Sir Ahmadu Bello Foundation Memorial Leadership and Good Governance Lecture

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I am honoured and delighted to share this momentous occasion with you today; an event that honours the memory of a towering figure of our national history, the Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello. I wish to thank the organising committee for your kind invitation.

I also bring you all the warm greetings and good wishes of the President, President Muhammadu Buhari.

Let me also commend the guest speaker, His Royal Highness, the Honourable Justice Sidi Bage (Rtd.) for that informative, insightful, historical and contemporary review of law and policy on the role of Northern traditional institutions in the peace and security framework, and for his far-reaching proposals and suggestions. I must say that we are all expectantly waiting for the proposals that have gone to the National Assembly, the committee which he chaired prepared that proposal and we hope the National Assembly will approve for the purposes of constitutional amendments.

I must also commend the Sir Ahmadu Bello Foundation for sustaining this important platform for constant introspection and action on national development. And importantly, ensuring that we remember the inspiring and exemplary legacy of the great patriot and Statesman – Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto.

A legacy of unifying the peoples of the North around a common purpose, and the visionary pursuit of the actualisation of their individual and collective potential.

For me, and I know for many, it is impossible to imagine the multiple possibilities that Northern Nigeria represents for the country, and Africa at large, without the contributions of the Sardauna, as manifested in the institutions that laid the foundation for the region’s development.

From the illustrious Ahmadu Bello University to the Northern Nigerian Development Company, to his pioneering commitment to girl-child education that birthed the Queen Elizabeth School, Ilorin, in 1956. A school that produced outstanding Nigerian women across Nigeria, Hon. Fati Lami Abubakar, the former First Lady who went on to become the Chief Judge of Niger State; first female Engineer in the North, Engr. Yelwa Tella. Mrs Sarah Jubril, Nigeria’s first female presidential candidate. First Vice-Chancellor of the University of Abuja, Dr Gambo Laraba Abdullahi, first female Veterinary Doctor in West Africa, Dr. (Mrs) Fabunmi, she comes from Ogun State but attended the school.

Such extensive impact spanning every facet of human development and life lies at the core of the Sardauna’s enduring presence in our collective memory. That and the excellent personal attributes of the Sardauna that to this day, resonate in the minds of those privileged to have known him in person and those of us who are here and students of his life and work. His love for the talakkawa, his humility, punctuality, and generous disposition to all. His open and inclusive approach to governance, earned him the title of Gamji dan Kwarai. Sardauna was a man of peace and courage, and a believer and nurturer of traditional institutions.

Most of what we remember about him today is such an important lesson for those of us who hold public office or in any type of leadership position because he demonstrated that it is possible to lead with conscience, fairness and justice.

Our theme speaks to the revival of Northern Traditional Institutions as an urgently needed arbiter for peace and security.

The Emirate system of Northern Nigeria was a well-structured institution with a network of community leaders who helped sustain peace and security throughout their domains – the Galadimas, the Waziris, the Madawakis, the Sarkin Fadas, the Magajis, the family heads, the ward heads, the village heads and the district heads.

When conflicts arose, the revered traditional rulers, custodians of communal beliefs, values, and traditions, were at hand for conflict management and resolution. Beforehand, they worked tirelessly in the area of conflict prevention.

Their legitimacy was not necessarily dependent on the symbols of authority introduced by modernisation, they enjoyed respect and obedience of people and were held in high regard because they were responsible and responsive to the yearnings of their people. They were effective in governance, mainly, as a result of the multi-stakeholder approach that they apply to leadership.

In today’s world, the continued existence of these traditional institutions and communal sensibilities, side by side with the machinery of our modern democracy, gives us an advantage that we must invoke. The moral and legal frameworks of this entrenched structural duality allow us to be able to tackle problems, like insecurity, holistically.

There is a moral orbit of trust that traditional leaders, who live in closest proximity to the people possess that the law, in its strict sense, does not possess. It is this social consensus, secured at the community level, that makes our larger political consensus tenable.

The extensive influence within the existing Northern Traditional leadership is urgently needed today more than ever before.  The soul of the North, and of Nigeria by extension, is being contested by some of the most evil and destructive forces in contemporary history, and there are modern examples of the overwhelming human carnage that can result if we do not put-up tough collaborative resistance. We say collaborative resistance because we speak also of the resistance that must come from traditional institutions against these forces of evil.

Neither the glorious legacies of the past nor the future our children will inherit will be immune to the unchecked onslaught.

Mr. President has on numerous occasions reiterated the view that our peace and security architecture must recognise that traditional institutions are our first line of defence against the forces of anarchy.  This explains why the Federal Government has deepened its partnership with traditional institutions on several fronts.

Given their familiarity with the local environment, traditional institutions are integral to our nationwide programme of community policing and can deliver valuable intelligence to State authorities. In many communities, the military and law enforcement agencies are partnering with local age-grade groups, hunters, and various associations under the sanction of traditional leadership.

On its part, the government has remained resolute in the fight against terrorists and insurgents. Recent efforts have focused on deploying technology for surveillance, intelligence gathering and also attack.

We will also continue to encourage collaboration between the Federal Ministry of Justice, their State counterparts, and law enforcement, to ensure that those who have been apprehended for terrorism and violent crimes are effectively and speedily prosecuted. This is an existential fight for this nation we are determined to win. And we know that by the grace of God, all of these evil forces will be completely exterminated from this nation.

Traditional institutions have been a key part of the conception and execution of our Social Investment Programmes; School Feeding Programme, TraderMoni, MarketMoni. Our National Livestock Transformation Plan which addresses conflicts between farmers and herders – also in the implementation of the At-Risk Children Programme (ARC-P) – an initiative that addresses vulnerable children who lack social protection and basic formal education.

In the discussion on peace and security, it is important that we recognise the crisis of human insecurity inherent in having millions of out-of-school children condemned to a life of destitution roaming our streets, is one that is very dire and stark. This is why the partnership between the Government at the Federal and State level and traditional rulers is critical.

When traditional institutions throw their moral weight behind progressive causes, whether it is educating the girl-child and getting out-of-school children into schools or championing the conservation of our environment and combating the ravages of drug abuse, positive things happen.

These are all areas of concern for our administration and there is no doubt that we can prevail over these challenges if we work together. Policy and legislation are good ways to drive change but the impact of these methods is dramatically amplified when they are backed by the moral heft of the sentinels of tradition at the communal level.

The cross-migration and commingling of our people over decades and centuries mean that there are no longer any ethnically or religiously homogenous spaces in Nigeria. Our communities are diverse, they are host and home to people from all corners of our country. The composition of our communities places a burden on leadership to promote peaceful coexistence, mutuality and tolerance.

This task is as incumbent on traditional rulers in their domains as it is on elected leaders on all tiers of governance. Royal Fathers have to be fathers of all in word and in deed. Our collective vision must be of an environment of peace, where the right to aspire and self-actualise is supported, irrespective of religion, gender or cultural identity. There is no place for exclusion or nativism. This understanding is at the heart of the consensus upon which we will anchor a peaceful and prosperous country.

The Sardauna in his lifetime had grasped the imperatives that still face us today. As a Prince of Sokoto and a scion of the traditional institution, he embodied the nexus between the ancient and the modern. He was a traditionalist with strong farsighted modernising instincts who understood that the key to the future lay in blending ancient values with progressive truths.

As the Premier of the then Northern Region, he understood the necessity of inclusive governance in a plural environment. He was a servant leader, always on the ground amongst his people, a pragmatic unifier who stood for the principles he held dear while respecting the diverse views of others. We must rediscover the bridge-building roles of our forebears and speak up for the values that have held us together thus far. We have the moral responsibility of raising a standard for our young people. This includes speaking up consistently, for peace and justice and also listening patiently to their grievances.

Our traditional institutions possess emotional channels that penetrate far deeper than the most sophisticated surveillance equipment can. They hear what the government does not hear and see what the government does not see. They understand the language of the people’s frustrations and can provide valuable intelligence that de-escalates potential problems before they have a chance to spark.

We cannot afford to allow political expediencies to taint the sanctity of our traditional institutions. Reviving traditional institutions also requires that we build and rebuild the connecting tissues of trust between political leaders, traditional institutions, and the people.

There is an entire world out there calling out to the potential of the young men and women not just in the North, but all across Nigeria and we owe it to them to see that they have ample opportunity to take their place in this modern world.

We have a duty to remind them of the values that define us, of the virtues of work and faith, tolerance and brotherliness. We owe our young people a duty to prepare them for a competitive world through knowledge acquisition and moral development.

To your royal majesties here present, and across the North, I thank you for your contributions especially in tackling insecurity in the region and your enormous efforts at conflict resolution and peacebuilding in your respective domains. Your patriotic roles will not be forgotten, all that you have done and what you are still doing will not just be remembered by this administration or this group of people, but by generations to come.

Once again, I thank the Foundation for the very kind invitation to me and I thank you all for listening.