In the early 2000s, I used to sit beside my father listening to the news on Radio Deutsche Welle through his Kchibo Transistor radio every day. There seemed to be no entertaining news coming from the speakers except the news of war and carnage; genocide, terror, kidnapping and suicide bombing in the Middle East. I used to think of the news as a plague of other people. Distant. In my little farming village, I felt immune to the terror of these uprising and human crisis. Until recently, crime and terrorism, insecurity and violence were phenomenon we could only make sense of through foreign corners on dailies and in foreign climes. But with the turn of the first decade of the century, there has been a significant increase in insecurity, violence, insurgency and terrorism in Nigeria. It calls to mind Chinua Achebe’s (1983) argument in The Trouble With Nigeria, where he opinionated that for Nigeria to know where it’s going, or where her body is going to get dry in this atmosphere of uncertainty, she has to know when and where the rain started beating her. It is only right we begin to question our social responsibilities and security ethics, as well as principles guiding individual freedom and general wellbeing. But then, we will have to ask: Where did we go wrong, or what have we stopped doing correctly?
Since the transition to Civilian Rule in 1999, there has been a palpable hopelessness and poverty hovering over the country. Take Northern Nigeria and the South-South region for instance; there is a large pool of unemployed and poorly educated youths who are easily mobilised for violent causes and terrorism. The North has the most cases of poverty and the World Bank estimates based on General Household Survey (GHS 2016) estimated that 87% of all the poor people in Nigeria are in the North. Therefore, it isn’t coincidental that Northern Nigeria suffers drastic security challenges due to the gullible support of youth enrolment into terrorist activities that has been caused by economic deprivation. Suffice to say a gainfully employed body of youths will hardly be persuaded to criminal activities as opposed to an unemployed lot. For the record, Al-Shabaab was said to be successful in luring Somalian youths in the Diaspora because of the poverty they experienced in countries such as US and the UK. In fact, Adrian Davieson (2014) in his book Boko Haram and its Suicide Squad argues that less than 30% of the reasons why youths join terror groups had to do with religion. This indicates that governance is a collective effort, and so long as the government are working in the best interest of the masses, the masses will feel indebted to the government and thus will be patriotic, loyal and willing to assist in every way possible.
Creating a robust economy with equal socio-political and physical infrastructures for businesses and industrial development to impact all regions of Nigeria, will not only provide gainful employment for youths but make government visible in those regions. Marginalizing a section of Nigeria in areas of contract allocation, political appointments and healthcare facilitation will automatically induce a feeling of alienation, animosity, revolt and apathy towards the government.
Prior to Boko Haram, there was Maitatsine Fundamentalist sect from the North, Odua People’s Congress (OPC) in the West, Bakassi Boys and Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) in the East, Militants and Movement for the Emancipation of Niger-Delta (MEND) in the South. These groups tend to be founded on a unique ideology of deprivation and feeling of alienation. They gained membership and support by propagating narratives of fighting on behalf of the people with government as their stumbling block. They may succeed if there is leadership negligence. Thus; government’s response should include an economic plan aimed at producing productive economic engagement for the citizens as well as a balanced fiscal representation across the regions.
The recent farmer-herders clash causing insecurity around northern Nigeria is an avoidable mayhem that can be resolved if platforms for dialogue are developed and sustained. This is because we begin to ask ourselves, how did they exist before now? This clash started when the farmers started needing manures from herds and herdsmen needing forage to feed their herds. If government can invest on providing ranches for herders and fertilizers for farmers there will be no need for the mutual parasitism that will bring the former and latter together and thus sustainable peace can be achieved. If this isn’t resolved amicably, it will open up space for banditry, genocide, kidnapping and theft. It should also be noted that some of these clashes were said to have sprang between herders that sneaked through our porous borders and citizen farmers. If government can withhold its sovereignty and protect its citizenry from external invasion by securing its borders and keeping reliable and accountable data on its population, a lot will be achieved.
There is also a dire need to resettle Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and victims of insurgency, as well as institutionalise them into gainful economic programs and psychological rehabilitation as some are undergoing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). If a government neglects its displaced population, they are likely to become the new menace the country is bound to face.
On a final note, though the government have invested in security and is concerned with ensuring sustainable peace and development across the state, capable hands and advanced minds that are not affected by ethno-religious and political sentiments need to be employed to carry out the dictates of the government, as well as the provision of modern equipment and devices that will aid in combating crimes. If the basic needs of citizens are met, it will champion a counter-narrative that will undermine conservative and extremist ideologies by terrorists and insurgents. This will be implemental to guaranteeing peace, patriotism and development in the states and by extension, the country, Africa and the global community.