Borno’s baggage of despair and hope

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I MADE up my mind to write about political developments in Borno state, in the wake of the reported rapproachment between Governor Kashim Shettima and former Governor Ali Modu Sherriff. It was clear that all was not well between the two, and in the build up to the 2015 election, the struggle to control the ruling APC and who would be the party’s gubernatorial candidate, would be the central issues. The portents were frightening; and Borno could not afford the looming political crisis, especially with the ongoing Boko Haram insurgency.

Tremendous efforts had been invested into the development process by Governor Kashim Shettima, as I have written on this page in the past: agricultural projects; developments in education; empowerment processes for youth and women; renewal of the urban areas; infrastructural development, and so on. These developments will take a backburner once the negative elements of the politics of 2015 preoccupy all sides. Just when the worst seemed inevitable, it was announced that hatchets had been buried in Borno, following clear-the-air meetings between Governor Shettima and former governor Sherriff. And the process was facilitated by Alhaji Kashim Ibrahim Imam.

Incidentally, Imam is a delegate at the on-going National Conference. On Monday this week, I discussed the Borno scenario with him. He gave me a detailed analysis and why it became imperative to work for peace, because in the long run, it was about Borno’s future! Kashim Imam said there was no way that the war of attrition would not further the suffering of the people. A people that have been visited by the depredations of Boko Haram must not suffer the double jeopardy of political warfare within and amongst members of the elite. That all sides of the feud chose to bury the hatchet was a major statement of leadership responsibility, the kind that this moment in Borno demands of all its elites.

Abducted female students

But we were talking effusively about political reconciliation, when the story broke of the abduction of over 100 female students from a secondary school in Chibok, Borno state. Armed groups around Africa in recent years have targeted young school girls, as booties of war. The Ugandan Lord Resistance Army; the RUF in Sierra Leone and now Boko Haram in Nigeria, have abducted young girls.

These young girls, according to the experience, were turned into sex slaves! As a parent of daughters myself, I feel the pains of the parents and relations of the abducted young girls. These are communities with some of the lowest enrolment figures in schools in Nigeria (especially those of the girl child), and to lose over 100 girls to abductors is the worst form of trauma for the children and their families. But above all else, it can set back every effort to improve education in these communities. It is therefore important that every effort be made to rescue the children but we must also offer counseling opportunities to them, their parents and communities.

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