Mohammed Belgore
Mohammed Belgore

Insecurity in the North and the Almajiri Scourge

NEWS DIGEST – The Northern part of the country has always been sitting on a keg of powder. Or rather, a volcano. It sure seems there is a nexus between the intractable insecurity in the north and the rate of poverty, as well as out-of-school children roaming the streets, popularly known as almajiri.

In the North, many have taken Boko haram for breakfast, banditry for lunch and kidnapping for dinner. A balanced diet of colossal insecurity. Everything always comes back to the powers that be, those mandated to provide the right policies and to steer the state’s ship well and ably beyond troubled waters.

The first responsibility of government anywhere is security of lives and property, as that is the only way there can be peace which will in turn lead to development. There is no form of progress possible in an environment where people are not the least bit safe to live their day to day lives. If you cannot go out in the morning without fear of either returning home in a body bag or not at all, there can not be any form of societal progression and that is the situation of things in the northern states as it stands.

No doubt about the fact that the PMB administration has failed the people of Nigeria as a whole in terms of security, there is no mincing words, while we have a leader who was once a military general, we have a society that has not been led with any form of zeal and obvious will for security of lives and property by the Commander in Chief. It is as if he is totally lacking in impetus. I don’t want to delve into the issue of the Service Chiefs too much.

Yet I would dare to say that talking about the north in particular, the solution is not simply in military or police effectiveness. While it will only be proper to make changes so as to revamp the morale in the military, I still don’t think it will result in any serious long term results, lives will only be lost as the military will kill scores of people who might quite alright be criminals, but what if there is a way to not even have the criminals in the first place?

Why do we seem to always overlook the root cause of a problem to focus on the stem and it’s branches, wouldn’t we simply keep coming back to fighting the consequence of that evasive seedling of disaster? In the same vein The Chief of Army Staff recently asserted that the insurgency situation might go on for the next 20 years, I entirely agree with him.

Which is why I said above that while the service chiefs should go, that might not really solve the problem. I quote from his verified Facebook page. He said “It only depends on the level of escalation and the appropriate responses by all stakeholders both civil and military authorities. Also by both local and international actors.

Citizens responsibility is equally important and imperative. All must cooperate to contain the lingering insecurity. Let there be collective action and responsibility.” To my mind while he was definitely speaking about issues broader than the one I seek to hammer on in this article, there is a definite relation.
It is a fundamental crux of the issues that there is a problem of culture giving rise to the teeming population of daredevils terrorizing the north.

A major contributing factor as I see it, even if not solely responsible is the rate of poverty pervading the mass populace of northern Nigeria. The almajiri situation is a proper cause for the dystopian reality of today. This almajiri culture is fueled by men who have little means to provide the basic needs of food, clothing and shelter for even themselves but yet get involved in polygamy and bring about scores of children that they cannot at all fend for.

This is a big problem that the northern elders need to address. The almajiri scourge is blowing up in our faces. Boko haram has a retinue of out of school children to serve as reservoir where they can recruit their soldiers from. The bandits and kidnappers of the future are the little kids going about with bowls in their hands begging for alms to feed from. Man as an animal will by nature survive one way or the other. This is not an issue for rhetorics. It is a grave mistake to simply overlook what is happening culturally which is one of the pillars that build the issue and jump to discussions about the effectiveness of the military or the police, that is not the real problem in this case.

The north is predominantly made up of muslims and as I see it, there is the fact that people live the religion of islam as a culture and a way of life, they do not separate culture from religion which is not in any way a bad thing, but there is a serious misunderstanding somewhere. Nowhere in islam is it encouraged to marry wives and give birth to children that you cannot take care of, that is absolutely wrong.

If you look around you in the northern states, you will find men who are Suya sellers, Cobblers, gate men, messengers, gardeners, wheel barrow pushers and what have you muddled in polygamous catastrophe and they see nothing wrong with it. This is fundamentally wrong!
The leaders and elders in the northernmost states, need to sensitize the northern populace on the negative effects of this way of life. In the mosques imams need to preach against it. The executive arms of government should come up with policies to curb this menace and the legislative bodies should look into providing the enabling legal framework to combat this problem.

The traditional institutions and it’s leadership, the emirs should get involved in trying to forestall this bleak situation. No amount of military might will lead to safety of lives and property within the current reality that the north is living in. Rather it will be about guns and mortars, tanks and armored vehicles, that might result in some semblance of sanity for the privileged, but fighting against people willing to test their fate with death, because their survival afterall depends on it means that there will be more days of tense insecurity than otherwise.

The prevailing situation as it is will only mean that people will always be more afraid than secure. For a nation that is as backward as ours and has a lot of ground to cover, we need to move past this issue of insecurity urgently.