opinionBy Jonathan Ishaku
The recent furor over the address by Senator David Mark at the opening of the National Assembly summit on national security in Akwa Ibom State by some Northern leaders was completely needless. It smacks of a deepening hypocrisy that seems to have overtaken the Northern elite since the beginning of the current spate of violent attacks in the region.
In recent times, these attacks appear to be well co-ordinated targeting security agents, police stations as well as places of worship.The recentattack on churches in Zaria and Kaduna on Sunday, June 17, 2010 set off a chain of reprisal attacks between Christian and Muslim youths that completely shut down Kaduna State for almost one week.
This spreading violence occasioned by the campaigns of the Boko Haram was not unexpected. Right from the day the group proclaimed its mission to annihilate Christians from the North through the church bombings, it didn't require any prophet to predict the scenario that was enacted in Kaduna State following the June 17 bomb blasts. Many of such would be witnessed across the country unless these bombings stopped.
Perhaps, it was only leaders like AlhajiTankoYakassai and Prof. AngoAbdullahi, who ensconced in their comfort zones, did not comprehend the grave consequences of these attacks on the continuing unity of the nation. Senator David Mark spoke the minds of millions of Nigerians who know exactly where all this violence is leading to. It was courageous of him to use the platform at Uyo to sound the national alert; to draw attention to the fact that the nation was at great peril and it needed rescuing!
And again, he was right on the mark by indicting the Northern elite for allowing the situation to deteriorate to the present state of affairs where fear and terror reign in the North, which is further deepening its endemic economic backwardness.Leadership connotes responsibility in giving direction to a followership. If things have gotten out of hand as they have done in the North, how can the leadership of the region be described? It can only mean two things; either there is a complete absence of leadership or there is a connivance of the leadership. Now, which of these is true of the Northern situation?
This is not the first time Senator Mark would rock the Northern elders' comfort zone. On December 5, 2011, a peace conference was organised at the Arewa House, Kaduna, by the Arewa Consultative Forum ostensibly to discuss the deteriorating security situation in the North. Trust your typical Northern leaders, the conference soon turned into another spectacle for grandstanding by speakers after speaker, in spite of the admonition by the conference chairman, General Yakubu Gowon, to "tell ourselves the bitter truth." Trust, also, Senator David Mark for his candor. He just couldn't take the circus any longer; when he rose to speak he castigated his fellow Northern leaders for their hypocrisy. "Are you afraid to openly condemn Boko Haram either for political reasons or out of fear of the possible attack by the sect?" he asked the audience.
He went on: "Have we forgotten that evil thrives when good men are silent? A Northerner killing a Northerner, a Northerner maiming a Northerner, a Northerner disrupting business activities in the North, a Northerner destroying properties in the North and so on and so forth cannot be helping the North by any stretch of imagination. Can this help the Northern cause?"
He couldn't believe that the leaders of the North could afford to be so complacent while the North burned; could they not hear the cry or feel the pains of the innocent victims of the Boko Haram activities? Or did they not consider these victims as Northerners?
My take is that if these leaders are doing half what they say in public, the situation would have been brought under control long ago. Borno State is a special example. To my knowledge, and I stand to be corrected, no government has demonstrated clear focus and diligence under an enlightened leadership since the administration of the late Governor Musa Usman as the present government under Alhaji Kashim Shettima. Even in the light of the present predicament, Governor Shettima has refused to be cowed or overwhelmed; he has been up and doing in providing intervention in critical areas of the socio-economic life of the state more than many other states with lesser security disruptions.
After a recent visit to Maiduguri, I started to wonder how the state of insecurity has persisted in Maiduguri in spite of such developmental accomplishments of the young administration in the state. My take is that politics, bad politics, contributes to the persistence of this state of affairs. If these elders of Borno undertake fewer trips to Abuja and more to Government House and their various local communities, in joint collaboration with the state government, more would be achieved in tackling the security threats.
This is true of all leaders in the North. They should walk their talk. Let them get out there to meet their people and form a consensus as a bulwark against terrorism in the North rather than the present tendency to grandstand at public platforms in Abuja or during press interviews in the cozy and secured ambiance of their hotel rooms.
I believe, however, like Senator Mark, that Northern leaders have a lot more to do in preventing the escalating violence in the North which threatens our national unity.
Ishaku is a veteran journalist and public commentator