Mukhtar M. Shamwil is the leader of the Arewa Salvation Initiative (ASI) and a stakeholder in mining sector of the economy. The Kano State born activist spoke to Peoples Daily on the activities of the association, state of the nation and other sundry issues.
Can we meet you?
My name is Mukhtar Mujahid Shamwill. I represent Arewa Salvation Initiative and in Hausa we term ourselves as (AWYE Group) which means enlightenment. Our main objective is to enlighten the public on the current affairs and realities of the moment, the issues concerning the North and Nigeria in general, issues like corruption, injustice, insecurity and governance.
We started it a couple of months ago by organising ourselves, working on our members before we actually got a go ahead from government by obtaining the certificate. But we have got members from every part of the country excluding Gwoza, Kunduga and Bama and other territories under the firm grip of the insurgents.
But you said is restricted to the North for now?
Yes, 19 states of the North, excluding most parts of the North East which are under siege.
Why do you exclude those areas, don’t you think is an area you need to do a lot more?
Because it is a no go area for now, unfortunately due to the spate of violence that is present. In the North today, if we are not talking about Boko Haram, we are also talking about communal or clashes between farmers and herdsmen. We have ethno religious clashes in Wukari in Taraba State and Southern Zaria. All these are caused by government’s inability to protect lives and property.
The insurgency started in 2009 and it will make one to wonder if your action is not belated or a ploy to place yourselves within the political process. Why are you just coming now?
Well the political activities do matter a lot. Saying that we are doing it to take advantage of the political activities will not be quite fair on our part. Political activities matter a lot because this election is very important. It is our right to elect the best by voting the right person and making sure that our votes count. It will determine our future and the generation yet unborn. It is our belief that is not going to be like previous elections but an election that will change the fortunes of this country for good. The election must be done in the right way and that is the main reason we have embarked on awareness that will make people to know that you can still have a free and fair election in this country. Elections that will be devoid of violence that is the main reason we are making people to understand the difference between money politics and real politics. People should also know that it will be an exercise that will determine their future
and children’s future and help in reshaping the progress of the country as a whole. This is the main reason we must act more during this election time than we have done previously. The reason we have not worked all these years was because we had hope that government will put a stop to the insecurity situation. But rather than abating, it keeps on going up and if we don’t start to speak out now, I think we are doomed forever.
For instance, the kidnapping of Chibok girls was one of the reasons we have decided to do more this time around. We started acting right after the kidnap that was when we actually decided to do more on enlightenment. History has shown us that there are few hostage situations that can be resolved with political will. We have the 1972 Munich Olympic massacre where 11 Olympians were killed after the German Special Forces failed to rescue them upon an impressive showing by the Germans. The Entebbe Airport episode in Uganda in 1976 by Israeli special forces where about 102 hostages were taken, after which they recued all but three. These are situations were government really act. I mean that Nigeria government has all it takes to act. The truth of the matter is that instead of Nigerian government taking the fight to Boko Haram, the sect members are bringing the fight to us. Nigerian military has been able to do a lot in Africa why not in Nigeria now? JTF was
doing a very good work before they were dismantled for no reason. Nigerians deserve answers on why JTF was dismantled. Why is it getting worse now that elections are drawing nearer? People are beginning to speculate that may be government doesn’t want election to hold in 2015. Look at what happen in Kano not long ago were many people died in a bomb attack. It is so unnecessary; people don’t have to die for a government to continue. Individuals don’t break up countries circumstances do. This government has failed and we did not see any way out of this situation. The easiest way is to vote this government out by February.
What really informed the formation of this organisation?
One of the things that really led to the formation of this organisation was the kidnap of the Chibok girls and the controversy it generated. These girls are defenceless girls that cannot defend themselves in anyway. It is the height of wickedness, lawlessness and insecurity. They were kidnapped without a trace. Even if you steal 100 chickens, you cannot run a kilometre before you get caught. The worst part of it is that the government is reluctant not until voices were raised on the issue. With what these girls may be passing through, I doubt if their lives will ever be the same even if rescued.
Why did you restrict the operation of your association to the North given the fact there are also conflicts in the South?
There are conflicts in the south, but I can only do what I can given the fact that we are operating on a lean budget. If I have the capacity to extend to the other parts of the country, I will do that. We finance ourselves as group. Nobody has given us a dime to do this. It has been on self sponsorship, just donations from members. We are patriotic people; we try to communicate with people. We have organised lectures in many local governments. If we have the capacity to expand we will do so. The reason we are concentrating in the North for now is simply because of high level of insecurity in the region. We are going to use newspapers, radio stations and other means to reach a whole number of people. Our aim is to make a difference peacefully which is our main objective and by the special grace of God, we will be able to achieve something.
You just lined up a lot of activities you are trying to embark on, how do you intend to achieve this given your lean resources?
The good thing is that we are 14 foundation members; each and every one of us is distinguished in his own chosen profession. Like myself, I am a miner and by the grace of God I am doing well and other members are also doing well. Hopefully, I think we can be able to finance ourselves to a certain extent. But if we get donations from people, we will appreciate, but we are not after it at the moment. We are ok in our own way and God is helping us greatly.
From your opinion so far, you still don’t share the fact that Boko Haram is a religious war
I think Boko Haram was religious but was hijacked by some elements just for financial gain. If they are religious, why did they massacre over 300 people in Kano not long ago? 60 to 70 of people being displaced are Muslims, the same Boko Haram bombs churches, shrines and mosques. Christians, traditionalists, and Muslims are under attack which religion are they protecting? Unfortunately, it has become a money making venture. It has become a multi billion industry. But the question is who will protect me? It is the responsibility of Nigerian government to protect me. There are two types of crime, crime by commission and crime by omission. If the government of Goodluck Jonathan does not understand that allowing Boko Haram to ravage the North is crime by omission which is as bad as crime by commission, it is unfortunate.
Opinion moulders have linked insurgency to poverty, are you doing anything like empowerment to dissuade would be members from joining the sect?
We are not an empowerment organisation, so we don’t have such plans for now. What we are after is enlightenment. We enlighten people to tow a good part that will better their lot. It will make you to know your right and take any issue constructively against the government. It is not our job to provide jobs for people or sewing machine for people. Basically we are an enlightenment group that creates the awareness that will appeal to the mind of the people towards achieving a good and better society.
What are your fears as we approach election year?
My fears are just on the violence that is locking around the corner. People are angry, battered and wounded all over the country. There is wide spread poverty in the land and nothing has changed. So, let nobody think of rigging because Nigeria people will reject it this time around as they have suffered a lot.
Let’s go back to you field which is mining, why have we not developed our mining sector which if developed would have provided jobs for many?
The government is not really interested in developing the sector. They are not interested in developing any other sector because of oil. As long as we don’t expend our source of income we will continue to suffer. Mining is something that requires a lot of capital, time but very important because anything you think of comes from the ground. Nigeria has so much untapped resources which if tapped will place us better than most rich countries of this world. We have got the large concentration of tin in Jos which only local miners are benefitting from, gold in Niger and Zamfara States. We have got a lot of things, but unfortunately our government is not interested in anything that is not quick cash.