The cavalcade of insecurities and maelstrom of emotions presently wrenching every corner of Northern Nigeria is frightfully execrable. The region has sunk steeply into the abyss of despair; from the bloody insurgency that barks and bites the North East, to kidnappings, banditry and freelance killings that scratch, pierce and is ruining the North West leaving behind scorching trail of rancor and sorrow of unimaginable proportion to millions in the region. Hardly a day passes by without these devilish forces, deadly without an iota of humanity unleashing wet eyes, gnashing of teeth and bursting hearts on their victims.
My heartfelt condolence to the people of Sokoto, Katsina, Kaduna and Zamfara states over the recent attacks that have claimed several lives and displaced thousands. Perhaps most tellingly, our worry has turned to fear and what we dread for our region is staring us in the face and if nothing is being done, we might be heading for a freefall because we have thrown caution to the wind for years. We did not get here in a day; it is the ripple effect of our collective actions or inactions over the years. I must commend the Nigerian military for their efforts at bringing an end to the spate of armed banditry, kidnappings, insurgency and other crimes across the country, but a lot still needs to be done especially in the areas of intelligence and swift response to attacks on villages by armed bandits.
Like many other regions of the world, we are faced with challenges, but right now nothing is more perturbing than the menace of banditry we find ourselves in. An army of hexed evil force are razing down the villages of the North West at a horrendous proportion, killing, abducting and raping women at almost free will, depriving the people of what they love the most; peace and agriculture. And if left unchecked, will trigger a looming food crisis in the country. Our security state is at its lowest ebb and at no other time have we been in this tenuous situation.
That there is a greater agenda or not to this insecurity is not the point; the pesky questions are; who are these bandits and what do they aim to achieve by retreating to the bushes and unleashing mayhem and trepidation destabilizing an entire region once seen as a model of peaceful coexistence? Is the region at war with itself? Is the sun about to set on Northern Nigeria as a result of our collective actions and inactions? Why do we find asinine conspiracy theories a source of consolation?
Further down the line of unfortunateness is that we have surrendered some of our major roads linking strategic cities and states to marauding bandits and kidnappers further crippling the already fragile economy of the region. We negotiate with these killers and kidnap kingpins parting with huge sums that could have been used to eradicate poverty amongst our people. Out went our unity and today, everything in the region is chromatographically squeezed through religious, ethnic or political tunnel with division and ethnic fissures becoming more pronounced.
The earthquake of security challenges in Northern Nigeria would not have been so seismic without bad leadership, which resulted in the region having the highest number of out of school children, maternal and neonatal mortality compared to any other region in the country, and also fast becoming the poverty capital of the world. Bad leadership allowed greed and materialism creep into our psyche so much that we mortgaged our resourcefulness and hardwork on the platter of free oil subversions from a far distant land and then fight dirty to retain power at the centre to preserve this crippling mindset. These have made the masses lose their talents, and with it jobs and means of livelihood escalating the already multidimensional poverty plaguing the people. Our leaders over the years have shown gross insouciance to the downtrodden amongst us and have displayed lack of innovation, imagination and creativity.
Nothing amplified the decline of leadership in the region than the failure to address the elephant in the room; the almajiri system which is arguably seen as the stream that waters the roots of insecurity challenges we are facing. Also, there is absolute lack of trust between the leaders and the people, which is mind boggling.
Education is undoubtedly the long term key to getting us out of this situation. Other state governments of the region need to take a leaf from the educational reforms of Kaduna and Kano states by declaring education up to senior secondary level not just free but compulsory for all. They need to invest more towards giving the masses qualitative education and also providing the enabling environment and opportunities for them to thrive. They must as a matter of urgency reform, incorporate or ban the almajiri system because given its present state, it is becoming untenable as it serves as breeding ground of children of fury and peeve.
The state governments of the region also need to do more to revive the comatose industries of the region and also work hard towards setting up more in order to address the Himalayan poverty levels in the region. Also, there is a need for more poverty alleviation programs, skill acquisition workshops and business start up support programs to cushion the unemployment and poverty levels in the region.
Youth empowerment and inclusiveness in governance will do a lot in addressing our challenges thereby creating more opportunities for the youth. Also, leadership training programs like the Kashim Ibrahim fellowship initiated by the Kaduna state governor, Malam Nasir Ahmad El-rufai is very vital as it is pertinent in our quest for the leaders of our dreams. One very important salient moral burden we must also address going forward is the poverty of ambition amongst our youth.
We must all unite at this exigent point in our history irrespective of political, religious or ethnic difference to collectively fight this ‘portmanteau of all evils’, only so shall we be successful. Taking advantage of federalism will go a long way towards addressing most of our challenges, our states need to look inward and be financially dependent even without the federal purse. Yes it is possible; after all, our founding fathers took similar advantage in the past of which we were arguably the biggest beneficiaries of minimal financial dependence on the central government back then.
Now that we are here, in this incongruous spot, we should attain anagnorisis and also learn a lesson for the future. Until we evolve leaders with creative thinking, wisdom, foresight, selflessness and integrity, we have very little chance of reversing our misadventure. We must choose leaders who are readers of not just books, but signs as well. Leaders that will prioritize education, industrialization, employment and unity. The warning signs are visible to the blind and audible to the deaf.
There is a popular saying that when you find water around your ankle, that’s the time to do something, not when it’s around your neck. For Northern Nigeria, my home every day, I know and I believe without a doubt…We will waltz through these challenges and rise.
Sani Abdulrazak is a writer and a technologist with Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, and can be reached via email at email@example.com