We’re marginalised in South­ern Borno - Bassi El­der Paul Bassi, an oc­to­ge­nar­ian, and del­e­gate from Borno state at the on­go­ing Na­tional Con­fer­ence, in this chat, says the North can­not come up with one po­si­tion be­cause the re­la­tion­ship among the dif­fer­ent co

Daily Trust - - INSIDE POLITICS -

A num­ber of girls were ab­ducted from a school in your state and the is­sue has gen­er­ated wide­spread con­dem­na­tion, what would you say about the in­ci­dent?

Of all the in­ci­dents so far at­trib­uted to the Boko Haram sect, I think the ab­duc­tion of these girls re­mains the most em­bar­rass­ing thing. We are still ask­ing ques­tions on how it hap­pened and why. Rea­sons have been ad­vanced for some of the other acts, but what can a group which claims to be fight­ing for God be do­ing with young school girls in their cus­tody for one week. We can­not pre­tend about our fears that they may sub­ject these in­no­cent girls to some forms of abuse. These boys are known to have very high li­bido and we pray they don’t abuse our chil­dren. We are wor­ried, the world is con­cerned and even God is an­gry. Some­thing must be done and fast.

As a del­e­gate from one of the most trou­bled states, Borno, what is your take on the se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion in the coun­try?

It may in­ter­est you to know that I be­long to the vul­ner­a­ble sec­tor of the Borno so­ci­ety, which has suf­fered worst. Our young men are be­ing wasted, our women abused and our val­ues des­e­crated. As a fa­ther, I am sad see­ing our chil­dren en­gaged in so­cial vices, but I am most dev­as­tated see­ing them take up arms against fel­low hu­mans. I con­sider it the height of moral de­gen­er­a­tion. Be­ing a teacher also, I feel sad that the school sys­tem is col­laps­ing and stu­dents no longer en­joy the free­dom to learn, nay teach­ers the lever­age to teach. And as a politi­cian, I feel ashamed that people have cap­i­tal­ized on the un­for­tu­nate sit­u­a­tion to fur­ther their po­lit­i­cal goals. As a stake­holder, I am wor­ried that a whole gen­er­a­tion of our youths is be­ing mis­used. Any time we want to talk, we do so with our heads bowed down in shame be­cause of what has be­come of Borno state. Al­though it is not the fault of some of us, we are deeply con­cerned be­cause the stigma is gen­eral. Ev­ery day, we strain our an­ten­nae to get the gist of the twists in the on­go­ing war of at­tri­tion, which has en­gulfed our state. It is a tragedy, a na­tional shame and a draw back to us. It will take Borno many years to cover up and progress like oth­ers even if

the mad­ness ends now.

Is your con­fi­dence in the Nige­rian project shaken by what is hap­pen­ing in Borno state?

Not in any way. It takes a pa­tri­otic dis­po­si­tion to ap­pre­ci­ate what is hap­pen­ing, es­pe­cially in the North as a na­tional prob­lem, and we all stand to share the blame. Some of the prob­lems we are fac­ing are oc­ca­sioned by in­jus­tices in all facets of our re­la­tion­ships. No mat­ter the sit­u­a­tion, my people, the Bura of Borno State have asked me to pledge our loy­alty to the unity and in­di­vis­i­bil­ity of the Federal Repub­lic of Nigeria. We also af­firm our faith in the na­tional con­fer­ence, con­vened by the Pres­i­dent, Com­man­der in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Repub­lic of Nigeria, Dr. Good­luck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan, un­der the lead­er­ship of Jus­tice Legbo Kutigi. We wish at this con­fer­ence to present be­fore this au­gust con­fer­ence the re­al­i­ties of our ex­is­tence and our plights, in the hope that they will be ad­dressed. We hope this con­fer­ence will pro­vide the es­cape route for us from the mad­ness go­ing on.

As an el­der who has seen so many crises in the past, would you say we are about to see an end to in­se­cu­rity in Nigeria?

The in­se­cu­rity in Nigeria and Borno will stop very soon. People don’t trust the au­thor­i­ties and they will not tell you what is hap­pen­ing but if Jonathan’s govern­ment builds up con­fi­dence in the people that they mean busi­ness, people will come out and give in­for­ma­tion nec­es­sary to ef­fect the dis­rup­tion of Boko Haram. There will be no Boko Haram very soon; there are two ways Boko Haram will stop, if a north­erner be­comes a pres­i­dent in 2015 there will be no Boko Haram be­cause the Boko Haram is def­i­nitely an in­sti­tu­tion es­tab­lished, nur­tured to fore­stall a south­erner be­com­ing the pres­i­dent of Nigeria.

Dif­fer­ent groups have been ad­vanc­ing dif­fer­ent po­si­tions on the Nige­rian project; do you agree with the po­si­tion of the North on some of the is­sues, es­pe­cially on Pres­i­dent Jonathan’s re-elec­tion bid?

I do not share their sen­ti­ments be­cause I am not a north­erner; I am a mid­dle­bel­ter. Even if Jonathan would not con­test elec­tion we would find some­body from the mid­dle-belt to con­test elec­tion. The North will not agree, they will not ac­cept. North means a Hausa man, they will only use you to boost their morale to make sure they get what they want and af­ter get­ting what they want, you are out. The his­tory of North­ern Nigeria since 1950, we watch it and the mid­dle belt got noth­ing, ab­so­lutely noth­ing from govern­ment of North­ern Nigeria. Any­body from the mid­dle-belt ap­pointed by the North­ern Nigeria govern­ment up­wards must be a pup­pet; some­body who is a ‘yes man’ and that is the po­si­tion. Now look at the mid­dle-belt, what can you show in the mid­dle-belt that the North­ern Nige­rian govern­ment or the Federal Govern­ment put in place for de­vel­op­ment? Noth­ing! It was by the virtue of mis­sion in­sti­tu­tions that people of the mid­dle belt grew and de­vel­oped them­selves in ed­u­ca­tion, health and all as­pects of hu­man en­deavor. It is not by North­ern Nige­rian govern­ment, so we are not part of north, we are in North­ern Nigeria in­deed but we are not part of North­ern Nigeria. North­ern Nigeria is an in­sti­tu­tion, a pol­icy and we are not part of it be­cause the in­sti­tu­tion does not in­clude us. The pol­icy does not in­volve us we don’t ben­e­fit from it. I do not dis­own north­ern Nigeria, I am in the North by ge­og­ra­phy but by other means I am not. By tra­di­tion, by cus­tom by any means by re­li­gion I am not a north­erner I am a mid­dle-bel­ter, a bridge be­tween the north and the south.

You said the North has been ex­clud­ing other groups es­pe­cially mid­dle-bel­ters in the gov­er­nance and pol­icy de­ci­sions of this coun­try, is that a re­flec­tion of what is hap­pen­ing in your own state?

That is ex­actly what the Ka­nuri do. The Ka­nuri will never, never see a south­ern Borno in­di­gene be­come some­thing in govern­ment. I don’t see any­where that a south­ern Borno man a Margi or a man from Gwoza, or a Bura man, or a Kanaklu ever be­come a gover­nor, I don’t see it. Even if you say you will shift power from one se­na­to­rial district to an­other, they will al­ways find a Ka­nuri man in south­ern Borno who will be­come the gover­nor. A non-Ka­nuri man will never be able to be­come a gover­nor. There­fore the only an­swer for us is to de­mand for self- de­ter­mi­na­tion to con­trol our fate; our des­tiny should be in our hands. We are ed­u­cated, we form the bulk of the civil ser­vice in Borno state, and we built up Maiduguri as it is to­day as cap­i­tal of Borno State but we have no stake in it. We are just hew­ers of wood, we are paid and re­tired any­time they de­sire.

El­der Paul Bassi

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