By: Abubakar Abubakar
Saturday’s gunfire attack on motorists along Maiduguri-Damboa road is indicative of the desperation of Boko Haram fighters to create the impression that they are history. The loss of life to the fleeing remnants of the terror sect is sad but the situation is not one to cause despair as that is exactly what the killers and those propping them up want to see. Their goal is nothing short of seeing a people that will give up and turn over their lives to the whims of the extremists.
As a complement to the military operations against the terrorists, what is needed is a sense of community, a cohesion among the people that tells Boko Haram and the anarchists behind them that the society they sought to take over remains unbroken, un-shattered and is ready to rebuild now that the decline of the terrorists group is certainty. This defiance in the face of what should have caused perplexity is led in part by the Borno state governor, Kashim Shettima.
In doing this, Shettima has an uphill task. Even now that the silence from fewer explosions and petering out gunshots is persistently broken by the drone of propaganda, he has maintained the focus of returning life back to normal for the millions of the people in Borno state. He has been able to rally his aides and appointees across ethnic and religious divides to project the kind of united front that proponents of a fractured Nigeria and ruined Borno state loathe to see.
For instance, when I left the United Kingdom last year to visit the various centers for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) with a former Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria where we distributed relief materials to various communities in the northeast region, the Director General of Borno State Emergency Management Agency (BOSEMA), Engr. Ahmed Satomi displayed the highest level of commitment that mirrors the standard set by his boss the governor. He exhibited a remarkable level of transparency in helping us to get relief materials, sourced from individual donors, got to the victims of this crisis as intended.
During this visit to the north east and in Borno state in particular, we saw the zeal and uncommon commitment of the Governor who showed no inkling that he inherited this whole crisis that was created by some people before who never had the interest of the people at heart as he does. But as a man prepared for leadership, he didn’t shy away from finding ways to ameliorate the sufferings of his people and has worked assiduously hard to ensure that he would not be allowing his successor inherit that he was saddled with.
If alleviating the suffering inflicted by the terrorists is heartwarming, even more reassuring are the steps the governor is taking to bring about lasting peace through numerous efforts that are already yielding results. He has for instance integrated the traditional institution to provide the rallying point needed to ward off more young persons being misled into joining the terrorists. While this may look trite, it is a significant achievement since starving Boko Haram of new recruits had first slowed down its expansion and would later see to it that the group cannot replenish its ranks of fighters that have been killed, captured or surrendered.
Shettima has also been able to show leadership beyond the state as he rallies governors of neighbouring states in his capacity as the chairman of the Northern States Governors’ Forum. This is a boost to efforts at reversing the damage done by Boko Haram and to root out the group, whose evil activities spill across several state borders.
It must however be noted that these laudable disposition needs the support of other stakeholders in Borno state to make meaningful impact. They must be seen as efforts geared towards restoring the humanity of the traumatized people in the area and must thus enjoy the maximum level of support possible for them to deliver the hope that hundreds of thousands of people in the area desperately need. The youths, elders and other stakeholders must therefore join hands with Shettima as the political leader of that region to see that peace finally returns to the land. It is such level of unity that could force the terrorists to understand the futility of try to break the spirit of the people.
Abubakar is coordinator, north east for peace movement and contributed this piece from Abuja
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