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WHY THE NORTH IS STILL IN CRISES -GOV ALIYU

By NBF News
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Niger State Governor, Dr. Babangida Aliyu, has given an insight into the crisis afflicting the North, in particular the unrelenting campaign of violence by Boko Haram and suggested the way out. In a special interview published in London in the January 2012 edition of Africa Today magazine, Aliyu, who is also chairman of the Northern Governors' Forum, pointed to a variety of factors, which had brought the North to this sorry pass.

Among these are injustice, youth unemployment, breakdown of the family system, neglect of the traditional institution, poor planning and the brainwashing of impressionable youths by mischievous Islamic clerics.

'You used to beg people to go to school, now you have gotten some that have gone to school and you have not been able to give them what they might think is their right,' the governor said. 'And then you have another group that has lost out either in the western education or Islamic education.

Then you have another competitive group that is mostly educated in Islamic education and they think they have more of the knowledge and there is one group that is only western educated and lording it over the society, taking all the benefits and not really concerned about the larger society but selfishly being concerned with themselves and their immediate family. That was not the case before. The case before is concern for the extended family and by that it goes to the larger community. But that seems to have broken down now. The people are becoming more nuclear without the commensurate feeling.'

Noting that what is happening 'did not start today,' the Chief Servant, as Aliyu prefers to be called, described it as evidence of poor planning and research, as well as poor intelligence gathering. According to him: 'If you were told 10, 20 years ago that a Nigerian could be bombing the place, you would say not in northern Nigeria. So it means our planning and our level of intelligence information has not been useful. Our research and development should reflect the new thinking of how to marry these competing groups.'

Apportioning part of the blame to misguided Islamic preachers, the governor told Africa Today: 'At times if you go to hear the kind of sermon they make, you will be wondering whether it is an Islamic sermon or it's just a sermon of somebody, who is annoyed with the society.' He faulted the promise of paradise, which the hate preachers usually make to would-be suicide bombers, saying: 'Any good Muslim will tell you that suicide is not part of Islam. In fact, we have it that if you commit suicide you will not go into paradise no matter your reason. So for anybody to say he is a suicide bomber because he is extending Islamic tenets, is not true.'

Governor Aliyu observed that there is 'an international dimension of the crisis' and lamented the neglect of the traditional institutions, which he said could have helped in fishing out strangers, who infiltrate their domains to sow the seed of discord. 'We must not also run away from the international dimension of this crisis,' he said. 'Borno is a border state to Chad. We know what is happening in Sudan. We know what has happened in Libya. We know when Gaddafi was alive the kind of relationship he was having with some of these neighbouring countries.'

According to him: 'Nothing happens in the village or community without the knowledge of the traditional rulers. So the movement of foreign people in a village, they will detect. But maybe because we are now in a modern age of the State Security Service (SSS), nobody places attention to them.'

Governor Aliyu called for negotiations with Boko Haram and other aggrieved parties, explaining, however, that 'negotiation with these people does not have to be a formal government negotiation.' Using the example of Borno, where the Boko Haram's violent campaign is fiercest, the governor said: 'We have religious leaders in Borno, we have the traditional rulers. They could be empowered to go into negotiation with these people.'

He also recommended a review of the educational system as part of efforts to find a solution to the crisis. The educational system, he suggested, 'should develop a moderate person, not one extreme person in western education and another extreme person in Islamic education.'

He told the Pan-African News magazine that he regretted that the North had failed to take advantage of its dominance of political power in the country to develop itself. 'Out of the over 50 years independence in terms of leadership, how many years have northerners provided leadership for this country? So in terms of commensurate reward what should have happened?' he asked. He noted that the North had all it takes to develop the region but could not do so unless it went in search of new answers because 'when you have a certain section of the society that is already becoming violent, it means the old answers are no longer viable, you need to look for new answers. And I hope we are honest with one another, otherwise we will continue to be backward.'

The governor advised the North to shed the toga of too much conservatism because 'you need to conserve what is conservative and you need to progress where you need to. You can't continue to be conservative when the people need education, you need infrastructure to be able to take care of the people. Now if you cannot do that then definitely there is nothing to conserve.'