By Dr. Ugoji Egbujo
A group of bandits casually went to a secondary school and snatched 300 boys. They walked the children through the bush and camped them in neighboring Zamfara state. The Northeast is desolate; bandits have besieged the Northwest. Moral outrage can’t be enough.
At some point, Boko haram claimed responsibility for the Kankara abduction and left mouths agape. The developing fraternity between Boko haram and bandits is worrisome. We watched the bandits grow in stature. They once seized the Abuja-Kaduna expressway. Then we saw them invited for meetings with state governments.
After the sessions, they rode with their guns in the vehicles back into the bush. We knew that someday they could play bigger political roles with their growing criminality, but who knew it would get to this? They are now potentially criminal partners with Bokoharam. And they also hate western education.
The Arewa village meeting is long overdue
If it has the consensus between Boko haram and bandits that education is banished from the North, which is educationally blind, then that village meeting must hold now. Bandits have successfully chased farmers away and damaged agricultural out-puts. Bandits want to chase school children away. The state is helpless against mushrooming banditry. It’s nightmarish.
The Arewa needs a village meeting. It has become a matter of life and death.
When Boko haram claimed responsibility for Kankara and began flaunting pictures, the Katsina government dismissed Boko haram’s grandstanding. The Katsina government said it knew the bandits. We must believe Katsina state. But the problem is that admission is a confession of helplessness.
Katsina and Zamfara have been parleying with bandits, yet bandits known to the government and the security agencies woke up one morning and decided t seize 300 boys. No one noticed, and no one stopped them.
The dangerous role money has begun to play in this interface between government and the underworld could worsen the northwest situation. In Maiduguri, once the insurgency started fattening pockets and changing livelihoods, it acquired immortality. Money fuels evils. Many do not want the insurgency to end. If banditry begins bringing such economic benefits to opportunistic but well placed few, the Northwest could be in dire straits.
There is a need for an Arewa meeting. Banditry is hampering agriculture and spreading poverty. Banditry and terrorism will leave the north desolate. There is a distinction between the crimes guzzling lives and pauperizing the North and those afflicting the south.
The factors that predispose the North to such organized crimes must be identified and uprooted. I will discuss them at the risk of being called a bigot. It’s good that there is nothing I will say that Lamido Sanusi hasn’t said. My ancestors told us to greet the deaf. So that the gods will bear us witness that we hold no malice against them.
The North is treading the path of Somalia. Groups, pilfering, then balkanizing state sovereignty.
The North must meet and submit itself to strict population control. Our economy cannot support the population explosion in the North. The population growth rate in the North is breeding poverty, hopelessness, and banditry. Indeed, the poor are not necessarily criminals. There is no banditry in many poor African countries. But extreme poverty and misery always make the criminal option less evil in the mind of a benighted youth.
The North must teach tolerance and banish religious extremism. This won’t be easy. Because if religious extremism is viewed as purity, then tolerance becomes contaminated spirituality. But the North can tackle this tendency towards extremism by quickening the separation of religion from the state.
I know this won’t be easy; it could be bad politics in the short term. It’s easy to justify Hisbah breaking bottles of beer on Kano streets. But when zealots take a step further along that route and say education is the western corruption of society, we begin to fret. Let’s not start it at all.
The village meeting wont be for governors and emirs alone. The Dangotes and Indimis must attend. The meeting must stanch the bleeding of lives and livelihoods and chart a vision for the North.
The North must mobilize its wealthy citizens to build primary and secondary schools and health centers in their villages. The North has many billionaires. These billionaires who hang around Abuja, Lagos, and Kaduna should go home.
They should go home and take on projects that would help education and health at the lowest levels. When they get home and begin these projects, they would discover the need to champion a political revolution and change the ways the state governments handle the region’s affairs.
The Arewa, as a group, needs a village meeting
The North is brimming with opportunities and teetering at the brink of an Apocalypse. Arable lands are wasting. Millions and millions of youths and their potentials are languishing. The region is tumbling into oblivion. There is a need for a reawakening and a re-orientation.
The meeting would be useless if a heavy dose of truth is not served there. It shouldn’t be a conference where political platitudes and religious mantras are rehashed.
The military alone cannot stamp out the insurgency and rampaging banditry. That’s one truth. We can’t keep a military battalion in every school. The North’s religious and political leaders must lock themselves in that room until they find a solution to the insecurity that is crippling the North. They must own the problems of their people.
Negotiating with bandits and paying ransoms will only worsen a complex issue. What can be achieved by the dubious papering over of deep cracks? The factors that predispose the region to these evils must be checked frontally.
Aggressive girl child education. An honest census. A deliberate re-orientation of culture away poverty, illiteracy, ill-health, and servitude of the majority.
The cat has to be belled. But who will do it?