By Abraham Olatokunbo
Borno State Governor, Prof. Babagana Umara, has dragged his commissioner and top aides to the Boko Haram “enclave” in the northern part of the state for a retreat.
The northern part of the state is believed to be the new enclave of the insurgents who are said to be occupying Islands in the Lake Chad Basin.
A statement on Sunday from the spokesman to the governor, Mallam Isa Gusau, said the governor was currently chairing his administration’s first retreat “for commissioners, special advisers and some senior government officials like the secretary to the state government, head of service and chief of staff in Damasak, headquarters of Mobbar local government area in northern Borno.
He said the town has “remained a shadow of Itself since it was occupied by Boko Haram as a caliphate.”
Gusau recalled that: “Damasak, hitherto a major agricultural community in the fringes of the Lake Chad that is less than 10 kilometres away from Diffa in Niger Republic, was occupied and administered by Boko Haram from November, 2014 to 2016 before it was recovered by multinational forces.
“Damasak had come under repeated attacks including early this year. Thousands of citizens who live there mostly depend on food aids and skeletal businesses.”
Gusau said the governor told commissioners in the opening remarks on Saturday evening, that the choice of Damasak, was to bring top government officials “face to face with the realities” on ground and to remind them their appointments were not opportunities for luxury but for the serious task ahead of them.
Gusau quoted the governor to have told the top government functionaries that: “By tradition, retreats are held in the most serene and oftentimes, luxurious environments. However, holding retreats under serene atmosphere is reserved for those who live and operate under normal circumstances. Fellow members of the state executive council, I will like to remind us very strongly that our circumstances in Borno State are not normal. If we decide to hold our retreat in Maiduguri, Abuja or perhaps at Obudu Cattle ranch in Cross Rivers state, we may not totally be true to ourselves and sensitive to the plight of our people.
“The wisdom of convening this retreat in Damasak, headquarters of Mobbar local government area in the most troubled northern part of Borno State, is to bring all of us, face to face with the realities of our challenges in Borno. Driving from Maiduguri to this place, we have passed major towns like Gubio and Kareto which have become near ghosts of what they used to be. We have seen villages that are without human occupation. We have seen on the road, soldiers at different points, clearly indicating that all is not normal with Borno.”
He added that: “Damasak, where we are today, used to be one of Borno’s agro-economic centres. Damasak used to be a large scale producer and exporter of farm produce like tomatoes, pepper and other vegetables. Thousands of wealthy farmers and transporters, other fellow citizens have been killed, displaced to Niger Republic and forced to become beggars. We are here to remind ourselves that the oath of offices we differently took in May, June, August and September, 2019 is not for luxury. Borno has serious challenges and we have individually sworn with the Holy Qur’an and the Holy Bible to do whatever we can in trying to address the challenges facing Borno State.”
The governor also tasked the commissioners, advisers and other participants to see Damasak as an example that tells the realities of the 27 local government areas in the state.
He informed them that timelines were going to be created for the attainment of goals determined at the retreat.
Umara said: “At this retreat, ladies and gentlemen, we shall not only come up with ideas that are achievable but insha’Allah, we shall be setting for ourselves timelines within which we are to achieve every goal we aim. We are here to spend only few days in Damasak but there are thousands of our fellow brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers, who live here on permanent basis. We are here to feel their stay and to remind us of their needs for continued safety; their needs for shelter; their needs for medical care; their needs for water; their needs for schools; their needs for means of livelihoods.
“When we drove into this lodge, we saw hundreds of our young sons and daughters welcoming us happily. We saw wives, sisters, mothers and fathers joining them to welcome us. Whereas they all wore happy faces, we know that majority of them are in distress. We should therefore regard Damasak as an example of the realities facing all of our 27 local government areas, particularly those in northern Borno.”
Earlier, the secretary to the state government, Usman Jidda had told them the objectives of the retreat, while commending the governor for his ingenious choice of location.
He said the retreat was meant for top government officials to cross fertilize ideas towards better service delivery in line with the governor’s vision and approach to governance.
He said the retreat has many resource persons, who would discuss topics peculiar to the challenges facing the state and suggest ways to solving them.