YARI BECOMES PATRON OF THE VIOLENCE-FREE NIGERIA INITIATIVE
The challenge of violence, being a concern of mainly a section of the country has gradually turned into a national nightmare that threatens everyone. Until recently, the dominant themes had been Militancy and the Boko Haram menace, but today, banditry, kidnapping, armed robbery, and the herdsmen crisis have risen to an all-time high that commands international mention.
While various factors have been cited as being responsible the common consensus has remained that the crisis would have been less volatile but for the involvement of too many youth who have continued to serve as ready arsenals in the hands of terror merchants. Efforts therefore to rid our nation of violence have long moved from being a sole concern of government as many more institutions and individuals have unwittingly joined in the campaign.
In 2016, the Road to a violence-free Nigeria campaign was launched by the NGO Youth Culture and Human Dignity Initiative first at Ile Ife, then later at the peace icons event which attracted thousands of youth at the Eko Hotels in Lagos, where His imperial majesty, Oba Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, the Ooni of Ife, and former Common Wealth Secretary General, Sir Emeka Anyaoku took centre stage to preach peace to the many youth in attendance.
The participation of this duo set the tone for the centrality of national and legendary figures in the Road to a violence-free Nigeria, and Cally Ikpe, the convener had therefore set his mind on Abdul’Aziz Abubakar Yari who was then the governor of Zamfara State
The many efforts to get his attention finally yielded as he first featured as guest on the programme, Talking Violence and thereafter accepted to become a patron of the initiative. Yari in his acceptance remark as patron noted that there is no engaging in something you are certain will come back to hurt you.
In his words:” This is the reality of violence and it makes no sense to apply it as a means to anything. I am bothered that many young people are lending themselves to this ugly phenomenon: …I am pleased therefore that the youth are being targeted with a programme that promotes the culture of nonviolence. I am Abdul’ Aziz Yari and I am indeed proud to be identified with the campaign for a violence-free Nigeria”.
The significance of Yari as patron stems from his direct experience with violence while he served as governor of Zamfara State and as Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum. It is common knowledge that Zamfara State has suffered severely in the hands of bandits who have slaughtered well more than 1000 people over a period of six years just as they burn down houses and halt economic activities intermittently.
Yari is stunned at the sophistication of the weaponry deployed by these bandits who are mostly youth with unimaginable guts. He believes much more ingenious measures are required to tackle the menace as military solution alone has not worked out just yet. On his part he had laid a pragmatic foundation based on a carrot and stick approach with caution as the watch word, being that too many civilian lives are on the line. While he has not ruled out the culpability of desperate politicians exploiting any and every situation to their advantage, he has continued to believe reorientation of mind-sets will work incredibly to check the spate of killings across the country. It is fundamental to him too that youth find no attraction to violence as an alternative to earning a living, a trend he believes is best anchored on empowering women. This is perhaps why he was bent on initiating a special empowerment programme for women at the twilight of his administration. According to him he sees more transparency in women than in men and would therefore readily trust them more with resources than their male counterparts. The possibility therefore that youth empowerment will spread is better anchored on women.
As to his continuing role at helping check the spate of violence, Dr. Yari believes it is incumbent on every responsible citizen, regardless of whether he or she is in position of authority or not. ‘I have therefore continued to engage with various stakeholders in my private capacity as part of efforts towards ridding our society of this scourge. I am particularly supportive of this cause (the violence-free Nigeria initiative) as part of my commitment to the peace process… Seriously, this initiative (Road to a violence-free Nigeria) is deserving of all the encouragement… I enjoin everyone to speak out against violence… we must never get tired of condemning violence in its entirety’.
Interestingly, the Abuja home of Abdul Aziz Yari has not ceased to be busy despite leaving office; instead, his residence has consistently played host to many serving and past governors, traditional rulers, leadership of the national assembly (Senate and the House of Representatives); something Yari ascribe to his disposition as a fence mender, bridge builder and enabler of visions. It is a tendency he believes is in tandem with national cohesion, prosperity and unity of Nigeria. While the Abdul Aziz Yari persona and phenomenon looms, it remains to be seen what major placement the political atmosphere holds for this political giant.