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Panorama: Of Sheikh Gumi, Northwest Governors and Raging Insecurity

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By Sani Sa’idu Baba

My dear country men and women, please permit me to begin today by confessing that Nigeria is under distress. Its woes are most evident in the spate of armed violence and criminality ravaging the component parts. In fact, nothing explains this awry situation better than the apocalyptically volatile situation in the wider northern region.

The northeast is still under the Boko Haram scourge in spite of the counter-insurgency endeavors of the Governor Babagana Zulum’s administration. The north-central area has been afflicted by herdsmen militancy and ethno-religious conflicts, which has plunged the region into crisis. The northwestern region has recently been enmeshed in the rapid upsurge of rural banditry along its international frontiers as well as the forested interior.

But my concern today is particularly the Northwestern region of Nigeria where I come from. For about a decade, the region has been facing insecurity related crises ranging from armed-group violence to kidnappings and banditry, affecting inhabitants of Zamfara, Katsina and Sokoto states. Recently, Kaduna and Niger states have joined the fray, and appear to be the central hub of banditry in the entire country. Kano and Jigawa seems to be the only relatively peaceful states in the Northwest today.

Unfortunately, the Nigerian government’s response to the crises in the region has done little to alleviate the security concerns, and the situation appears as if bandits and criminals have overrun our country and effectively taken over its leadership. Any right-thinking Nigerian knows that this is the most burning issue for discourse, especially at a time when a religious scholar, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, by his consistent questionable attitude and baseless ground, adds salt to festering wounds. Having watched his interviews a couple of times, his comments seem unacceptable. I am speaking as a Muslim, Northerner and partly a Fulani.

Nothing is more dangerous than politicizing issues that has to do with the security of the people; but, despite the red flags Gumi have manifested, Northern leaders have obviously done nothing, and what they are doing if at all they are, is not enough to restore sanity in the land. A flashback to some episodes that had happened recently, the efforts of the government so far (military operations and dialogue), and why such efforts are not sufficient enough would be the focus of my discussion today.

We could recall that the recent spate of banditry-related violence began in 2014 with cattle rustling activity, but the matter became worse in early 2016 when the bandits started killing local miners in Zamfara communities. However, the attacks now affect the entire North West region, especially the border areas with Niger. In what has become a recurring tragedy, not only have thousands been killed, but women have been raped, children have become orphans, villages have been sacked and destroyed, farm produce has been destroyed, property has been stolen, and civilians have been kidnapped for ransom. As a result of these, the affected states including Katsina, Kaduna, Sokoto, and Kebbi established a committee headed by Muhammad Abubakar, a former Inspector-General of Police in 2019. He estimated that between 2011 and 2019, 4,983 women were widowed, 25,050 children were orphaned, and more than 190,340 people were displaced in Zamfara due to armed banditry.

Kidnapping for ransom has become a particularly lucrative and attractive business to many in the North West region, especially among the many unemployed youths. Many residents lament how easily the armed banditry groups storm their communities in broad daylight to either rustle cattle or kidnap people. The kidnappers no longer have interested in kidnapping ordinary villagers, however. Rather, they realize that attacking schools and inter-state transportation routes brings in more money.

Apart from the recent attacks that happened till September, 2021, Terrorism Monitor has for example, recorded at least eight (8) mass kidnappings of school children and university students in the past six months, including: One, In December 2020, there was an attack on Government Science Secondary School students in Kankara, Katsina State, where over 300 students were abducted by a group of armed men on motorcycles. The state government insisted that nothing was paid for the release of the students, but some residents confirmed that 30 million naira was released to the bandits. The late Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau claimed his fighters in the North West region abducted the students, although the abductors had already contacted the state government on the issue of ransom payment before Shekau’s faction released an exclusive video from the bandits’ camp featuring the boys. Two, according to Daily Trust publication on January 6, 2021, there was a kidnapping of more than 317 schoolgirls in Jangebe, Zamfara State. This came just a week after a similar kidnapping incident. Three, on December 19, 2020, two days after the release of the Kankara schoolboys, bandits abducted over 80 Islamic school (Islamiyya) students in Dandume, Katsina State. The children were rescued after a vigilante group and volunteers intercepted them while they were trying to cross the forest.

Four, Armed bandits stormed the Federal College of Forestry Mechanization in Mando, Kaduna State in March 2021 and abducted 39 students. The bandits demanded 500 million naira ransom from the Kaduna State government, but after the governor, Nasir El-Rufai, failed to comply, they reached out to parents of the abducted students. The governor declared that no more payments of ransom would be made after the abduction and promised not to negotiate with any armed group. Three weeks after the abduction the kidnapped students were released in a negotiation facilitated by Shaykh Ahmad Gumi’s dialogue committee with support from former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Five, In March 2021, an undisclosed number of primary school students in a village in Birnin Gwari, Kaduna State were abducted. A resident and father of one of the victims revealed that the children were rescued by vigilante groups a few days after the abduction. Six, similarly, on April 23, students of Greenfield University in Kaduna State were abducted by bandits who demanded a ransom of 800 million Nigerian naira. Five students were killed in captivity while 14 were released after a payment of ransom. Seven, on June 10th in the same vein, an armed group invaded Nuhu Bamalli Polytechnic in Zaria, Kaduna State. One student was killed and eight people, including lecturers and students, were abducted, which caused the school’s administrators to shut down academic activities immediately. Eight, one week after the Nuhu Bamalli abduction, on June 17, another 102 students of Federal Government College in Birnin Yawuri, Kebbi State were abducted. The governor chose not to negotiate with the abductors and one male and one female student were killed, while five others were rescued after the Nigerian forces operating under Hadarin Daji intercepted the abductors. More than 80 armed bandits were reported killed by the troops with support from Nigerian air force and more than 800 rustled cattle were recovered. However, approximately 95 students remained in the custody of the armed bandits in the forest while vigilantes and volunteers mobilized for another rescue mission.

It is clear that Nigerians are paying ransom to the kidnappers and banditry groups because they have seemingly lost interest and confidence in security intermediates. However, the paying of ransoms is motivating more bandits to join the kidnapping business even as government has remained clueless. Some have even accused the government of sponsoring insecurity indirectly by paying ransoms. According to this perspective, a government serious about tackling the issue would not pay any money to criminal armed groups in the form of ransom for kidnappings because it is an offence against citizens that require proactive and prompt security operatives to curb. Based on the aforementioned, the laxity of the government in restoring sanity in the affected places is obvious. You can imagine the hidden places of those bandits in the forests that extended through the length and breadth of northwest including Rugu, Kamara, Kunduma, and Sububu forests known to the government and all have since become strategic strongholds for banditry groups to carry out their attacks. They retire to those places and live peacefully and fearlessly after their operations. This is depressing to Nigerians.

In response to that however, Nigerian government has launched multiple military operations in the North West region to curtail the menace since 2019, including Operation Harbin Kunama and Exercise Sahel Sanity. The military operation, Exercise Sahel Sanity, headquartered at the Special Army Super Camp IV in Faskari, Katsina State, led to the killing of 220 bandits and the rescue of 642 kidnapped victims from captivity. The troops also destroyed 197 bandits’ enclaves, killed the notorious armed leader called “Dangote” of the eponymous “Dangote Triangle” in Katsina, and arrested 335 suspected bandits and 326 illegal miners in Kebbi, Kaduna, Niger, Zamfara and Katsina states. In July 2020 as gathered by media outlets including Premiumtimes.ng of July 3, 2020 and TheCable.ng of July 7, 2020, Mustapha Inuwa, the Secretary to the Katsina State Government, announced that his state had spent about 30 million Naira on an amnesty programme for repentant bandits and cattle rustlers before it collapsed. Inuwa further stated that the reason for the collapse of the peace deal was that the bandits kept reneging on agreements and betraying their promises to the government. However, based on my understanding, the efforts of Katsina State government solely depended on dialogue with the bandits which has since failed. The recent discovery of some bandits in Katsina State payroll is enough to inform some hidden fruitless agreement.

Moreover, Katsina and Zamfara governments also employed the services of non-state actors, like vigilante groups and Security Volunteers often called Yan Sakai, to curtail the conflict. Although they possess knowledgeable insights and understanding of the local conflict, they have their own disadvantage. For example, some of the vigilante members have seized on the opportunity stemming from the conflict to attack perceived enemies.

My other concern today is about the interference of the controversial Islamic scholar Sheikh Ahmad Gumi on the issue of banditry. He was recently reported to have said that military onslaught would worsen banditry in Nigeria. His utterances has caught my attention on several occasions. I sometimes wonder whether the Sheikh is conscious of the embarrassment he is causing the entire north. I see no reason why criminals should be protected or sympathize with. He even sometimes confer some sort of legitimacy on their nefarious activities. But my surprise is that no governor in the north has ever called him to order or pointed an accusing finger to him against the dangers surrounding most of his actions. Honestly, the intervention of Ahmad Gumi is only doing more harm than good to the country because of the belief in many quarters that he is colluding with the bandits. And that is a threat to the already weakly united Nigeria. The bandits are also seemingly encouraged by his actions. The criminals even requested the President to come and negotiate with them personally. I don’t know what type of negotiation apart from what Katsina and Zamfara states governors earlier considered. I must commend Nasir El-rufai’s in refusing any form of negotiation.

Regional banditry in North West Nigeria will be difficult to resolve if the government continues with its current strategy. In the first place, explosive population growth and climate change in Nigeria are exacerbating economic anxiety and fomenting lawlessness, especially in communities bordering Niger. Moreover, there is unchecked border crossings between herder tribes, as there is virtually no restriction on movements in these border areas. Anyone in Niger Republic can come to Nigeria, commit any crime, and go back to Niger.

Furthermore, corruption plays a significant role as some security agencies allegedly collect bribes from Nigeriens and grant them access to Nigeria without proper investigation. The suggestions of Kano state governor on how to arrive at a lasting solution must be considered. Our governors and stakeholders in their respective states, especially the religious leaders must work in synergy and stand united. They should also stand against Gumi and teach him that those criminals that invaded the north are mostly none-Nigerians, but used the advantage of porous borders and laxity of laws to invade the country. They came to Nigeria from different parts of West Africa, roaming dangerously and violently in and out of the country unchallenged.

Why then would Sheikh Gumi be protecting people that do not belong here on criminal matters? It is not surprising if our Southern counterparts accuses the Nigerian Fulani herders for causing troubles in the land, probably because they could not decipher. But the truth is, not all are Nigerians and our Northern leaders must as a matter of urgency do the needful.

I strongly support the anti-grazing law enforced by the Southwest governors, and I never consider their stand as an effort to humiliate the North. We cannot continue in the old ways in spite of several transformations the world has experienced in recent years.

Peace shall be restored in Northwest and other parts of the country.

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Opinion

Voice of Emancipation: Hiding in Plain Sight

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By Kayode Emola

What is happening to the Yoruba Nation Struggle? Is sovereignty still an attainable possibility? These questions and many more are on the lips of enthusiastic Yoruba begging for answers whilst awaiting the birth of their new nation. Rightly so, given that many of us in the trenches promised that there would be no 2023 election in Nigeria, as we would have already left the country. Alas, it is less than a month before the 2023 general election is scheduled; only a miracle will be able to thwart the election now.

How did we get it wrong? Why haven’t we got out of Nigeria by now? I don’t think this is the appropriate time to start apportioning blame. However, I do believe that if we don’t learn from the mistakes of the past, then we are bound to repeat them again and again. We must be mindful that a house divided against itself cannot stand. Therefore, those hell-bent on causing schisms amongst the advocates of independence are not only impairing their work, they risk jeopardising the entire struggle if care is not taken.

The solution to the Yoruba question is hiding in plain sight, yet it is so simple that only a few can decipher it or see how to implement it. Rather than focusing on the practical steps to get us out of Nigeria, some people are now being cajoled by meaningless slogans. Consider the claims of the Ominira Yoruba 2022 team, that if 5 million people signed a petition in support of independence, Yoruba would be able to exit Nigeria and nothing could stop it. The petition surpassed its five million target and yet nothing happened.

So Ominira Yoruba 2022 announced that they would make a declaration of independence and this would be the catalyst that would bring us our own nation. Yet no plan was put in place on how this was to be implemented aside from flippant announcements on Facebook and other social media outlets. When this failed to materialise Yoruba Nation, they then came out with Reclamation, and following its fruitlessness, then Occupation. The truth is that, no matter how catchy a slogan we produce, if we don’t have a concrete plan on how to get Yoruba out of Nigeria, we will continue on this trajectory of big grammar inside empty cannon.

The first step in achieving anything in life is to ask if anybody in the world has done the same thing already. If so, you can learn from them and apply their methods to your situation. If there are none, then by all means go ahead and invent the wheel, do some trial and error and work out a strategy to get you to the finish line. However, in this situation, there are many countries whose precedents we can learn from, including Norway/Sweden, South Sudan/Sudan, Czechoslovakia and finally, former Yugoslavia etc.

Whilst some of these countries exited peacefully, some had extremely violent departures. However, the key element was that they were determined to exercise their right to self-determination. The unifying feature that they all shared was that they all declared their independence from the larger, and dared to face the consequences. For some countries like South Sudan leaving Sudan it led to a long and bitter civil war; in contrast, when Norway left Sweden, the latter accepted the declaration of the former and they parted peacefully.

If the only option that allows for every indigenous nationality to exit Nigeria is through the declaration of independence, then the simplest and most logical route would have been to bring everyone together in consultation. In this scenario, any declaration of independence by one indigenous nation in Nigeria could be followed immediately by simultaneous declaration from other regions. This would dissuade the Nigerian government from attempting to take a stand against these nations or starting a war that they could not possibly sustain.

In light of this, what should we now do? We need to organise ourselves into formations, working towards the greater good. Those in the diplomatic circles need to intensify their diplomatic outreach to those countries around the world that will be sympathetic to indigenes’ independence. Whilst those in humanitarian circles need to embark on massive campaigns with humanitarian agencies, explaining the reasons why Nigeria must be dissolved

If we all come together with this resolve, then Nigeria would have no option but to let us go because we would have the support of our people and the international communities. Undoubtedly, we will not achieve unanimous acceptance from every country, or even across own our people; but those who do believe in the cause must press on until victory is achieved.

Therefore, my advice to those still being deceived by slogans and jamboree is this: open your eyes and see that, unless we do the work, no amount of camouflage or deceit can bring us out. We need to be ready to be open-minded, to put in the effort required to achieve success. Yoruba nation *will* come, but not by lies of ¬_”a tí gbá”_ (“we have collected it”) or “God has done it”.

Even if God has said Yes, if we fail to put in the necessary work, we will remain on this mountain for a very long time. The year of 2023 still has a long way to go: we can work towards something meaningful, or we can continue to deceive ourselves that Yoruba nation will be served to us on a platter of gold with no effort on our own part. A word is enough for the wise.

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Adding Value

Adding Value: The Power of Imagination

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Dear Destiny Friends,

Success and failure start from the mind. The human mind is like a rubber, the more you stretch it, the more it expands. The human mind is the brain, if you don’t use it, it won’t work. We all have the power to change the course of our life without allowing us to be victims. This is because the greatest power God gave us at creation is freedom and choice. Just like you have the power to think positive thoughts, you also have the power to think negative thoughts. It should be noted that whatever you focus on expands.

It’s quite unfortunate that many of us don’t know how we can use our mind to attract opportunities, if properly stretched. For the human mind to work at optimal capacity, it must be capable of using the power of imagination. According to Napoleon Hill, “whatsoever the mind can conceive, believe, it can achieve it. The right question we should ask ourselves is if we are using the power of our imagination.

Imagination takes several forms. The human mind can be artistic in nature, it can be creative, and it can also be challenging. The mind will only work on how you program it. If you program your mind to think like a leader, it will be activated, if you program the mind to overcome challenges it will be activated, if you program the mind to either think positive or negative thoughts, it produces the desired fruits for you.

You may be wondering where the power of imagination comes from? The power of imagination starts from the mind. To understand how the mind works, you have to look at the brain. The neocortex and thalamus are responsible for controlling the brain’s imagination, along with many of the brain’s other functions such as consciousness and abstract thought.

One may ask, is imagination the same thing as intelligence?  One can imagine something, but don’t take proactive steps to implement it, but the man who takes actionable steps can be regarded as an intelligent man because he got the inspiration and knows what to do. According to Albert Einstein, “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination”. This is a fact because the true intelligence level of an individual is not dependent on the facts a person knows but on how he applies them creatively to solve problems in the world.  Albert Einstein further stated that “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

The power of imagination cannot be overemphasized. One of the distinguishing traits between wealthy men and the poor men is their mindset. A big difference between a rich mind and poor mind lies in how they process information. While rich and wealthy minds have a positive and growth mindset, poor men have a negative and fixed mindset. While the growth mindset sees problems as opportunities to make impact by solving them, fixed minds see problems as obstacles to making impact. While rich and wealthy minds spend money to invest, poor minds spend money to impress. While rich and wealthy people spend after saving, poverty-stricken minds save from the remnant of their expenses.

This power of imagination works in different ways. Sometimes, it comes like a vision, a revelation. inspiration or even feelings. This imagination can be something you would like to change, or a cause you would like to work on. When you get this prompting, the best thing you can do is commit it to prayer and believe in it especially if it’s a revelation or vision you have been shown. It might look so big and impossible to attain. Whenever you feel this way, just know that you must activate your growth mindset.

Wealth creation starts from the mind. If you want to be successful in any craft, you must envision it in your mind. Most of the great people if not all the great people we celebrate in the world utilized the power of imagination to create a product. If you want to be rich or start a business, you need to take the bold step, if not, you’ll remain where you are.

Nobody can stop a person whose time has come. Nobody can stop you; you are the only one who can stop yourself if you doubt yourself or tell your dreams, vision, or ideas to the wrong person. The wrong person in this case can be your parents, friends, mentors or even your spiritual leader. Don’t get me wrong, these people may not be bad people, they may not understand the calling or vision you had. They may not even see you as the person capable of doing it because you don’t look it. They may be speaking from their experience which may not be your reality. Let me tell you, if God wants somebody else to get the revelation or inspiration, he will put the imagination in their mind. Just to encourage you, God does not call the qualified, he calls the unqualified and then qualifies you.

In conclusion, the power of imagination is a very powerful and creative tool a progressive mind can use to excel in life if properly activated. This is because nobody knows you more than you know yourself.

Henry Ukazu writes from New York. He’s a Human Capacity & mindset coach. He’s also a public speaker, youth advocate and creative writer. He works with the New York City Department of Correction as the Legal Coordinator. He’s the author of the acclaimed book Design Your Destiny – Actualizing Your Birthright To Success

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Opinion

Be Empowered to Remain in Power

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By Tolulope A. Adegoke

“When you “become” what money loves, you naturally command the attention of monies. Ask yourself, what does money love? Money cherishes VALUES! When you stop becoming valuable, what “values” attracts would stop coming to you! You simply fit into what soothes your actions, and into what your consistent attitudes deserve! So, you must keep “becoming” for what you desire or deserve to keep chasing after you! To “become” in this context means to “MANifest”! Chase excellence, and success would chase you pants down! Accept yourself in order to understand your being, so as to carve a soothing niche for a better version of “you” which you desire or deserve to become. Any other “you” in circulation is a counterfeit! Square up your shoulders and tell yourself “I deserve to succeed and God helping me, I will.” Remember, the sky is never your limit, God is!”Tolulope A. Adegoke, PhD., MNIM, FIMC, CMC, CMS

 Commitment has been described as dedication, steadfastness, allegiance, faithfulness or loyalty to a course, and individual, group or a supreme being. It is about giving one’s self to a course with success as the only option. Commitment binds you irrevocably to a course you believe in until success comes. It is not the same as mere involvement, but dedication to seeing a course(s) completed or fulfilled to cause an effect or impact either within one’s self, others, corporates and the world at large.

The world is filled with peoples. Anybody can be involved. Being involved in an activity that involves other people does not make you part of a team. As a matter of fact, it only takes a number of people involved in working together to have a group. You must understand that a group is absolutely not a “team”. The difference? In a group, people are involved in activity(s). In a Team, people are committed to a process and a goal. The difference between commitment and involvement is known by the difference in the “omelette and “corned beef”. In the making of omelets, the chicken is involved, in the corned beef, the cow is committed!

Commitment is the secret to the success of the postage stamp. To get the letter to its destination, it must first commit to the envelope. After that, the rest is a matter of time. A train gets to its destination because of its commitment to the rails.

Commitment operates in five major levels which would be expatiated below:

  1. Commitment to God (The Creator that gives to all that gives and receives)
  2. Commitment to a Course for a Cause

iii.              Commitment to Process

  1. Commitment to People
  2. Commitment to yourself

Commitment to God

Those who have discovered themselves in God have no problem committing to Him. Those who sideline God in success ventures will find out soon enough that it is the pathway to “frustration” and an insignificant “death”.

Commitment to a Course for a Cause

You must always remember that, you were never created to simply pursue wealth and all trappings of the worldly successes. After all your bills are paid, and you have a spill-over, what next? Highly successful and effective people, first of all, find a higher course for a greater cause for which they were willing to lay down their lives if need be, then throw themselves wholly into it. The principle is that, if death does not scare you, the possibility of failure cannot! As the Bible rightly said, “those who keep their lives lose it, while those who lose it, find it!” The other name for it is significance or relevance. Make money in order to enhance your platform(s) for significance or irrefutable relevance. At a recent time, Bill Gate has committed time and resources to finding solutions to the scourge of HIV/AIDS and poverty eradication in Third World countries. What he did caught the attention of Warren Buffet (who wasn’t reputable for charity), the World’s Second richest man at that time. This made him donate the sum of $37billion (US Dollars) to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. When asked why, he answered, “Because they know how best to give it away better and faster than I can.”

Commitment to a Process

Everything in life evolves. The only tree that grew to full stature in one day died the same day! Ask Prophet Jonah in the Bible. If you cannot commit to a process, you will forfeit the promise.

To master your skill in life, there is always a process of apprenticeship. Permit yourself to fail…but don’t remain a failure. The Olympic medalist who won the 100-metre dash in less than 10 seconds was only celebrated for what he had invested years of consistency and hours of practice to.

Tiger Woods had played golf as a child and he had always nurtured a vision to win every championship in golf. So he started to work towards that, easily.

The father (being a good Lawn Tennis Player) of Serena and Venus Williams (The World Lawn Tennis Champions) had coached them to always win since they were very young.

What the world celebrate today in these people is actually the process they had committed too long before they started winning laurels.

Commit to Yourself

Budget for self-development. Your greatest investment is the one you make on your personal development. When you are right, everything around you will be right!

Things don’t happen because you chase them to happen, rather they happen become you have become a center of attraction that commands the necessary attention. For instance, when you “become” what money loves, you naturally command the attention of monies. Ask yourself, what does money love? Money cherishes VALUES! When you stop becoming valuable, what “values” attracts would stop coming to you! You simply fit into what soothes your actions, and into what your consistent attitudes deserve! So, you must keep “becoming” for what you desire or deserve to keep chasing after you! To “become” in this context means to MANifest! Chase excellence and success would chase you, pants down! Accept yourself in order to understand your being, so as to carve a soothing niche for a better version of “you” which you desire or deserve to become. Any other “you” in circulation is a counterfeit! Square up your shoulders and tell yourself “I deserve to succeed and God helping me, I will.” Remember, the sky is never your limit, God is!”

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