Friday, May 26, 2017

I am Biafran

Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Center, Abuja
Conference on Biafra: 50 Years After
25 May, 2017

Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, OON
Chief of Staff to President of the Senate, Federal Republic of Nigeria.
I am Biafran

With ten minutes to discuss the vital element of reconciliation following the defeat of Biafra and the end of the Nigerian Civil war, I have taken the liberty to tap into the broad context of this important conference to discuss reconciliation as a strategic process and goal in post-war Nigeria, and a major issue in nation-building.
The key elements of the post-war reconciliation programme derived from an enlightened leadership perspective which acknowledged the value of re-integration of former territories and populations under Biafra into a nation that had fought a reluctant civil war. They included a specific renunciation of victory in the “no –victor-no-vanquished” policy, the deliberate promotion of policies that discouraged punitive action against active rebels and populations; absorption of public servants from former rebel territories into Nigerian institutions, and the aggressive campaigns to encourage communities to re-absorb people from former rebel territories. The most effective reconciliation instrument, however, required neither legislation nor clout of the Nigerian state. It was the spontaneous and genuine responses of millions of Nigerians to move beyond a 3-year disaster by opening doors and hearts to people trapped behind hostility, as well as the courage and faith to venture into territories and locations where thousands had been murdered only for their ethnic origins.
In the disastrous collapse of a vital national asset which is our capacity to adopt versions of our history that will survive massive and sustained onslaught by ignorance, mischief and the surrender of strategic grounds by political leaders and academics, it has become difficult to remember that Nigerians achieved the unique record of reconciling with each other within the shortest period, quite possibly in recent human history.
What happened to that nation that made it possible for Easterners to return to reclaim properties in most parts of Nigeria; to resume jobs and interrupted education; to establish social relations and live secure and productive lives within a year after the war? What happened to the nation that made room for Igbo traders and businessmen to resume places of pride in Lagos, Kano and Maiduguri; the Hausa communities to re-locate back to Onitsha and Aba; and for young people to learn of the history of a potentially great nation that had derailed but found its feet in the early 1970s?
My answers to the these questions are likely to feed the dispute over every element of our history, but they are no worse than strands that feed the lower rungs of the muck that is our history by social media and miniature champions with pretensions for fighting great causes. First, the coup of January 15 1966 was never planned with secession of the East in mind. By all accounts, it was intended to address serious national challenges, not to pull parts out of the nation. It was a misadventure motivated by flawed idealism, almost juvenile approach and fatal miscalculations. It was an event that created other events and developments which compounded its disastrous consequences. Second, the Biafra option had no strong organic roots. It was the product and reaction to tragic events, and was by no means the only option available to the Igbo and other communities in the Eastern States. It is difficult to read those parts of our history which record the plans by young Northern officers to pull the North out of the federation after the successful July 1967 counter coup. Biafra represented a knee-jerk reaction from Igbo elite as it competed with other elements of the Nigerian elite following the disasters triggered by the January 1966 coup. The pace of reconciliation and reintegration was evidence of the limitations of these elite competitions, and the end of the war was treated by all Nigerians largely as an end to a tragic chapter.
The Nigerian civil war was, in many senses, also a referendum on the continued existence of the Nigerian state. The outcome was not a win or loss: it was the manner Nigerians reconciled with each other, licked wounds and moved on. But the idea of Biafra was a cause for redress and resistance and it neither began with events between 1966 and 1970, nor has it ended with them. The military that triggered the collapse of the democratic process, fought a war against itself, and led the nation through a remarkable recovery then embarked on major political re-engineering, managing an emerging rentier economy and  a developing middle class.
Plunder and patronage of huge resources that were not related to direct productive activities created massive instability at elite levels. Managing the Nigerian state became fraught with crises and instability, and widening gaps between wealth and poverty began to create pockets of discontent as the leadership grappled with large urban populations living off the state and small, powerful and wealthy elite.
The Nigerian state failed to develop institutions and values that will mitigate the type of circumstances which produced Biafra and the civil war. During its long tenures in power, the military fought against itself, and discouraged the emergence of a political system which could have mediated conflicts around power and resources by the elite. At every turn, the state was challenged by problems it created. Between 1966 and 1999,the  military was unable to stay outside power for longer than 4 years, a brief period which significantly highlighted the total re-integration of Igbo elite into the Nigerian political process.
The military factor in Nigerian political history has been prominent and damaging, and hopefully, will come to an end with the expiration of President Buhari’s presidency. Every major political development since January 1966 has had a major military imprint, and no leadership has emerged at the national and largely sub-national levels without the direct or discreet influence of military actors. This legacy has stunted the growth and development of democratic values and institutions, and has created multiple sources of grievances and conflicts that give the impression of Nigeria as a nation of multiple causes and few solutions.
The emergence of a political leadership without roots or linkages with a military tradition will signify a major reconciliation in the rapture which begun on January 15, 1966. The nation has survived many Biafras in the past, and it needs to come to terms with these challenges in their proper contexts. The resistance against the abortion of the elections that may have produced an Abiola presidency; the resistance of the communities in many parts of the South South against abuse and neglect; the resistance of many communities across the entire nation against neglect, attacks, abuse and marginalization; the unacceptable levels of collapse of basic infrastructure in the East; the scandalous de-industrialization and pauperization of the entire north; the disaster arising from incompetence and official collusion in the growth and development of Boko Haram insurgency; the unfolding, global-scale humanitarian disaster in the North East are all Biafran causes. In a real sense, every Nigerian is a Biafran.
There is enough depth and breadth in the Nigerian nation to survive these challenges, but it will be dangerous to be complacent. We will never live entire periods without a major cause demanding to be addressed, but we can improve our capacities to live with, and resolve them. We need to confront challenges with understanding and sensitivity, from positions that are strengthened by cohesion, concensus and willingness to compromise. The new Biafran phenomenon, for instance, needs to be looked in the eye to understand what it means or needs. Neither running away from it,locking it up or shooting at it will resolve the dispute over whether those who wish to pull all Igbo out of Nigeria have the support and mandate of all Igbo. Nor should the nation lower its voice over its stand that no group or section can muscle or shoot its way out of the nation, or re-structure Nigeria after its own image alone. Recent successes over the Boko Haram insurgency point to the value of national concensus and political will in dealing with internal challenges. The democratic process needs to be strengthened as the foundation of national unity and cohesion, and the guarantee that only a leadership which enjoys a legitimate and popular support can take difficult decisions to deal with challenges. There is not a single sensible reason why Nigerians should not discuss every element of our existence, the structures and institutions which affect us in profound ways, and even the utility of our union. It is, however important to acknowledge that every community has a right to be respected, and its participation in the search for solutions around the fundamentals of our co-existence cannot be forced or hijacked. 
There are many lessons to draw from the half century after Biafra. One is that the Nigerian nation is a lot more resilient than it gets credit for in many circles, and this resilience lies in the millions of linkages in livelihoods, economy and relationships which Nigerians have built with their feet, resources, trust and lives in every inch of our nation. The second is that Nigeria will always be tested and tried by challenges arising from the manner groups feel their rights and privileges are handled either by the state itself, or by other groups. It is important therefore to strive towards creating a nation founded on democratic principles and practice, and in particular, on the rule of law. Thirdly we need to re-integrate younger Nigerians into a vision of a nation whose history has been both inspiring and challenging, but a nation which can be made to work for all. We need to liberate our history from petty hate mongers; not to put a false gloss on it, but to challenge this generation to improve where older generations have failed, and take pride in their legacies. Without this history, there is little hope of  securing the firm foundations that will survive contemporary and  future challenges in Nigeria.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Dr David Lambo, 1949-2017.

A most remarkable Nigerian, Dr David Lambo passed away on the 17th of March without leaving the type of ripples Nigerians are famous for creating as testimonies for lives spent in great service on this side of life. I suspect this is how David would have wanted it, to have his passion and footprints in the service of humanity speak louder than the life of a Nigerian who in itself was marked by outstanding achievements. A post by his colleagues at Center for Humanitarian Dialogue(HD), in Geneva and Nairobi which announced his death described him as a tireless humanitarian. It was an apt description, possibly coined by someone who knew him a lot longer than people like me who had the privilege of working with him at that stage of his life when it served principally to point others in a direction that he had followed for the largest part of his life.
It will not do much justice to David to dwell too long on a personal life born into distinction and service, but it must be mentioned, so that it serves as context for its remarkable success in charting courses fueled almost entirely by a personal instinct to make a difference. His father was the famous the Professor Adeoye Lambo, his mother a British-born lady who lived her entire life in Nigeria for her family. He graduated from University of Ibadan in 1971, those days when that made you one of the world's best. He worked for the Economic Commission for Africa(ECA) and  the United Nations High Commission for Refugees(UNHCR) ,rising to a senior position, and then left to spend a decade in the Nigerian private sector attempting to make a difference in giving Nigerian and Ghanian agriculture a modern competitive edge that was accessible to the small farmer. He returned to the UN system, this time at the deep end of the UNHCR. In 1992 he served as co-ordinator of the agency's largest repatriations operation ever organized with the return of 1.5 million Mozambicans to their home country. Until he retired in 2006,David was deeply involved in bringing the agency's services to assist the defunct OAU and the government of Ethiopia.
The Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue(HD) was to provide a setting for putting in place David's passion and experiences in dealing with conflicts and the search for peace and development in the African continent. For more than a decade since he joined HD in 2006 as Senior Advisor, he worked tirelessly to establish its Africa Programme. He was at the heart of conflict prevention, mediation and peace-building in Africa, as Advisor to Kofi Annan during the election violence in Kenya; as co-architect of many mediation processes in Somalia; facilitator of dialogue processes in Liberia during the 2011 elections; the inspiration for the complex but ultimately rewarding dialogue processes parts of Nigeria's Middle Belt; a key player in the delicate and discreet efforts to ensure a peaceful transition to a new administration before, during and after Nigeria's 2015 general elections. Above all he was a mentor to many young people from all over the world, a trusted companion to presidents and a source of hope and comfort to families and communities at points of submitting to unending conflicts and crushing poverty.
To work with David was to learn the virtues of sacrifice for others and limitless confidence that there are always solutions to human conflicts, mostly in the willingness to explore options to violence. His vast experience in dealing first hand with conflicts in many parts of Africa gave him the rare quality of keeping a level head and an incredible ability to read the basic issues with an uncanny ability. He will identify what many conflicts share in common, as well as how they differ in character and progression. From the tragic history of Somalia, he will draw worrying similarities with the origin and developments of Boko Haram, and advise on learning the right lessons by Nigerian governments and affected communities. He was a walking encyclopedia on the linkages between underlying issues related to exclusive political processes, unpopular regimes, disputed elections and electoral violence. He would analyze weakly-rooted governments and tendencies that encourage balkanization and violence, with lessons from South Sudan, Rwanda, Congo and Somalia. He would reel out multiple success stories from mediation, and highlight many instances where peace is secured around simple folk whose stakes in peace and development are protected and promoted. Above all he never tired in highlighting the intimate linkages between social justice, development and sustainable peace.
In the last few years, David agonized over the alarming growth of the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria and its neighbors. He was concerned that the context and nature of the insurgency is properly understood by the Nigerian state, and that its responses are informed both by the need to save the democratic process in Africa's largest nation as its only guarantee for survival as one nation, as well as experiences of other nations which had dealt, or a dealing with massive internal security challenges or insurgencies. He espoused a long-term perspective that included a successful military campaign, a vigorous enquiry over social values and structures that may have been subverted before the rise of the insurgency or by it, and a comprehensive and aggressive policy that will reconstruct, rehabilitate and heal communities that have been damaged by the insurgency. He was passionate in his conviction that Nigeria could benefit from experiences of many countries across the world that had dealt with similar conflicts, and his kast two years saw him visit every important leader from President Buhari to all key Ministers and aides to garner support for an opportunity to expose our policy makers to a range of choices in dealing with the current state of the fight against the insurgency.
David's most unique footprint in Nigeria is to be found in the largely unheralded success of the painstaking and laboured dialogue processes he and HD engineered in and around Jos, Plateau and parts of Southern Kaduna State. A decade ago, Jos led the way in terms of perennial conflicts involving neighbours who had cohabited for decades. No one was ever going to win in these circles of blood-letting, yet every attempted solution ended up making the problem worse. In this regard, parts of Plateau resembled Kaduna State. I hope one day David's colleagues will tell the world what it took to create an atmosphere around northern Plateau that has largely brought to an end the permanent state of siege under which every community lived. The little that I know is that it involved an elaborate and extensive mapping of issues and grievances, and a dogged pursuit of community leaders, combatant youth, clergy, women groups, traditional and political leaders and security agencies in a period spanning years, to come to accept to even acknowledge existence of the others. 'Enemies' listed grievances and solutions, which were then exchanged. When they met, arguments about issues ranging from ancient history to recent incidents, land, identities, pride, injuries all kept tensions high, until it became clear that everyone had a cause, a grievance and solution, but none will find peace without some compromise and accommodation. In the end, communities signed peace agreements that appear to holding more in Plateau State than in Southern Kaduna. In his last few months, David was excited about the invitation of Kaduna State government to revisit its earlier efforts to create a framework for peace anchored around the agreements of communities to design a peace process they can police and live with. I hope HD will support further efforts to do in Kaduna State, what was done in Plateau State.
David would not accept the image of a hero. His humility and willingness to go wherever lie solutions or resources to find solutions gave him the means to open doors many would give up on. He was passionate about Nigeria and Africa, and lived his life  like a very small breed of elderly Africans who have not walked away from seemingly hopeless generations. In 2015,President Olusegun Obasanjo, Senator Shehu Sani, David and I spent three days at the Oslo Peace Conference. In those few days, you could see that his courage in pushing himself in spite of very challenging health situation was only surpassed by his incredible devotion to his family and his aged mother who died only last year in Lagos. He was never without a new idea or a project to find peace. The greatest legacy he lives behind is a legion of people and colleagues who share his vision of Nigeria and Africa where human dignity and development can be pursued and achieved through a rediscovery of the basic foundation of human civilization: the capacity to seek peaceful resolution to conflicts.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Do they know?

If something is adjustable, sooner or later it will need adjusting. Max Frisch

Along with six friends, I watched television footage of  the crowds that cheered Chief James Ibori as he drove on the streets on his return home last week  after his  prison service in the United Kingdom. There was pronounced silence as we watched young and old struggle to catch a glimpse of the man. Like us, it was obvious that  many in the crowds that followed his jeep at close quarters did not believe it was indeed Ibori until he, at a point, emerged from the top of his jeep to show an apparently well-fed and healthy-looking former  Governor. There was a long silence after the spectacle  had we just watched, broken by a question we all thought was rhetorical: "Do these people know what Chief  Ibori was, and what he  did?" What followed was an animated and passionate argument that laid bare many of the skeletons in our nation's cupboard. Our fundamental values as people are apparently as varied and questionable as we choose to make them. The lady who asked the question was not going to be ignored. She asked again if this is the typically Nigerian rent-a-crowd, or a spontaneous and genuine outpouring of joy among people whose hero had retuned after being jailed in a foreign country for stealing, in all probability, their commonwealth.
In a few exchanges, arguments that corruption is a Nigerian elite affair, a matter of personal opinion, a  phenomenon determined by a cultural perspective or an effective value redistribution mechanism which anchors political power competed for hearing and dominance. There was no arguing away the reality before all Nigerians: either Chief Ibori is an extraordinarily likable politician who could do no wrong by his people, or the concept of private plunder of public resources is unknown where he came from. It was relatively easy to tick-off familiar arguments and refrain from many parts of the Niger Delta region, such as those that make heroes of locals who 'liberate', appropriate' or 'personalize' the communities' assets in oil and gas, as opposed to 'strangers' from the rest of Nigeria and the world who 'steal' it under official cover. People form the Niger Delta who will feel insulted by this criminal conclusion were not at the airport and road sides holding up placards saying 'no to corrupt politicians'. By default, voices that agonized over the bleeding of communities by strongmen in the Niger Delta had submitted to a narrative that the use of public office or violence to divert massive resources was tolerable if it was done by locals. If half of the energy devoted to making the case for larger control of revenues by local communities  had been directed at fighting corruption that stole huge resources from the same communities by politicians, the Delta region will not so viciously offend all standards of just and equitable development.
Chief Ibori's return will open up many uncomfortable points in debates regarding the place of official corruption in our lives. There will be those that will insist that the fight against corruption is an elite affair, between those who have not amassed wealth illegally either because they could not, or were deeply predisposed against it, on the one hand, and those who see the acquisition of illegal wealth as a normal and essential element of acquiring power and serving the people. They will point at the verifiable fact that no Nigerian politician has ever acquired power without spending huge resources, most of which will not stand up to close legal scrutiny. That is the investment in an enterprise with the surest guarantee for returns. The distance between stolen wealth and productive activities of the vast majority of citizens make it difficult to raise requisite levels of passion and anger against the pillage of common resources. What is endemic is the pervasive and residual resentment of the rich, fueled by suspicion that all wealth is stolen. The popular clamour to humiliate the rich   by any means   available is constantly hounded by deep-seated convictions that everyone will be corrupt if they get the opportunities.
Do Nigerians know the nature of the damage which systemic corruption does to their lives and the nation, or do they think the fight against corruption is largely a ploy by some elite to settle scores? Not to answer the first question in the affirmative will be to insult everything we value: our religious faiths and other key social values, our politicians who daily remind us that our strengths and assets have been bled dry by corruption, and our indignation at the situation we face daily when we have to submit to corruption. It is the second question which our recent experiences and current circumstances has difficult answers. This administration came to power to fight corruption, and we have a long list of suspects on trial or under investigation to prove it. If therefore, a committed supporter of the current campaign against corruption asks if the cheering crowd that welcomed Ibori knew what he was and what they were involved in, he should be prepared to answer some difficult questions as well. Do our leaders know that corruption at lower levels, the type that touches every citizen still thrives without fear or cover. Do they know that commercial drivers routinely and openly hand over money to police and other army of enforcers and regulators on our roads in full view of citizen passengers who duly note that nothing has changed? Do they know that every transaction, every activity that is service  is still substantially fueled by bribes and inducements?
There is a massive disconnect between the fight President Buhari's government is waging against corruption and the life of the Nigerian who has long readjusted to living with bribery, inducement, cheating, bending of rules, impunity and a host  of other practices that suggest that only those who steal billions are corrupt. The difficulties imposed by an economy in recession make cheerleading the fight against corruption more difficult. Poor citizens ask if government knows how difficult life has become; why the cost of palm oil, matches, sugar and garri rise literally by the day and no one does anything about it. School fees, diesel, medications, rent, transport and every other essentials are becoming unaffordable. The state is receding at a dangerous rate from many Nigerians, Many among whom now provide their own security, basic infrastructure and other essentials of life. When you do this on a permanent basis, it is difficult to have much sympathy for the case that everyone should live within their means. It does not help the administration's cause when much mileage is made against suspicion that it is reluctant to look too critically at its own side in a nation where saints and sinners wear the same faces, but can be told apart with a strong will and a commitment to expose corruption.
Some weeks ago, Vice President Osinbajo appealed to Nigerians to dislike corruption in all its ramifications, or the battle against it is as good as lost. This an important attempt to hit corruption where it hurts most: in those circles where wealth and power bulldoze their ways into our adulating and weak hearts. You have to feel for a President whose singular hallmark has been the fight against corruption, and a Deputy who doubles as a priest, that they stand at a point where they could persuade Nigerians to stay overwhelmingly loyal to the fight against corruption, or one that could register an irretrievable loss. If the Buhari administration will not win the fight against corruption, it is going to be difficult to see who will. If it will win this war, this administration needs to re-strategize and re-focus on value change and an aggressive campaign to stop small scale corruption which citizens live with. If a citizen cannot be saved from paying bribes for just about everything of value, he is unlikely to see any wrong in Chief James Iboris life. The battle for 2019 will test the effectiveness of the anti-corruption campaign. If billions or trillion are going to have to be spent by politicians and their backers in business they will have to steal it now.

I am about to take a break to serve the nation in another capacity. I will hope that there is still room for me in the paper and your attention when I resume. I thank you for reading me and giving me the courage to share my thought with you.
Good bye

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Restarting the North. Again.

" If you don't know when you have been spat on, it does not matter too much what else you think you know". Ruth Shays.
Northern Governors last week attempted a feat the region had long jettisoned: bringing together its assets under one roof to count its strengths and weaknesses. The Governors and senior officials went beyond the routine and ritual of periodically assembling for a few days in Kaduna, mostly to run away from begging and complaining citizens. This time, they set for themselves the challenging task of putting the region's security challenges on the table and reaching out to traditional rulers and groups of elders to help examine just where to begin to deal with its multiple manifestations. When you remember that a few years ago, Northern Governors were literally forced to stop meetings in Kaduna, or attend any event in the symbolically-important Arewa House by local youth who harassed them with such abandon, this particular meeting which had an impressive attendance will be recorded as an achievement for holding at all. It was even more remarkable that Governors accepted to tap into the perspectives and experiences of traditional rulers, that layer that hovers between uncomfortable submission to elected politicians the age of their offspring or younger brothers, and leveraging on the considerable opportunities that exist outside their narrow formal environments to be heard. They even tacitly accepted that associations of elderly Northerners who had played their parts many times over in the affairs of the region and the nation had something of value to say in the search for solutions.

The Governor of Borno State who is the Chairman of the Northern Governors Forum spoke with such passion, anger and lamentation over the state of the North, it was obvious that the Governors had decided to do something different this time. The anger was substantially directed at the North, the region with the size, the people and the potential to be the richest in the nation, and to feed the entire West Africa. It is not any such thing today. It is, instead, the wretched region, derided and despised for begging for its existence and contributing nothing but trouble by the rest of Nigeria. Its people are angry and terrified by its numerous security challenges. Ten million of its young are beggars, and millions more will not receive any type of education or skills to prepare them for productive adult lives. Thousands of its people have died and are dying from preventable security threats, and millions will be victims of the Boko Haram insurgency for many years to come, or for entire lives. The North is virtually de-industrialized, its basic infrastructure decaying beyond rehabilitation. Desperately poor communities fight each other for every reason except those that improve their economic well-being. The solid show of  political unity demonstrated with the election of President Buhari in 2015 is threatening to unravel, as shadowy attackers under the generic identity of Fulani herders threaten ethno-religious harmony in many parts of the North, providing huge opportunities to exploit and regenerate dormant hostilities. The North that protected its turf as one unit with such confidence and competence in the first republic is a pathetic shadow, with nineteen governments, bureaucracies and rulers, spending resources it does not produce on governments, not the people.

This was the North whose political leaders, all nineteen of them, decided to look critically at a region that is regressing at such a rapid rate that it has become a major threat to itself and the rest of the nation, and even Africa. Well, they got an earful from the distinguished assemblage in turbans and robes and grey hairs on heads in their 80s and 90s.The Sultan of Sokoto advised on the values of justice and honesty as foundations of good governance and security. The Shehu of Borno painted a most distressing picture of the devastation being wrecked by the retreating Boko Haram insurgency. Emir of Kano made a strong case for far-reaching social reforms as solutions to the deep-seated problems of the North which feed insecurity. Other traditional rulers offered advise on dealing with cultural pluralism, threats and strengthening governance structures. Elders took Governors on a journey to a past which held together because leaders put premium on justice, inclusiveness and sacrifices. They reminded Governors of imperatives of lowering boundaries, adopting pan-Northern policies and programs and regenerating the dilapidated assets of the North. They held Governors responsible for exerting pressure on the Federal Government to accord priority to adequate investments in agriculture, solid mineral development and basic infrastructure in the North as rights and not as a favour to Northerners. They drew attention to energetic efforts of governors from the Southwest to build foundations for regional development and political unity. They pointed to multiple security threats and challenges from many parts of the nation fed by the desire to corner more resources, while the North fights itself and fritters away its bountiful opportunities. They lamented the alarming and widening gaps between the North and the rest of Nigeria in education, wealth creation, security and quality of life.

Remakably, there was also substantial yielding of grounds around boundaries and turfs. Governor Nasir el-Rufai submitted to a meeting that had hinted that insecurity in any part of the North is a northern problem through a detailed briefing on challenges and responses of his government on the Shia, cattle rustling and Southern Kaduna. Reactions to his briefing supported the view that northern leaders recognize that developments involving the Shia (or as he insisted, the IMN),and Southern Kaduna represented major threats to the whole North and the nation. Not one voice failed to support the enforcement of the law against people  and groups who defy it, whatever religious garb they wear, or their status. A few, however advised on the values of exploring additional avenues and opportunities to manage conflicts. Dealing with overlapping responsibilities on security, law and order between federal and state governments is  a major problem, and in both the Shia and Southern Kaduna issues, the need for greater synergy and collaboration was identified as a major issue that northern governors should take up with the federal government.

The outcome of the meeting, the next day when the governors met alone, suggested that they may have decided on a number of steps that were best left unannounced. Some of the observations and  decisions they made public must have raised a few eyebrows, including the categorical statement that the Fulani suspected of involvement in fights with farming communities are from other countries in West Africa. Even making allowances for the possibility that the governors have the evidence to support this, it is a cause of concern that the conclusion could absolve from suspicion, the huge Fulani population which is entirely Nigerian in fights with communities. Fulani herders, Nigerian and foreign, will now be subjected to much closer scrutiny and potential abuse to show evidence of nationality. The onus to secure borders and prevent illegal entry for foreign Fulani has now been shifted to the federal government, a move that will neither improve border security nor the security of communities in the near future. Conflict resolution efforts and peace building will have to meander through a position which suggests that Fulani who should be involved are foreigners. Communities which still fear Fulani attacks will not find much comfort in the position that their adversaries are from other countries, and they may suspect that attempts are being made to push responsibilities further away.

In any case, Northern Governors have made the commendable efforts to assume primary responsibility for the security of citizens. They have raised hopes that must be met, because the future of the North is severely threatened by unacceptable levels of poverty and crippling insecurity that compounds poverty. The North has never been as politically unified in partisan terms as it is today, with only two states in the hand of the PDP. If APC, with control of the executive and legislature at the federal level as well as 17 of 19 northern states cannot make a radical difference in the lives of northerners in the next one year, it is very likely that it will find it difficult to sell itself in 2019.If northern governors cannot find common grounds and the will to fight religious extremism, ethno-religious conflicts, youth unemployment, banditry, kidnappings, drugs and violence among youth, they would go down in history as the set who lost the North irretrievably. Last week, they showed that they do not want this place in history. They need help to restart the North.