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Pulaaku Initiative: Tinubu’s message of hope to the north, by Modibo Mustapha

Vice-President Kashim Shettima (far right), and Some Northern Governors in the State House, Abuja, FCT File Photo

*The newly established Pulaaku Initiative has been identified as a long awaited non-kinetic solution that can drastically reduce the susceptibility of vulnerable children and nomadic Fulanis to the heinous crimes of kidnapping, banditry and terrorism in Northern Nigeria

Modibo Mustapha

It was the first Nigerian Army Chief of Staff and Former Military Governor of the defunct Northern Region, late General Hassan Usman Katsina (Ciroman Katsina), that described the social menace of begging and destitution in the North as a Hausa-Fulani community problem.

He said this during a media chart on a Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) network programme February 1992. Exactly 32 years ago.

In his frank characteristic, the late Ciroman Kastina (of blessed memory) attributed the unfortunate situation to the failure of “the current leaders of the North including myself”, and that “only we the Northern leaders can find a lasting solution to the problem.”

This statement will not come as a surprise to those who were familiar with the frankness and truthfulness of the late General.

He then, called on the Northern leadership to work in unison, towards improving the condition of living in the region.

That’s through the provision of formal education and social amenities to the people, so that the menacing culture of begging on the streets of the North will be considerably minimised or completely eradicated.

He further warned that if the situation is left unchecked, it may snowball into a major problem, with dire consequences to the peace and stability of the entire nation.

Many will agree that the late General predicted the security situation of today over three decades ago.

However, before that remarkable statement was made by the late General Hassan Katsina on the degradable culture of begging in the North, Prof. Jubril Aminu, as Nigeria’s Minister of Education in 1989, had introduced the concept of Nomadic Education into the nation’s educational system.

Many at that time, did not understand the passion with which Prof. Aminu wanted to take formal education to the nomadic Fulanis in the forests.

With the benefit of hindsight today, one can sadly attest to the fact that the worries and warnings of both late General Katsina and Prof. Aminu have been justified. This is in view of the criminal recruitment in droves, of uneducated Northern children begging on the streets, and the illiterate nomadic Fulanis in the forests, into the army of kidnappers, bandits, and terrorists that are currently unleashing mayhem on Nigerians.

It will not be considered an exaggeration to say that the absence of formal education and lack of social amenities for vulnerable children that are begging on the streets, combined with the deliberate isolation of the nomadic Fulanis from general socio-political and economic activities by government, have both contributed immensely to the frightening spate of insecurity in the North.

When on Tuesday, 30th January, 2024, a group of policy analysts, in Abuja, known as the Independent Media and Policy Initiative (IMPI), identified the recently established Pulaaku Initiative as the long awaited non-kinetic solution that could drastically reduce the susceptibility of vulnerable children and the nomadic Fulanis, to the heinous crimes of kidnapping, banditry and terrorism in the North, there was a sigh of relief among many opinion leaders across the nation.

The personal commitment and political will with which President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, GCFR, approved the establishment of the Pulaaku Initiative can be seen in the rapid release the sum of 50 billion Naira operational fund for its immediate take off.

However, as good and thoughtful as the initiative appears, the challenge still remains that the intended beneficiaries of the new programme need to be effectively mobilised and carried along in its implementation.

This is absolutely a challenge to the Northern establishment.

It will amount to a major failure and monumental self-indictment on the part of Northerners in government, either in elective or appointive offices, like His Excellency Vice President Kashim Shattima, GCON, who is coincidentally the custodian of the Pulaaku Initiative inclusive, if this presidential opportunity for the return of peace and stability to the region is wasted.

Leaders from the North, irrespective of their political leaning or inclination, are expected to unite and give the Pulaaku Initiative the needed support to succeed.

The emphasis of the Pulaaku Initiative on the provision of formal education and other social amenities, will go a very long way to give the vulnerable children in the North and the nomadic Fulanis a sense of belonging and formal orientation, needed to interact with their immediate social environment without fear of complex and discrimination.

The nomadic Fulanis in Northern Nigeria have been neglected for too long, owing to the failure of governments at all levels.

The Pulaaku Initiative is the first policy of its kind, ever deployed by government with a deliberate intention to create government presence within the nomadic communities in the North.

This above objective, more than any other thing, should be more important to the North at this crucial point in time when peace and social stability seem to have eluded the region.

It is, therefore, incumbent on the current Northern political class to pay more attention to issues like this that will bring genuine development to the people of the region, and to desist from distractive arguments on mundane issues like the unwarranted controversy over the transfer of some Federal Government staff to Lagos from Abuja.  This is gibberish, and a lallation of the highest order.

Mr. President needs to be commended and encouraged to sustain his interest and spirited efforts on the implementation of the Pulaaku Initiative, so that the goals and objectives of the initiative can be achieved within a reasonable period of time, to the credit of his administration.

Duty therefore, beckons on His Excellency, Vice President Shattima, GCON, to use his good offices to convene a summit of various leaders of the Fulani herdsmen, and the owners of the Sangaya Islamiya schools in the North.

They are indispensable stakeholders in the Pulaaku Initiative of President Tinubu, and enlisting their passion and support for the scheme will largely determine its success.

Finally, the need for the North to support the Tinubu administration cannot be over emphasised in this context.

The appalling neglect of socio-economic issues relating to the herdsmen and the Sangaya Islamic education system by successive governments in Nigeria are the root cause of the current insecurity in the North.

The North must support the President for what Mr. Niyi Akinsiju, Chairman of the Independent Media and Policy Initiative, aptly described at a press conference January 2024, as a “creative and pragmatic intervention that will most likely change the narratives around insecurity in the country.”

*Mustapha is a legal practitioner in Yola, Adamawa State.

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