Events unfolding in Nigeria in recent times have generated public debates about the future of our country.
Of utmost concern is the rising profile of violent crimes, religious and ethnic tension.
Economic and social activities have been paralyzed in most commercial cities thereby leaning credence to the concern that the state of federation is in near jeopardy.
The security challenges dominates every national discourse. The insurgency question has escalated high fear and mutual suspicion within the citizenry.
Worst still is the fact that the capacity of the Nigerian state to contend with the situation has been below human expectations.
It is argued by some Analysts and Public Commentators that the insurgency (Boko haram) originated from the North, their activities for the time been has been limited to mostly Northern states, therefore, it is a conspiracy of Northern political class to destabilize incumbent administration because they are out of power. On the other side, it is view by some as an agenda to Islamize Nigeria.
The latter School of thought is popular among some Christians while the former is a political theory of some power theoreticians. Either way the situation is assessed, Nigeria as a nation is in a precarious dilemma. The summary of these ugly developments might informed the clamour for consensus as means of addressing the national question. The choice of this topic is timely as we approach another election year in 2015.
Macmillan Dictionary defines, “youth as time of life between childhood and adulthood otherwise referred to maturity”. (Macmillan Dictionary for Students, Macmillan, Pan Ltd. (1981) Page 115). Definition of the specific age range that constitutes youth varies. An individual’s actual maturity may not correspond to his chronological age, as immature individuals could exist at all ages.
Around the world the term youth, adolescent, teenager, kid and young person are interchanged, often meaning the same thing and occasionally differentiated. According to Webster’s New World College Dictionary, “Youth generally refers to a time of life that is neither childhood nor adulthood, but rather somewhere in-between, youth also identifies a particular mindset of attitude, as in he is youthful”
The term youth is also related to being young. In his works on this topic, Robert Kennedy, (“Day of Affirmation”, University of Cape Town, South Africa, June 6, 1966”) stated thus, “this world demands the qualities of youth: not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of will, a quality of imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the life of ease” Youth is an alternative word to the scientifically-oriented adolescent and the common terms of teen and teenager. Another common title for youth is young person or young people.
The age in which a person is considered a youth and thus eligible for special treatment under the law and throughout society varies around the world. According to the United Nations General Assembly and the World Bank, “Youths are those persons between the ages of 15 and 24”. (Youth at the United Nations Website and Children and Youth World Bank website). The Commonwealth Youth Programme works with young people from ages of 15-29. The Alternative Homes for Youth Incorporated defined “Youth as an individual from 13 through 19 years of age”, while the World Health Organization conceived “Youth as any member of a society between the ages 15 and 34”.
In Nigeria there is no generally accepted definition of youth. The concept is conveniently manipulated in favour of prevailing social dynamics. The age of 18 is recognized by law for criminal liability and qualification for holding public responsibilities. The only attempt to define youth is contained in the National Youth Policy which defines youth as any person within the ages of 18 and 35. Even these provisions is observed more in breached, because majority of the officers in the National Youth Council of Nigeria are in their late 50’s and early 60’s.
Little wonder, the National Youth Leader of the ruling party was said to be over 60 years of age, a scenario that defeats the hope for the upcoming generations. The graduation with the definition of the concept youth by the older generation to the graves without recourse to future in my opinion is the major factor responsible for distrust that contributed to current instability. And unless and until genuine efforts are geared towards rebuilding confidence in the youths, distrust will domesticate conflict as values in our society.
The saying that “youths are leaders of tomorrow” must be practically guaranteed. There must be concrete policies to re-orientate the youths in preparation for higher responsibilities. Therefore, we need to develop a Youth Development Programme that must be sincerely implemented to regenerate hope in the youths as panacea to some of these challenges.
Religious beliefs often seek to identify and address the basic problem of human life, including the conflicts between, among and within persons and societies.
Christians believed Jesus of Nazareth to be the “Prince of peace, the Messiah Christ who established a Kingdom of Peace where persons, societies and all of creation are to be healed of evil. For persons to enter the Kingdom and experience peace, Christians believed that one must develop a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, who stated “Come to me, all you who labour and are burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for Iam meek and humble of heart, and you will find rest of your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light”.
While Islam means submission. The title “Muslim” etymologically directly related to Salaam and the name Islam means a person who submits to Allah in Salaam. The submission to Allah (the Arabic proper noun for “God”, One and only) is based on humility. An attitude of humility within one’s own self cannot be accomplished without total rejection of violence, and personal attitude and alignment toward peace.
These two dominant religions in Nigeria advocate peace and humility and de-emphasized violence. So how can we reconcile the current wave of socio religious and ethnic conflicts that characterized the polity where majority of the people profess these faiths? What can be responsible for the collapse of both moral and spiritual values to the extent that incessant killings of fellow human beings has displaced the humility and peace demanded by God?
Social Harmony in Nigeria.
Nigeria enjoyed considerable religious stability for sometimes until early Eighties when religious fundamentalism provoked social convulsions beginning with the Maitasine crisis in Kano, latter in Bulunkutu in the then Borno State and Yola in the then Gongola State. These was accompanied by Kafanchan crisis which later spread to Kaduna and Katsina in the then Kaduna State, etc. This doctrinal paradigms shift was not limited to any of the dominant faiths but evolved simultaneously from the late Sixties and erupted into violent conflict situations during the Second Republic with attendant consequences on peaceful co-existence and social harmony. What went wrong?
Many reasonings has been engaged by Scholars to re construct the shift in social harmony with culture of violence dominating the political landscape. Of great concern is the introduction of armed struggle as means of realizing set objectives. It has been contended that rising ideological differentiation within religious movements has heightened the traditions of intolerance between the heterogeneous nationalities in Nigeria. These ideological driven groups usually emerged as reformist movements but gradually metamorphosed into violent confrontation even within the same religion or the state. It is usually claimed that religious inspirations from Holy Scriptures is the motivational drive and so obedience to Almighty God becomes the creed. Anything to the contrary generates hostility that usually occasioned heated debates and ultimately violence.
No doubt, fanaticism as a variety of religious ideology has a fair contribution in escalating crisis however, it does not offer acceptable justification. It is more of defeatist theory intended to evade critical evaluation of the issues at stake. Granted fanatically driven ideology has impacted negatively on our national polity but something might have provoked it?
On the other-side of the debate are those who opined that ideological differentiation has been with us yet communities had enjoined peaceful co-existence. Therefore, the question of disharmony is outside religion but there are political forces that manipulate the religious environment to advance parochial interests. It is further submitted that the collapse of the political institution is a major factor for instigating ideological embers of discord considering the diminishing welfare conditions of majority of the populace. Early Greek political thinkers like Democritus, had laid the philosophical frame work of this type reasoning when he postulated “that since modern civilization has failed man, man should revert to the state of nature and cohabitate like the animal kingdom”. This extreme solution suggests that failure of political leadership can provoke serious frustration with severe socio-political consequences.
No wonder, the failure of leadership in Nigeria coupled with injustice perpetuated by the ruling class encouraged the evolution of arm carrying groups. From the Niger-delta militancy to Odua Peoples Congress, (OPC), notorious Bakasi boys, Movement for the survival of sovereign state of Biafra, (MOSSOB), endemic human carnages of Plateau, Taraba, Nasarawa and Kaduna States and the current rampage of Jamaatu Alih Sunnah lidah wati wal Jihad, otherwise known as boko haram are indices of leadership malignancy. At the centre of leadership collapse is brazen corruption with celebrated impunity. The display of ill gotten wealth by the ruling class definitely has frustrated the upcoming generations which now considered as mere subterfuge, the saying that the “youths are leaders of tomorrow”. If at the age of fifty in this country, yet one is not yet qualify to hold the position of National Youth Leader of a political party, then where lies the hope for a tomorrow ?
A careful review of the above socio-political theories while applying same, there do doubt that leadership over time abandoned early welfarist philosophy of nation building for ostentatious family empires. Indeed, this created both moral and institutional decay that bred frustrations and hatred amongst peoples.
Religion and ethnicity to my mind is a political strategy for keeping the people in perpetual division, while the crisis persist funds are looted from public treasuries in the name of security votes. The poor people I believed share a common destiny characterized by poverty, hunger, unemployment but they are often manipulated with religion as basis of intolerance. And as they continued with killings of one another, the ruling class with their families are either in Abuja, Egypt, Dubai, China or any part of Europe watching them on international channels with cups of coffee. What an irony?
Of course, if the crisis is religious as presented, permit me to ask, why has the casualties or victims been limited to only the poor? Why has the crisis remained within the settlements of the commoners or masses and has not affected any of the Government Reserved Areas or choice settlement areas? In any case, what is the religion of poverty or what is the tribe of hunger? It is my opinion that the day the poor people provide answers to these mind bucking questions then there will be enduring peace in Nigeria.
Sir Ahmadu Bello, Sarduana of Sokoto, the Premier of Northern Nigeria was a visionary leader who promoted ethnic and religious harmony amongst the people despite their diversities. He embraced all shed of opinions around him. Even as a Muslim, he took Audu Micheal Buba, a Christian to Saudi Arabia. To Sarduana, leadership is distinct from wealth accumulation, any person with crave for material accumulation has no business been in politics. This father figure with other contemporaries like Aminu Kano, J.S Tarka, Abubakar Tafawa Belewa, Kashim Ibrahim etc, though had their political and religious differences always considered the interest of the North and the unity of the country paramount which they defended to the latter. This explains the ideology of “one North, one people, one destiny”.
Where are the Sarduanas, Tarkas, Aminu Kano and the Tafawa Balewas of the North today?
Religious and Ethnic intolerance:
In Nigeria today, Christians and Muslims locked horns in human carnages claiming to be serving the will of Almighty God who created life. The manner these differences had contributed to social instability is beyond conception. I have as a person always questioned the rationale behind this line of human reasoning. The Holy Bible says “God created man in His own image and likeness” meaning that man is the image of God on earth. So if you kill another human being then you are destroying the image of God. More so that the Ten Commandments say “thou shall not kill”. Here the Scriptures does not provide justification for shedding innocent blood. So where do those who killed in the name of Christianity derive their authority?
Historically, there has been no any known conflict between Christianity and Islam. The two religions complimented the efforts of each other in times of external threats. It is on record that early Muslims were provided refuge by Christians. To be precise, at the formative stage of Islam during the jahaliyah period in the Arabian Peninsula of Mecca, Muslims were persecuted because they were considered threat to Meccan establishment.
In a reaction to persecution of his followers, Muhammad Bin Abdullah (Peace be upon Him) asked them to go to Abyssinia, which is today Ethiopia. He said there was a King, a Christian, but a man of justice. Of course, early Muslims were provided asylum for about ten years by King Negus of Abyssinia. He resisted diplomatic efforts to extradite them because according to King Negus, their religion and mine originated from the same source, because both believed in Jesus Christ as the Son of Mary.
In a letter of appreciation written to King Negus by Messenger of God, Mohammed, (Pub), he stated in categorical terms that there is no jihad against the Christians because they are alhubkitaab. He further instructed Muslims not to raise their hands against the Christians or their worship places. Why have Christians and Muslims of Northern States abandoned these injunctions? Are we today more pious than Jesus Christ and Prohet Mohammed? Certainly the answer is No, except that we are more corrupt than them.
Today religion has been politicized as an enterprise not for the service of Almighty God but for the projection of personal interest . Religion belongs to God, He alone chooses who to give, when to give and how to give, it is His exclusive prerogative.
The discrimination of certain ethnic nationalities as settlers in Nigeria has inflamed conflict dimensions. This phenomena entails denial of basic citizenship rights to populations considered non indigenous. The indigene-settler dichotomy even though unconstitutional is well entrenched in sub consciousness of leaders and the people.
Even though some ethnic nationalities might have stayed for so many decades hence melted into the social system of such communities, they are yet qualify to be citizens of those States. It has led to different clashes between different ethnic nationalities especially North Central Nigeria. The dangerous trend it has taken is the indoctrination of ethnic hatred as part of the social values in most of the affected areas. There is no doubt that the survival of our nation can be appreciated within the parameters of these negative tendencies.
Poverty, hunger and unemployment:
Socially, the essence of leadership is improving the welfare of members of the society. Significantly too, is protection of lives and properties of citizens, sustaining conducive environment which for stimulating wealth creation. Over time leadership role has been abandoned, consequently there has been increase in poverty, hunger and youth unemployment. These social vices has destroyed capacity building by impoverishing the citizens thereby exposing them to easy manipulation for violence.
Where the society is properly organized with citizens dutifully engaged in economic activities, then violence will be minimized to zero level, because citizens will be stake holders with vested interest in national development. On the contrary, where the citizens are alienated, as it is the case now, then poverty, hunger and unemployment will inflict excruciating trauma on the people reducing them to mere tools for use by those who possesses economic power, thus jeopardizing national cohesion.
Indeed, the current security challenges has linkage within the theory of political manipulation. People are so poor that what to eat as human beings are insurmountable hurdles. The situation is so terrible that some have resorted to the state of nature for survival. The consequences of this neglect has generated serious competition in human resource development, as a result all variants of violent behaviors have dominated social relationships. Minor gestures can provoke explosive reaction due to tension created by poverty, hunger or unemployment.
Therefore, it is imperative that in seeking solutions to some of these national challenges, we must recognize we have a heterogeneous social system. Secondly, sincere commitments must be employed towards combating poverty, hunger and unemployment. As a people with common destiny the need for patriotism as corner stone for fostering integration must be given priority. Conscious policies of understanding of the Nigerian social system must be develop as curriculum for all processes of socialization.
Patriotism as fuel for evolving national consciousness has been replaced by ethnic chauvinism pioneered by fanatical variant of religious bigotry. These negative values have been re-enforced by failed leadership in collaboration with parochial sentiments for ethnic nationalism. Nigeria will be better for it when human development will focus on building patriotic and selfless leadership fashioned around the philosophy of our founding fathers.
The search of durable harmony will remain mere lips service without viable economic foundations. Over depending on Oil resources as means of economic sustenance is counterproductive. There is the need for the political leadership to evolve an economic blue print that should invigorate other non oil producing sectors.
There was no oil when tin, ground, cotton and hides and skin was the main stay of the Nation’s economy and foreign reserve earner. The Northern States should reverse to this economic foundation as spring board to launch themselves among competing global economies and refrain from the oil dependency theory.
Having reviewed some of the challenges militating national development with particular reference to negative mobilization of the youths, it is further suggested here that the following measures is key to the attainment of integrated Nigeria:
Total commitments to building peace and social harmony.
Injustice any anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, there must be deliberate policy of evolving justice in all social systems. Discrimination of all forms must be discouraged. Inter marriages between the diverse peoples and cultures must be pursuit as a conscious social policy.
Poverty is at the centre of all human vices and must be challenge frontally with all the desire zeal.
The security challenges of the Northern States ranges from religious to ethnic strife, violent crimes, drug addiction, prostitution, looting, election rigging, etc. All these are crimes associated with lack of legitimate leadership.
Electoral processes over time have not credible and even beneficiaries of such processes do not even carry people along. Therefore, Governance has been converted into management of personal estates only for occupiers of political offices with family members, surrogates, committee of friends etc. With this style of leadership, peace will continue to elude us.
We must agree to live by the dictates of our faiths and remember that God will hold every soul accountable for stewardship on earth.
The traditional method of security which involves traditional institutions must be strengthen. Governments should invest more of the security votes on these methods against the background of current wastage on Joint Task Forces, Special Task Force and whatever form of Task Force that produce little or no results rather it has militarized the polity
The attitudes of public office holders must reflect selfless service. The people must be seen as tall stake holders in governance and not tools of domination by their own very people.
Corruption has destroyed the social fabric of our heritage, as a phenomenon it must be fought to its bearest minimum. Public officials must be held accountable for their actions.
God bless Nigeria and thank you All
Mal. Babangida Ruma