An­other so­cio-eco­nomic threat to Arewa

Weekly Trust - - Weekend - Mundagi@dai­ with M.U Ndagi 08059637394 (SMS only)

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.

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