CONFLICTS IN NORTHERN NIGERIA (4): Govt should not expect anything better from the “almajiris” …
Akinlade, M. T. in this fourth edition of the discourse, stresses the need for investigative and objective journalism by the mass media to enable them to inform the populace on the exact demands of the insurgents
THE children neither go to school for Western education nor undergo vocational training for skill acquisition neither.
They also have no moral in any respect as they hardly internalize the Qur’anic instruction. The view of Bozimo that “perhaps we pray knowing nothing about religion other than name” is useful in analyzing “almajiri”.
These children of alms are always at the mercy of peer and amoral influence. As they grow into adulthood, they part ways with their Mallam and graduate to potential hoodlum ready to terrorise the community at any point in time. They neither have worth nor value for themselves nor others.
This practice is over two hundred and fifty years in the north, when African communalism was in place but Muslim peasants have refused to let go the practice following the collapse of communalism occasioned by European intrusion and eventual monetisation as well as capitalisation of the economy.
Government should not expect anything better from the “almajiris” other than what is in practice. One would have expected northern governors especially the Muslims among them to have outlawed this practice and integrate the victims of parental abuse to the society through completely free education with free meal as a source of attraction, while they also work with their guardians (Mallams). Rather than act, northern governors only lament.
Equally, government draft in military to the scene of conflict and usually, they suppress the violence. Although they also unleash maximum terror on innocent citizens but at least fragile peace is engendered. When little peace is experienced, rather than aggressively consolidate on the peace using the opportunities that such period provides to objectively address the worries of the parties, the Federal Government either declares state of emergency or set up judicial commission of enquiry whose report will neither be implemented nor made public. How do we explain that the killings in Borno, Benue, Jos, Nasarawa and other places have continued despite the reports of various commissions of enquiry?
Of interest is also the crisis involving the Fulani cattle-hearers. If Nigerian leaders are serious, are they not supposed to have made research into how cattle rearers get food for their cattle in other countries, without destroying farm land, so as to solve Fulani related crisis.
Media complicity: The Nigerian press have contributed a great deal to the development of the country. At the same time, they have consciously or unconsciously increased the tempo of conflicts in northern Nigeria. They have thrown fairness to all to the dust bin to the extent that, when there is an incident, one can accurately predict the sentiment that would follow the reportage.
It is doubtful whether unity and security of the country is prioritized in their reports. Hausas are of the view that, Nigerian press are biased against them as they play down violence against them and amplify their own aggression.
For instance, the mass murder of Huasas and the destruction of worshipers vehicles at a praying ground in Rukuba road at the celebration of end of Ramadan festival on August 29, 2011 in Jos by the indigenes was reported on Radio Nigeria 7.00am network news of August 30, 2011 as a clash between two rival youth groups in less than forty-seconds. The reverse has always been the case when Hausas unleash terror. The bad feeling generated by this type of disposition is of immeasurable proportion as it increases hatred among the people.
Also, the attempt to make people believe that every violent group is purely religious only makes volunteers to be much more interested and join such groups. For instance, the recent operations of Boko Haram suggest that, it has more members than in the past.
Even when a religious group that turns criminal lays claim to religious inclination, the media has a duty to refute such claim by inviting credible uncompromising and popular religious scholars to wipe off the air on the issue at stake. To that extent, they call a criminal group criminal. The editorial of The Nation (February 24, 2012) informed how Kabiru Sokoto reveals that they, Boko Haram rob banks.
Although, there is need to make people understand how such groups emerge but information must be properly dissected, so as to be devoid of ambiguity or lead to more hatred in the land. For instance, Nigerians of all religious persuasions find it difficult to know the exact demands of Boko Haram as they kill indiscriminately. In fact, Nigerian media portrays them as pursuing northern Muslim interest and agenda. Investigative and objective journalism must be taken seriously.
Indiscipline and incompetent security: Truly, our security agents especially the Police and Army officers are seen as embodiment of indiscipline, corruption and oppression by the populace.
The officers we see on our streets who incidentally relate with the citizens on daily basis are grossly incompetent both in reasoning and action. A large part of them lack respect for human dignity, which is clearly an evidence of ignorance. These people cannot elicit the much needed support and sympathy of the populace, which is surely a necessity for combating crimes and conflicts because they need tip off from residents.
RATHER than gain confidence and support of the people, they attract hatred. They have also been variously alleged of complications in some of the conflicts. For instance, in July 2009, it was estimated that, security forces killed 1,000 people in their fight against Boko Haram.
Children and handicapped were not spared (Punch, 24/02/2010). The case in Borno in 2011 where people were not also killed but where market were also destroyed as well as the killing of three people in Jos on 12th March, 2012 for protesting attack on Churches are examples.
4. Deceitful Political and Educated Elites: The most ruinous adventure in Nigeria is the one committed by our political and educated elite. They tribalise every issue in a bid to gain popularity and attract privileges they do not deserve.
Today, nobody is seen as a Nigerian but as Yoruba, Hausa, Igbo, Ijaw, Jukun, Tiv etc. the betrayal of loyalty is so enmeshed to the extent that, when an individual displays exemplary conduct, nobody talks about his tribe but every shortcoming is quickly attached to his/her tribe. In fact, people of every tribe are made to wrongly believe that other tribes are their problem, even during lectures especially in the humanities and social sciences.
The argument in this context is that our political and educated elites from the Hausa and northern minority groups are playing on the collective intelligence of the people. They make the masses hate themselves, while they enjoy and prevent them from collective action, thereby preparing the ground for eventual conflict. The diatribe called “Kaduna Mafia” is a case in view.
The level at which violent conflicts ravage northern Nigeria today is a manifestation of the fact that, all is not well with the country as all the three geo-political zones in the region are affected. Meanwhile, all hope is not lost on peaceful co-existence of northern residents irrespective of social, political and economic status and place of origin as well as tribe/region as they can forgive themselves and put their differences aside as Blacks and Whites did in South_Africa as well as Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda and Burundi did. Government has to take the lead in this process, if result is to be quickly achieved.
It is clear from the above that, the attainment of peace in northern Nigeria is a project that must be consciously and vigorously pursued. Meanwhile, the recipe for the various conflicts will certainly differ since their causes vary but certain salient factors are observable in all the conflicts which will make the following suggestions useful in a bid to ensure peace in the country. The suggestions are:
1. Restructuring of Nigerian federal arrangement must be given priority. The restructuring should entail the power to make laws that best suit the feelings of the various states, and state police, while the federal government continues to control the armed forces and federal capital territory police. We do not share the view of those opposed to the creation of state police.
It is our strong view that, the country is over-governed since she has 774 LG, 36 States and one Federal Government but with little impact and high burden on public resources. We therefore recommend the dissolution of the present local government councils and states, while the 108 senatorial districts with the exception of the one in FCT are made states with no local government councils. This will make government closer to the people and will also make better impact on the lives of the people. A comprehensive formula for the working of this arrangement would be worked out. In this sense, most communal or ethnic conflicts would be addressed.
2. Provision of employment opportunities cannot be forgotten in a hurry as joblessness provides army of experts in violence. To achieve this, agriculture, power supply and good roads must be given the right attention. Also, our present capitalist model educational system that only produce specialists in one area, which in turn fail to make best use of human potential must be addressed. Our educational system must emphasise doing (skill/practical) to the extent that, every graduates will be an expert in a theoretical field like political science, along a practical work such as tailoring. The idea must start from the primary and secondary schools.
3. “Almajiris” must be integrated into the civilised society. This is only when the north will know peace. This can be achieved through aggressive construction of modern boarding schools in all parts of the north. The schools must be completely free, free meal must be given and Mallam must also be co-opted into the system. The practice of “almajiri” must also be outlawed.
The schools, which will also provide skills for the adult wanderers will be operated jointly by the federal and state governments and once an almajiri comes in, he will be well treated and not allowed to depart the premises for at least four months.
This is to make him internalise value for self and others. The establishment of “almajiri” schools by the federal government is a welcome development but the schools must be in thousands, the less than five schools established will not make a difference, as there are about ten million “almajiris” at present.
4. The various reports of commissions of enquiry into certain conflicts should be reviewed and implemented with utmost objectivity.
5. The government and people of Nigeria must develop inquisitiveness, to the extent that organizations and government of other countries that issues statement about the state of affairs or predictions about the country are made to explain the indices or premise upon which their conclusions were made. For instance, United States of America issued a statement in 2010 predicting the disintegration of Nigeria before 2015. Rather than ask why such a conclusion was drawn, they were called prophets of doom. Also, we can’t completely rule out their influence in some of these conflicts.
Therefore, our security agents must also look in their direction.
6. The Nigerian educated elites and press must put the interest of the country first in their conduct while also taking fairness seriously. We expect our educated elites and the media to check excesses of the political elites, set agenda for the nation and objectively refute deceitful and unpatriotic claims.
7. The security operatives, police, armed forces and others must be well tutored on conflict prevention, management and peace keeping as well as civic rights. We believe as pointed out earlier that, the making of police a state affair will do the country a lot of good.