BY LAJA THOMAS
Abdullahi Abdulmajeed is the President, Nigerian Youth United Action Coalition, NYUAC. In this interview, he explains why government alone cannot tackle the security challenges in the country. Excerpts:
What are your major concerns about Nigeria?
As a youth of this country, I continue to feel the pain of seeing fellow citizens suffer untoward distress; physical and psychological torment while the country continues to lose precious lives daily. As a youth of this country, I am saddened when I see the outcome of long years of hard work and huge monumental investments being destroyed daily, namely; schools, hospitals, bridges, institutional buildings, private residences, investments and various industries.
I feel aggravated by the sight of colossal and apparent signs of the disintegration of our dear country manifesting in startling proportion daily. Uncertainty and despair is fast becoming commonplace in most parts of the country and the people are crying out for peace.
As a group of youths united in action, we stand amongst a large and growing community of young people who have committed time and resources to the imperative task of re-examining what really are the underlying factors responsible for ethno religious crisis and insurgency in Nigeria.
This review has left us appalled at the web of contradictions, the fragile “evidence,” the accountability denied and the seeming inability to tackle the menace of violence and terrorism.
I have come to the conclusion that a mass citizens support and participation in the collective quest to rid this country of all factors and elements of under-development will definitely reposition the country and its people firmly on the pathway of sustainable development.
We are aware that development is grossly impossible in the absence of peaceful coexistence and harmony. We are appalled by the seeming willingness of some people in this country to accentuate the status quo (with little more than a whisper of criticism), a deeply troubling indication as to the state of our Republic.
What will you say led our country to this alarming state of insecurity?
Under- development and poverty is getting accentuated at an alarming rate. It is instructional to note that Nigeria as a country has gone through difficult moments, characterized by the prevalence of ethno religious violence and of course political destabilization crisis that has resulted in the loss of thousands of precious Nigerian lives, separation of families and the destruction of economic and social infrastructures.
The reoccurring crises amplified by the emerging trend of insurgency and terrorism has compelled thousands of Nigerians to abandon their places of domiciliation to seek refuge in their towns of origin or in neighboring states. While the country battles perennially with ethno religious and political crisis with the quantum of dismal and far reaching consequences on innocent citizens unabated, a new and more dangerous dimension of hostility and bloodshed has suddenly resurfaced in the annals of Nigeria affairs.
Militancy, insurgency and several acts of terrorism are fast becoming the medium adopted by different segments of the country’s population to register some form of discontent, reservation, cry of marginalization or alienation of their ethno-religious groups or regions.
Our major concern is that young people who are also the most vulnerable to the aftermath effects of these incidents are mostly used to power the uprisings ignorantly. This crisis is gradually destroying our social fabric and threatening to paralyze our economy.
Since the October 1st 2010 bomb blast and the ethno-religious crisis that followed the 2011 general elections in some parts of the country, peace has remained elusive for our country. The rise of militancy (South and West) and insurgency (North) that is threatening to snowball into full-scale terrorism or/ and civil war if unmitigated is alarming and detrimental to our continued coexistence as a country. An ominous cloud of suspicion has increasingly colored our culture of fear, as wide spread and reoccurring violence, misinformation, sharp division and disagreement at all levels have suddenly become the order of the day.
Mass killings in the name of religion resulting in mutual distrust and hatred across ethnic and religious lines is seriously impeding the growth and development of this country thus rapidly pushing it unto the precipice of a full blown civil war and state of anarchy.
Many Nigerians across all divides are beginning to contemplate and even hold firm belief and reliance on the disintegration of our country as the only cure for all the ills presently witnessed in the country. This is a negative proposition that urgently needs to be suppressed with concrete words and action in the interest of all the peoples of this nation.
You’re organizing a summit to bring the youths together to talk about peace, what gingered this action?
Basically, first and foremost, Nigeria belongs to all of us. And youths happens to be the most populated sector in the country, if this country works, it works for us and we will benefit even more than those in government and if this country fails, we will lose more than they lose.
This uneasy calm that will have in some part of the country, it is obvious that there are a whole lot of problems. These are problems that government alone cannot resolve and it is in view of this that we brought together stakeholders who can complement efforts of government and other institutions to secure solutions to the problems of Nigeria.
As a preliminary effort to lay a foundation for the proposed national dialogue to consult widely and integrate the input and opinion of all stakeholders into the summit agenda, the summit group has decided to host a final pre-summit conference after the regional grassroot conferences with leaders of all major youth organisations, civil society organisations and faith based groups in order to ensure that the proposed multi-stakeholders dialogue summit is all inclusive and encompassing of every diverse interest in the country.
What will you describe as the objective of this summit?
The Nigerian Youths Multi-Stakeholders Dialogue Summit Group have convened to unfold the possibility of the power and beauty of united action with mutual understanding; tolerance and trust across every ethno-religious divide in this country as a most fundamental asset and foundation to strive towards the sustainable development and growth of our dear country, Nigeria needs peace.
The activities of the Boko Haram and insecurity in general had been causing disunity in the country how do you think the youths can come together to fight insecurity?
I will lend my credence from certain consultations in the cause of the grassroots mobilizations. As I speak, I have visited about 26 states of the country in the course of this programme alone. I have held geo-political zone consultations discussing with real youths. In the course of speaking with the people, we discovered that we have youths who say see if Boko Haram come and recruit me to go and throw bomb somewhere, I will throw bomb if they will pay me good money, I don’t have a job and am even useless so what is my life about.
We can understand that reason while this problem keeps on in the air aside political undertone is socio-economic inequality. People are not empowered, not engage, they cannot even provide food on their own table. They get enemies of the state recruited easily, that is why we are coming on the government to engage the youths so as to get holistic solution to the problems of the country.
Do you think Jonathan government is doing enough to tackle the insecurity in the state?
The government is spending resource in tackling the challenges of socio-political crisis, insurgencies and militaries but little is being done to attack the underlining constant factors that are responsible for these problems that we have. We do not have appropriate constitutional settlement, the youths are largely unemployed, they unengaged and not empowered, a lot of mutual disgust in the air, we required national reconciliation, integration, social harmony which government have not delegate required resource to.
The youths should stop making noise on the streets it will not take us anywhere. The youths cannot ordinarily leave the street, to say we want to engage the government to identity what are our problems, until the government show some sense of sincerity and ensure this people are empowered.
Spending so much money on security is done just to contain it temporarily. But at the long if the youths can be well taken care of, obviously, the country will be at the cross road of violence. Yesterday it was NigerDelta, today is Boko Haram, tomorrow may be another sect from the kagi dam, hydro-power producing communities may be agitating to cut off power from the country.
Do you back the call for the National Sovereign Conference?
Yes, I backed, the call for the national conference, but the word Sovereign is the major challenge that as make the conference difficult for the government to convene. What we are saying is that take the sovereign away and call it a national conference that will bring people of the different ethnics call Nigeria together to decide how they want to co-exist and appropriate way to live together as a country.