Building a Nation for Terrorists

(By Adejoh Idoko Momoh)

If what the National Population Commission says is true and Nigeria’s population grows at the rate of 5.6 million per annum, then all Nigerians have genuine reasons to worry about the current state of affairs in our country and the way things would progress. From predictions by the Commission, in 2020 there would be 221 million Nigerians who would if things stay as they are, be undereducated, poverty stricken and probably raised in circumstances similar to Jibril’s.

COME with me for a second as I tell you the story of Jibril. Born in a remote village in Kogi State, Jibril would soon grow tired of a society that offered him no opportunities for growth either as an entrepreneur or a government employee. His decision to leave for Lokoja and ultimately Abuja in search of a better life would see him fall out of favour with his parents. With no family or money, Jibril would manage to start life in Abuja as a ‘bag carrier’ in a motor park. Having learnt frugality, his meager earnings adequately would meet his needs.

   One day, he is approached by a young, white bearded fellow who invites him to lunch, then buys him a steady supply of food. They talk about Nigeria’s state and he introduces him to a community of young idealists from where he finds a wife. Their beliefs are much like his: The shared hatred for a society that has purposefully denied them livelihood and the awareness that someday they would contribute to building the very same society. Two weeks pass and a car bomb would go off close to Abuja’s Eagles Square, the suicide bomber? Jibril.

   Casual observers would ask, ‘how does a young man with big city dreams decide to end his life suddenly?’ The answer is quite simple; he waited long, prayed, hoped and jumped at the first opportunity that presented itself. The man who took him to lunch would simply be a recruiter, and the idealistic people who became his family and offered him board, simply belonged to a school for suicide bombers. This story as you might suspect is obviously made up, but think to suicide bomber recruitment tales you have heard and you would find the above scenario familiar.

   Depending on whom you ask, Nigeria’s unemployment rate is about 21-24 per cent. The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) would peg it at 21 per cent and the Central Bank of Nigeria would argue that it is 24 per cent. In either of these scenarios’, 39-41 million Nigerians are unemployed; this is besides a 10 million unschooled school age children population out of which nine million are northerners and a 112 million population of Nigerians that live below the poverty level of $1 or Nigerian Naira 160. Putting it plainly and perhaps presenting it in grimmer light, a worrisome 65 per cent of Nigerians live below the poverty line and a significant portion of them without jobs or schooling and therefore not capable of contributing in ideas and initiatives to Nigeria’s development goals.

  If what the National Population Commission says is true and Nigeria’s population grows at the rate of 5.6 million per annum, then all Nigerians have genuine reasons to worry about the current state of affairs in our country and the way things would progress. From predictions by the Commission, in 2020 there would be 221 million Nigerians who would if things stay as they are, be undereducated, poverty stricken and probably raised in circumstances similar to Jibril’s. Imagine what fertile ground Nigeria would become for recruiting terrorists? Besides the 419 posture Nigeria has since taken in the international community, we would also have the reputation of grooming terrorists. You could choose to look on the bright side and say it would be better than the reputation we have now of being a consumer nation that imports everything and exports nothing, at least then, we would still be a consumer nation but one that exports terrorists.

   Our society owes it to us to create opportunities for growth and development: If the potential suicide bomber is exposed to options that go beyond unemployment, poverty, disenfranchisement, there would be a reduction in unrest. Just look to typical Nigerian examples, states like Lagos and Osun who have about seven per cent and three per cent unemployment respectively record the rarest cases of terrorism while states in Nigeria’s North like Borno and Yobe which both have double digit unemployment rates record the highest prevalence of violence. What immediately is clear from the above is that the larger the set of economic options available to an individual, the lower the likelihood or the willingness to be involved in terrorism or any such activities.

   In conclusion, we must realise that everyone has a responsibility in all of this. Nigeria currently ranks 147th in the ease of doing or starting a business.  Government must make concerted efforts to improve this; it must cheapen tuition rates and make primary education qualitative and compulsory. Millions of Nigerians are unemployed and even the employed do not earn enough in wages to cover the cost of feeding and accommodation, the government must create more jobs, provide capital to businesses so long as such businesses would create skilled jobs.   Parents must ensure their children are taught proper Nigerian values of tolerance and understanding, unity and peace and progress. They must also ensure that these children are availed all the opportunities they can provide and we the youth must realise that the change for a better nation we seek is not in the hands of future leaders, it is in the hand of the leaders of today. We must be determined to go out en masse, demand change. Demand electricity, education, good roads and jobs. We must demand that our lives are of value and ask our government to stop senseless killings in the north. Doing anything less would simply be building a country for terrorists.

Adejoh Idoko Momoh Writes..

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