Skip to content

Justice for these widows

Widowed during the 2011 post-election crises and consequent reprisal attacks that swept through many northern Nigerian states

Widowed during the 2011 post-election crises and consequent reprisal attacks that swept through many northern Nigerian states

“No woman should lose her status, livelihood or property when her husband dies” – UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, 23/06/2014 #WidowsDay

The women captured in the picture above are all widows. Their husbands and a lot of their male children were brutally murdered during the 2011 post-electoral violence and reprisal attacks that swept through many states in Northern Nigeria. With the murders of their loved ones, they not only lost status, livelihood or property; they are also being denied justice.

They fled Zonkwa in Southern Kaduna to escape further persecution, and had to be temporarily (near 3 years) sheltered in unpleasant conditions at the Hajj Camp in Mando, Kaduna. During their stay in the camp, they relied heavily on handouts from goodhearted Nigerians, NGOs, and pittances that their children earned from hawking sugarcane, steamed groundnuts and other sundry goods for sustenance.

My team and I supported the widows (and the entire camp of internally displaced persons (IDPs) entailing men stripped of their livelihoods and dignity, children, orphans and the aged) with donations of food, books, and secondhand clothes. We also resettled 5 families of 20 people with financial support for accommodation, children’s education, feeding, and capital to start a petty-trade. Most importantly, we hired 3 teachers to temporarily tutor about 150 children at the time of their stay in the shelter.

The Kaduna State government, after nearly 3 years, resettled all members of the camp in February 2014 with cash assistance of N60, 000 to husbands, N55, 000 to wives and children above 18.

Similar to women whose husbands are still living and children above 18, widows were resettled and expected to start new lives with the sum of N55, 000. No consideration was given to the apparent lack of spousal support (emotional and material), number of mouths to feed, or children’s school fees. Also, lack of a government-instituted, foolproof safety net system, or a fallback plan makes the situation uglier for these and other vulnerable widows in the country.

Equally important, justice still eludes not only the widows, but also the entire team of former IDPs from Zonkwa. They have not been compensated for the general losses they suffered in terms of lives of loved ones, possessions, livelihoods etc. Likewise, no prosecutions have commenced despite the fact that various commissions of inquiry and committees (state and federal) recommended that in their respective reports and/or whitepapers — and a report compiled by the victims themselves is reportedly said to have identified some perpetrators of the post-electoral crimes in Zonkwa by their names, photos, and photo evidence of some of the carnage at the time of perpetration.

Keeping this issue on the front burner is paramount as that’s the only way these widows and the victims of the 2011 post-electoral violence from Zonkwa will get justice. It will also help in stemming the cycle of sectarian violence within our shores — and signify a break from our illogical culture of treating reports generated from committees that we painstakingly and extravagantly setup with indifference.

Fortunately though, some NGOs are still pursuing the Kaduna state government to implement recommendations from the report that was generated through the committee that the state government setup after the crises. If that effort is not sustained, the report and all that it entails will be cooling its heels in somebody’s bottom locker.

Let’s also not forget to call for inter-government (state and federal) collaboration and action on the head-splitting matter of the Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast that’s producing multitudes of widows, orphans, IDPs and refugees at unprecedented speed/levels; and which is also determined to keep children, especially girls, out of school by means of kidnappings and other forms of unthinkable brutality. We have failed the widows and orphans of the insurgency.

In the interim though, my team and I are in touch with 5 resettled widows of the 2011 post-electoral violence to ensure that they’re coping well in rebuilding their lives, and adequately taking care of their children — sometimes they’re happy just to hear from us. That’s all we can do for now, plus, of course, remind the Kaduna state government that its duty doesn’t end by simply doling out N55, 000 resettlement money to individuals that lost husbands, sons, other loved ones, properties, livelihoods and emotional stability: they need justice, and a stronger safety net.

This piece is in honour of the International Widows’ Day,  23/06/2014

Advertisements

Education: Between Rigasa Schools and the Kaduna State Government

In the first quarter of 2013, I surveyed and collected data across 7 public primary schools in Rigasa, a densely populated ward under Igabi LGA in Kaduna State with the objectives of: generating a report capable of guiding policy formulation and implementation for the rehabilitation of education facilities/infrastructure and raising standard of education within the Rigasa community; aiding evidence-based and targeted intervention for corporates, government, NGOs and concerned individuals.  The long-term purpose of the survey is to help in creating a strategic synergy between education and community development through boosting literacy, which should consciously serve as foundation for improving socioeconomic prosperity, creating political and rights awareness, and advancement in technology and innovation – in order to ultimately rid the Rigasa community of entrenched crime, inter-generational poverty, violence through dysfunctional youth behaviour, etc.

Based on data collected, and interaction with staff, students, community leaders and elders, and members of PTA of all 7 schools; it is evident that while enthusiasm and demand for quality education are high, supply is grossly inadequate.  It is also clear that public primary school education in the community, as it is largely in Nigeria, is under-funded, neglected and characterized by infrastructural decay, shortage of classrooms and toilet facilities, lack of instructional materials, absence of ICT-aided teaching/learning, and most importantly, inadequate teachers and teaching capacity.

For instance, as at time of surveying the community education system and facilities, the schools collectively had 14, 583 pupils, 63 classrooms, 33 toilet facilities, 225 academic and non-academic staff, largely no furniture, and not a single computer; while needing addition of at least 95 teaching staff, 225 classrooms, 60 toilet facilities, drinking water, and libraries, or a central library system. One of the schools, UBE Abuja Rd Primary School Rigasa, had 2,500 students, 20 teachers, 6 classrooms, no toilet facility and no access to drinking water. Furthermore, student-to-classroom ratio at the school is 400:1, and student-to-teacher ratio is equally appalling at 125:1 (due to this pressure, the school operates in shifts).

Following that, I organised the data into a report and submitted it to offices of those directly responsible for education in the state i.e., the Kaduna State Ministry of Education (MoE), and State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB). Since then, I have met formally with all levels of staff at the MoE and SUBEB including an Assistant Deputy Director, a Deputy Director, a Director, the Executive Chairman of SUBEB and the Commissioner of Education (yes, the civil service is unhealthily bloated).

I have also taken up the opportunity to speak with State and National Assembly members representing Igabi LGA at non-formal occasions — all of that in a bid to urge them to fulfill their respective duties on education, some of which are captured as recommendations in the report consisting of: constant and high-level capacity building for teachers; providing more, but qualified teaching staff; setting up a central library and ICT center to serve the schools and the entire community; bringing back social and extra-curricular activities; providing clean drinking water, textbooks and other teaching/learning resources; building additional classrooms on the relatively standard ratio of 1:40; and increasing toilet facilities, etc.

Other recommendations I verbally stressed to the officials are the need to set up a database that captures data of girls in all 7 schools in order to track their respective progress and guide them to transition to secondary schools – as that’s the first and best form of affirmative action capable of bridging existing literacy, opportunity, and achievement gaps between girls and boys, and women and men. Also — and with due consideration for economic and population disparities between states — the need for Kaduna State Government (KDSG) to replicate and adopt best practices from states like Rivers (reportedly built 500 model primary schools, each with 20 classrooms, ICT facility, and employed 30,000 teachers) and Osun (put opon imo, digital educational tablets, in the hands of secondary school students, which is also saving the state N8.4 billion annually on textbooks); reason being, a child in Osun that is provided with all the resources required to excel  academically has a better shot at success against a child in a random school in Rigasa, Kaduna, whose school has not even been provided with chalk, not to speak of personal textbooks. (Comparatively, situations/policies like these are capable of leading to intra/inter-regional socioeconomic disparity which may be beyond the corrective capacity of affirmative action).

Let’s just say that one-year on, and I am still following up. I have emerged from many meetings jaded, armed with vague promises, requests to come back for further meetings, or referred to other offices; but without a strong or concrete commitment from the 2 state agencies (so, what to do?). What is clear is that, a lot won’t get done in terms of fixing education, or anything at all, if enough people do not demand it because those in government capitalize and literally feed off our collective apathy. Also, policy (and the constitution) largely favours and intensifies lack of accountability in basic education.

For instance (and pardon the digression, but it is relevant to explore basic education in broader policy context), a recent article in Leadership reported that 31 (minus Kaduna) out of 36 Nigerian states refused to access N48 billion of the Universal Basic Education (UBE) intervention fund by not paying the requisite counterpart funding and fulfilling other conditions. Sadly, that did not generate demands for accountability across many states; neither did it give reason for the public to seek a more stringent review of the UBE Act that would tackle fundamental, problematic and obvious, but rarely confronted issues that compromise children’s right to free basic education.

Consequently, we need a reviewed and strengthened UBE Act to make it: (1) incumbent, not optional, upon states to access and judiciously utilise the basic education intervention fund; (2) otherwise, we should explore possibility of engaging alternative administrators for same (especially in the case of defaulting states). This might require us to do some tinkering with the constitution, but so be it, since we’re in crisis mode where (basic) education is concerned; (3) considering that state executives are shielded from legal liability  while in office due to the much-abused immunity clause, failure to access and/or judiciously utilise UBE funds should be made explicitly impeachable, i.e., unless if states have (and do utilise) alternative sources of funding; (4) SUBEBs across the country should be directed to respectively setup content-rich websites where information on basic education visioning, projects and spending can be accessed with the click of a mouse;  and (5), Houses of Assembly need to adapt/localise the UBE Act (and the Child Rights Act), and define terms of operation for their respective states. They also need to intensify oversight functions on basic education.

Also, we need to clear the convenient ambiguity surrounding ownership and administration of basic education at the sub-national level. It does not make sense to keep saying that administration of basic education is, constitutionally, the responsibility of local governments, when they (LGs) lack autonomy, access to funds and the expertise to execute those duties. If state governors want to control education funds, they have to satisfactorily perform the duties that come with the funds — besides nothing stops the effort from being harmoniously collaborative, or as partly stated earlier, administration of basic education should be done in a PPP-capacity with the private sector playing the dominant role.

Having said that, Kaduna is 1 of 5 states that did not default in paying the counterpart funding requisite for accessing the FG’s matching grant. A search through the UBEC website reveals that in 2013, the sum of N1, 030, 797, 297.30 was allocated to the state – and by inference from the terms of the grant, the sum likely doubled. Also, according to a report/list cited in SUBEB News: A Publication of the Kaduna State Universal Basic Education Board (VOL.5 NO 1 JAN 2014), KDSG in 2013 spent a total sum of 1,626,098,787.58 (I’m sure there’s a logical explanation for the disparity between the figures) on 157 rehabilitation and expansion projects in 23 LGEAS. Sadly, none of the 7 schools I advocated for made the list of 157 interventions.

A sampling of the 157 projects — which seem rather ad-hoc and lacking in synergy — and their respective costs leaves a not so sweet taste in the mouth.  For instance, a block of 4 classrooms with 2 ‘VIP’ cubicle toilets in UBE Ungwan Angah, Jema’a LGEA, cost 9,976,410.15; construction of a 4-classroom block in Akpon, Sanga LGEA set KDSG back a whopping 9,103,883.25, while a 3-classroom block in UBE Kuyer, Kagarko, was contracted for 7,063,827.75. In tandem with our apathy, I have so far not seen/heard any counterclaims or independent audits seeking to verify, praise, disprove or even challenge the 2013 intervention. We can therefore assume that in the case of improving education for the year 2013, Kaduna State excelled.

Personally though, I had hoped to read of projects conveying some sense of careful and strategic planning — something like what Osun and Rivers states are doing; projects seeking to leverage education as the tool for development and correction of social ills and imbalances; projects suggesting that handlers of education understand that dire social consequences go with bad spending of even a kobo budgeted for education, and vice versa. Really, that list should have contained projects that would show, at a glance, that we are consciously grooming the labour force, leaders and conscience of the future.

A few short examples of such projects, especially for a place like Kaduna that is fraught with mutual suspicions and intolerance  could have been and still could be:

(1) Determining how best to use public schools to patch the sectarian rift that has engulfed and divided the state — Rigasa and Sabon Tasha are reportedly segregated along Muslim and Christian lines. Maybe creating social, but non-competitive interaction between schools from both communities could help in bringing the people back together?

(2) Another project, albeit a bit audacious, could entail taking an entire community and meeting a lot of its educational needs ranging from enrolment, to dropout, to improving facilities and providing teaching/learning resources and training for its teachers. Wouldn’t that beat a disjointed strategy of putting a block of 3 classrooms somewhere and neglecting the fact that children in same schools don’t have textbooks and enough competent teachers, or that possibly, half of children within that community are out of school — how else can we have massive infusion of education across communities?

And (3), if for instance we set up a central ICT education resource center that would give children access to materials contained in an improved Nigerian curriculum, audio-visual tutorials, extra-curricula subjects, past questions and other practical exercises; wouldn’t that aid learning, encourage reading, help to partly eliminate issues of teacher incompetence, generally broaden access to education within  communities,  and even save the state some money in the long run?

Sadly, that didn’t happen in 2013 (maybe we could push for it in 2014?), but at least some schools got touched-up with a fresh coat of paint – literally, at the cost of our children’s future. As for Rigasa schools, we should find out how selection of schools that benefit from government intervention are made, and concentrate on getting 2 or 3 of my Rigasa primary schools on the list of projects for 2014. I’m actually counting on the Kaduna state government to, with or without prompting, launch a far-reaching intervention in Rigasa community education, as that will serve as much-needed catalyst for development. In the interim, members of the community, including yours truly, have come together and are doing all they can to save Rigasa schools — more to come on that.

Internally Displaced Children Get One Year Free Education

Since I started working with this group of Internally Displaced Persons (victims of 2011 post electoral crisis currently taking refuge in Hajj Camp, Mando Kaduna State), setting up school that will help provide education — at least basic literacy and numeracy skills — for the children had been one of my primary goals. I always said to their parents and anyone who cared to listen that ‘while the children are faced with the hardship of displacement, they should not have to deal with the added burden of illiteracy and its consequences’. Besides, providing ‘temporary’ education would ensure that if perchance the IDPs are resettled with their children formally enrolled in schools, the children would not have to struggle too much to catchup in their respective classes.

With that in mind, and after a lengthy chat with parents, we collaboratively embarked on a search for (and recruited 3) ‘qualified’ teachers and a suitable venue in the camp to set up our makeshift school. We also raised some funds (enabled by Facebook) to buy instructional materials, make blackboards and dusters etc.

Shortly after contracts had been drawn up and signed and lessons had commenced; reality set in for me. I began to fret about where the money to pay the teachers and sustain our school would come from.  (N21,000 every month for a nonprofit like mine is not small change). I then decided to do what I like to do in such situations; I began to write letters inviting individuals, corporate organisations, NGOs etc., to fund a yearlong payment of salaries and school-related expenses for 3 teachers, then followed up with phone calls and email reminders.  

It was after I had managed to pay the second round of salaries that I received a letter (and what a letter!) from The Business People (tbp), an Organisation Effectiveness Consulting firm saying:

Young women in school

Young girls and boys in school

‘We are pleased to inform you that your request to us to support a yearlong payment of salaries for teachers hired to teach internally displaced children has been approved. Kindly send a representative to mark formal presentation of cheque to your organisation. We urge you to make judicious use of this opportunity and to stick to terms of your appeal as we shall carry out inspections to ensure quality of service. We hope this partly fulfills our mutual objective of empowering the next generation of Nigerians.’

Can you guess my reaction on reading those words!? Do you know what this means!? It means that about 100 very vulnerable children will continue to receive free education for one year; that they are being given another shot at life i.e. after having been violently uprooted from their homes by hooligans, and then left to rot by the government — thanks to a socially conscious and responsible corporate organisation like The Business People (tbp). On top of that, we, on behalf of the kids, have continued to receive donations of novels, story books, textbooks, exercise books, drawing books, crayons, pencils etc., from well-meaning Nigerians — all to build up the children’s interest in reading.

I am even more motivated now than ever before by these gestures from people and organisations to the IDPs: Just last month a donor who wishes to remain anonymous aided resettlement of 5 households at N120,000 each; now The Business People (tbp) has provided funds, approximately N274,200, to sustain the children’s education; not to talk of the gifts of books and more books (read more here).

I hope we are able to do more for the IDPs in this New Year in terms of providing basic needs like food, clothing, some healthcare and ensuring that the children continue to receive their lessons. We also hope to resettle more households than we did last year; remember resettling a household costs only N120,000, which encompasses housing, some capital for starting a small business, enrolling children in public schools and some stipend for feeding.

If you wish to support, kindly donate into this account — Account Name: INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS MANDO; Account No: 1013603091; Bank: Zenith Bank. Your donation can help restore a household’s livelihood and dignity, or support the children’s temporary education.

 

It’s a new and promising beginning for 20 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs)!

20 IDPs from the 2011 post-election crisis are set to leave the Hajj Camp in Mando, Kaduna State (where they’ve been taking refuge since 2011), after receiving cash donation from a Nigerian who wishes to remain anonymous.

Beneficiaries with family members

With beneficiaries and family members

S/he read and ‘became motivated’ by a piece that I wrote — thanks to all those that gave the piece a wider outreach by ‘liking’ and ‘sharing’ it on some social media platforms — outlining how difficult it is for the IDPs to rejoin mainstream society and start afresh due government’s irresponsibility, lack of adequate social and financial support, etc.

Our anonymous and very Nigerian benefactor had initially been torn between enabling resettlement for multiple households — with spare cash for starting a trade and enrolling children in public schools; supporting ongoing but temporary education for 130 children (inhabitants) of the camp; and providing food and other relief materials. It was at this confusing juncture that s/he got in touch for us to collaboratively work out how to effectively utilise the assistance.

After learning the nature, or more appropriately, sum of the donation, we, together with camp administrators concluded that for longer-term impact, resettling 20 people (5 parents, 15 children) instead of donating a few bags of rice and cans of oil, is certainly a more pragmatic step.

But, potential beneficiaries of the donation had to meet certain criteria — at least some measure to indicate that they won’t come running back to the camp at the slightest, and are capable of facing up to even more adversity.

For instance all potential beneficiaries have to be strong, willing to work hard, and face the rigours of -socioeconomically- starting afresh; one household had to be female-headed (and widowed from the crisis); they all had to have shown some level of resilience, and exhibited, with examples, progressive traits while in the camp; they also had to clearly demonstrate how they’ll be utilising the assistance.

With our strong female-headed household (lost a husband and 3 sons in the crisis).

The selection process, of 5 out of 133 households, was heartrending. Families huddled together and prayed to be selected; they shoved children in front of you to sway you. When they didn’t qualify, hope quickly chased away the despair from their faces. That unshakable faith is enviable, and keeping us inspired.

We presented cheques to all 5 households (including the female-headed one) on the 5th of December to some tears and loads of laughter. When the widow was called to receive hers, she broke down and wept painfully; her husband and 3 sons were killed in the riots and she’s now caring for her remaining children and grandchildren.

Something else we did was to make sure that after cashing the cheques, 30% of the sum went to female spouses. Women, more often than not, are better home managers and have a variety of petty trades to pick from. Moreover, their (women’s) relatively superior sense of compassion would ensure kids don’t starve, and are enrolled in schools. Most importantly, we’ll have all beneficiaries’ detailed contact information so as to keep in touch with their progress.

They heaped prayers on us, and even more prayers on our anonymous benefactor. They implored their children to take education more seriously so they can ‘become like us in the future’, (thank God we already setup school in the camp, so, hopefully they’ll be better than us). They further implored us to not abandon them, even if we’d only visit to chat and play with the kids.

Beneficiaries in front, and a sea of hopefuls looking on

Beneficiaries seated in front after receiving their cheques, and a sea of hopefuls looking on

Well, we shall continue to seek support from different angles — individuals, socially conscious and responsible private sector organizations, mosques, churches, the government, etc., until there’s no one left in the camp.

If you wish to support, kindly donate into this account; Account Name: INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS MANDO; Account No: 1013603091; Bank: Zenith Bank. Your donation can help restore a household’s livelihood and dignity, or even support the children’s temporary education.

 And so help us God.

Another Visit With Some Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs): what we all can do to help

Two weeks ago, I sat down (again) with some IDPs, (victims of the 2011 post-election riots) currently taking refuge in Hajj Camp, Mando, Kaduna State. In the course of what eventually became a lengthy chat with nearly 50 members of the camp in attendance, I expressed frustration with respect to the IDPs’ continued stay in the camp. Of course I appropriately heaped a fair share, or most, of the blame on the Kaduna State Government (for not having followed and implemented recommendations provided by the committee that was setup to look into the ‘immediate and remote causes of the crisis’, for not adequately compensating the victims for their varied losses, and for generally not taking steps capable of socially, economically reintegrating the IDPs back into society).

The older gentleman to the left, took in 11 orphans. We could only give him books and a stipend..

With some members of the camp. The 3rd gentleman from the left took in 11 orphans. We could only give him books, pencils and N2k to support them

But, I also challenged the victims’ seeming docile attitude and complacency, while urging them (the men especially) to leave the confines and security of the camp, the occasional donation of food, clothing etc., and to try to get their lives back in order. I appreciate that they did not take my challenging them as patronizing or insensitive, but rather, as concern for their, and our collective wellbeing.

Blames aside, and realistically, it is easier said than done. Imagine losing all you’ve ever worked for (business, job, home, family members etc.) in one day.  You’re old, widowed or orphaned, you’ve also been ejected from familiar territory and are enclosed in a camp, in a state where you probably never had prior contact with anyone, you’re essentially disconnected from mainstream society, the government has conveniently forgotten about your plight – expect for when it wants to eject you from the camp… How easy would it be to recover and build your life back, i.e. without adequate social and financial support? Even people who haven’t suffered losses or geographical dislocation are finding it difficult climbing on the socioeconomic ladder due harsh economic condition, lack of jobs, almighty corruption etc.

So far, the lot that have left the camp, about 4000 people, were enabled to do so through cash support from Dangote, and other forms of empowerment by NGOs. Muslim Professionals in Da’awah , an NGO, donated work tools (sewing machines, welding and carpentry equipment) and some cash — to help with immediate needs like accommodation and other stuff to about 300 people (50-70 households). Now, those 300 have left the camp, enrolled their children in public schools, and are once again trying to give being productive citizens a shot. Network for Justice, another NGO, is the reason the government hasn’t thrown the IDPs out in the cold, and they’re committed to seeing that these people get the justice they deserve.

The question is what can we, individuals, do to empower the rest of the IDPs?

Through the support of people (a lot from the UK, and some here) that have followed my comments about IDPs on Facebook, we’ve retained services of 3 teachers at N7k (each) a month, split the near 130 kids into 3 classes, and (voilà!) we’re back in school.  We purchased, respectively, 150 exercise books, pencils, erasers and sharpeners, also educational posters, chalk etc. to help with the children’s education (one day we shall give them tablets in sha Allah!). Thanks to Jazzmine Breary for financially enabling a second Eid party, she’s spoken to me about sending books all the way from London… I guess we’ll figure out a way soon.

Excited about going back school!

Excited about going back to school!

Now, above are just examples of what people can do… sadly though, they’re temporary measures, and not much of a solution. A perfect and permanent solution is when there’s no one left residing in the camp. (But what to do about the very old, widowed (women), and orphaned? I met a guy, not very well-to-do and a victim himself,  who took in 11 orphans).

Here’s what little we can do; a sum of N130-150k can empower a household (about 133 households, making 357 people altogether). If you will like to help, kindly donate into this account; Account Name: INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS MANDO, Account No:1013603091, Zenith Bank. Your donation can help restore a person’s livelihood and dignity, or even support the kids’ temporary education. If, hopefully, you’re passionate enough, you can follow-up with the Kaduna State Government. I understand the office of the SSG manages the case of IDPs. You can also write organisations like TY Danjuma Foundation, MTN Foundation, socially responsible private sector organisations and solicit support for the IDPs.

I will collaborate on ideas and solutions with anyone who genuinely wishes to support. I’ll also like to reach out to the media for help in highlighting this issue, a short clip documenting the sequence of events since the crisis in 2011 with focus on present pitiable living conditions of the IDPs will go a long way, possibly shock the government into responsibility (tall order abi? Sigh). Let’s (for a moment shed partisanship and) collaborate to give fellow Nigerians a chance…

Well, God bless you, and Nigeria too.

Egypt’s coup: Mr. Obama, it’s time to speak up for democracy

Egypt has ushered in an era of new ambiguities that are straining and, in some instances, distorting our fundamental understanding of time-honored principles. The ambiguities, especially the one contemplative of appropriately classifying the military overthrow of a legitimately elected democratic government in Egypt, and the one that seeks to establish a ‘coup’ as a continuum in democratization — thereby allowing us the intellectual and moral laxity to freely relitigate, brand and justify a coup as necessary to attaining a unique type of democracy, are worrisome.

While the biggest fraud is in legitimizing this path to democracy by self-appointed proponents and custodians of democracy, the unintended symbolism and negative repercussions of justifying Egypt’s coup-backed democratization, primarily on democracy itself, even though largely overlooked, are as dire as they’re likely.

Obama in Egypt, reaching out to Muslim world. Photo Credit, CNN

Mr. Obama reaching out to the Muslim world from Cairo in 2009,  in a speech titled “A New Beginning”. Photo Credit, CNN

Not to disregard or make light of the protests that have reflected the collective aspirations of a faction of the Egyptian people – doing that would only undermine critical rights and freedoms, which is a cardinal principle of ‘government of the people by the people’. But then, when did we need a military overthrow of a legitimate government to strengthen democracy, when did that become an element of democratization?

Apparently that happens only when a super power like the United States tacitly implies it – which in itself is not entirely surprising considering its record of destabilizing democratically elected governments (think Mossadegh, think Aristide) – by pussyfooting around classifying what happened in Egypt as a ‘coup’. It happens also when a section of the global media apparatus capitalizes on general gullibility to push for a new principle, that coups are cool and necessary in the course of democracy.

The Obama administration by its silence and symbolic redefinition of the act of a coup, regardless of the means or the end, has consequently laid a platform for present and imminent abuse of democracy. For instance, say, Nigerians were to decide to follow the Egyptian example, would a military overthrow of a legitimately elected government in whatever guise be condoned or condemned?

Nigeria might be geo-politically strategic with some (depending on how it plays its cards, negligible) global influences, but it is not Egypt, thereby not a stabilizing force in Middle Eastern peace matters and thus, not influential to the security of Israel. More so, a combination of factors like effective drilling technologies and the substantial discovery of new crude oil sources around the world that have led to abundant supply of the product, and intensified struggle for alternative energy sources might dilute Nigeria’s ‘mythical’ relevance to the US, – a country whose foreign policy is primarily shaped and guided by its interests.

Since Nigeria does not enjoy a superior, politically and regionally advantageous positioning like Egypt, and is progressively squandering its worth, it might easily be dispensable, i.e., if it, Nigeria, were to decide to follow the example laid by the Egyptian Generals and the Obama administration’s convenient confusion, a coup would certainly be a coup, no ambiguities. And yes, such clunky analogies are necessary to contextualize, and bring to home the reality of the politics that’s playing out and its general implications for democracy.

The Obama administration will have to unravel this web of confusion for the sake of democracy, and it has to start by calling a coup just that – the African Union already has. Doing that would not in any way negate or diminish its respect for the essence of the popular protests, but will reaffirm America’s role as a ‘champion’ of democracy. It has to propose and carry out bolder policies with respect to its aid relationship with Egypt. Continuation of economic support in the form of aid to Egypt will have a very loud inference and violates America’s stance on fraternizing, especially through economic support, with countries where legitimate governments have been overthrown.

Not to mention the irresponsible way Morsi sought to govern a pluralistic society, would be insulting to the aspirations of the Egyptian protesters and even democracy – you would think he would have known better considering how his government was birthed. But again it is ironic, even smile-inducing that Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood are the voice of democracy today – considering the fact that Muslims are habitually considered innately averse to democracy and in essence, undemocratic.

Egypt has indeed pushed the limits of our fundamental understanding of critical ideologies and practices thereby expanding, but not too encouragingly, the discourse on democracy. But we must not allow the Obama administration, the media, and the Egyptian Generals to smuggle and implant the nobility of a coup into our psyche; we must remember the principle of cause and consequence and the power of symbolism. Mr. Obama, quit pussyfooting around, it is time to speak up for democracy.

Zainab Sandah writes from Abuja, Nigeria. She blogs at www.zainabSandah.wordpress.com and tweets from @zainabsandah

Educating the Nigerian Child: who’s responsible?

‘Zainab, you are wasting your time, I’m sure you’ve seen the statistics.’ My good friend Frank said to me in a flat tone.

We had been engaged in a conversation on the necessity of infusing individual effort – time, resources – into combating social challenges especially within our immediate constituencies. So I enthusiastically shared my interest and travails in education at the grassroots level; my motive being the time-honored fact that education is, among other things, a guarantor of upward social mobility, and if scaled up to meet demand through a consolidation of efforts, could turn Nigeria around socially, politically and economically.

However, my friend’s scathing remark (above) left a niggling sense of worry, and created some doubt within me, with respect to the plausibility of yielding positive results through small-scale or individual intervention considering, as he pointed out, the magnitude of the challenge.

Realistically, the statistics on the Nigerian education space is disturbing and appalling, it is even more so when considered demographically and regionally. For instance, according to a report by the British Council titled Gender in Nigeria report 2012: Improving the lives of girls and women in Nigeria,  ‘Nigeria has 10.5 million children out-of-school the largest number in the world,’ and ‘only 4% of females complete secondary school in the northern zones’.  These few points highlight the multi-dimensional nature of the problem encompassing enrolment, dropout etc.

Meanwhile, annual and consistent infusion of cash by government into the sector and creation of sub-agencies and task-forces have not yielded much result. Last year alone, the federal government, in a budget tilted more  – and illogically – toward recurrent expenditure, spent over N400 billion on education. Local and international interventions have failed. For instance, 2% of the federal government’s Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) is staked to support provision of free basic education through the Universal Basic Education (UBE) scheme. The UK Guardian recently reported that after channeling millions of pounds into education in Nigeria, a UK aid watchdog, the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (Icai) ‘advises DfiD to scrap £102m joint girls education programme as aid shows limited benefits’.

Quite evidently, this is all money going one way with little or no tangible returns, in terms of, say, child beggars or Almajirai in Hausa, – estimated at 9.5 million – taken off the streets and into classrooms, improvement in literacy levels in northern Nigeria, a well-educated and employable youth, – and as suggested by the Minister of Education, Prof. Ruqayytu Rufa’i, we might not be meeting the education component of the MDGs either. Instead, we are bedeviled with news of serial failure in transitional exams (WAEC and NECO), and sights of ramshackle education infrastructure across the country.

The biggest factor attributable to the failure of both international and local intervention schemes is government at the state level; they – state governors – have not, so far, fulfilled the conditions of the schemes, which for UBE requires that they contribute some amount of money in order to access the federal government’s (matching) grant for developing education in their respective states. This attitude is also discernible in their treatment of the UK intervention, which prompted Icai to say that ‘the programmes have yet to achieve sustainable results, largely due to the failure of state governments to fund adequately, and equitably the required improvements’.

It is worthy to note that it is not for lack of legislation that education is suffering from this woe; constitutionally, free basic and quality education is the responsibility of state and local governments.

Ironically, against all these challenges, the much-awaited and highly charged revolution that is expected to cleanse the land of bad leadership is yet to takeoff, civil society organisations (CSOs), parents, religious bodies are totally laissez faire about education, or at least their (in)actions are not commensurate to the challenges. Waiting for a miracle to cure the empathy deficiency plaguing Nigerian state governors is clearly not a smart strategy as that has been tried before. So, what more can be done where funding and legislation have failed?

Paul Kagame said – at the recently concluded World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos – that, ‘Africa’s story has been written by others; we need to own our problems and solutions and write our story.’ Consequently, it is actually a good thing then that Icai has recommended the scrapping of the girl education programme in Nigeria, because frankly, educating the Nigerian child is not the problem of the British, more so, since the money and effort are just going to waste.

Thus, we have to be very radical in terms of owning, tackling and seeking solutions for our problems, especially a problem like education. It is therefore not enough that issues are legislated and passed into law; enforcement of laws is paramount. For instance, the section in the UBE Act that criminalizes parents who do not send their kids to school needs to be activated, even though maximum penalty is incarceration for just one month, with the option of paying N2000 fine, or both.

Social and economic reasons (such as poverty) that propel child labour, hence hindering enrolment and increasing dropout need to be considered. Implementation of the Child Rights Act in states might help in reducing child labor, and in improving enrolment. It however, does not solve the issue of near-perennial poverty and the need for subsistence. Quite a cyclical challenge!

Further legislation needs to be made that equally criminalizes states that refuse to comply with the UBE Act. That they do not comply with the Act is bad enough, but that they escape unscathed is injustice. So, legislating and enforcing criminalization with jail term has become necessary. Maybe we need an ‘Education Crimes Commission’ in the same capacity as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). It is doubtful though, if these can be achieved or enforced, considering corruption, and the near absolute power that the Nigerian state governors wield.

Hiring competent teachers is key, as is consistent capacity building exercises for them. Fundamentally, the curriculum for National Colleges of Education (NCE) and National Teachers Institute (NTI) need consistent upgrading to reflect the dynamics (especially ICT) of our time. This will ensure a transfer of sound education to children. Grade-level proficiency tests need to be carried out, in order to ascertain how far, or by how many years our children have lagged behind educationally, i.e. in comparison to say, China or even Ghana. Strategies such as enhanced studying, longer school days, and term elongation could be leveraged to close the -achievement- gap.  Total overhaul of education infrastructure needs to be prioritized and actualized as a matter of critical urgency.

As for individual intervention, (the type my friend scoffed at), I think passing up on small gains that individual intervention entail simply because statistics indicate that the challenges are too big, and our efforts too small, is lame and counterproductive. That reasoning might help us sleep well at night, because real life children have been made abstract and reduced to statistics in a colossal report. We however, have to care (even) within our limited capacity. We are duty bound to donate old books, pool money together to set-up a 2-classroom block, organize and coordinate interaction and dialogue sessions between PTAs and education officials, ward councilors, community chairmen, commissioners of education, etc. If these small measures ensure that children (no matter how few) are provided with the opportunity to face-up to life challenges through education, then we have succeeded.

Really, nothing any individual, non-government organization or foreign donor agency, can and will do is comparable to the government fulfilling its mandate on education. But that mandate also can never be realized if we – THE PEOPLE – do not push for it.  The mandate for educating the Nigerian child lies with the individual, the community, the CSOs and ultimately, the government. We may not share equal criminal liability, but we certainly share equal responsibility.

Northern Nigeria: The Conflict Within

Ethnicity and religion are not predetermined; we are not born, do not possess an innate sense of ethnic or religious affiliation, we become Yoruba, Christian, Hausa or Kataf largely as a factor of geographical, ancestral, and societal influences.

Against this backdrop, it is ironic that in a substantial number of the 19 states that make up northern Nigeria, and indeed in the country as a whole, ethnicity and religion have become the primary factors that dictate how we (co)exist.  Of course, the question of Nigeria’s fragile unity has never been in doubt. But much as Nigeria is burdened with crises of ethnic and religious nature, the (near-clichéd) media characterization of  ‘largely northern Muslims and southern Christians’ is anomalous and misleading, for the mere fact that both southern and northern Nigeria are multi-ethnic and multi-religious.

Moreover, the unity of the northern region as an entity in itself is arguably in a worse state than that of the country as a whole. It may, therefore, not be far-fetched to suggest that northern Nigeria, even though geographically homogeneous, is on a precarious cliff due to its continued and ever-widening heterogeneity, comprising of ethnic, religious and political dynamics, and that if left untended, will have national implications.

It is hard to recall a three or five-year period – since the famous anti-government and intra-religious riot that was led by the YanTatsine group in Kano State in the ‘80s – in which one or other settlement within northern Nigeria has not been consumed by ethno-religious strife. It is also one of nature’s not so funny jokes that warring parties largely happen to be neatly divided along religious lines, and belong respectively to ‘majority’ (Hausa and Fulani and Muslim) and ‘minority’ (Kataf, Berom, etc. and Christian) ethnic groups. States like Kano, Kaduna, Bauchi and recently Plateau have been the traditional flag-bearers of the country’s ethno-religious riots.

For instance, the riots that happened in Kano in 1982 and 1991 were largely caused by religious differences, the former to do with Muslim opposition to the reconstruction of a church in Fagge area of the state, and the latter, in objection to the invitation issued to a German Evangelist Reinhard Boonke to hold a Christian crusade in the state. It is worthy to note that Muslims primarily objected to the Christian crusade because they had been denied a chance to host the late Ahmed Deedat, a Muslim scholar from South Africa in Kano for an Islamic sermon. This of course led to loss of lives and destruction of property.

A near-unique characteristic of riots in Kano is its largely inter-religious nature – there is relative ethnic harmony within the state since most of the indigenous population is Hausa and Muslim. However, because of the cosmopolitan and commercial nature of the city, there is an intersection of tribes, with the Igbo – largely Christian – being the most visible because of their commercial success. The Hausas have been known to clash with the Igbos in the course of religious tension, thus bringing non-regional entities into the fray and further complicating an already complex situation.

Unlike Kano state, Kaduna and Plateau (Jos) states are marked by, ethnic, territorial and religious differences largely driven by the issue of  ‘indigeneship’ or the ‘indigene-settler clause’. While the issue of indigeneship is a burdensome colonial legacy, it is also promoted by a vague and rather discriminatory constitutional provision that fortifies the superiority of the indigene over the Nigerian citizen – who in this context is considered to be a settler – thus, making the settler an inferior entity lacking political influence, and denied benefits like scholarship opportunities.

According to a recent report released by the International Crisis Group titled ‘Curbing Violence in Nigeria: The Jos Crisis’, 80 episodes of violent riots have occurred from 1999 to 2004 between the indigenous Berom/Anaguta/Afizere (largely Christian) and non-indigenous Hausa and Fulani (largely Muslim) tribes in Jos.  In Kaduna, Southern Zaria Christians of Zango Kataf, Kafanchan etc. who enjoy a numerical advantage are constantly at loggerheads with Hausa Muslims and this often leads to reprisal attacks in neighbouring cities. One such notable riot that generated reprisal attacks in Kano and Kaduna metropolis was the May 1992 Zango Kataf riots. A more recent example, which had a chain effect (of both attacks and counter-attacks) from Kaduna to Zango Kataf to Kano etc. was the 2011 post (presidential) election violence.

Ethnicity and religion therefore can be considered the badge of identity the average northerner (or Nigerian) wears; apart from establishing social interactions, they also determine political viability and by extension economic inclusiveness, which intensifies power struggle and conflicts among rival ethnicities within a given state (Kaduna, Plateau come to mind). Competition over access to state resources, generated mostly through oil revenue from the Niger Delta, provides much needed fuel to keep the ethno-religious inferno alive.

As if indigeneship and its divergent, divisive complexities were/are not trouble enough, with the return to democratic rule in 1999 and armed (again) with an ambiguous constitutional reading, 9 northern states with Muslim majority population instituted the Sharia legal system (both civil and criminal) as the law. 3 more northern states followed with the adoption of Sharia, but only in areas with large Muslim populations. Adoption of, and Sharia in itself, is not by any means wrong, and represents the aspirations of certain section of people within those 12 states, but when considered within the context of a society already steeped in mutual animosity and violent conflict, or within the context of a multi-faith, multi-ethnic and democratic society, the counter-intuitive nature of that policy becomes glaring.

Institution of the policy predictably led to riots in various northern states, consolidated the ethno-religious divide, which for instance culminated in the advent of separate living communities/quarters in some areas in Kaduna state (it is claimed that there is currently no single Muslim living in Sabon Tasha and no single Christian living in Rigasa – both areas of Kaduna metropolis). I would suggest that for a multi-faith region steeped in inter-ethnic/religious suspicion, secularism would have continued to serve as a better balancing act.

With the vehement negation of all state and constitutional authority and the call for national adoption of the Islamic legal system by Jama’atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda’awatih wal-Jihad (popularly called Boko Haram), a terrorist group operating in northern Nigeria, Sharia once more became a contentious issue, only on a much bigger platform this time around. Even though the views of the terrorist group are not shared by northern Muslims in general, the continued negative leveraging of Sharia as a condition for cease-fire, continued massacre of innocent civilians and bombing of churches and state properties by the group, has led to calls by some in the south for a re-negotiation of the continued unity of Nigeria.

Considering the above narrative of detrimental intersectionality between ethnicity, religion (Sharia), and power struggle, it has become imperative to seek practical solutions to re-stitch the unraveling thread of unity, first regionally and then nationally. How can the northern region advance a psychological erosion of ethnicity, or bring northerners out from their respective ethnic enclaves, to embrace regional harmony?

So far, government at state and federal levels has set up various committees to look into remote and general causes of the riots, several reports and recommendations have been given, but implementation is lax. For instance the International Crisis Group has urged the government to ‘implement the recommendations of the published Fiberesima, Tobi and Ajibola commissions of inquiry and whitepapers,’ note that these submissions were respectively made in 1994 (Fiberesima), 2001/2002 (Tobi), 2009 (Ajibola). Similarly, the recommendations from various commissions of inquiry into the causes of the Sharia crisis in Kaduna over a decade ago have not been implemented. What is needed primarily is a body of committed and specifically, regionally focused civil society and other pressure groups to see to the implementation of reports.

The status of the constitutionality and legality of adoption of Sharia law in a pluralistic, federating nation, and respective states, has to be made constitutionally clear. Likewise, the indigene-settler clause needs to be reviewed. The discriminatory aspects of that policy, like educational, political privileges for (only) indigenes have to be broadened to include non-indigenes, but for a longer term national integration goal, the clause will have to be abrogated completely. It remains doubtful though whether a mere constitutional provision can sufficiently erode the acquired psychological effects of ethno-religious differences. This suggests the need for CSOs to oversee the launch or intensification of policies that drive inter-faith and inter-ethnic dialogues between conflict-ridden parties at the grassroots. These groups also need to build capacity and political literacy especially for youths, with respect to understanding rights and duties of political representatives.

As a matter of urgency, the national mono-economic system, and culture of dependency on federally allocated funds for development of states and local governments needs to be revised. When all local government (chairmen) or states (governors) are made to generate revenue for local and state sustenance, instead of being dashed ‘free oil money’ and freedom not to account for state funds – the incentive to occupy public and elective offices will reduce and by extension only competent hands will vie for such positions and emerge as leaders. This will ensure that the immediate constituency for respective politicians will no longer be mosques, churches or their ethnic enclaves.

The northern leadership, especially the Northern State Governors’ Forum (NSGF), needs a people-focused regional alliance, a ‘new’ blueprint for development that prioritizes literacy, (youth) employment, infrastructure development, girl child and women empowerment schemes, and optimization of mineral resources. This can effectively deplete the number of available recruits that fight during ethno-religious crises. Northern NGOs and CSOs need to act as watchdogs and guide the policies of the NSGF.

For Nigerian women and girls, it will take more than YouWin!

Except for when the camera generally sweeps through the Federal Executive Council seating, you hardly see or hear from Hajiya Zainab Maina, the Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development. That is, until she was recently reported by Daily Trust as saying that ‘the YouWin programme is aimed at facilitating women’s transition from informal to formal sector of economic development’. Thank God it’s that simple!

But perhaps not so, and Honourable Minister underestimates the daily challenges being faced by women and girls across the country, and needs reminding why empowering 6,000 (or 1,200?) out of 80 million women, 54 million of whom are rural and mired in backbreaking and unskilled labour should not presuppose an automatic facilitation of transition to formal sector of economic development.

Last year I ranted in an article that the Ministry of Women Affairs ought to have gotten one of those pledged ‘technocratic’ appointments considering (1) women are half of national human capital and more than quadruply undeserved (2) the versatility required in harnessing the latent potential offered by women, and (3) attaining the MDGs – and essentially, national socio-economic and political  development – is hinged on the successful emancipation of womenfolk from mundane challenges, hence that resourceful versatility translating into effective inter-departmental partnerships.

Somewhere else in that article I highlighted that the balance of the social structures that generate sustainable growth are skewed to the advantage of the menfolk, thus the ‘need to even the scale by ensuring that (right from now) girl child enrolment in school is at par with boy child enrolment, encourage more girls to take up math and science, and ensure that their (girl child) education is not cut short to accommodate cultural demands’ like early marriages and  childbirths. Nearly two years in the life of this administration, the foundation to suggest a corrective measure has not been laid.

If anything, the Gender in Nigeria Report 2012: Improving the Lives of Girls and Women in Nigeria released by the British Council points to the depth of the challenge in national administration of women affairs and social development (and speaks to me of the incapacity of the ministry). Granted, security spending has emasculated social spending, but hey, a ‘transformational and technocratic’ leader  should possess the capacity and acumen of overcoming that challenge.

Statistics jump out at you that say only 4% of girls finish secondary school in north-eastern Nigeria, and that national maternal death is close to the global average at 545 per 100,000 live births. Even so, you do not sense any urgency or see some positive collaboration between the ministries of women affairs, education and health with respect to concrete plans and time lines of rolling back on those statistics.

The report further says that ‘men are five times more likely than women to own land’, with only 4% of land belonging to women in the north-east and 10% to their counterparts in the south-south. This inequity fundamentally promotes inequality between the sexes, for the simple fact that lack of capital – like land –  constricts the ability of women to access (non-YouWin type) collateralised loans, which further creates a condition of dependency. If the government does not anticipate a future where women are hooked on government loans or grants, the solution is simply to unclog the hindrances that bar women from having access to, or being owners of capital, to enable a platform for economic opportunity, independence and industry.

The news is still grim on the corporate level as the report states that ‘regardless of their educational qualification, women consistently earn less than their male counterparts. In some cases they earn less than men with lower qualifications’. The U.S. rather than sing and dance about unfair treatment of women in the work place sought the path of legislation and enacted the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

Furthermore, we propose affirmative action to balance the numbers where women occupy less than 30% of all posts in the public sector, with only 17% in senior positions. Affirmative action by itself may not be effective when the rate of women graduates is sub-optimal. Without optimising education for girls and women today, we are not guaranteeing them the opportunity to vie for competitive roles in the future, — besides affirmative action might just foist unqualified women on us.

Speaking of legislation, the spate of violence against women, – the type that led to the UN Declaration of Elimination of Violence against Women in 1993, and the Violence Against Women Act 1994 in the US – and proposition of strict laws and penalty for same, is nowhere near the line of sight of the ministry. Neither is the issue of pursuing a socially and culturally nuanced policy aimed at forging acceptability for family planning, and access to contraceptives. As yet, it is not clear if the minister and lawmakers have, or are reviewing laws that impact positively on women. Is madam minister dodging the tough issues?

The reality is that for women to attain socio-economic and political emancipation, issues of discrimination across education and access to capital, healthcare, violence (especially rape) etc. have to be brought to the forefront. The success that piggybacking on YouWin creates is very transient, one therefore hopes to see a lot of effective and creative collaboration between ministries, departments and agencies,  – and hopefully at the instigation of the women affairs ministry – that will lead to a more sustainable livelihood for girls, women and the nation. Otherwise, all that talk and hope on YouWin will remain just talk and hope; it is not logical that 6,000 (or 1,200) jobs can create enough positive chain effect capable of transforming the lives of 54 million rural women that are stuck in backbreaking and unskilled labour.

Regardless of the horde of challenges being faced by women, a substantial number of women have become breadwinners in a lot of households (according to anecdotal accounts), you can therefore imagine the level of success women can and will attain if those challenges are lifted!

PS:  If you are a woman and between 18 and 45, and have a business, or a business plan, kindly articulate it, register and then apply for the Youth Enterprise with Innovation (YouWin!) grant. Or if this piece is coming late, please apply for the next one!

Mubi and other Killings: on becoming dehumanised

Just a day after most Nigerians under-celebrated Independence Day, some Nigerians were less fortunate and will never again under-celebrate anything. 25/46 students (depending on who you are reading) of Federal Polytechnic Mubi were hacked, macheted, gored and shot to death by ‘unknown gunmen’ or cultists. If you have seen photos of the ‘Mubi Massacre’, you will have cause to weep hot, painful and quiet tears, and then reflect on the loss of humanity that is slowly characterizing the Nigerian (youth). A few days before the Mubi case, 2 or more students of the University of Maiduguri were said to have met a similar end also in the hands of ‘unknown gunmen’ or cultists, prompting parents to recall their children from the terror-stricken area.

Some days before the wicked misdeeds by the now very (un)popular but ‘unknown gunmen’ or cultists, 3 young men were arrested for the kidnap and murder of a Lagos businessman, 1 of them reportedly said that ‘Sadiq started cutting him with a machete and at a point he became motionless’ implying that the businessman had been mercilessly hacked until he had died. Just a few weeks before that, a young man was caught in a bus station with a dead baby alleged to be his son in a suitcase, and right about the same time two young men were apprehended with the severed head of a 7-year-old child. In Lagos, a couple of young men were arrested for luring (via Facebook), drugging, dispossessing, raping and crudely murdering young women. How do we do these things and sleep at night? Some fault poverty, but it really is not a justifiable cause.

It is safe to estimate (conservatively) that for every reported case of kidnap and murder, or rape and murder, or ritual killing, there are nearly half a dozen undetected and unreported ones. Not to mention unreported cases of murder from armed robbery attacks in our homes and on our highways, or the cases of wanton killings from cult activities in and out of our universities and now even our secondary schools.

Certainly, there is a bottomless list of wicked and careless ways to die in Nigeria including being bombed while enjoying a cool beer or while singing praises. If we kept an accurate data, we would be horrified, at least I hope the frequency of the horrors has not made us complacent and killed our capacity to be horrified or to act.

A couple of things stand clear in examining these cases (1) that this psychotic disorder (of ritual murders & co) happen across north and south of the country, implying national balance or federal character, hence requiring a national response (2) that crimes are perpetrated by adherents of the widely practised faiths, implying clerics, parents need to step-up and mount a moral revolution (3) that the demographic trend of the depravity tends to favour younger, literate and semi-literate men between ages 20-35, quite naturally, one of the largest, most idle and jobless demographics (4) that perpetrators are born of women and men, are flesh and blood who date, party, marry and live with us in our communities, might be that every 1000th person has had a murderous stint (5) that we seem socially and politically ill-equipped (or clueless) to deal with these challenges, and hence we do not seem to be doing anything at all.

Take kidnaps, ritual killings and armed robbery murders, they are purely driven by excessive materialism, rooted in social and moral decay and obviously aided by government/political weakness. How can we especially curb the ‘get rich by any means necessary and without providing commensurate value’ mentality that is turning our young men and women into killers? For instance, is ‘fishing out’ the evil people behind the Mubi massacre a sufficient cure and a future deterrent against such depravity? Senator Bindo Jibrilla of Adamawa state seems to think that ‘setting up a committee’ to look into the Mubi issue might be a way to start, while the Senate President, David Mark favours the path of action as he suggests that ‘government needs to act as fast and swiftly as possible.’ You wonder who that ‘government’ is, and equally wonder how they can overlook and not mention moral, socio-economic challenges, consequences and solutions, or the administrative and social role of school authorities in combating cultism.

Security forces seem to be gaining a very minute ground on terrorism, it is clear though that they are over-stretched in terms of human and material resources. The issue of state police seems to have hit a gridlock, but will it be key to unlocking security challenges peculiar to states and locales, or a tyrannical tool for state governors as some have (lamely) suggested? Even without any reform in that sector, should state governors not adequately support the federal forces in their respective states, what purpose is the security vote serving? Another issue of grave concern is proliferation of small arms, how can we clean our communities of AK-47s, how can we convince our boys not to wield machetes? Most importantly, how can parents, schools, places of worship, you and I help in correcting that psychotic disorder that is making murderers of our boys?

Please think, reflect and act, before you, or your child, or your wife become the next material for ritualists, kidnappers, armed robbers or cultists.

%d bloggers like this: