By Suleiman Umaru
Barely about 17 years after the death of Samuel Onunaka Mbakwe, a one-time governor of Imo state, south east Nigeria, described in political circles in the second Republic as a weeping governor , appears to have been replaced as Babagana Umara Zulum, a Professor, has emerged in Borno sate, north east Nigeria.
While the issue of paucity of Funds to develop Imo sate had prompted Mbakwe, the late governor of Imo sate to cry out to the then late President Shehu Shagari of the ruling National Party Of Nigeria, NPN, government for financial support from the Federal government , Zulum’s problem has nothing to do with paucity of funds to run his government.
He may have been labelled a weeping governor due the activities of the Abubakar Shekau led Islamic Fundamentalist group, BokoHaram and the Islamic State of West Africa Province, ISWAP, in the state which had resulted in the killing of millions people and forced many others to relocate to the Central African country, CAR, of Cameroon and the West African country of Chad.
Between May 199, when he received his first baptism of fire from the Insurgents in the state and now, there has never been any week that one Community or the other in the north state has not been attacked by the insurgents and scores of people killed . On Saturday, January 2, 2021, suspected insurgents attacks was the abduction of one Abubakar Idris, a Staff of the United Nations High Commission For Refugees, UNCHR around Jakana village in Maiduguri, Capital of Borno state. There were indications that 20 ther travelers were abducted by the insurgents in the raid. The insurgents were said to have disguised as soldiers and mounted road blocks along the Maiduguri-Damaturu road where they accosted the travellers.
Recall that governor’s entourage along the Bama-Maiduguri road were ambushed and attacked by the insurgents. Eyewitness disclosed that there could have been many casualties but for the intervention of the soldiers who forced the insurgents to run into the bush.
The mass burial of the 44 rice farmers killed in Zabarmari Community in Mafa local government area of the state by the insurgents actually exposed Zulum as a weeping governor . Many see him as the most devastated governor in the north east that other governors from other states of the Federation , particular, south and south east, south –south and Taraba in the north central geopolitical sympathise with him.
An aggrieved Zulum had cried out that there is sabotate in the system, sabotage in the military and sabotage in the civil service, thus fueling the crisis in the north east region. The governor , who had never had any moment of rest over the last one and half years, had on two different occasions mobilised the elders of the state to the Presidential Villa, to have audience with President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired army General, and to seek for the removal of the service Chiefs, who they believe have failed the nation. But that was how far he could go.
The frequency of attacks and killings in the Zulum home state may have been too bad that in 2020 alone, that the Katsina state born Nigerian President was never tired of sympathising with the people and government of Borno ,over the killings in the state. The pitiable situation in the north east state was so bad in the 2020, that the ruling APC, governors in the country had mobilised to pay a solidarity visit to the embattled Borno state governor who may be praying for his first term in office in elapse to quit honorably without seeking re-election in2023.
Ahmed Bola Tinubu, a former governor of Lagos state and APC National Leader who is not happy over what is happening in Borno state , which has turned Zulum into a weeping governor by the Zamabri killing in the state and what the Professor is may be going through in the state in the hands of the BokoHaram and ISWAP insurgents , who are out to take over the state that because of the frequency of Boko Haram and IWAP attacks in Communities in the state had joined other Nigerians to pay the north east state governor a solidarity visit last year.
The Borno state governor , who is not happy that most of the Communities of the state have been deserted by the residents due to the Insurgency attacks may have realised that it is giving the terrorists undue advantage . This may have informed why he has started making efforts to facilitate the repatriation of the people in various refugee Camps in Cameroon and Chad over the last six years back to the state.
The governor may have intensified efforts to facilitate the repatriation of the Born state born refuges in Camerron and Chad , when he had opportunity of visiting Minwao refugee Camp in Cameroon and Baga Sola Camp within the Chadian territory. He may have been touched by the plight of the people , that no esponsible government would allow its citizens stay in such a dehumanizing condition in another country in refugee Camps.
Zulum’s major worry was that of the over 60,000 refugees, in Minwao camp in Cameroon, from the north east state of Adamawa and Borno states and other parts of Nigeria, the majority are from the Babagana Munguno, a retired Major General and National Security Adviser, NSA, and Yusuf Tukur Buratai, a Lt. General and Chief of Army Staff, home state of Borno.
He may have been exposed to the plight of the refugees because he had visited the Minwao camp in Cameroon with social protection relief materials to the people. He was said to have also supervised the distribution of food items and cash relief to thousands of families , he had helped in the past to cross to the Lake Chad waters border between Nigeria and Chad border, to reach the Baga Sola refuge camp within the Chadian Border territory. There are indications that the Zulum led APC, government in Borno state in the last three weeks had spent over N50 million to settle some 5,000 families in the refuge camps.
The Borno state governor may have been carrying along with him relief materials and food items to the camps to solve the food needs of the refugees. Aware that the state government could not bear the burden alone because of its lean financial situation may have informed why he has reached out to the National Emergency Management Agency, NEMA, under the close watch of Muhammed Alhaji Munguno, a retired Air Vice Marshal, AVM, to demand for food supplies to the over 800,000 , Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs, in the state.
The Borno state governor was said to have, informed Munguno the NEMA , Director General, Munguno, a retired Air Vice Marshall, AVM, that the refugees in the IDP camps in Munguno, Bama, Damboa, Gwoza, Dikwa Gamboru, Ngala, Damasak, Banki, Pulka and Gajiram, urgently needed food supplies to support the efforts currently being made by the state government for theprovision of basic needs across the state.
The governor, was said to said to cited he intervention efforts of the Agency, the Northeast Development Commission, and the Hameed Ali, a retired Army colonel led Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, following the Katsina state born Nigerian Pesident directive some two years ago, that contraband of foreign rice seizures from smugglers across the country be used for humanitarian support in these crisis areas in the state.
He noted that the food interventions in the crisis areas had sustained majority of the those at the IDP Camps at Munguno and other Camps in other parts of the state who basically rely on Agriculture as their means of livelihood as they could no longer access their farm lands due to the activities of the Insurgents.
Given that the insurgents are losing ground in the state, Zulum, according to informed sources has intensified efforts to facilitate the repatriation of the Borno citizens in refugee Camps in Cameroon and Chad.The Borno state governor was said to have met with Geofrey Onyeama , the minister of Foreign Affairs on Thursday, December 31, 2020, to plead with him to expedite action on the conclusion of intergovernmental efforts for the voluntary repatriation of the thousands of the Borno citizens currently taking refuge in parts of Cameroon, after fleeing the BokoHaram and ISWAP, attacks in batches in the state over the last six years.
The meeting was said to have been held at the Federal ministry of Foreign Affairs in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory , FCT. A source told The Magazine that the Borno state governor’s meeting with Onyeama, the minister of Foreign Affairs was a follow up to the meeting with Hajia Sadiya Umar Farouk, the minister of Humanitarian Affairs , Disaster Management , Social Development, and top officials of the National Commission of Refuges, migrants and internally displaced persons, NCRMIDP as well as the United Nations High Commission of Refugees, UNHCR, and other relevant stakeholders in order to facilitate the repatriation of the Borno state citizens taking refuge in Cameroon and Chad refugee CCamps.
The meeting between Zulum, the Borno state governor, and the Foreign Affairs minister, was said to have been held behind closed doors. The duo were said to have discussed extensively the role of the ministry which has a mandate ‘’to facilitate the repatriation of the Borno refugees in Cameroon and Chad through Diplomatic channels, with hope to undertake it in this first month of January, 2021.
Given the importance attached to the meeting by the Borno state government, Bbaba Ahmed Joda, Nigeria Ambassador to the Asian country of China was said to have participated in the meeting in his capacity as a statesman from the north east state.
It would be recalled that the Borno state governor had also had a meeting with President Idris Derby of Chad to discus the repatriation of the thousands of Nigerians , particular, Borno Citizens, who are refugees in the country. Bukar Kolo, the country’s Ambassador in Chad , was said to have participated in the high-powered meeting at the Chadian Presidential Palace. The outcome of the meeting remain shrouded in secrecy.
Meanwhile, Zulum, the Borno stat governor, who is determined to re-settle the citizens who are refuges in Cameroon and Chad refuge camps, was said the approved the Construction of thousands of houses which are still ongoing in the deserted Communities. The governor is optimistic that housing projects would be completed soon. This may have informed why he has taken up the matter with Onyeama, the minister of Foreign Affairs to facilitate the repatriation of the refugees from the state who have been in these two African countries for the past six years that the insurgents took over their Communities, with little or resistance from the army.