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
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.