WHEN RELIGION IS AN ALBATROSS

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I came across a headline in The Sunday Punch. According to the headline, Senator Ali Ndume was protesting and speaking for the entire North. According to him, contrary to the popularly held opinion that the northern part of Nigeria is burden on the rest of the country, it has enough mineral resources to fund the development of both the North and the South. I must confess, I didn’t bother reading the article because it would simply have been a waste of my time. 

 

I understand Senator Ndume’s point of view. A region with vast deposits of minerals like talc, iron ore, baryte, bentonite, gold and others cannot be said to be poor. However, unless the minerals are taken out from the ground and refined and marketed and proceeds use for the development of the region and the country, then the minerals remain in the ground and no development can occur. With poverty rates of 77.7% in the North East, 76.3% in the North West and 67.5% in the North Central according to an article in the Journal of Poverty authored by Afeez Olalekan Jaiyeola and Ireen Choga, it is quite clear the North has a massive case of underdevelopment. The reasons for this are myriad but the main reason is religion. 

When the British colonised the various parts of Nigeria, the part of the country that now constitutes northern Nigeria was quite easy to colonise. This was because at the time (and till date) the North ran a feudal system like the British. This is a system where a few rich people controlled the land and the rest of the people worked on the land owned by the rich people and depended on them for their basic needs and livelihood. The land owners considered the others as their slaves and because the people considered the land owners their benefactors, they did as they were told. So once the British overcame the land owners, the people followed suit. 

 

Fast forward till today, the North unfortunately still operates a feudal system. Since independence, the land owners have used the fiscal power to obtain political power. While they sent their children to school to obtain an education and then passed down both wealth and unlimited opportunities to them. The children of the people who worked for them were denied Western education. Instead, all they were given was religious education. This limited type of education ensured that the land owners and their children continued to exert influence over the people who worked for them and their children after them. According to statistics from the Federal Ministry of Education, the North has the lowest literacy rates in the country.  

 

While I do not condone terrorism, it is quite clear that the actions of Boko Haram in the North have their roots in the repression of the people and the denial of educational and work opportunities. Therein lies the reason the reason the North has become a burden to the rest of the country. The leaders have followed policies that have denied the people the opportunity to make a living and take care of their families. With no adequate means of livelihood, whatever hopes and dreams the people had died a long time ago. Faced with a life where they cannot see their hopes or dreams ever being actualised and a fatalist attitude in life based on religious teachings, it’s no wonder the terrorists have found fertile ground for their murderous ideology in the minds of the people in the North. They probably see taking up arms against the government as a way of destroying the old order and creating their own world where they are in charge. 

 

Most times, a murderous and radical ideology has been accepted by a people, it can only be defeated, not by arms and munitions, but by a better ideology. I fully support the military offensive against all forms of insurgency. However, the only way to fully defeat a radical ideology is to present a better and more progressive one. The only way to defeat any form of insurgency arising from poverty and a lack of opportunities is to bring development to the people and create opportunities for the people to able to get an education and better their lives. With the reduced revenues from crude oil to run the government, development must be the farthest thing from the minds of the leaders. Which is a pity. As the saying goes, “He who sows the wind will reap the whirlwind”.  The governors and leaders from the North are simply reaping the fruits of the tree they have planted. If they do not like the fruits they are eating, then they should plant other trees.  

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