It is no longer news that Northern Nigeria has been ravaged and continues to be ravaged by terrorism and to a large extent, anarchy in many parts. The Boko Haram terrorist group has held the region hostage and caused a serious decline in economic activities preceded by the loss of lives and property. Cities such as Damaturu and Maiduguri have largely emptied, and any journey across the North is done with great caution.

But in the midst of all this crisis and
confusion, what has the North as a geopolitical entity and a society learnt from this? One thing I believe is that one should never waste a crisis; it is an excellent opportunity to reform. The question now remains: in what aspects should the North reform itself?

Economic Reforms: One of the many factors that have allowed the North to become a fertile ground for terrorism is the abject poverty that is in the region. Northern Nigeria holds the unenviable status of being among the poorest regions in the world. Unemployment is sky-high, incomes are very low, education rates are abysmal, and jobs are non-existent. The focus of governments in the region should be to create and implement programs that will bring economic relief to the region, especially in the long run. With the large amounts of fertile land across the region, agriculture should be the number one priority of governments. There is an urgent need to improve the agricultural productivity of the region not just for food self-sufficiency, but also as a form of economic empowerment.

Next to agriculture, education should be the high on the priority list. The North East and the North West have the lowest school enrolment rates in the country, at all levels of education. This very low education rate can be linked directly to the security situation in the region. Governments must start by increasing access to primary and secondary education and their quality too. Then and only then should the romance with establishing state universities start. Sadly, many a state government in the North still consider establishment of state universities to be more important than making sure every child has a minimum of quality secondary school education.

Political Reforms: One issue that the present crisis has laid out bare is how lopsided the Northern society is, especially with regards to equal opportunity for everyone. A society where the government openly favours one segment either in appointments, opportunities or even in the freedom to exercise their right to worship sends the message to the favoured segment that it is superior to the other(s). It is saddening that a federal university of over 20 years as the Bayero University, Kano is without a chapel for its Christian community; or that there has been no official land allocation to churches in Maiduguri since 1979, but that all church buildings are built on personal lands. It was Sheikh Usman Dan Fodio that said, “A nation can thrive on unbelief but never on injustice”. These words have never been truer.

Additionally, governments have to work with all stakeholders concerned to end the scourge of almajiranci. The presence of millions of kids on our streets, begging and scavenging for scraps of food is simply setting ourselves up for another security crisis in years to come. This is because it is kids like these that grow up to become frustrated young men, and can become fodder for use in the hands of people with evil intent. All hands must be on deck now to reform the almajiri system and take these kids off the streets and into homes: from governments to clerics to community leaders.

Response to Security Breaches: It is no secret that the Boko Haram terrorist group has financial backers, as the weapons and methods which they use are not cheap. Also, the North has always been a hotbed of religious crises and religiously-motivated security breaches. However, the government response to these crises has been very weak. Every religious crisis is blamed on ‘hoodlums’, even when these hoodlums obviously attacked only one religious faith. Panels of inquiry are set up, whose reports never see daylight. All is forgotten until the next crisis, and the cycle repeats itself. There is hardly any conviction for the carnage that accompanies these crises.

A friend working in an intelligence agency once told me that no crisis in Nigeria is spontaneous; every single one is premeditated, planned and sponsored. How come there has never been an arrest of these sponsors? Will it be too big a jump to speculate that the sponsors of the religious crises of old, having been emboldened by the fact that governments will never go after them, have gone a little bit further to sponsor wholesale terrorism?

Governments need to send out clear messages when religious crises occur. Start by calling a religious crisis a ‘religious crisis’, not on faceless hoodlums. There is no point hiding their heads in the sand when the reality is staring us in the face. Also, there should be conclusive investigations and inquiries into these crises; and not just should those involved in the actual destruction arrested and punished, but those who instigated, planned and sponsored them made to face the wrath of the law.

Socio-Cultural Reforms: Undoubtedly, Northern Nigeria has some of the most pious Muslims the world has ever known. Islam for Northerners is not just a faith; it has come to define every facet of life. Unfortunately,Islam in the North has become politicized, and used as a tool by politicians and their religious conspirators to gain and control power. One of the biggest tools employed in using the religion to exercise control is how adherents have been made to believe anything in the name of religion is not to be criticized or condemned. They have refused to allow candid debates in the aspects of religion, and some go as far as to view any criticism of a religious figure or sect as an attack on the religion.

However, there is something that the Northern Muslim society fails to comprehend: even though religion comes from God, it is always prone to misinterpretation by man. Every religious faith has extremists who misinterpret the teachings of the religion, or subvert it for their selfish aims. Christianity had the Crusades, and still has Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Revolutionary Army; Judaism has the Jewish Defense League; Buddhism has Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sang. The existence of these extremist groups doesn’t negate the original message of the faiths. Rather, they stand as evidence as to how divine messages can be twisted by men.

The Northern Muslim society would not stand as an exception to such situations; hence, whenever people come with new doctrines of the religion, it should be open to debate by Muslims. Unfortunately, when the Boko Haram came with its extreme views, it was opposed only in hushed tones. Even when they resorted to violence, it took the Northern Muslim society a long time to be able to clearly distance itself from the senselessness of the group. Inasmuch the group does not enjoy support in the majority, the silence of that majority came from the fact that it is not used to criticizing publicly matters that involve religion.

Additionally, the Northern society in general has slowly become divided based on religion. Cities such as Kaduna and Jos now have Muslim-only and Christian-only areas; whereas in other cities, some schools are predominantly Muslim or Christian. This has led to walls being built between the two religious faiths, which in turn encourage mutual distrust and suspicion. The presence of these walls and the lack of interaction between the two religions has made it easy for extremism to grow on both sides. Interacting with people of diverse religions and backgrounds enables to be more balanced in our views, as well as encourages not just tolerance but acceptance too. This is one area where the Northern society needs to work on: the need to build bridges across the religious divide in order to know about each other more and more.

My belief and hope is that one day, we shall put this present crisis behind us. However, we should not waste this golden opportunity to reform our society in every way imaginable.

May God help us all.


5 Comments on this post

  1. This I?????$ indeed wondereful but you and i know d?? even if the govt try all of d?? it wouldn’t work out because its only few people in the north are ready t? go t? school,even when the govt open schools in the north nobody gets t? go there,especially the muslims they ????????????? too lazy the only think of there religion,under employment I?????$ all over nigeria but youths in other parts of nigeria have not become terrorist because of d??.

    joyce adams / Reply
    • I don’t agree that Muslims are too lazy and only think of their religion. I believe it is a lack of opportunity that leads to their being idle, as governments and communities do not find ways to empower them

  2. I have been following your writing about Northern Nigeria. In as much as you try to be balanced in your writings, you are not even near it. True, you highlight so many issues about the North, the poverty and laziness of Northerners. But lines such as:

    ” A society where the government openly favours one segment either in appointments, opportunities or even in the freedom to exercise their right to worship sends the message to the favoured segment that it is superior to the other(s).” Where exactly are you talking about? Plateau State?

    “It is saddening that a federal university of over 20 years as the Bayero University, Kano is without a chapel for its Christian community; or that there has been no official land allocation to churches in Maiduguri since 1979, but that all church buildings are built on personal lands.” Oh, tell me how many Land allocations are there in S/East or S/South for Mosques since eternity. Check out the population of non-Muslims in Bayero, if they are much (SIGNIFICANT), they’ll have anything they need within the Campus. If there is a church elsewhere in kano, why not in the school campus?

    “It is no secret that the Boko Haram terrorist group has financial backers, as the weapons and methods which they use are not cheap.” We all know that these guys attacks police stations for weapons, snatch cars and bikes for their attacks. Since it’s no secret, why not tip the Security Agencies?

    ” Every religious crisis is blamed on ‘hoodlums’, even when these hoodlums obviously attacked only one religious faith.” Only one religious faith? Islam or Christianity? not even Oritsejafor will say this. But come on, in places like Kaduna, you may say the issue is 50-50, but in Jos, Plateau? who do you blame? Where Muslims are prohibited, denied access to Eid-Grounds and so on. Their markets destroyed, the businesses premises burnt and so on.

    Even before the crisis became the order of the day, places where Muslims are majority, Christians do live there peacefully. Muslims never enjoyed such privileges in Kaduna and Jos.

    “Unfortunately, when the Boko Haram came with its extreme views, it was opposed only in hushed tones. ” People of Maiduguri and Kano will tell you about the murder of Sheikh Ja’afar in far back 2007, he was killed for publicly opposing Boko Haram, even debating them on so many platforms, the government (both state and federal) till date is yet to do anything. Do you want another one to ‘just waste’ his life like that?

    So please, slow down and say things as they are or better still, shut up.

    @ZainBakr / Reply
    • @Zainbakr – lemme address your comments one after d other:
      1. When I said government openly favoring one religious population over the other, I was referring to every government in the North. You can add Plateau state if you want. However, I can speak more for the North-East because this is where I’ve lived my whole life. Born and bred in Borno state, schooled in Bauchi State
      2. Even if there are churches outside Bayero University, Kano, the Christian community is still entitled to one. After all, it is a government university. Hence, it is only equitable that if a mosque be built on govt property, it should be accompanied by a chapel, esp if there are Christians there, and vice versa. Otherwise, let none be built. I do not have facts of Muslims being denied land to build places of worship in the South East and South South. If you’ve these facts, please present it to me and I’ll talk about them. Nonetheless, even if discrimination against Muslims occurs in the South, it is no justification for discrimination against Christians in the North. Two wrongs never make a right.
      3. About tipping the security agencies, if I had rock-solid information as to the sponsors, of course, I will present it. However, I do not. But common sense should tell you that the price of buying and smuggling guns is not for the poor to engage in. It is money at work
      4. I do not even know why you are raging about the comments on hoodlums. I did not mention any religious faith in particular being the victim. I was speaking in general. For example, the 2001 Jos crises was similarly blamed on hoodlums. So also was the 2006 Maiduguri crisis of February 18th
      5. Yes, I still stand by the fact that the issue of Boko Haram was discussed in hushed tones until 2009 when the first crisis happened. After all, they weren’t even known by that name as at the time that Sheikh Ja’afar was murdered. Indeed, no one pointed a finger at BH till 2009, 2 years after the murder.
      Finally, I appreciate you for visiting my blog and the feedback.

    • Oh! And about me being ‘not balanced’, I wonder where you were when I was throwing my weight behind Islamic banking. I guess biased ppl do that a lot.

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