I am passionate aboutI am passionate about peace building and I have been engaged in
peace-building work for over six years now. My work is centered on weakening
the appeal of violent extremism through counter-radical peace education
programs in schools and villages of north-eastern Nigeria. I live in
north-eastern Nigeria, the hotbed of Boko Haram insurgency. Two of my family
members have been victims of a bomb blast during one of the several attacks,
my neighbor and his father were murdered in cold blood, and one of my friends
was kidnapped for almost 3 weeks until his father was able to pay a ransom of
10 million naira. These horrific incidences hardened and fueled in me the
thirst to stop this bloodshed.
However, my final decision to take action began on a bus in Maiduguri to
Potiskum road on 6th June 2010; when I had an encounter with suspected Boko
Haram terrorists. They came aboard, check ID cards, and then picked out
passengers. They tied the legs and hands of the captives and slit the throat
of four of them. When two women began to scream, they were shot in the legs.
Before they reach my seat, a sudden telephone spurred them to leave quickly.
They marched away with other selected passengers. I was the only male
passenger left unharmed on the bus! That harrowing experience redefined my
vision and inspired me to set up a volunteer-based youth-led organization,
“Youth Coalition Against Terrorism”, to unite youth against violent
extremism in north-eastern Nigeria.
ActionsMy significant contribution to create a positive change in my community is
the establishment of the Youth Coalition Against Terrorism (YOCAT) in August,
2010. YOCAT is a volunteer-based youth-led organization in northern Nigeria
working to unite youth against violent extremism in north-eastern Nigeria. It
is a coalition of over 600 students, teachers, development workers, and most
importantly, all dedicated young activists. The establishment of YOCAT is
very important. In less than six years of establishment, it has organized
many peace education programs in northern Nigeria to raise awareness that
terrorism is not a real part of our precious cultural and religious heritage.
Because most terror-groups recruits villagers, YOCAT volunteers visited many
villages to meet with their youth organizations to explain the negative
effects of terrorism and to offer skills training to unemployed youth,
counter-radical peace education for students, and counselling services to the
victims of terrorism, so that frustration and hopelessness would not force
them to join the terrorists.
Since we launched our Security Awareness Campaign in November, 2014;
recruitment of young villagers as terrorists has reduced significantly in
Nigeria. Many young people are now collaborating with security agencies to
defeat Boko Haram terrorists. As a result of which I have been recognized by
many institutions. Notably, I won the 2016 Queen's Young Leaders Award, I was
selected for the Generation Change Fellowship of the United States Institute
of Peace (USIP), and I received the 2018 JCI Ten Outstanding Young Persons of
the World Award. Importantly, my efforts earned me respect in my community.
Both young and elderly people, including some traditional rulers, are now
calling me “Shugaban Matasa” (meaning a “youth leader” in local Hausa