By Soni Daniel, Northern Region Editor
Mallam Kaka Bolori is a candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party for the Borno Central Senatorial election slated for later this year.
In this interview, the one-time Chairman of Maiduguri Metropolis, alleges that some top public officials are using the Boko Haram sect as an excuse to loot public funds, what the people of the Northeast think about President Muhammadu Buhari and how to end Boko Haram war and rehabilitate the Northeast.
Why have you decided to run for the senatorial seat for Borno central?
Well, my simple and honest answer is that I am eminently qualified by experience and involvement in the politics of the state and Nigeria to represent Borno Central following the demise of the man, who was first elected early this year to represent the area in the Senate.
I also have what it takes to move the District forward in terms of fashioning out legislative solutions to our numerous challenges.
What do you think is the major issue facing the people of that senatorial district?
First of all, I think it revolves around lack of education. The majority of the people are lack basic education, thereby suffering social dislocation as compared to other parts of the country.
It is clear that when people are lagging behind in education they tend to lack almost everything.
We have a relatively large population of jobless young men and women which in itself is a threat to national security. That is why I have come on the stage to be able to come up with possible alternatives. One possible way out is to create vocational training centres because some will never go to school but they will have to work.
The state government, I would say, is not really helping matters because as we speak there are many local governments that don’t have secondary schools. In fact, as I am talking to you we have two or three local government areas in Borno State that don’t have secondary schools.
In such a situation one begins to wonder if indeed, the state government is really encouraging the development of education by not doing anything to send children of school age, to schools. As I am talking to you we have two or three local government councils in the northern part of Borno state that don’t have senior secondary school and even in Maiduguri they haven’t been going to school for about two and half years or so. So you can see the attitude of the leadership towards educational development of the state is not encouraging.
If you win the election how are you going to address this? In what specific ways can this drawback be reversed?
I believe that as a legislator our responsibility is to make laws for the good of the society and I will do my best to see to the enactment of some enabling laws that will open up the education frontiers for our people.
I will also see to the possibility of making it imperative for relevant agencies, institutions and individuals to invest in education to produce the needed human resources for the transformation of the area.
But do you think that the problem is due to lack of legislation. Does it mean that there is no legislation guiding the provision of education in Borno state at the moment?
No, there is provision for education but my fear is that such may not be adequate to bring about the expected results. If education is made compulsory, it should be possible to also make the acquisition of post primary school education compulsory in every local government area of the state.
It is not about the Boko Haram saying they don’t want Western Education; the body language of the government also suggests that they are not encouraging education the way it should be. I am telling you that we have some local government areas that don’t have senior secondary school and if there is a law compelling them to establish one in each LGA that would go a long way to assist in elevating education in the state.
So there are other things one can make as a law because I am aware of some of the developmental issues that prevent these boys from going to school. In many cases, some of the children will have to travel up to 25 kilometres in order to access fresh water and their parents would reason that sending them to schools would deny them water for them.
If you provide water supply in these areas the possibility of children going to school is high because in some places they use this as an excuse for not going to school.
What do you think should be done in order to restore normalcy to the Northeast of which Borno is a part?
There are many strategies that can be used. But my thinking is that we should have the commitment of all the stakeholders in resolving all the issues at stake. Everybody must show commitment to the cause of ending the tragedy in the Northeast. It is not just about federal government, state government or local government;
all tiers of government have to be part of rebuilding this region by bringing in some developmental programmes, by providing job opportunities to the people, by providing education and making agriculture more attractive. To me, these are some of the ways through which the region can grow.
A commission should also be set up to oversee the rebuilding of the region and cater for the urgent needs of the area while there should be a law compelling all tiers of government to make vital inputs into the implementation of a blueprint for the region.
But that can’t take place if the problem of boko haram itself is not eliminated.
Don’t forget that the military is obviously winning the war. I want to suggest that while the military option is ongoing, there should also be a sustained effort to look at the genesis of the problem and what can be done to ameliorate its effects on the people.
First, we have young men and women who are able, healthy but are jobless. We have to even change the policy of these almajiri schools to make it in such a way that they can be employed after graduating from the school.
The current situation is such that no matter how long you study in the Almajiri School, you cannot get a certificate that can give you employment at the end of the day. So, that policy should be reviewed in the interest of the people.
I thought the almajiri system is to prepare people to go and write exams and pass so that they can be employable?
No! It is just to prepare you to read and write. That is the lifestyle and if you are very successful at these schools you become a teacher in the same school or you create one. If you are very good in teaching, they will bring their children for you to handle with a little token and there are no serious standards put down for this.
The Alamjiri education is called ‘for the sake of God’ because it is something about religion and you don’t have to pay for it. In the 60s and 50s the colonial masters had wanted to incorporate these almijaris into the mainstream school system but they rejected it, arguing that the foreigners were going to pollute their lifestyle and system.
But my question was on how to end Boko Haram.
Ending Boko Haram requires a holistic approach. We must find an answer to what caused Boko Haram in the first place while the military option continues. Boko Haram came about as a result of the absence of basic education and opportunities for many, who felt they were entitled to those things. Nobody with a proper Islamic education will engage in Boko Haram activities.
We therefore need some real orientation from all tiers of government in finding solutions to the problem of Boko Haram. Injustice is part of the problem. For many years here, no local government elections in Borno because the government prefers to handpick caretaker committees and those denied their civil opportunities are sad.
Are you saying that lack of election is fueling Boko Haram in Borno?
Exactly! The reason the insurgency is too strong in the Northeast is largely due to poor administration and injustice on the part of the government in those places particularly Borno and Yobe.
What the governors of the Northeast are getting from the Federation Account is not commensurate with the development we have on the ground in those states. They get so much but deliver very little. That is the crux of the problem.
It is only in a place like Maiduguri that you will see a 4-km road taking more than N11 billion and such a road will never be completed in more than four years. One will wonder if it is silver or gold road that they are building.
The federal government is talking about negotiating with boko haram but the problem is they don’t even know who to negotiate with. How can that problem be overcome?
My answer to that question is at least if the federal government does not know where and who the Boko Haram is at least the Boko Haram knows who the government is and negotiation is an understanding between two parties.
But if the other partner is unwilling, it does not appear as if the negotiation can proceed because it is a give and take situation. They are very much around, not that they are spirits or from space and if they want to negotiate they will simply find a way of presenting themselves to the negotiating table. If nobody knows them and they are not ready to appear, that means they are not ready for any negotiation.
How do you hope to win election in a state that has been under the grip of the APC in the last 16 year?
You need to understand that Borno is a very large state with different cultures and traditions and I will give you examples why I am optimistic that I am going to win the election. The pattern of election from the southern part of Borno is totally different from the one in the northern and the central senatorial districts. The pattern of election in the north is different from the one in the central and south.
I am from the central where we have a large number of political elites. I am one-time local government chairman in Maiduguri and we have 15 wards in Maiduguri and out of these 15 wards PDP won in 11 and only four went to then ANPP. If they were to vote according to this I would not have been the chairman.
Of course the then state government was formed by ANPP but we had more PDP local government chairmen and more members in the national assembly belonging to PDP at that time. So, you can see the pattern and this mostly is taking place in Borno Central.
The recent one was that when Ali Modu Sheriff was the governor he merely managed to sustain the position but could not win election to the Senate after his tenure. You can see there are more enlightened people and nobody is happy with the way APC is running the state.
How is APC running the state?
It is full of mismanagement and corruption; no development. In fact I told you that public schools have not been having classes in the last three and a half years in Borno state particularly in Maiduguri. This does not in any way worry the governor and his team and it is quite unfortunate.
But that is because of insurgency, which claimed over 219 Chibok girls and causing serious concerns to parents, who are afraid to send their children to any school in the state as a result.
Yes, you are right, you may think like that but Maiduguri which is actually the capital of Borno state is actually peaceful and only witnesses occasional bombings.
That is natural and it can happen anywhere. They have to go to school but they are not going to school in Maiduguri so why?
Because they brought the refuges and dumped them in schools while there are empty quarters belonging to the government. If the government is encouraging education they would have taken them to these quarters which are enough to contain these refuges and surprisingly the government is telling us that they are spending N6 billion on the refuges and IDPs every month. Maybe they are providing them with chicken and you can see this is an opportunity for them to steal.
So what is giving you the confidence that you are going to win? Is it because the people love you and they are fed up with the APC government?
Not because the people love me but being a one-time local government chairman, they can judge me by what I did during my tenure and what they think I can do for them if I get into the Senate. It is a question of making a choice and they will certainly decide.
What do you think about the Buhari administration so far?
To ask those of us in the Northeast what we think about Buhari is to elicit an already known answer. For me, I can say that with Buhari, there is hope because already, relative peace has returned to the area.
The military is winning the war after recapturing most of the areas that were under the control of the insurgents in the Northeast.
The military recently accused some Borno elders of frustrating them by hiring marabouts to pray against the success of the military. As an elder in Borno state are you part of the people and why will the people not want the war to end? Why are they working against the military and who are they?
Well, I am not in the position to tell you who these people are but certainly I know the military is not just making up this statement. So what I will suggest is that they have a proper investigation, reveal whoever the elders are and bring them to face justice. That is my humble suggestion regarding that allegation by the army.
I think it is possible for people not to want the war to end because insurgency itself provides another form of looting by government officials from federal to state and local government levels. I am not therefore surprised if some people are aiding and abetting insurgency for selfish reasons.
And if proper check is done, such persons are likely to be found in the hierarchy of the leadership of the state and the local governments.
What do you mean by insurgency providing a platform for looting?
I am saying so because of what is happening in Borno State. We have 27 local government areas and only a few of them are functioning even though all of them receive their allocations at the end of the month.
The rest of them simply sit down in Maiduguri and share the allocation on the claim that they cannot go to do anything in their respective areas because of insurgency. So, it is a way of making quick money by some in the state. That is why Boko Haram has provided a means of looting for government officials in many of these states.