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Open Letter To Ndigbo,By Hassan Gimba

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Open Letter to Ndigbo, by Hassan Gimba

 Nwanne m, ndewo. My Igbo brothers, I find it necessary to send you this epistle – from a North Easterner to a South Easterner – knowing we are brothers, parented by the same nation. After all, different parts of one body we are. The ailing of a part affects the wellbeing of all other parts. Therefore, I feel your pain but the path some of you want to thread alarms me.

Once upon a time, in the North East, a terrorist organisation came with a mantra not dissimilar to what some of you claim. The claims that your tribe is being marginalised. The terrorist organisation in the North East, too, whipped up the sentiment that a system that brooked no opposition did not recognise its creed. And so they wanted their kingdom.

But nwanne m, let us face it. From 1999 to date (22 years), you produced not less than three service chiefs. At the last count, Nigeria had over 370 tribes. You also produced a secretary to the government of the federation, Senate presidents, deputy Senate presidents, deputy speakers in the House of Representatives and chief executives of various government bodies. All governors of your states have been Igbo. None but Igbo has represented you in the National Assembly and all ministers from your states have been you. Is there a ministry in Nigeria which an Igbo man has not headed?

Whereas other Nigerians, especially northerners, find it difficult to own land or landed properties in the South East, major viable towns in both the North and South of the country have your brothers as major landowners. A lot of big businesses and the hospitality sector are Igbo-dominated as well.

Now, what position has Ndigbo not held? Even for the president, has every tribe produced one? At least, you have been vice president once and even president, though ceremonial. And if you play the politics well, you can still get there. Considering these, one is wont to ask if there is another meaning to marginalisation, perhaps, that only you know.

Terrorism is the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, against civilians, in pursuing political aims. United States Department of State in 2003 defined terrorism as a premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against non-combatant targets by sub-national groups or clandestine agents, intended to influence an audience.

Please check the attributes of terrorism and a terrorist, you will realise that those holding your states by the jugular are terrorists. Simple. People complied with sit-at-home orders out of fear because non-compliance can invite death. Perhaps the only difference between the leader of the terrorist organisation in your area and that of Boko Haram is that Boko Haram’s Imam is in the trenches with his troops while your Mazi is with his family ensconced in the Whiteman’s land, feeding fat at your expense. Someone referred to him as a “made-in-China Shekau”.

What happened in our land is being re-enacted in yours now. Misguided elements among you are attacking security posts, breaking jails, destroying government installations, killing notable personalities or people termed “sabo” (saboteurs).

I can understand why the elders and the good people among you are mum. Terror mongers first try to demoralise security agencies and intimidate those whose words or actions can awaken the people. It happened to us in the North East. In the week Boko Haram killed over a hundred innocent people in Potiskum, they, on 18 October 2013, razed my house to the ground with their IEDs. They arrived there in the dead of night looking for me. I was not in town, and, by God’s Grace, they had not started abductions then; they did not harm my family.

And so our elders, out of fear for their lives, even called on the federal government to “leave us alone with our sons”. A time comes in the phase of terrorist acts when a government cannot protect the citizenry. Sometimes, people live or die as dictated by terrorists.

After shocking the security agencies into timorousness and inertia, the terrorists would turn on the civilian population that out of fear supported them at some point.

But the security agencies of a nation are not about an individual. Were they about that, then nations would not outlive the active lifespan of a human being. Security agencies are machines in motion individuals cannot halt. They are resilient, redoubtable, able to absorb shock, and they only know the nation. Chief among them is the military. The military, the world over, knows only their nation and they can do anything required for its survival. Thus a Musa in uniform will not hesitate to shoot an Ibrahim who has risen against the state. Do not then be surprised, my brother, if an Ikechukwu in the uniform of the Nigerian military shoots an Ogbonna who carries another flag other than the Green, White, Green.

And the military, as we found out in the North East, my dear brethren, treats lands they enter to flush terrorists as captured territory and the people as conquered subjects.

Ah, well, you may not believe because you have what the North East lack – a propaganda machine – and so you think yours will be different. Forget rabble-rousing journalists and bloggers and social media influencers with you who would want to push the narrative of the “unknown gunmen” (clandestine agents) or shout to the high heavens of being victimised. That never helps in such situations. In most civil wars, crushed sides almost always win propagandas. Please, try to study history, my brothers.

But anybody who can rejoice, hail and defend the carnage on innocent civilians or destruction of public property by “unknown gunmen” has lost the legitimacy to be called human. He too can kill given the slightest opportunity. His hidden name is “murderer”. Anyone trying to divert attention from actual perpetrators of dastardly acts, as in the killing of Ahmed Gulak by the terrorists, thinks everyone is as foolish as them.

These so-called propagandists who are not on the ground in your land, but live in other Nigerian major cities are quick, for instance, to attribute every crime on earth to their bogeyman, the Fulani, but dance around when their terrorists commit heinous crimes. These are people who will be “missing in action” when the army comes calling on your towns and villages to deal with the bloodsuckers masquerading as freedom fighters.

So I pen down this epistle for you. I want you to know that when the military went into our North-East towns to flush out the terrorists, we had checkpoints a few kilometres from one another. You have the luxury of riding on Okada now and the freedom to stay out at night. Now we do not have Okada and when it started, we must be home by 4 pm. When we come out the next morning at 6 am, we must get off the Okada or vehicle carrying us at every checkpoint and pass it with hands in the air in the manner of surrender. We were a conquered people, after all.

Among any occupying force, there are always the unscrupulous – those that view the conquered people as ATMs, commandeer movable assets, regard their women as fair game and prey even on older mothers. A soldier denied family life for long may not bat an eyelid playing catchup with someone’s grandmother.

Though things are now getting better for us, we still do not have the sort of nightlife we used to have. Okada is no more. Though there are no such checkpoints again, we still have not forgotten the collateral damage that has taken from us some loved ones forever.

An occupying force out to flush out terrorists can break into any house. They do not knock and wait to be invited. They will ask all those in the household to lie down on their stomachs or face the sun. Youths can be killed on mere suspicion, women and girls violated and the dignity of parents torn in the eyes of their children. Parents will see their sons dragged off, never to be seen again.

An occupying force is always the law; seldom are they called to account. Even the armies of the so-called civilised countries have their vandals, not to talk of an African force that knows you for who and what you are.

When it became too much for us in the North East, some of our brave youths took it upon themselves to flush out the troublemakers from our midst so that we would know peace once again. And so the civilian joint task force, CJTF, through the courage of just one youth, was born. That always happens in such situations.

To the gullible youth that lends themselves to being used, the euphoria and sexiness of being called an unknown gunman and the surge of adrenaline while holding the gun can go to the head, but before long, other youths will join forces with the forces of good to hunt you down because, at the end of it all, people want peace and they will remove anyone making peace impossible.

Dear brothers and sisters, no nation just dissolves. And no leader of a nation will want history to record that his nation dissolved on his watch. We should not allow people leaving outside the theatre to prod us on a journey of no return while they are miles away, living in serenity with their families.

Few examples may suffice here, my brothers. Do you hear of Tiananmen Square Massacre anymore except for reference? Chechen rebels at a time pushed Russian forces out of Chechnya. When the Russians went back and started destroying Chechen infrastructure, the rebels had no option than to surrender the territories. What did the Americans goading them do, save for rhetoric? No country interferes in another sovereign country’s domestic issues. Anybody telling you US, UN, Israel will run to your defence is a bloody liar and your worst enemy.

I want to believe this epistle may shed light on the path some of your people want to take. My brothers, you have done marvellously well to pick yourselves up from the ashes of that terrible war 51 years ago. Do not allow power mongers to reverse all your gains by leading you by the nose into a cul-de-sac. A word, they say, is enough for the wise.

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Opinion

Goronyo Attack: NEGF Donate N20M, As Zulum, Yahaya Pay Sympathy Visit To Sokoto

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Goronyo Attack: NEGF’ Donate N20m, As Zulum , Yahaya pay sympathy visit to Sokoto

By Madu Mohammed, Maiduguri

The Borno state Governor Babagana Zulum alongside his Gombe counterpart, Governor Inuwa Yahaya were on Saturday in Sokoto on behalf of the Northeast Governor’s Forum (NEGF) on a condolence and solidarity visit to Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal over a recent attack on Goronyo market by bandits, which left about 40 dead..

Governor Zulum who is the Chairman of the NEGF, accompanied by Governor Inuwa Yahaya led the visit on behalf of the Northeast Governors Forum, and donated N20m as solidarity humanitarian support.

Governor Zulum while condoling Governor Tambuwal at the Government House, Sokoto said the Northeast Governors share the grief of families affected by the attack hence the delegation, to register their condolence and express solidarity.

Zulum prayed for the return of peace in Sokoto and all parts of Nigeria, noting his doors are always open to exchange of experiences given from challenges faced by Borno State, and steps being adopted on the way forward.

Respinding, Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal expressed profound gratitude to the Northeast Governors Forum, stressing that the visit was a soothing balm to victims and affected families, and to the entire people of Sokoto State.

Tambuwal further described the coming of Governors Zulum and Yahaya as a clear manifestation of love and brotherhood between the Northeast and the Northwest in general, and between Borno, Gombe and Sokoto States.

Governor Tambuwal acknowledged the many efforts of Zulum in Borno since becoming Governor two years ago.

The two Governors were accompanied to Sokoto by Borno’s Commissioners for Agriculture, Bukar Talba, Works, Architect Yerima Saleh, Adviser on Special Duties, Bakari Ali Kotoko, and Adviser on Local Government and Emirate Affairs, Abba Kawu Shehu Garbai.

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Opinion

The North East: Which Way Forward?, By Hassan Gimba

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The North East: Which Way Forward?, by Hassan Gimba

Being a speech delivered by Hassan Gimba, publisher of Neptune Prime online newspaper and magazine, chairman Northeast Publishers’ Forum, as the Guest Speaker at the 6th Annual Awards and Recognition Night of the Northeast Star magazine, held on the 21st of October, 2021 at the Conference Hall of AUN, Yola, Adamawa State.

All protocols observed.

The North East came into existence on the 5th of May, 1967 when, in his bid to check the influence of Odumegwu Ojukwu in the East, General Yakubu Gowon created 12 states out of the four regions in the country.

On the 3rd of February, 1976, General Murtala Ramat Mohammed divided the monolith North Eastern state into three – Borno, Bauchi and Gongola. These three states were further divided into six by General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida on the 27th of August, 1991. From Borno we got Yobe, Bauchi gave birth to Gombe and from Adamawa came Taraba.

From a part of the Northern Region to an independent state, the North East, which now boasts of six states, has always been number one among its peers in almost all aspects of human endeavour – but from the rear.

For instance, in 2017, Taraba State was number 21 in Nigeria in WAEC, Borno number 25, Adamawa 28, Bauchi 31, Gombe 34 and Yobe 37. These are the kinds of results we have been getting through the years.

But we all know that education is the foundation upon which individuals, communities, nations develop. Without it, no barriers can be broken.

When you look at the health sector, we have the least number of tertiary hospitals and research institutes in the country.

We have dilapidated infrastructure and a poor road network with a lot of hinterlands unopened, so our farmers have limited access to urban markets. There is currently no functional railway network in the whole of the North East.

All these have not helped because insecurity, fuelled by the Boko Haram insurgency, has ravaged the zone.

Despite all these disadvantages, we have the potential to feed the nation. We have some of the best agrarian fields in the country, with a plateau that boasts of the best temperate climate around.

We have produced some of the best brains in the country. The Golden Voice came from here. The North East has produced great technocrats, captains of industry, politicians and statesmen that have contributed to making Nigeria a great nation.

What many cannot understand is that it is the North East that has given stability to a political North that allows such to be translated into national stability.

In 1978, a son of the North East, Malam Adamu Ciroma, despite being arguably better qualified, embraced a North Westerner to form the central government. When the opposition wanted to destabilise the government of Alhaji Shehu Shagari, Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim, a North Easterner, stood against that.

By joining the government of General Sani Abacha in 1993, Ambassador Babagana Kingibe yanked the carpet from under the feet of those who wanted to destabilise the nation because of the annulment of the June 12 elections.

One of the greatest North Easterners of all time is Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. A true democrat if ever there was one. He, more than almost everyone, has deepened our democracy through seeking court pronouncements to restore his rights after his falling out with his then principal, President Olusegun Obasanjo, and many other democratic actions. He has pushed us towards democratisation and the acceptance of democracy.

Even though the North West and North Central are bigger than the North East, the zone has always acted as the big brother for peace to reign. Politically, we have always given in to the two other zones to produce the president.

This is not because of incapacity. No, we have always at all points produced capable people who could steer the ship of state successfully and to the satisfaction of all. We have always given in to maintaining our bond and ties. We view all as our brothers and we love being our brothers’ keepers.

We have never cried over this. While others may want to see it as marginalisation if it were them, we see it as a unifying gesture. But now is the time for them to reciprocate.

The North East should henceforth mobilise and sensitise people on the fact that it is now its turn to produce the next president.

Another sound argument is that we have capable hands that can take this nation forward. We have them: those who will be fair to all and have the nation at heart; those who will give everyone their rights; those who can turn around the fortunes of this nation and make it into the great nation that it ought to be.

But we should not mouth such an agenda as a slogan. We have to be deliberate in working for it and working towards it. We have to start by empowering ourselves. Those with the opportunity to empower people should do so; those empowered owe it as a duty to build up others.

Some of the senior North Easterners have done so – building institutions and businesses that would take many people off the streets and thus cutting down on the recruitment base of insurgents and perpetrators of violent crimes.

Our political stakeholders must, as a matter of urgency, look into our political recruitment process. Governors should not be afraid of having capable hands in the houses of assembly in their states. A situation where nitwits, instead of brilliant young chaps, are pushed to the legislature will not augur well for our present and future development.

When a governor recruits those brilliant minds, they don’t take his glory away because he remains “His Excellency” in the state and any success must be linked to his name, but he gets them to apply their God-given resources to work for the people, the state and the region. They also learn the fine points of politics, leadership and governance which will prepare them for service to the people at local, state and national levels.

READ ALSO: 2023: Let’s Look To The North East, by Hassan Gimba

By surrounding themselves with such good heads, the governors and other political office holders will provide good leadership not only now but also in the future.

This is, however, a short, medium and long-term plan.

From now till 2023, we must mobilise the North East to know that the presidency should come here. Not for any personal gain, but because taking Nigeria out of the woods has once more fallen on its shoulders.

Once more?, people ask. Yes, once more, is the answer. The North East is the hub of northern politics. Northern politics that reached out to dominate national politics started in this zone. The discussions for the formation of the Northern People’s Congress (NPC) which culminated in its fruition in Zaria, started in Bauchi.

The first political party in Nigeria, the Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU) was founded in Bauchi and its intellectual fountain was Sa’ad Zungur. Malam Aminu Kano keyed in because he was a teacher in Bauchi then. We should also not forget Ibrahim Imam and his Borno Youth Movement.

Perhaps we do not want our brothers from the North West and North Central to think because Nigerian politics started in our zone, that’s why we want to Lord it over them. And so we always bend backwards for them.

People with vast resources, rich culture and history always make good leaders.

The North East is the richest zone in the country. The exploration of the Mambila Plateau will reveal one of the most natural resources endowed areas of the world. Apart from that, we have many other natural resources that can turn any nation into an economic superpower if harnessed.

We have had Mali and Songhai empires not to talk of the thousand-year-old Kanem Bornu empire. The Adamawa Kingdom is transnational.

When you look at it from the angle of national unity, the bulk of those who fought to keep Nigeria one were also from the Northeast.

Therefore, a North Easterner coming out of such an endowed region will be a blessing to the entire nation.

As we leave this hall, we should all disperse into the nooks and crannies of this blessed country and call all to join us in producing a leader who will salvage this country. Tell them there is a Northeasterner that can.

Thank you.

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Opinion

2023: Let’s Look To The North East, By Hassan Gimba

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2023: Let’s Look To The North East, by Hassan Gimba

If I were to be as sentimental as people are, I would say the North East, my zone, must produce the president in 2023.

Many people fight for their people, region, zone or state to produce the president for various reasons.

Reasons may range from the fact that a president attracts some goodies to his area. Ministers and other chief executives fall over themselves to site projects where the president comes from. Captains of industry, too, are not left behind in the jostle to provide for where the president hails from.

People from the president’s locality also have a false sense of being first-class citizens, oblivious to the fact that those from other areas may end up benefiting more from the administration. Those that would never have been heard of in their lifetime were it not for their association with the president’s roots can become overnight celebrities and points of reference.

For these and many other related mundane concerns of living in a competitive environment where resources are ever dwindling, people can go to any length for theirs to be there.

The concern is not for the nation, nor for the future or the wellbeing of the people. The primary push is self, then tribe. It is so unfortunate, but that is the reality. The religious card too is played, but that too is a complete game of its own. Whether Muslim or Christian, denomination comes in. Just because the other one is your tribe and religion, if he belongs to a denomination you consider hell-bound, then he can be denied anything, including the right to live.

Perhaps these reasons are why many seek political offices and the majority push others to political seats, hoping to reap where they have sowed.

This struggle to get “our share” from the national cake has seen brothers fighting one another, sometimes to the death. Our politics has become a do-or-die affair as buttressed by a one time president when he was seeking re-election. The smart alecs among our political elite have pitched us against ourselves, using our two major fault-lines – religion and region.

Many of us worship clerics and not God. Therefore, some can “remove” or “admit” others into religion as they have appropriated it. Their religion is just in the tongue but not in the hearts. Had we been worshippers of God, the true God, perhaps there would be more peace than we are witnessing. Our other god is the tribe. Some would not mind the country going to blazes as long as one from their tribe is not where they want him to be. That is on the one hand. There are also those who are hell-bent on excluding people from other tribes from the scheme of things, who think what is sauce for the goose is not sauce for the gander.

Many of the political elite, as we earlier said, thrive in deceit because if the citizenry knew the truth, their unworthiness would be glaring. They have ensnared and enslaved their people with falsehood even as they think they are thinking freely. They are those who Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (28 August 1749–22 March 1832), the German poet, playwright, novelist, scientist, statesman, theatre director, and critic talked about.

He said, “None are so hopelessly enslaved as those who falsely believe they are free. Masters who rule them with lies have kept from the depth of their minds the truth. They feed them falsehoods till something wrong looks right in their eyes.”

If not, how do you situate the recent statement by Professor Daniel Saror at his 80th birthday celebration in Makurdi to the applause of Governor Samuel Ortom and those who have always been blinded by the rogue elite? Professor Saror was the 7th vice-chancellor of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, when ABU Zaria was ABU Zaria. He was also a two-term senator, first in 1999 on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and in 2003 under the banner of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP).

One may assume someone of his calibre – and age – will be more circumspect in his utterances, having reached a level to be regarded as an elder statesman. Unfortunately, he unashamedly said, “The insecurity we are experiencing in Benue and Nigeria today is not an accident. It is a planned programme. Boko Haram does not consist of miscreants. They are intelligent people; they are highly connected in Nigeria and other countries in the world and the mission is simple: they want to conquer and Islamise the nation. The Jihadists that you hear about in the North-West are also not miscreants. They are highly connected, highly motivated, and highly experienced in their own (sic) ideas and what they want. They want to spread the caliphate throughout Nigeria.

“The armed Fulani herdsmen and Boko Haram insurgents have contacts that extend to the Middle East, Asia, Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia, among others. They are funded in billions of naira to execute the conquest agenda of the caliphate in the country.” Such balderdash!

This is the unfortunate reality of our country. But we can change that; by just getting a listening, considerate, fair-minded and competent leader, all these problems would fizzle out.

A just leader will ensure that each community, each Nigerian, whether or not they voted for him, regardless of whether they belong to the same area with him, whether or not they profess the same religious belief with him, gets their rightful share.

Nigeria will know peace and rapid development, the moment a citizen realises he does not have to fight or follow a shortcut to get his normal entitlements.

Above all, we need someone who can create maximum wealth out of the country’s natural endowments.

As the 2023 race gathers momentum, it becomes incumbent upon us all to scout for, and draft into the race, a man with such qualities. The consideration should not be whether the president is from the North or South, Hausa, Yoruba or Igbo, or that Nigeria now deserves a Northern or Southern president, Hausa, Yoruba or Igbo President. We do not also need a Muslim or Christian president. What Nigeria needs now is a Nigerian president – one that will put Nigeria first above lucre, region, religion and all other affiliations.

As is becoming our political culture, the president of the country is being recruited from among governors or those who were once governors. Maybe as our democracy deepens and matures, the field may expand to include those from the National Assembly, private sector, bureaucrats, etc.

If that is the case, we can safely assume that our next president may come from the current crop of governors, irrespective of whether that person has served just a term or two. There are some among the current crop of governors that have done well. While fulfilling their mandates at state levels, they are also contributing towards national peace and harmony, calming frayed nerves all over the nation, giving everyone and all parts of the country some sense of belonging and thus stabilising the government at the centre. While we have such governors in all the zones, the North East can claim to have the doyen of them all.

However, I do not want to be trapped in the sentiment of promoting a North Easterner for president in 2023 just because it is my region. Rather, I will support the North Easterner because I know he can do it, because I know he is an excellent material, because I know he is competent and can take us out of the woods, not primarily because he is a North Easterner. After all, it is fate that conspired to bring him out of there. I would still have gone for him were he from the South, East or West, Muslim or Christian.

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