Assessing Gov. Gaidam's Effort to End Boko Haram Violence
In the wake of the relentless reign of terror that Boko Haram has been visiting on Yobe State and other states in the northeast recently, what are the governors in these states doing to contain, checkmate, neutralize, or eliminate the group and its murderous
ideology? Well, I am the first to admit that this is an unfair question because under our present federal arrangement, security is the exclusive preserve of the Federal Government. The Federal Government controls the nation's entire security apparatus-the military, the state security service, the police, etc. State governors are at the mercy of the federal government on security matters.
Nevertheless, no responsible state government should fold its arms and watch helplessly as lives and hopes are cut short and as the confidence and comfort of the living are torn to shreds. Fortunately, Yobe State governor Ibrahim Gaidam has been intensely invested both emotionally and logistically in finding enduring solutions to the problem of Boko Haram. For instance, as far back as July 2009 when the Northern Governor's Forum (NGF) convened an emergency meeting in Kaduna to proffer solutions to the Boko Haram problem, which was then in its beginning state and which killed scores of people in Borno State, he was one of only three governors who personally attended the meeting. The two others were Governor Mu'azu Babangida Aliyu of Niger State and then Governor Mohammed Namadi Sambo of Kaduna State.
Writing in the popular NigeriaWorld website, Dr. Robert Sanda, an Alberta, Canada-based public commentator, had this to say http://nigeriaworld.com/articles/2009/aug/041.html on the implication of the shunning of the NGF emergency meeting by northern governors at the time: 'We can excuse governor Ali Modu Sheriff's absence since the brunt of the destruction was borne by his state and even a one-day absence at this crucial time would appear insensitive. Governors Muazu Babangida Aliyu and Namadi Sambo as the chairman of the forum and host governor, respectively, can be said to be under pressure to attend the meeting. Thus, (in my opinion, at least) the only governor deserving of credit for attendance is Ibrahim Gaidam of Yobe state.'
Dr. Sanda was certainly correct in his assessment. Watchers of the Boko Haram problem in the northeast would tell you that from 2009 to now, Governor Gaidam hasn't wavered even one bit in his commitment to tackling the Boko Haram problem in northeastern Nigeria within the limits permitted by our restrictive federal arrangement. The governor is deeply aware that although security agencies are owned, operated, and controlled by the federal government, they are severally underfunded, ill-equipped, and could use some help from state governments. In the light of this, in the last few years that Boko Haram insurgency reached epidemic proportions in the north, he has extended massive logistic support to federal security agencies operating in Yobe State.
For instance, the governor has donated more than 150 Hilux four-wheel drive vehicles to various security agencies operating in the state. In another remarkable show of support for the efforts of federal security agencies to rein in Boko Haram, the governor has made available his campaign headquarters in Damaturu to serve as the operational base of the Joint Task Force (JTF).
Similarly, the governor made available a newly built boarding school at Kuka-Reta Village in Damaturu Local Government, to serve as the temporary headquarters for the newly established 233 Tank Battalion of the Nigerian Army until the federal government is able to build a befitting permanent barracks for the battalion. And, realizing that the police are chronically underpaid and, as a result, unmotivated to put their lives on the line in the protection of lives and property, the governor pays monthly cash-ration-allowance to policemen serving in the state in addition to whatever the federal government pays them.
These are only illustrative examples of the many ways the governor has risen to the occasion in support of security forces drafted to the state to curb the Boko Haram violence that has engulfed the northeast region in the past three years. Of course, these efforts are merely complementary to the federal government's rather inadequate efforts.
But the governor obviously realizes that security agencies merely attack the symptoms of a larger problem. They are not equipped to get at the deep roots of the problem, which can be traced to poverty and indoctrination. That is why he has embarked on one of the largest mass employment schemes I have seen in this country in a long while. The government has provided employment-and therefore a valid, secure source of livelihood-to over 10,000 youngsters in the last one year since Boko Haram violence started affecting Yobe State.
Of the 10, 000 young people the governor employed, up to 3, 600 have bachelor's degrees, the Higher National Diploma (HND) and the National Certificate in Education (NCE). This category of people was employed on a permanent and pensionable basis. The other 6, 570 hold the Ordinary Diploma (ND) certificates and have been engaged under a special empowerment scheme in which they will be paid N15, 000 per month until they get a permanent job or decide to further their education. Those who decide to go back to school will get government scholarship. This, without a doubt, is an admirably creative and kindhearted way to engage the youth and distract them from the attractions of violence.
The governor also knows that not everybody in the state has the educational qualification to take advantage of his mass employment scheme. Illiterate or barely educated people who live on the fringes of mainstream society can be-and indeed often are-the pool from which Boko Haram and other violent groups recruit would-be mass murderers. This explains why his administration sent thousands of youths to the Sani Abacha Youth Development Center in Kano to train in such skills as GSM handset and generator set repairs, knitting, hair plaiting, carpentry, etc.
Not only did the governor open this training opportunity, he also ensured that all participants in the programme were fully resettled with the tools they need to practice what they have learnt free of charge.
The governor has also provided up to 500 Keke Napep tricycles to uneducated and unemployed youngsters in Damaturu, Potiskum, Gashu'a and Gaidam towns, especially in light of the ban on the use of Okada motorcycles because Boko Haram used Okada motorcycles to launch surprise attacks on innocent people. Had the governor not stepped up to find alternative means of livelihood for many of these former Okada riders, we can only imagine what they would have resorted to.
The governor's efforts must be anchored on the age-old wisdom that an idle mind is the devil's workshop. Although the Boko Haram scourge is multifaceted and can't be reduced to one single cause, no one can deny that joblessness is one of the important causes of the group's emergence, growth, and its paradoxically surprising attractiveness to young adults. Providing employment to people who would otherwise have been seduced by the warped ideology and financial reward of Boko Haram is surely a great way to tackle the violence in the northeast in the long term. The result of this measure won't be immediate, but its efficacy will be appreciated in the near future.
As a deeply religious person who believes in the power of prayers, the governor is also complementing his efforts with prayers. He has sponsored select Muslim scholars from across Yobe's local government areas to travel to Saudi Arabia to offer special prayers for peace and prosperity in the state and Nigeria in general. This is in addition to the millions of naira he spends habitually to comfort people who have been victims of Boko Haram attacks. For example, the Yobe State government has paid N50 million as compensation to victims of the recent unfortunate Potiskum cattle market attack and has provided support to families of victims of that particular attack.
Given the constraints that state governments face in security matters in Nigeria, Governor Gaidam's efforts to restore peace, hope, and confidence in the once peaceful Yobe State are nothing short of remarkable. He deserves both our praise for what he has done to improve security and our sympathy for the toll that the Boko Haram violence exerts on a people whose lives he has been working so hard to improve.
Alhaji Yusuf Alhaji is a public relations specialist, writes from Bolori Ward, Maiduguri Metropolitan Council