John Shiklam in Kaduna
The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, monday raised the alarm over the deplorable condition of Internally Displaced People (IDP) in the North-east, declaring that unless urgent steps are taken to arrest the situation, 50,000 children might die in the next few weeks.
He also scolded those who are insinuating that President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration is plotting to Islamise the country.
The Sultan spoke in Kaduna at a two-day summit organised by the Northern Elders Forum (NEF).
He lamented that the suffering of people displaced by the Boko Haram insurgents in the North-east poses a serious human crisis to the nation, stressing that Nigerians seem to have forgetten the difficulties the victims were going through.
While commending the Borno State Government for its efforts in addressing the humanitarian crisis in the region, he called on the northern governors to join hands in alleviating the hardship being faced at the IDP’s camps.
“The issue of IDPs in the North-east, it seems that all of us have forgotten about them.
“We must not abandon our brothers there. Billions of naira had been budgeted for them. Almost N100 billion was collected for the victims support fund by the former government, where is that money? Gen. T. Y. Danjuma (rtd) is the chairman of that fund.
“Our northern governors should come together and help to rebuild the North-east, it is not the governor of Borno State alone that can do it.
“The camps are so bad and people are suffering. If nothing is done in the next next months, over 50,000 children might die. We don’t want that to happen because Almighty Allah will ask us what have we done as leaders,” the Sultan said.
Apparently reacting to recent accusation by Igbo Leaders of Thought that the federal government is pursuing an Islamisation agenda of the country, using the current killings of Nigerians across the country by Fulani herdsmen, the sultan said he was worried that people who were supposed to be elder state men could make such provocative comments.
“I am always worried when Nigerians who are supposed to be elder statesmen make provocative comments about this government trying to Islamise Nigeria.
“I keep on asking how? How do you Islamise a country like Nigeria that is probably 80 million Muslims (in population) but we agreed that we are 50-50.
“Are you going to invite America? Somebody so naive even said the visit of the United States Secretary of State was to strengthen the Islamisation of programme of the leadership of the country,” the sultan said.
He said further that “If there are problems, of course there are, like the issue of herds men, there are very terrible herds men.”
According to him, “The problem with herdsmen and farmers is purely about economy. The herdsman wants food for his cattle, the farmer wants his farm produce to feed his family.
“We have tried to broker peace with Fulanis and Tivs in Nasarawa and Benue States. I have been to Makurdi four times for such meetings.
There are things that have been wrong with us as northerners, as leaders, as Christians, as Muslims……
It is a big problem for all of us and we are very worried that things like this are happening…..”
He wondered how the Fulanis can go to the South-east, South-south and South-west to Islamise people?
According to him, the Fulanis are not there in the name of any Fulani organisation, but are on their own and they must be treated as criminals and brought to justice.
“So people should stop making this noise about Islamisation and herdsmen being used to islamise the country and so many negative things” the sultan said.
Also addressing the occasion, the Chairman of the Northern States Governors Forum (NSGF) and Governor of Borno State, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, said those agitating for Biafra should understand that there is no one who has a greater stake in Nigeria than the Igbos.
According to him, “The level of inter ethnic relationship is so deep that no one can divide Nigeria.
“We must appreciate and understand our differences and tolerate each other.
Buhari won the 2015 elections across the country because Nigerians believe in him.
“When the US Secretary of States met with northern governors, some people started insinuating that it was the Islamisation process of Nigeria.”
He said the social and economic problems facing the North are very worrisome and called on leaders in the region to wear their thinking caps to find solutions to the problems.
Sultan said the population of northern Nigeria doubles every 23 years, stressing that steps must be taken to contain with a growing population by providing education and jobs.
“Most of the problems facing the north is caused by economic problems.
One of the ways of tackling the problem is education, without fixing education, forget about tomorrow.
All of us who are elites, were the product of public schools. But we allowed the public schools to collapse. We send our children to private schools and we have abandoned the children of the poor and neglected them and we only use them as thugs during electioneering campaigns,” the governor said.
He said the Borno State Government is doing everything possible to ensure that IDP return to their homes by May 2017.
According to him, North-east remained eternally grateful to President Muhammadu Buhari, saying that he rescued the area which was at the verge of being wiped out by Boko Haram insurgents.
However, in his keynote address, a former interim chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in Kaduna state and a member of the NEF, Dr. Hakeem Baba Ahmed called on President Muhammadu Buhari to tackle the increasing hardship and joblessness arising from the economic recession.
He said: “This summit is not intended to whitewash or smear the Buhari administration. We have established a standard of judgment, as a Forum we will not compromise, and its hallmarks are to be respectful and responsible in relationships with leaders at all levels, and to speak truth to power.
“We will not join those who say President Buhari should stop reminding us of a past that is haunting us today. We will insist that we hear daily what leaders did in the past, so that we can guard against letting people like them back into power.
“But we will join those who remind him daily that hunger is stalking millions of homes. Inflation is making life difficult by the day. People are losing jobs. Businesses are closing down. Infrastructure is decaying. Young Nigerians are losing hope of being employed. Our hospitals are full of people who suffer mysterious illnesses, and they cannot afford the fees.
Moving from where we are to where we need to be will require patience and fortitude. Until we get there, it will be President Buhari’s lot to assemble the Nigerians to advise him and take forward his vision.
He will need people who will convey his concerns and compassion; who will reach and bring comfort to millions who suffer in an economy under recession; and people who will combine his personal integrity with competence and commitment.”