Another socio-economic threat to Arewa
Arewa, the Hausa word for ‘north’, is technically used to refer to the entire northern part of Nigeria. This vast fraction of Nigeria is yet facing anotherhuge socio-economic challenge that critically threatens the region’s future. Before now, Arewa’s worst challenges included poverty, redundancy and illiteracy. Today, the menace of drug abuse among youths from this part of the country has, in recent times, assumed a very disturbing trend.
In a recent publication in the Daily Trust newspaper, the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) declared that drug abuse is responsible for 99 percent of crimes committed in Kaduna. Speaking at a drug enlightenment campaign organized by an NGO, Voice to the People, the NDLEA representative from the Kaduna State Command Dr. Ibrahim Baba said, it is part of their policy to educate the youth on the dangers and consequences of drug abuse.
Dr. Baba said, “it is not only okay to arrest and prosecute drug offenders but we are giving the fight against drug abuse a human face in which we go round to educate and provide primary prevention techniques to these vulnerable groups so that communities will be rid of drug abuse and related crimes”.
What disturbs me most is that a large chunk of the drug addicts from Arewa are children and youth. Some of them are, unfortunately, dropouts from the traditional Qur’anic system otherwise called Almajiri schools. Indeed,so much has for so long been said about the Almajiri phenomenon in Arewa. While some of such schools are organized in structure and operations, most are characterized by unhygienic learning environment and near absence of boarding facilities.
The worst but most common trait ofAlmajiri school pupils is streetbegging, which many stakeholders view to be a consequence of poor nutrition; a factor that is further complicated by inadequate parental love and care. Many of theseAlmajiri school pupils across the 19 northern states of Nigeria havebecome vulnerable due to the inexcusable irresponsibility of their parents who derelict their God-assigned obligationof caring and catering for these tender kids. The decadesold practice of street-begging by Almajiri pupils in Nigeria gives Islam a bad image as much as it constitutes an embarrassment to the once functionaltraditional Qur’anic system of learning.
Many reasons including the ones enumerated in the preceding paragraph could lead an Almajiri pupil to drop out of Qur’anic school. A child deprived of basic needs such as parental love and care, food, clothing materials or medical attention when required could be forced in to street-begging, bullying, scavenging (otherwise called Babban-bola in Hausa) or drug abuse and addiction. Like many commercial motorcyclists called Achaba in Arewa, there appears to be, in the opinion of this writer, a correlation between Babban-bolaand drug addiction.
It is easy and simple to find a typical Babban-bola with dark lips, red eyes (as if they were inflamed) and coloured finger nails. Although I do not have the training of an NDLEA personnel, these traits are common with persons who smoke or take dangerous substances that intoxicate including solution. Some of the hard substances are now hawked in bottles accompanied with cups; perhaps, to create the impression that the vendor is a mai-shayi, the Hausa word for teavendor.Nowadays, some hardened addicts even take hard drugs and substances openly. In the same manner that Achaba, sachetwater vending, and shoe-cobbling became the main vocation for the large population of unskilled Arewa youths, Babban-bola in recent times has also joined the list of trades that provide “jobs” for the teeming population of unemployed as well as under-employed groups of Arewa youths.
These young drug addicts from Arewa lurk around scrap dump sites, slums, motor parks and deserted streets or areas.What I recently saw washeartbreaking, pathetic and unfortunate. It was baffling even as it completely appeared strange to me to see a boy of about 10 years of age scavenging in refuse dump sites. Was hesearchingfor a livelihood?Subhanallah!
It is important to state and recognize the demographic value ofyouths as this group of citizens represent a huge percentage of the country’s population.Youths, who should be the most economically viablehas the capacity to feed the other segments (children and the aged) of citizens. They can productively engage in agriculture and do all the energy-sapping jobs to feed the nation.Arewa youths constitute a huge economic asset that can considerably build the necessary infrastructure needed to propel the region’s economy.
Unfortunately, this great economic advantage of our ablebodied young boys and girls is, out of utter misplacement of our priorities in Arewa, is being converted in to a worrisome liability.Yes, young girls too are now in the business of drug abuse and addiction. The existing misgovernance that typifies leadership in all the 19 states in Arewais turning our youths in to a wasted generation.Misgovernance in this part of the country is converting the psyche, energy, talent, creativity and resourcefulness of Arewa youths in to a wasted generation. This is a recipe for the economic collapse of Arewa.
It is important for the 19 governors in Arewa to fear Allah (SWT) and collectively take practical measures that will curb drug and addiction among its youths so that this group of citizens canappreciably contribute to Arewa’s political economy. Providing quality education for Arewa youths mustbe a matter of priority to all the states in Arewa. Similarly, governors in Arewa must resolve to intervene with proactive policies and enabling laws that will not only rid the region of street-begging but will equally reposition and make the traditioonal Qur’anic school system functional. Thefinancial support by Arewa governors for the actualisationof an integrated Qur’anic education that blends with western education must go beyond lip-service. Unless thethreat analysed here is genuinely addressed, it spells doom for Arewa, the largest region in Nigeria. May Allah (SWT) touch the hearts of the 19 governors in Arewa to prioritisechildren and youthsin their policies.