(By Don Okereke)

Beyond religion and politics, there must be a strong force that will galvanise an individual to waste his life and that of others. That strong force is the trio of abysmal poverty, hopelessness/frustration and joblessness. It’s not simplistic! A hungry man is an angry man. It will take an amazing brain-washing prowess to convince a gainfully employed young man or somebody with a thriving business to abandon the trappings of his work or business and be a slavish stooge for kidnapping or terrorism.

 IN a previous essay, I examined the remote and immediate causes of insecurity and terrorism in Nigeria and proffered solutions encompassing social, economic, and political infrastructural reforms. In this piece, I see abysmal poverty or widening gap between the rich and the poor, hopelessness, frustration, and joblessness as the latent causative agents. These can be nipped in the bud through education, scholarship, skill acquisition, capacity building programmes and by ensuring that wealth and opportunities trickle down.

The Nigerian state has not been fair to majority of Nigerians despite the abundant material resources accruable to this country. We don’t have to wait until people pick up arms before we try to pacify them. The former ECOWAS Commission President, Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambers recently opined that, ‘‘Nigeria has no reason to be poor.’’ Let me paraphrase the words of Dr. Ibn Chambers, ‘Nigerians have no business being poor’. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo stated the obvious when he lately opined that, ‘’rising unemployment in Nigeria is a time-bomb’’.

Beyond religion and politics, there must be a strong force that will galvanise an individual to waste his life and that of others. That strong force is the trio of abysmal poverty, hopelessness/frustration and joblessness. It’s not simplistic! A hungry man is an angry man. It will take an amazing brain-washing prowess to convince a gainfully employed young man or somebody with a thriving business to abandon the trappings of his work or business and be a slavish stooge for kidnapping or terrorism.


An upsurge of religious fundamentalism undermines the social order. Religious organizations – churches and mosques in most African countries have unwittingly usurped the roles of the government. Many Nigerians will rather trust or listen to their pastor’s or Imam’s than say a President. Churches/Mosques dole out money or some other forms of material succour to impoverished members. The flip-side is that he who pays the Piper dictates the tune. Hence, it becomes easy for a run-of-the-mill Imam or Pastor to brainwash an entire congregation because they depend on him for their sustenance. An average American or Westerner generally, does not have to fast and pray for seven days before he eats a meal or clothes himself. Government at all levels must begin to deliver on their promises and improve the lot of her citizens.

Proliferation of private universities

It has become a fad in Nigeria for anybody who is somebody to own a private university. This is a noble vision. One wishes the driving force is skewed towards altruism rather than pecuniary gains. Imagine the prevailing scenario where a church or a political leader builds a private university and children from poor backgrounds cannot afford to attend such schools. How many Nigerian parents earning N18, 000 to N30, 000 minimum wages can send their children to a private university. In addition to building private universities which only children of those blessed with stupendous wealth, should set up Trusts/Endowment Funds through which they can award scholarships to gifted students from poor backgrounds. The Rochas and Kanu Heart Foundations must be commended.

The United States experience

The Americans understand and profoundly appreciate the importance of nipping crimes, radicalism, violent extremism and terrorism in the bud hence their immense direct and indirect investments in security/defence and education. Americans have programmes geared towards prevention than cure; they exterminate the causative agents of a disease rather than fighting the symptoms as we do in Nigeria. I was amazed to discover a cornucopia of academic trusts, scholarships and endowment funds geared towards supporting and encouraging bright and probably poor American citizens and even foreign students and scholars. A few of these academic programmes are:

Fulbright Scholarship: The U.S. Student Fulbright grants send 1,500 students to one of 150 different countries for an academic year.

Rhodes Scholarships: The Rhodes scholarship, the oldest international fellowships, awards outstanding students from around the world to study at the University of Oxford.

Harry S. Truman Scholarship: The Truman Foundation awards 75-80 scholarships annually to students who want to Make a Difference.

H.J. Heinz Company Foundation Fellowship: H.J. Heinz Company Foundation Fellowship, for individuals from developing countries who demonstrate potential as future leaders in the public, government, non-profit, private sectors.

The National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate Fellowship: The Department of Defense (DoD) annually supports approximately 8,000 graduate students in fields important to national defense needs.

Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Fellowship Program

The Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Fellowship seeks students who wish to pursue a career in the Foreign Service.

Pat Roberts Intelligence Scholars Programme (PRISP) recruits and trains analysts and linguists.

Not forgetting the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Gates Cambridge Scholarship, and U.S. Department of Homeland Security Undergraduate Scholarships & Graduate Fellowships, the U.S Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology directorate’s $55,000 postdoctoral associateship programme and the FBI’s Intern Programme.

The CIA, DIA, and NSA participate in an Undergraduate Training Programme known as the Stokes Programme which targets bright high school seniors and high performing college sophomores majoring in areas critical to the needs of the participating agencies. Students selected for this programme receive a government salary and full benefits as well as tuition and other educational expenses.

The United States’ National Security Agency also has several other scholarship and fellowship programmes.

The Defense Intelligence Agency sponsors the National Consortium for MASINT Research (NMCR) Scholars Programme which provides scholarship funding for students attending consortium universities. United States Intelligence agencies also participate in some specialised scholarship programmes such as the Information Assurance Scholarship Programme for students at NSA-designated Centers of Academic Excellence and the NDEA/SMART Scholarship Programme for mathematics, science, engineering, and other critically needed technical skills.

The United States military services offer a number of scholarships and fellowships, including ROTC programmes.

One can see why an average American does not have qualms dying for his country because to a large extent, his country somehow guarantees that her citizens will actualise their aspirations. Life is quid pro quo!

On the international scene, the United States government through the USAID and a battery of critical counterterrorism capacity building programmes – Antiterrorism Assistance Programme, Counterterrorist Finance, Counterterrorism Engagement, the Terrorist Interdiction Programme/Personal Identification Secure Comparison and Evaluation System Programme, and transnational activities under the Regional Strategic Initiatives etc—reach out and partners with other governments and organisations in fighting crimes and terrorism.

In 2011, ‘’USAID worked in Islamiyyah and Quranic schools in Northern Nigeria benefitting 72,350 pupils (41,915 male and 30,435 female), out of whom 15,060 were identified as orphans and vulnerable children (OVC). Also in 2011, ‘’the USAID, in cooperation with other U.S. government agencies, undertook programmes that promoted reforms to enable developing and transition countries to allocate resources toward activities to accelerate economic growth’’.

Using the efforts of the United States government, individuals and the private sector as a benchmark, can we say we are doing enough in Nigeria in our hypothetical fight against violent crimes, insecurity and terrorism?

Calling on Nigeria’s super-rich and institutions to set up Endowment Funds/Foundations/Trusts

The Mo Ibrahim Foundation supports good governance and great leadership in Africa. Kofi Annan Foundation fights a cause against drug trafficking in the West African sub-region. Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela, Kofi Annan amongst others are global brands even after they left office.

Envisage the social transformation and positive multiplier-effect that will take place if all Nigeria’s former Presidents/Heads of State, governors, ministers, ex-bank MD’s etc, channel their energies, accumulated wealth and intellect in a humanitarian cause they are passionate about. Imagine the social transformation that will take place if the N6 billion ‘Security Vote’ and the so-called ‘Constituency Allowance’ accruable to all 36 state governors and members of the National Assembly respectively are judiciously utilised.

The Obasanjo’s, Babangida’s, Atiku’s, David Mark’s, Dangote’s, Dantata’s, Paschal Dozie’s, Emeka Anyaoku’s, Adenuga’s, Iwuanyanwu’s, Bola Tinubu’s, Otedola’s, Jimoh Ibrahim’s, Wale Babalakin’s, Arisekola’s, Harry Akande’s, Cosmas Maduka’s, Peter Odili’s, Andy/Ifeanyi Uba’s, Oritsejafo’s, Enoch Adeboye’s, Chris Oyakhilome’s amongst others should establish or partner with existing Trusts, Foundations or Endowment Funds that will encourage academic research, and award scholarships to promising but poor students or train people on skill acquisition. Apologies to those whose names appear here that already have such mechanisms. One understands that some of these prominent Nigerians are philanthropists per excellence but most times they lack a well-structured vehicle like a Trust or a Foundation through which their philanthropy will be better harnessed. Gen. TY Danjuma reportedly earmarked $100 million of his $1 billion ‘Oil Windfall’ for his TY Danjuma Foundation (TYDF). The TY Danjuma, Tony Elumelu Foundations amongst others must not be mere paper-tigers; they must walk the talk and give hope to hopeless people. The vision and philanthropic proclivity of many prominent Nigerians fizzle out after their demise; M.K.O Abiola is a classic example. With a well-knit Foundation or a Trust, these noble visions will surely outlive the individuals that conceptualised them.

Rather than rubbing their wealth in, acquiring/accepting luxury cars and private jets as birthday gifts, other Nigerian Pastor’s/Imam’s should borrow a leaf from Pastor T.B Joshua. Love him or hate him, T.B Joshua enunciates practical Christianity through his philanthropy. One wishes he put in place an enduring framework that will continue to propagate his vision even after his demise.

Borrowing a leaf from the Americans, it will not be anomalous for Nigeria’s National Intelligence Agency (NIA), the State Security Service (SSS), Defence Industries Corporation of Nigeria (DICON), the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC), Nigeria Police and other sister organisations to encourage internship programmes, award bursaries/scholarships or research grants to scholars. Any student who gets such an offer or opportunity will invariably be an instrument in the fight against crime, social disorder and terrorism.

During my university days, the school authority saw the wisdom in incorporating military/para-military students and the Man O War into the university’s security network. Because we were part of the students: We study, live with and mingle with them; it was easier for us to be privy to some goings-on in our school than the formal security officers employed by the authority.

Modernising Almajiri System of Education

We are not bereft of well-articulated ideas in Nigeria; our bane is implementing them. One of such ideas is to modernise the Almajiri system in northern parts of Nigeria and integrate it into our mainstream educational system. Not too long ago, President Goodluck Jonathan commissioned a N240 million Almajiri Model Boarding School in Gagi, Sokoto State. One hopes other northern states will replicate such projects.

Skill acquisition programmes must also be put in place across Nigeria to absorb idle and frustrated youths. The much talked about YouWin, SURE-P, Graduate Internship Programmes, CBN’s ‘’Entrepreneurship Development Academys’, Ministry of Communications ‘’Naija Cloud’’ amongst others must not be paper-tigers or instruments of political benefaction. One is gladdened by the prospect of the ‘‘Strategic Philanthropy Summit’’ recently co-hosted by the Goodluck Jonathan government. We earnestly hope that this Philanthropy Platform hits the ground running in view of the exigency of its vocation.

The northern part of Nigeria has produced the most President/Heads of State and political leaders in Nigeria but unfortunately, this aggrandised wealth has not trickled down to the downtrodden. What obtains in the North and in many parts of Nigeria is a situation where an individual in a community amasses so much wealth and others depend on him for their upkeep. One does not begrudge these folks; we rather wish that they plough back just an iota of their wealth towards a humanitarian cause.

The rich cannot continue to sleep with their two eyes closed until drastic and collective actions are taken to give hope to hopeless and hapless individuals in our midst. At the risk over-egging the pudding, been dubbed a pessimist or a prophet of doom, I postulate that with or without negotiation/amnesty, pockets of sporadic terrorist incidents, kidnappings will persist across Nigeria unless far-reaching measures are taken to shrink abject poverty, unemployment, hopelessness, wanton corruption, religious fundamentalism and injustice.

A situation where you have an army of willing army of unemployed tools is a national disaster waiting to happen.

Security is a collective responsibility; all hands must be on deck. Nigerians Unite Against Insecurity and Terrorism. Let’s make Nigeria great again! Hear it! See it! Say it! Stop it !!!

Okereke, security analyst and consultant, wrote from Abuja.

“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”