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Idang Alibi: My Fear For Borno State (1)

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Political pundits who can smell conspiracies, evil mandates and machinations, political maneuvers and scheming of whatever complexion and complexities from miles afar off, have said that the defection of former Senator and former governor of Borno State and chieftain of the opposition All Progressive Party, Ali Modu Sharrif, to the rival ruling PDP bears very ominous signs for the already traumatised people of Borno State.

According to them, the former god-father to the sitting governor of Borno, Kashim Shettima, is very aggrieved over the outcome of the recent APC National Executive elections in which his candidates lost. His defection and relocation to Borno, it is said, is to enable him to prosecute a well marshaled vengeance mission whose core contents are to ‘’reclaim his lost Borno empire’’, punish his former party for making him look politically ridiculous and vanquish his successor in order to prove to all his political relevance.

Given the nature of our politics where all is fair in the contest for political power and where little or no regard is ever given to development issues and the wellbeing of the people as the primary concern of governance, and given Ali Modu Sharrif’s well -advertised mission and the extensive resources at his command, it is not difficult to see why some of us who love Borno and who also sympathize with its current plight, have every cause to worry. And when it is realized that SAS/GAS is going to inevitably confront a powerful sitting governor who, in spite of the instability and near chaos in Borno, has done so much to carry the people along with him in their shared ordeal, a concerned Nigerian like yours faithfully has a big cause indeed to be apprehensive.

Already what looks like a campaign to denigrate and demonise Governor Kashim Shettima is ongoing. Horrendous allegations of embezzlement or mismanagement of public funds, obviously from the camp of Ali Modu Sharrif, are being bandied about. Observers say this is part of old trick: before you can hang a dog, you first give it a bad name. Rumours of impeachment plots being hatched against Kashim are being heard. The impending war promises to be a titanic one. It needs no stating that one of the two main gladiators will win but the issue is not about who of the two powerful men will emerge triumphant. Our main concern here is the helpless people of Borno who will inevitably be caught in the cross fires.
I feel particularly sad about this development because it will open a new front in the war being levied against Borno by the merciless Boko Haram insurgents.

Just when some of us have been praying that Borno should begin to enjoy some respite from the relentless attack of the insurgents, a political insurgency is about to be launched against the state. My fear is that in the next few weeks, right down to next year’s general election, we are likely to witness a free flow of blood and a most unpalatable tale of destruction of property and displacement of some persons in Borno. The agony of the beleaguered people of Borno will be like that of a man who is running from a lion only for a bear to meet him. In fact some may be compelled to say in consternation that the Boko Haram terror is better than the political terrorism they will experience. We therefore owe it a duty of care to the people of Borno to pray and take action to ensure that the political war foretold should not be allowed to happen.

My appeal first of all goes to the people at the 2015 tactical headquarters of the PDP who may be acting as cheer leaders and encouragers- in-chief to Ali Modu Sharrif to mount a bold political assault on Borno to capture it for the party and to satiate his feeling of vengeance. I urge them to note that the people of Borno have had more than a fair share of the calamities that have befallen Nigeria in recent times and should therefore appeal to their new man who will be eager to impress to take it easy so that many more people do not suffer unnecessarily. There is just no way Borno can be won for the PDP without our witnessing several casualties among the people who will be the cannon fodder in the war.
My second appeal goes to Ali Modu Sharrif himself. There are many who have said that he shares a large part of the blame for the origin and rise of the Boko Haram insurgency and the generally tense political atmosphere in Borno State. Even if Sharrif is not directly culpable as alleged, he is vicariously so because Boko Haram originated and became the world-wide problem it has become today during his administration and immediately after. It is worthy of note that before Boko Haram assumed a life of its own, they had initially demanded that Ali Modu Sharrif be handed over to them to do to him as they please and they will stop their war and there will be peace.
For this same man who needs to show some remorse for what he has been accused of to be the same one who will conceive it in his heart and take decisive action to provoke another kind of war in the same theater of war he had earlier provoked, is unfortunate and beyond belief. If Ali Modu Sharrif goes back to Borno what some of us expect him to do is to embark upon a programme of restitution, to see how he can repent of his sins and do something to earn forgiveness and have a positive spill-over effects on the Borno community. That that is not want he has chosen to engage in and that the same man will be shielded and empowered to prosecute another war on Borno by the Federal Government is hard to imagine.
The fact that the Boko Haram harbours an animus against Ali Modu Sharrif means that they will regard his efforts to rear his head again in Borno as a terrible affront. That also means that the Boko Haram insurgency will intensify and not abate. That further means more suffering for the ordinary Bornouans as Ali Modu Sharrif himself will be shielded and covered by Federal might. This is callous and unacceptable.
I appeal to all men and women of goodwill to prevail on SAS/ GAS to not let Borno witness what he is about to unleash on her. We all know his political prowess. He does not need to demonstrate it in service of the PDP or of his vengeance mission for us to acknowledge it. The present situation demands that he should act as a statesman and not as a perennial politician for whom the next election is the most important thing on planet earth. GAS has it within his absolute competence to dissuade himself from the course of very ruinous action he wants to take.
Nothing we have said here and the more we intend to say next week, God willing, on this same issue of trying to dissuade Ali Modu Sharrif from unleashing further violence on Borno should be interpreted to mean that we are seeking to deny him of his political right to politick. No. All we are doing here is to persuade him to play politics of conscience and concern for the shell-shocked people of Borno.
To be concluded next week.
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Dr. Jibrin, a senior fellow of the Centre for Democracy and Development, CDD, and writes from Abuja.

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