In place of strife and division, let us create economic opportunities
Remarks by Malam Nasir El-Rufai, Governor of Kaduna State, at the meeting of the Northern States Governors’ Forum, Sir Kashim Ibrahim House, Kaduna, 27th July 2017
Your Excellencies, Your Royal Highnesses, I am delighted to welcome you all once again to Kaduna. Let me put on record our appreciation of the decision to return the regular meetings of the forum to the Sir Kashim Ibrahim House, the Government House of Kaduna State. It is an honour we do not take likely. All the 19 states represented in this forum have long-standing ties of culture, geography and history. The contemporary needs of our people require that we explore collaborations, common approaches and best practise to rid our region of the fetters that hold it back. I am confident that our engagements, and the applications of our best endeavours will enable us to contribute to unleash the vast potentials of our people.
Your Excellencies, Your Royal Highnesses, the challenges before us are immense. We commend the resilience of our communities in the North-East which have begun the process of recovery from the ravages of insurgency. But security remains a challenge across our states. The frequency and savagery of communal clashes in some of our states, and the prevalence of untoward phenomena such as rural banditry, cattle-rustling and kidnapping need to be tackled. The festering sores left by previous conflicts in which proper closure, accountability for crimes and reconciliation were not effected appear to be accelerating a descent into impunity and a situation in which many elites are too short-sighted to recognise the dangers of embroiling our communities in repeated cycles of violence.
The message needs to go out to our communities that peace requires a determination to have peace, sustain peace and protect it. There is no humane alternative to choosing to resolve all differences by exclusively peaceful and legal means. Our region is the most diverse area in our vast country. It cannot afford the ghastly luxury of transforming differences in religion, language and culture into sources of conflict, death and destruction. Your Excellencies, Your Royal Highnesses, we need to challenge our elite to stop the commodification of difference and unite our peoples for development and prosperity.
For such efforts to be credible and sustainable, the state must vigorously reclaim its prerogatives as the guarantor of security. Robust actions in the security sector must be undertaken quickly to implant a visible, reassuring and effective presence of the protective hand of the state across our region. There are too many places where outlaws and non-state actors of all sorts have stepped into the ungoverned spaces like these forests.
Your Excellencies, Your Royal Highnesses, we should consider whether it is not prudent, for instance, for the states that through which the Kamuku, Kuyambana and Falgore forest ranges stretch to request that the Federal Government should hand them over for better and closer management. These forests constitute sources of perils to ordinary people, the states and the country. After our recent bitter experience, we will not be forgiven if we allow the emergence of new Sambissas in these vast spaces which provide safe refuge for outlaws. Robberies, kidnappings and cattle rustling are headquartered in these ungoverned forest ranges.
What is proposed is that we continue to jointly fund special security operations to sanitise these spaces, which must now be accompanied with a development agenda to convert them from arenas of insecurity to places that are properly integrated into the economy.
The credentials of our region as a reasonably secure place are crucial to our economic development. With vast land mass, abundant waters, and, above all, tens of millions of hardworking people, ours is a region waiting to break out of poverty and all its restraints to the human spirit. We do not have much time to translate that potential into real economic growth. We can do much together, leveraging on our different endowments to make the North a place of prosperity. In place of strife and division, we can occupy our people with the effort, joys and rewards of creating and seizing economic opportunities. There is no future in pretending that we can sustain our people either through dependence on monthly federal allocations or fostering the illusion that handouts from state governments, local governments or some elites can substitute for the rigours of building shared prosperity for the majority of our people.
Your Excellencies, Your Royal Highnesses, how can we make the best of our comparative advantages in Agriculture and Solid Minerals? How can we enhance power generation from diverse sources, including abundant sunlight, wind and other renewables?
Your Excellencies, Your Royal Highnesses, the city in which we are gathered was created by Lord Lugard 100 years ago this month. Kaduna emerged and has thrived as the capital of the Northern Region from which all our states emerged. The Kaduna State Government wishes to mark the centenary of Kaduna Capital Territory in a way that acknowledges and respects the city’s status in relation to the entire North. Kaduna is your city, as much as it is ours. Therefore, I am inviting all our state governments to discuss and collaborate to celebrate a city that is dear to us all. The centrepiece of the celebrations is proposed for December 2017. I understand that the details have being shared with all the SSGs for further discussions by Your Excellencies.
Before I conclude Your Excellencies, Your Royal Highnesses, I wish to propose that we discuss and outline our views on the question of the constitutional arrangements of this country. We should point the way forward with specific proposals that strengthen our country while devolving powers to the states and local governments.
I welcome you once again to Kaduna, and pray you all return safely to your homes, while wishing us all fruitful deliberations.
God Bless you all
God Bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai
27th July 2017