when the Boko Haram held sway has not altogether been forlorn. A lot of humanitarian effort has been invested in feeding and empowering the IDP’s preparing the ground and ensuring that the refugees are in one piece waiting for the envisaged massive reconstruction and rehabilitation to be carried out by the Federal Government and its partners.
One such endeavor which has kept hope alive in most of the IDP camps especially in Adamawa State, is the initiative by the American University of Nigeria (AUN), and its affiliate organization, the Adamawa Peace Initiative (AUN-API). Under the tireless and enthusiastic leadership of the President of the American University of Nigeria, Dr. Margee Ensign, the AUN- API has been feeding, clothing, educating and empowering several thousand refugees in IDP camps in Adamawa State for the past four years. This it has done with its own resources, and contributions from concerned foreign countries, NGO’s and corporate organizations in the country. The American University of Nigeria in Yola, is one of the educational endeavors of Atiku Abubakar, former Vice President of Nigeria and an indigene of Adamawa State whose philanthropy transcends all nooks and crannies of Nigeria.
The AUN- API in collaboration at times with State governments in the affected areas, and other companies owned by the former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar have organized conferences on security and post conflict rehabilitation in the North east and increased awareness of the people and government alike on the challenges facing the region in a post- conflict milieu. With its commitment and pioneering endeavor in community development through involving its students and staff in working for the wellbeing of the refugees, there is no doubt that the AUN- API would continue to be an asset to the region in the years to come. PMB and the Federal Government have worthy partners here.
During the forthcoming reconstruction and rehabilitation period, the North east region of the country would be a beehive of activities and one massive construction site. In fact, in the words of one foreign analyst, the reconstruction of the Boko Haram ravaged region would turn out to be one of the greatest construction efforts in recent times, trailing only Syria and Iraq, when the civil war in those countries come to an end.
President Buhari at the end of the day would be given immense credit for the restoration of the North eastern part of the country and the re- integration of that region into the mainstream of the nation’s economy. The President has worked very hard for the economic restoration of the North east and the entire Nigerian economy. In his recent diplomatic shuttles particularly to the Middle East, and his hosting of the South African leader recently in Abuja, PMB in meetings, discussions and agreements have focused on those aspects of Nigeria’s bilateral relations that will bring life back into the nation’s economy, like increased foreign investment and joint ventures in critical areas of the economy. Therefore, the result is that the reconstruction of the North east region would end up being an international endeavor that would have ripple impact on the nation’s economy as a whole.
Louis Okoroma (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Public Affairs Analyst based in Abuja.
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