SARAKI'S VISIT TO MAIDUGURI, RESTORATION OF HOPE
Since the Boko Haram insurgency began ravaging the north-eastern part of Nigeria, many high-level government officials have stayed away from visiting the area due to the immense security risk involved. However, in recent times, in order to demonstrate that the 'Change' mantra of the ruling party, under this Buhari-led dispensation, is in full effect, many All Progressives Congress (APC) leaders have made it their duty to defy the security threats in the North East. Many of them, like Vice-President Osibanjo, and Senate President Bukola Saraki, have made it their duty to visit the area to assure their fellow countrymen and women – who are now referred to as Internally Displaced Peoples (IDPs) – that they are not alone.
On Monday, August 3rd, I read that the Senate President, Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, lead a delegation to Borno, Maiduguri. The delegation, which was made up of his colleagues and some of his aides, visited the epicenter of the Boko Haram insurgency. The purpose of the visit, as explained by Dr. Saraki, was to send a clear and loud signal to the IDPs that in their present tribulation, their legislators – particularly those in the upper legislative chamber in Abuja – were still with them. Dr. Saraki further reassured the IDPs and the people of Maiduguri who have been affected that the activities of Boko Haram, that he and his colleagues would do everything necessary to support them.
Additionally, Dr. Saraki stressed that he would be relentless in ensuring that the Nigerian armed forces have all available resources to ensure that not only ensure the safety of the people of the North East, but to bring the Boko Haram insurgents to justice.
Dr. Saraki's visit was also aimed at generating a message of hope and optimism, against the backdrop of the overwhelming situation that many of the IDPs have found themselves in. It was for this reason that he took the time to motivate and joke around with the adult IDPs, while also playing with the children in the camps. To round off his visit, Dr. Saraki also made a personal donation of N10 million for the upkeep of the IDPs in the facilities visited.
The Governor of Borno State, Kashim Shetima, who accompanied Dr. Saraki's delegation on the visit to the IDP camps, appealed to the Senate President to ensure that his state and other affected neighbouring states receive special legislative attention. He said that such attention from lawmakers and other decision makers would be necessary to ensure that the North Eastern region once again becomes habitable by vibrant Nigerians.
Governor Shettima further narrated the ordeal of his people since the unrest started, while also thanking the Senate delegation for daring to be different – as this was the first such official delegation by the Senate in the six years of the crisis.
Throughout the daylong visit, the faces and actions of the people demonstrated that they were aware that those in the corridors of power had not forgot them. Many of them sang songs of praise, and glowed with anticipation of the dividends that the Senate President's visit would produce, once he returned to Abuja.
At a point of the visit, Governor Shettima could not hold back his tears. He spoke like a man who felt like the rest of the nation was not giving his State the type of support that the situation clearly desired – the type of support that would probably have been given if the crisis had occurred in other parts of the country. Senator Saraki was also clearly moved – as demonstrated by his tweets. He later recapped on the experience by saying: “It is very emotional to see over 2600 children made orphans by Boko Haram at Dalori IDP Camp. We will leave no stone unturned to address this.”
Although, few naysayers have attempted to play down on the significance of Saraki’s visit, it is however clear that the Borno people are tired of feeling neglected and appreciate the visit by the leadership of the Senate. In the eyes of the children, as many as 4000 who have been orphaned by the activities of Boko Haram, I saw hope of a better Nigeria. They clearly do not long for our pity, but they hope for our support to defeat the menace, and restore their homes.
The Shehu of Borno, Abubakar Ibn Umar, who also received the Senate delegation during the course of their visit, also decried the electricity situation in the State. The Shehu mentioned that this problem, compounded with the insurgency makes his people feel abandoned. He said that with about two million people taking refuge in the ancient town of Maiduguri, the lack of electricity opens the people to increased dangers of surreptitious attacks. The Shehu mentioned that he was hopeful that with the visit by the Senators, this concern would be addressed shortly.
All in all, the visit by the Senate President and his delegation to Maiduguri cannot go unmentioned as it represents that Dr. Saraki and his colleagues are willing to use their capacity as lawmakers to make positive changes in the life of the people – regardless of ethnic, religious and gender considerations of the affected people.
Indeed the step by Senator Saraki and the entire delegation is a step in the right direction to show that the APC-led 8th Senate, is definitely different and above what we witnessed in the previous years.
Written by Wodah Sunday