Apart from being a worthy day to set the stage for a productive week, for some years now, my Mondays (and of course Thursdays!) have proved as moments of spiritual and intellectual reflections. NLC nominated me to attend Senior Executive Course (SEC 27) at the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, Jos in 2005. I had many enduring “take- aways” from the model National Institute which since 1979 serves as a high level centre for reflection, research and dialogue for a better Nigeria. The most valued “take- away” however is the seemingly intangible but everlasting new relationships I cultivated. I came to appreciate the importance of Monday and Thursday fasting as encouraged by the Sunna courtesy of my course mate: Alhaji M D. Abubakar mni, former Inspector General of Police of the Federal Republic who often observes them. During the course duration, he hosted fellow course mates to Iftar at his chalet on the two days for those who observed the Sunnah worship and even for those who did not. Since then, I have been having some Ramadan feeling twice a week even before the cherished Holy month of Ramadan. Often if am not at home with friends and family members in Kaduna, I still enjoy the immense generosity of Alhaji M D Abubakar and his family for regular Monday/Thursday break fast in Abuja. Today, I look forward to Mondays with spiritual and intellectual excitement which has in turn improved my productivity, focus, thought process, and social balance in life.
Last Wednesday, February 19, 2020 Governor Babagana Zulum in a statewide broadcast in Maiduguri entitled “FIGHT, FAST AND PRAY’ declared today Monday the 24th of February 2020 “a day of devotion to pray for the return of peace in Borno.” He appealed “for the sacrifices of all other well-meaning friends and associates of Borno who can, to join .. in fasting” , “for the restoration of peace in Borno State and rest of Nigeria”. Just like the Governor, I fast today in solidarity with the good people of the state. May Allah accept as Ibada for Bornu state and the Federal Republic as a whole. I agree with the Governor that “ some observers may rightly argue that it is strange” to call for prayers to fight insurgency. Some might even see this move as an act of official resignation in the face of seeming addictive violence and strident calls for counter fire power. But that position is simplistic and unhelpful. The Governor needs not be apologetic in seeking spiritual heeling through prayers. First we must see religion beyond the simplistic as the insurgents had tried to while mobilizing cheap gullible opinion. Religion is a communal activity about peace. Religion must be liberated from the personalization and privatization of the sectarian terrorists. The tragedy of the Boko Haram crisis is the serial criminal and mischievous invocation of the name of God to kill, attack as witnessed recently in renewed assaults around Chibok and dastardly ambush at Auno town in Konduga where humans “..were atrociously set ablaze, amongst them, an infant and nursing mother.” The divisive and toxic narrative of faiths must give way to the sobering, inspirational and healing discourse that prayers represent. Prayer as described in the Holy books means “calling on, addressing, making a fervent request, asking for help from God ” to heal souls not to burn humans alive. I agree with author Harun Yahya that the methodology of terrorism is to make whole communities live in fear and alarm. Today’s prayer manifestation damns fear and shows that only Allah deserves fear not the bandits. Of special importance is Zulum’s call for Nigerians to once again take the advantage of today’s prayer to remember “fellow citizens who have either lost their loved ones or confronted the agony of watching loved ones on hospital beds” due to the activities of insurgents. The point cannot be overstated. It was the exclusive insensitive uncaring society of the well-having of the few elite, instead of the well-being of the vast impoverished masses that nurtured insurgency in the first place. Inclusive sustainable development and caring community is the key to terminate terrorism. There is enough for everybody’s need if we care and minimize the greed of the few. There is no doubt that this challenging times will come to pass. And it would be recorded that Governor Zulum and his predecessor, Senator Khashim Shettima commendably strived to build inclusive caring state through massive investments in education, road construction, massive housing projects and human capital.
I bear witness that Governor Zulum less than 10 months in office has promoted activist governance with as many as 100 projects in 100 days, some including completion of the projects of his predecessor, all within the 10 Point Agenda of his administration (2019-2023). His prompt intervention at disasters points is remarkable. Governor Zulum as a member is a pride of the National Institute. It’s time that these state-led landmark achievements capture our imagination more than the cowardly occasional attacks of the terrorists. I just read a posted brief review of a new book by Dr Kate Meagher, (an Associate Professor in Development Studies, London School of Economics) entitled Who Shall Overcome?: Islamic Extremism in Northern Nigeria, co-edited with the late Abdul Raufu Mustapha. It’s time to work for a new development paradigm for Nigeria as much as we must worship to put an end to insurgency. “Overcoming Boko Haram” Kate points out “calls for ‘whole of society’ solutions to the insurgency, based on a ‘whole of society’ understanding of the conflict. This involves getting Nigerian and international policy makers to face their own demons: corruption, and the broken promises of liberal modernity and market reforms, and counter-terrorism protocols that are inappropriate to the realities of Muslim majority societies. More socially-grounded policy thinking offers a new way forward based on evidence rather than Islamophobia. Policy alternatives include appropriate regulation rather than securitization of religion; job creation programmes centred on the needs of northern Nigerian youth rather than foreign investors, and socially appropriate paths of gender empowerment rather than imposing Western gender norms. While appropriate military measures are required to end the insurgency, the importance of more inclusive statecraft and economic policy cannot be over-emphasized.”
Issa Aremu mni.