The United States Institute of Peace yesterday organized an online conversation with visiting Northern Nigerian Governors on strategies for peace and what they and their citizens can do to address the socioeconomic challenges faced in the north, and also how to cope and address the humanitarian crisis and other ills caused by the Boko Haram insurgency. Participants were allowed to post their questions via twitter and face book to the Northern governors present at the conversation.
The governors in attendance were Abdullahi Abubakar, Bauchi; Governor Kashim Shettima, Borno; Governor Darius Ishaku, Taraba; Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed, Kwara; Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, Sokoto; Simon Lalong, Plateau; Abubakar Sani Bello, Niger; Deputy Governor Hafiz Abubakar, Kano.
The first question was exactly on the IDPs, the governor of Borno replied by stating that they are working in partnership with international community towards addressing the food problems in the IDP. The governor however advised that attention should not only be concentrated on the IDPs but also the host communities, “we should look beyond the IDP camps”, he said. He concluded his reply by saying that his target is to see the people return to their home.
Can the IDP be closed in 2017?
Shettima, the governor of Borno answered yes, he said in communities where there is peace, there is no reason why the people should not return to their home.
What are your plans for people in the IDP who might not want to return to their home even after the closure of the IDPs
The question was directed at the governor of Bauchi, Abdullahi Abubakar. He cited the example of Bauchi where the IDP phenomenon according to him started earlier because of the internecine crisis, prior to this time Bauchi had always had IDP camps in one form or the other and they had experienced such people who even after the crisis refused to return to their homes, hence what they do is to take them in, in the spirit of being your brothers keepers.
What would be done to promote family and community reconciliation, what are the governors doing about that?
The question was directed at the governor of Borno, who answered that the beauty and perhaps irony of this crisis is that rather than sowing the seed of disunity, it ended up promoting unity amongst the people. The reason is because Boko Haram does not differentiate between a Muslim and a Christian, and that both mosque and churches were destroyed in the course of the crisis. He said that efforts are being made to win the heart of the people. According to him, the government released the sum of N100 million to reconstruct the churches destroyed in the Chibok areas. “We are making efforts, we are reaching out to CAN (Christian association of Nigeria) to establish trust and confidence” he said
Many people do not trust security operatives because of past abuses, what are the governors doing to address that?
The Kwara State governor, Abdulfatah Ahmed answered that this is been addressed by enhancing the interface between the people and the security agencies. “We are promoting community police to boost confidence which has also translated into peaceful processes”
The issue of community police raised by the Kwara state governor led to another question, state police. So the moderator decided to dwell on the subject and asked for the opinion of the governors on the issue.
The governor of Taraba, Darius Ishaku opined that it is not fair to have a governor who does not control the instrument of power, though there might be obvious disadvantages, but the benefits of having state police outweighs the abuses.
Governor Abdulfatah of Kwara gave his take on the issue by stating the that large population of Nigeria makes it more difficult to police. “I think it is important that we look at other layers of policing, indeed it is already at the quasi level because everywhere you go, there are local vigilantes, all we need to do is to formalize them” He said
Plateau State governor, Simon Lalong said he had once argued against state police, but being a governor now, he could see the need for it. He stated that it is not wise to post people to a terrain that they are not used to nor understand. He also said that the structures are already on ground, all that is needed to be done is for the structures to be formalized. He gave the example of the civilian JTF in the North who have really been helpful to the army and police in the fight against Boko Haram, they understood the terrain and are able to navigate and then assist the security operatives. He claimed that some of them are even been absorbed by the army and police.
Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal who was a former speaker of the house of representatives said that the house almost reach a unanimous agreement on the issue when he was the speaker.
Youths in minority religion seems to have no place in leadership, in addition what are the plans by the governors to promote ethnic minorities?
The Niger State governor, Abubakar Sani Bello said every Northern governor is dedicated towards inclusiveness. “In Niger, we have a very strong zoning system…it is a sensitive matter, but we are doing our possible best to include everyone” he said
What are the top misconceptions that American academics, policy makers hold against the kind of terrorism by Boko Haram?
Governor Shettima answered the question; he said that the major misconception is the nature of the crisis itself, which is that it has a link with international terrorism. But it is not, it is basically local with the capacity to grow into bigger conflagration. There is a need for western media to re-educate their people. The terrain of the north explains the crisis, northern Nigeria is backward compared to the south, yet it is not getting enough attention. The governors are investing in education, which is important, gender equality, girl child education, alternative power supply which is imperative for industrial take-off.
On the issue of girl child education, the Bauchi state governor said they are working more on that, it is a build up process.
Taraba state governor said it is not a question of allocation; it is a question of education.
Bauchi state governor commented on the same issue, he said “we have educated women that can take up leadership, but personally I think it has to do with the culture, the environment, north believes women should remain within a certain limit…but with education and awareness campaign, that can change”
Deputy Governor of Kano said “we need to appreciate the fact that we are making substantial progress on these issues”. He cited the example of Kano where they have reached a level of 41% against 51% of school enrolment for women.
How do you see the potential for serious Islamic cohesion among Muslims in the North?
The Sokoto state governor responded that the issue is very important, and there is need to have a dialogue between all religious groups. “We must work an atmosphere of understanding as a group; we northern governors would discuss the issue”
The governor of Plateau speaking on the ban on Shiite procession in Jos, said that the situation of Jos justified the reason for the ban, because if crisis erupts, it would degenerate into Muslim Christian thing
What are the governors doing to counter the narratives of Boko Haram (education is not good)
Borno state governor said they are taking a holistic approach, he also said that Islam is not against education be it western or Islamic. According to him, the most important thing is to win the heart and mind of the people by creating jobs, developing infrastructures, investing in education. That is the best way to counter the narratives.
Some people believe that Boko Haram prisoners were swapped for the girls is it what should be done?
The question was directed at the Bauchi state governor who said that federal government denied the allegation, that is the position of the Federal Government, he stated, he concluded that he does not have anything to counter that.
What is been done to clear the land mines and IEDs left by Boko Haram terrorists/
Brigadier Bala (retd) said that there are regular and daily reports as regards the diffusion of the land mine by the Nigerian Army.
Why is it that only the northern governors were invited?
Borno state governor addressing the question said there is a greater understanding of the problems facing northern Nigerian, and this is not the first time they would be meeting with the US government and their partners, the first meeting was during the administration of President Jonathan, hence it is not a question of a northerner in power.
Beyond military fighting, what are the measures put in place to reduce radicalization
Deputy Governor of Kano responded, he said education comes first which also involve infrastructure, manpower development, but the key is the curriculum itself and the issue of job creation.
Asked if the outcome of the American elections would affect their relationship with the US government. The Borno state government said they doubt that given the fact of America’s strong institutions, hence they hope for a continued relationship irrespective of where the pendulum swings.