BEING THE OPENING SPEECH PRESENTED BY DR. ABUBAKAR BUKOLA SARAKI, IMMEDIATE PAST PRESIDENT OF THE NIGERIAN SENATE ON THE INAUGURAL SESSION OF THE ‘GROW NIGERIA CONVERSATION’ WITH THE THEME: ‘REVERSING THE FLOURISHING ECONOMY OF KIDNAPPING AND BANDITRY: IMMEDIATE AND LONG-TERM SOLUTIONS’
1. Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Let me welcome you to the maiden edition of this Grow Nigeria Conversation. This platform was conceived as a non-partisan, solution-driven, real time Dialogue series designed to bring pragmatic authenticity to the people’s concerns by engaging young people, experts, professionals and anyone with quality ideas in diagnosing the problems and offering workable and sustainable answers.
2. The Conversation emerged from my conclusion after discussing with a number of non-partisan friends, youths and professionals on the various problems confronting our country in recent times. From the engagements I had on the various problems, it became clear that key stakeholders, genuine patriots, concerned citizens and friends of Nigeria should not continue to indulge in lamentations and expressing frustrations about why the national system is not working or why the country continues to deteriorate and standard of living of the people progressively depreciates.
3. I have come to the conclusion that if we all continue to dwell on the problems and their daunting manifestations, then we will remain a part of the problem. The right attitude to this kind of situation, as far as I am concerned, is for us to discuss the solutions and push these solutions out there for current and future policy makers and implementors to access, assess and adopt them.
4. At the same time, while I was ruminating over this reality that all discussions should now focus on the solution, how we can get out of this hole and not so much on how we got into the hole, I also mulled over the fact that Nigeria is blessed with so many brilliant minds. People of different ages, expertise and backgrounds who are helping to find solutions to the problems existing in even more advanced countries.. They also reside across the length and breadth of the globe and continue to make positive differences in their various fields. There is however something missing in all these. How to bring those expertise, brilliance and experience together to devise and evolve pragmatic solutions to our various compelling problems.
5. As we all know from personal experience, be it at home or at work, the best ideas are often found in the process of discussion. When we interact with others in the like-minded pursuit of an objective. It was in light of that insight that today we announce the birth of what we have called the “Grow Nigeria Conversation”. It will take place regularly henceforth and each discussion, or ‘conversation’, will focus on one of those pressing issues. It will be supported in each instance by the output of The Africa Politiea Institute (TAPI), the think-tank I founded and tasked with researching solutions to the nation’s challenges. And it will centre on experts dialoguing on an issue, with hopefully many young people listening in and contributing. For it is my firm belief that the more we leaders foster national conversations on the problems and their solutions by engaging with the experts and ordinary people, particularly the youth, the more likely it is that we will found a path forward.
6. The maiden edition of this national and international conversation on finding solutions to the day-to-day problems confronting Nigerians is on the issue of kidnapping and banditry. The topic came out of a rigorous debate by our team in TAPI and the contributors from Adopt-a-Goal on the various issues confronting the country. It is believed that insecurity has today become the biggest challenge to the economic, social, cultural, political and spiritual development of our people. Thus, the organizers believe it is very relevant and necessary to kick off with this issue.
7. Before I give the floor over to our esteemed Moderators and distinguished participants in this notable maiden session of our conversation, allow me to share with you my own thoughts on the subject of today’s Conversation. That is ‘Reversing the Flourishing Economy of Kidnapping and Banditry: Immediate and Long-Term Solutions’. I do so in the hope that they will help stimulate what I am sure will be an exciting conversation.
8. Kidnapping is as we all know not new in Nigeria, but the current bout, which is essentially commercial in nature because it seems to focus entirely on kidnapping for ransom – seems at first sight to have spread all over the country. In the process it has severely exacerbated an existing insecurity challenge that has been sorely testing our security forces for some years now. The same is the case with banditry, which I would define as marauding armed robbers who lay villages to waste and leave destroyed livelihoods in their wake.
9. It bears stating here that kidnapping is not an uncommon global phenomenon. Other countries have in the course of their respective histories experienced similar problems. And Nigeria can and should definitely learn from such nations as have successfully combatted this form of banditry and insecurity. There is no need to reinvent the wheel in this regard. This is why my first contribution to today’s discussion is to ask the question: Why can’t Nigeria reach out to the countries which had experienced the same problem and they have successfully managed it so that we can learn from them what they did or stopped doing to solve or reduce the problem? I remember in the 70s and 80s, Pakistan used to experience cases of kidnapping. We can learn from their experience and how they dealt with the problem. Same with some countries in Latin America.
10. Again, it will be interesting if some of our experts or youths participating in this discussion, particularly the IT gurus among them, can tell us that in today’s world with the use of satellites and telecommunications, how it is possible that people are kidnapped and we are not able to locate where they are. Also, is it possible that the huge amount of money being paid as ransom cannot be traced? Or that we cannot put in place a strict monetary policy which deters people from having in their possession huge amount of cash?
11. I also believe that we need to address the challenge of human resource and deployment in our security architecture. I am sure the participants in today’s conversation will have numerous ideas in this respect.
12. Let me set my expectation: To our experts, assuming you are the National Security Adviser or consultant on security to the President of Nigeria, what will be your advice on how to tackle kidnapping and banditry? To our respected experts, what kind of help should Nigeria be seeking from the international community?
13. We also need to ask ourselves, what next after this session? We plan to ensure that the solutions that will arise from here will get to the policy formulators, implementers and the stakeholders. We will get the solutions to the National Assembly, the Presidency, relevant government agencies, the political parties, civil society groups and development partners. Definitely, we do not want this to be a mere talkshow in which the outcome ends in the air. We hope to take the ideas to those who will translate them to action and use them to tackle the problems.
14. However, I urge Nigerian youths to massively and actively participate in this conversation, without any inhibition. Our youths should come up with their ideas that will solve the problems under discussion. This is the age of the youths and their progressive ideas. The solution that we seek may sure be the ones they will proffer.
15. So, I might have spoken now for far longer than I initially intended and I hope I have provided some food for thought. I am sure, given the quality of our participants, this is going to be a very fruitful conversation. I thank you all for your participation and hope at the end of this session, we would have contributed to solving the serious security problems tormenting our polity. Allow me to now place you in the hands of our able moderator and organizers, Ariyo Atoye and Maryam Ahmed.
Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, CON
Immediate Past President of the Senate
April 9, 2021.