THE Northeast is thirsty for security, peace and tranquility. Without security, development and progress would be at standstill. Due to the dislocation of the social order, there is a prolonged nightmare in the geo-political zone.
Also, insurgency has made the Northeast poorer. The insecurity has also dented the image of the region. Cries of despondency fill the air. Yet, part of the solution to the worsening insecurity is at the doorstep of the stakeholders.
Although billions of naira have been spent on the anti-insurgency war, a lot still needs to be done. The soldiers are not relenting in their efforts to totally liberate the affected states. Many casualties have been recorded in terms of loss of lives and destruction of valuable property.
But, there is a gap to be filled. The human side of the war enterprise should also be explored. Some factors gave rise to the insurgency. Therefore, the challenge should be tackled right from its root to record the desired results.
When people are pushed to the wall by poverty and years of neglect, they may regress to criminal tendencies that disrupt public peace.
However, there is a ray of hope. Not all the states in the Northeast have been subdued by terror. Bauchi presents a contrasting picture of ambience. The questions are: why can’t Yobe, Borno, Adamawa, Gombe and Taraba draw strength from Bauchi, which has remained a haven of peace, in spite of the threats of insurgency in the zone?
What can other states in the troubled region learn from the Bauchi example, which is insulated from the pangs and pains of violence?
The mark of departure is the people’s will or resolve to defend peace and prevent the avoidable slide into chaos, tension and confusion.
The ambition to sustain the peace of Bauchi is the priority of the African Children’s Talent Discovery Foundation (ACTDF), the brainchild of Noah Dallaji, engineer, businessman and politician from Bauchi State. In recent times, he has been traversing the nooks and crannies of the state, urging the people to see security as a joint responsibility.
In his capacity as the president of the foundation, he is also a preacher of unity, cohesion and peace, not only at the state and regional level, but also at the national level. His targets are the youths, who he has been reaching out to, in a bid to rekindle their hope in a brighter future.
Dallaji has rightly dissected the challenges confronting the zone. He believes that the potentials of its huge population have not been creatively harnessed to fuel development. The people have suffered from long years of neglect. Part of the blame should be shared by their leading lights in government. Other factors may be their social practices, lack of birth control and benefits of social enlightenment. A greater number of youths are out of school. This category may be edged out by modern opportunities in the world of work, both in the public and private sectors.
Many youths roam the streets in search of an elusive means of livelihood. They lack access to succour and assurance of a brighter future. Children who have ignorantly been turned into almanjeri face a precarious future. Unless the problem is solved, it is a time bomb.
The activities of the Dallaji Foundation offer a lot of inspiration in the region’s frantic search for and security at this most challenging moment. To the foundation, the assumption that the entire Northeast has become a terrorist colony is a farce. Also, the feeling that security cannot be restored on time is both counterproductive and discouraging. According to the group, the states that are more or less core terror zones can be liberated through collective efforts.
For some years, he has used the initiative to build young talents, having discovered that idle hands are a devil’s workshop. Following a need analysis, he discovered that youths in the region could reach their full potential through education, vocational training and skill development. Through his collaboration with the ‘Sister State Initiative,’ City of Oakland, California, he has given scholarships to some young Nigerians to study in the United States. It is in appreciation of the belief that education is power. Apart from being the key to political consciousness, it may be the guarantor of economic opportunities. The beneficiaries are now the ambassadors of the foundation who have the responsibility to show the light and spread the message that change in the right direction is possible.
Dallaji has also led many artistes and celebrities to attend the United Nations functions in the United States and Brazil. Also, the philanthropist has adopted some athletes proposed to him by the Sports Ministry for sponsorship to the Olympics. He is also said to be working with the Armed Forces to organise the next West African Games.
But, last Sunday, the foundation gave attention to an unfinished business in the Northeast. It organised a Football Talent Hunt in Bauchi, working with some soccer legends, including Kanu Nwankwo, Celestine Babayaro, Tijani Babangida, Taribo West, J.J. Okocha and other soccer legends from some African countries. The goal was to discover and sponsor many talented youths, to either study abroad or develop their skills and talents so they can legitimately earn a living in sports.
The mentoring session was rewarding. It had some components of role modelling, motivation and behaviour modification. The soccer stars narrated the story of their meteoric rise from nothing to stardom, admonishing the youths to be focused, hardworking and goal-oriented. They also highlighted the challenges they encountered in the course of career development and how they overcame the hurdles.
Also, the youths were steered from social vices and attitudes of negative value and exposed to acceptable behaviours that could make society a happy place for all.
Instantly, the youths started perceiving their behaviour and vocational coaches as mentors and men of inspiration. They shared their fears and anxieties about choice of careers. They were exposed to strategies for problem solving.
Bauchi, the capital of Bauchi State, was aglow with festivities. Many were amazed at the sheer capacity of Dallaji, a young non-state actor, to host a huge population of ex-internationals and spectators inside the stadium, and in an atmosphere of tranquility, at a time the fear of Boko Haram has become the beginning of wisdom.
Some of the excited youths described the scenario as the making of a potential power broker in the Northeast.
The two-day empowerment, poverty alleviation and sporting activities organised by Dallaji, nearly obliterated the fear of insecurity in the Northeast. The state had been in a fix, but when he stormed the state capital with his message of peace and unity, the region came alive. Scores had been kidnapped in neighbor ing states before. But, the fear fizzled out as many travelled to Bauchi to savour the friendly soccer fiesta.
They momentarily erased from their memory the frightful terror attacks that had decimated the dispirited communities and the agony of displacement in the past.
The scenario of violence and brutality in the Northeast was confounding to the government. The Dallaji initiative that brought succour and reassurance was a big relief.
Dallaji’s efforts have complemented the peaceful atmosphere in Bauchi. The feat should be sustained. There is now a change of perception. Many believe that the government and other organisations can build on the creative youth engagement. Dallaji’s tools were philanthropy, and sports, which drew wild applause from soccer-loving old and young, who flocked the Bauchi Stadium for the match between old internationals and a local team.
The stadium was filled to the brim. Spectator moved about without let and hindrance. The event was not disrupted by unforeseen circumstances. There was no threat. There was no hitch. Commercial activities blossomed in the adjourning streets leading to the venue. Taxi drivers and commercial motorcyclists and tricyclists were in brisk business. So were many hawkers.
Spectators were in one accord as they were thrilled by their soccer idols. The event changed the narrative. The show organized by Dallaji’s ACTDF changed the impression that the Northeast is a no-go area due to insurgency.
The event was also a game changer for the Northeast, as it showcased its huge potentials for tourism and business through sports and entertainment. In part, it served as a proof that the security situation has improved tremendously in the zone.
Through the effort of a single, forward looking and public spirited man, there is renewed hope that the Northeast can breathe again
The successful hosting shows that freedom is priceless. It shows that a peaceful atmosphere is non-negotiable and that the nation cannot afford to be complacent in its search for total security.
The hosting of such an event also underscored the power of a determined individual to make a change through innovation. Dallaji should do a follow up, to ensure that the gains of the outing are preserved.
The Northeast should encourage other public spirited people to reach out to the youths in despair who cannot make ends meet under this dilapidated economy. It may end restiveness and halt the perception that the region has been permanently submerged by terrorists.
The state government has a role to play. Government expenditure and spending should be refocused. Productive activities should be encouraged. Northeast youths, like their counterparts across the country, need jobs. When meaningful opportunities are created for the advancement of individual youths through education and sustainable work, the youths will become productive, thereby contributing their quota to the society.
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