Kaduna State on November 2, 2020 came alive as security personnels were visible on virtually all the routes that led to the Sir Kashim Government House.
The motorcade of the northern governors and other dignitaries made their way to the government House for a crucial meeting. The meeting came less than two weeks after the Northern governors met at an extra ordinary meeting in Kaduna over insecurity occasioned by the #EndSARS protests.
The expanded meeting however had in attendance the 19 Northern state governors, the secretary to government of the federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, the chief of staff (COS), Prof Ibrahim Gambari and some members of the National Assembly, led by the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan.
Others in attendance include; the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu and the minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, amongst others.
The meeting was also a joint meeting with members of the Northern Traditional Rulers Council led by the Sultan of Sokoto, His Eminence, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar.
The meeting which held behind closed doors and lasted for hours left people curious of what its outcome would be considering the calibre of the personalities in attendance.
After a long deliberation the meeting ended and a communique was issued. Reading the resolution of the meeting, chairman of the Northern States Governors Forum, and Governor of Plateau State, Hon. Simon Bako Lalong said, the meeting noted the devastating effect of the uncontrolled social media in spreading fake news. They however called for major control mechanism and censorship of the social media practice in Nigeria.
According to communique further read, “After extensive deliberations the following resolutions were arrived at:- Appreciates the roles of Traditional rulers in containing the menace of EndSARS protests in the north. Collectively agreed that traditional rulers be given formal roles in the govemance architecture of the Country.
“The meeting rejects and condemns the subversive acțions of the Endsars protest. The superlative agitations and other change-regime actions outside the ballot Box soon take advantage of the peaceful protests to push for their seperative agenda. The meeting endorse the indivisibility, indissolubility and oneness of the Nation.
“The meeting took note of the devastating effect of the uncontrolled social media in spreading fake news. Therefore, calls for major control mechanism and censorship of the social media practice in Nigeria.“
Although it commended the Presidency and National Assembly over their action during the #ENDSARS protest, the meeting raised attention on the need to keep strict watch on the Federal Capital Territory to guide against unwarranted and destructives protests to safeguard critical assets of the nation.
It further pushed for amicable resolutions of ASUU strike to enable students resume their studies. The meeting resolved that there is the need for regular meetings of this nature.
They further called for engagement with other critical stakeholders such as Religious leaders, Business community, youths leaders etc. Accordingly, the meeting approved the setting up of two major engagement committees: (a) Committee on roles of traditional Rulers Membership: (i) Emir of Lafiya as Chairman; (i) Two Representative from the National Assembly; (ii) 1 Representative from each of the 3 zones; (iv) 1 from federal Executive Council.
There was also “Committee on Youth and Civil Societies; (i) Emir of Zazzau as Chairman; (i) 1 representative each from Geo Political Zones (ii) 1 each for the youth Geo political Zones; (v) 1 representative of Women / Girls; (vi) One each of Muslim and Christian Clerics; (vii) Persons living with disability; (viii) Business Community; (ix) Representative of the Inspector General of Police.”
The engagement Committees are to commence work immediately.
While the meeting appreciated the role of religious leaders, such as the Ulamas, JNI and CAN for their positive interventions in resolving the ENDSARS conflicts, it called for collective effort in addressing the lingering challenges of the North e.g. Almajiri system, insecurity, illiteracy, poverty, etc.
“The meeting expressed concern over the low level involvement of relevant of stakeholders in the implementation programmes of Government and calls on the relevant Agencies to review implementation strategies to make for maximum impact and benefits.
“Condemned attacks on persons and properties of especially persons living in other parts of the country. Also condemned attacks and burning of places of worship in some parts of the country in the name of Endsars protests,” it stated.
The outcome of the meeting attracted not so favorable. For Human Rights activist, Senator Shehu Sani the call for social media censorship is a misplaced priority in the face of growing insecurity in the North.
Senator Sani who took to his verified Twitter handle @shehusani said the governors should have been more bothered with insecurity ravaging the northern region rather than wasting time talking on social media censorship.
The former lawmaker who represented Kaduna Central Senatorial district in the 8th National Assembly said, “Governors; their Kinsmen are being slaughtered daily by Bandits & insurgents,their people are daily being Kidnapped & impoverished by ransom,their women raped & their villages are under siege.Their people live in Fear & Funerals.Yet,Social Media is their problem,” he queried.
The Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) had an intriguing perspective on the meeting.
The Coalition said its members and vast majority of the cultured northerners are disappointed that, such a meeting of northern governors and traditional leaders, elected representatives and top federal government officials find it more important to dwell on #EndSARS and social media, neglecting the more serious issues of security, youth restiveness, unemployment, poverty, dwindling fortunes of agriculture and general economic decline in the region.
The Coalition however, commended the efforts of the Forum’s Chairman, Governor Simon Bako Lalong for convening a meeting of such magnitude with the resolve of making it regular.
Spokesman of CNG, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, said “The CNG and indeed the vast majority of the cultured northerners are disappointed that such a meeting of northern governors and traditional leaders, elected representatives and top federal government officials from the North should find it more important to dwell on #EndSARS and social media and neglecting the more serious issues of security, youth restiveness, unemployment, poverty, dwindling fortunes of agriculture and general economic decline.
“We are disappointed that such a meeting should lack the courage to make clear pronouncements on the unprovoked attacks on northerners and their properties at a time when their southern counterparts are proposing claims of trillions of Naira in compensation for their people.
“We are disappointed that the meeting lacked the requisite statesmanship to define the northern position with regards to the falsified reports around the fictitious attacks on Lekki protesters that is causing the nation international worries.
“It is disappointing that the meeting felt to see as priority the need to send a delegation to ascertain the extent of damage and to console the affected northerners in the southern states.
“We are disappointed that the meeting did not have the presence of mind to discuss the necessity of compensating the innocent northerners who were unnecessarily attacked, assaulted, killed, displaced and deprived.
“While hoping the northern governors and other leaders would rethink the the apparent weak position adopted at the meeting and redeem their failure to articulate a more favourable northern position, the CNG wishes to express reservations regarding the two committees set up, their stated functions and the all important issue of implications.
“In the past, several committees have been variously charged with tasks of recommending the way forward for the region. But regrettably, a lot of the recommendations, viable though they may be, have characteristically been consigned to the dust bin of history.
“While hoping that it will be different, at least this time around, we also expect that genuinely patriotic and productive minds would be engaged for meaningful imput particularly for the Youth and Civil Society Committee which is expected to engage the youths with a view to addressing their pressing demands to put to rest their agitations,” CNG said.
While Senator Sani and the CNG expressed disappointment with the meeting outcome, others commentators took to their Twitter handles and other platforms to commend the outcome of the meeting.
On his part, immediate past secretary general of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) Mr Anthony Sani said while it may be true that the #ENDSARS protests might have been hijacked by vested interests in order to render the current regime unpopular, he is not sure the aim was to topple the regime.
“This is considering that the sponsors themselves know that we practice multiparty democracy which effect regime changes only through the ballot box.
“The #ENDSARS protests had five demands which were accepted by the regime and one of them-disbanding of SARS-was implemented. Then after some two or three days, two demands, to wit, good governance and restructuring were added to make seven demands.
“But restructuring of the country cannot take place undemocratically.
“More so that restructuring means different things for different people. That might explain why the meeting of Northern governors and traditional rulers suspect the protests were aimed at regime change.
“Since restructuring means different things to different people and given the fact of history that this country has undergone several restructuring-be it geopolitical, form of government and economic models-let political parties reflect their own version of restructuring in the party’s manifestos for the express purpose of seeking electoral mandate needed for executions.
“That is how multiparty democracy works.It is not for some unelected elite to seek to foist their preferences on the rest of the country undemocratically,” Sani said.
He however believes that something needs to be done about the use of social media in the country, in spite of its importance in for interactions on different levels over time and distance.
“But when people abuse it through fake news and hate speeches,they make it unserviceable to society and the individual participants.
“It is against this backdrop that there are calls against fake news and hate speeches that should be reined in through some form of regulations.This is because there is no system of community living, including families,that is without regulations.
“That is why owners of face book, Twitter and google have appeared in America’s congress severally to discuss how best fake news and hate speeches could be prevented or reduced significantly in order to promote core values of humanity for common good.
“That is also why I share the view that social media should be regulated provided sanctions for any infraction should not include capital punishment” he posited.
As the outcome of the meeting continues to reverberate within the polity, whether or not the issues raised – particularly the call for social media censorship – will become a reality is a function of time.