Paul Omokuvie, Bauchi
Brigadier General Ladan Yusuf (retired) is the Special Adviser to out-going Governor Mohammed Abubakar of Bauchi State since 2015. In this interview, the security expert opened up on the security measures taken by the outgoing All Progressives Congress (APC) administration in the state to tackle the high level of insecurity they met on assumption of office in 2015.
The retired army General however expressed regret that despite the genuine efforts of the out-going administration to stem the tide of insecurity, some people were politicising security issues, a development he said almost undermined the gains recorded. He therefore advised that the strategies that were used by the outgoing administration to achieve success should not be jettisoned, but should rather be sustained by all stakeholders particularly the in-coming Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) administration to maintain the peace in the state, adding that Bauchi belongs to all of them regardless of party affiliation.
Bauchi is widely acclaimed as one of the most peaceful states in the country in recent times. The 2019 general election in the state was also peaceful. How did you achieve all these?
Thank you very much. People used to say life is divided into three: where you are coming from, where you are and where you are heading to. So I look at security from that perspective. When we came in, people who are fair to the government, can say that almost every day between 2015, 2016 and part of 2017, almost every day, if you come from Toro in Toro local government and you are coming round to Bauchi, almost every day you see people running from the hinterland and they parked by the main road. Almost all the primary schools became homes to internally displaced persons. Bauchi and Toro local government areas bear the brunt. Also, Ningi and Ganjuwa also experienced similar situation. Almost every day you will see the IDPs coming in. The problem of kidnapping, the problem of cattle rustling had become common in Toro, Ningi and Ganjuwa for obvious reasons.
In Ningi there is the Lame Burra forest used as a safe haven for some of these Boko Haram people. They stayed in that area. Also the kidnapers and cattle rustlers use the place too. That was the situation when we came in 2015. We inherited it from the previous regime. That is not to say that the previous government had done nothing. No. In fact, we are using some of their programmes. So when we came in we called the attention of the governor, Mohammed Abubakar to the challenges. What he did was to give us a free hand to come up with a plan in order to eradicate this problem. In addition to the three local government areas, we do have similar problem in Alkaleri. In the northern part of the state, they also had their own peculiar problem of Boko Haram attacks because of their proximity to Yobe State. There were cases of raiding of banks and financial houses and attacking villages.
With the support of the governor, we met with the 20 councils in the state. After the meeting, we raised the feeling of love for your own community. The stakeholders went back, sat down and came up with their own plans. The state government bought some quantity of Hilux vehicles mounted with gadgets, especially communication, large quantity of motorcycles because most of the areas were not easily accessible. The security agencies were given financial and logistics to confront the situation headlong. We thank God, we made headway. We also solicited the support of the council of the Ulamas to pray for us and also participate actively, not only through prayers, but by giving information to the security agencies and where possible. In addition to the council of Ulama, the pastors through CAN, gave us 100 percent support, preaching and talking to their members in Bauchi and other parts of the state to cooperate with the law agencies. The traditional rulers also came in handy. This is the approach we adopted and it worked for us.
Talking about security threat, mining activities is said to be responsible for the security challenge in Zamfara State. Mining activities are also going on in Bauchi State. What are you doing to ensure it did not degenerate to the level Zamfara?
Thank you very much for this question. Honestly, immediately I heard the news on NTA network that mining has been suspended in Zamfara State because of the operation taking place, the governor called an executive meeting on his return from Abuja, and I raised that issue. Being military personnel, I asked myself questions of what would be the consequences to Bauchi State. There are many. These people may move to Bauchi State and when they come in what will happen? They will increase the number of miners in the state. During the meeting it was agreed that all the commissioners should go back to their communities because they are representing their local government. They should go and educate their people on the happening in Zamfara. We were so proactive. Go down and tell the people that any new face you see whether miner of what have you, the SSS, the military and the police as the case may have to look into it. Three days later the commissioner for Solid Mineral called a meeting to address the same issue with all the miners and I was in that meeting. It might interest you to know that here in Bauchi we don’t just allow miners to operate anyhow. It is an exclusive matter. It is the Federal Government that gives license for mining activities but here in Bauchi State what we did as part of the proactive measure, we passed a law that any miner that is given permission to come and mine in Bauchi State, must identify with the community. We also registered all the miners at the local level and produced identity cards for them. That is why the mining in Bauchi, is not 100 percent refined but it is under control.
That means if we arrest any miner without an identity card, he is an illegal miner. That is what we have done for now.
Despite your efforts, there are still pocket of cases of banditry among the youth which is a source of concern. What do you have to say about this menace?
It is well known to us why some of these youths are engaged in banditry. When we came in we met the issue on ground called theSarasuka. Almost every state has their peculiar challenges with such youths. In Gombe they are called Yan Kalare, in Kano they are called
Yan Daba. People should stop politicising some of these security issues. Any time I have the opportunity like this, I used to say please my brother politicians, please don’t ever politicise security. The Lame Burra issue which I talked about earlier, a then senator Politicised that issue. The governor travelled to China looking for investors. Incidentally the following day, it was reported that Boko Haram takes over Lame Burra. To be fair to the editor of the paper, he called me to seek my own side of the story. That this is the information they had and they were going to publish. I said ‘okay if you are going to publish merge it with what I am going to give you’ and I briefed him on the situation. So when the story was published, both sides came out and the people were convinced we were doing our best and the issue was just being politicised. This is the same thing with the issue of the Sarasuka.
Immediately after election, Sarasuka is back again but there is a government in place till May 29 and the governor has promised to deal with it before he leaves. But I was so disappointed recently when I listened to one programme on Albarka Radio when somebody came out and was lamenting that there was no security in Bauchi State, that Boko Haram was no more in Borno State, saying that was why Bauchi State is relatively peaceful. People use their own people to kill people and incite the young ones to attack people. That is unfortunate. Government has done something. Come and continue where the government stop. That is what they do in other countries but to come and say the government has not done anything as far as security is concerned, is unfair. We called a meeting of the community heads and the emir of Bauchi called personally recently and observed that the Sarasuka menace was increasing. I explained to him that in security there is a time lag because this government is preparing to handover and the governor intends to handover a peaceful state, within that time lag, anything can happen. Will the new regime be happy that we are handing over problem to them? They will not. We are all the same and we will not be happy to see that the state is not in peace. The incoming administration will not be happy too.
What is your advice to the stakeholders in the state to sustain the peace as your government prepares to leave the stage?
We had an election and the matter is in court. Whatever is the outcome of the case, Bauchi is Bauchi, whether new government or old government or whatever we are people of Bauchi. What I am saying to all of us citizens of Bauchi State is that we should come together because strategy is a mode of living together as a community is a mode of survival because every community is sensitive about the security of their community. So let us join hands together because you can’t survive without security. You might have billions but if there is no security you won’t have the peace to sit down to plan how to multiply the billions. So let us join hands to work for the security of the state to ensure that Bauchi State survives.