Musings of a Ruga Girl: Ungovernable Spaces, Navigating Challenges and Potential Solutions

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Turning off the news anchor mid-broadcast left me in a state of profound dismay. The pride I once held for my country, Nigeria, was now tainted by the crumbling foundation of our beloved nation, laid bare for all to witness. In a world governed by order and control, the concept of ungovernable spaces may seem paradoxical. However, these spaces, whether physical or virtual, challenge traditional systems of authority, providing fertile ground for alternative modes of existence and resistance to take root.

Hailing from the North-central region, I’ve witnessed the rise of activities and crimes perpetrated by militias or unknown gunmen, flourishing in ungoverned spaces that security forces struggle to penetrate. Conversations with individuals like Mallam shed light on the multifaceted nature of ungovernable spaces, spanning both physical and virtual realms. These spaces elude traditional governance, enabling experimentation and the exploration of novel social, economic, and political structures.

Ungovernable spaces have historical roots, often emerging from discontent with existing systems. They have served as sanctuaries for marginalized groups seeking liberation throughout history, from the favelas of Brazil to the Zapatista-controlled territories in Mexico and the autonomous zones of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Yet, the prevalence of these spaces within our communities, particularly in northern Nigeria, raises concerns. Critics argue that ungovernable spaces can become havens for criminal activities, including illicit trade, drug cartels, and terrorist networks. However, it’s crucial to distinguish between the empowering potential of these spaces and the negative consequences of exploitation. Like any tool, ungovernable spaces can be harnessed for both positive and negative purposes.

Ungovernable spaces, when viewed as expressions of autonomy and self-governance, allow communities to establish their rules, norms, and decision-making processes. These spaces become crucibles for experimentation, innovation, and radical reimagining of societal structures. By forming alternative systems of governance, ungovernable spaces challenge the notion that government and authority are the sole legitimate sources of power.

Questioning the efficacy of our security architecture, I pondered whether the existence of these spaces indicated failure and incompetence. Mallam responded by acknowledging that these issues contributed to the creation of havens for criminals and terrorists. The ubiquity of technology, especially the internet, has expanded the realm of ungovernable spaces, challenging traditional notions of jurisdiction and governance.

As we grapple with societal changes, growing inequalities, and disillusionment with traditional institutions, ungovernable spaces offer a glimpse into alternative possibilities. Rather than focusing on eliminating or controlling these spaces, efforts should be directed towards understanding and harnessing their transformative potential. With the right balance of regulation and respect for autonomy, ungovernable spaces can lead us to reinvent our systems of governance and create a more just and equitable world.

In the Nigerian context, leaders must prioritize the well-being of the people, especially the burgeoning youth population. Equipping the youth with skills and knowledge is paramount for the country’s future. Reflecting on these conversations, I am optimistic that, with the right tools and approaches, our challenges can be overcome. As I sipped my tea under the mesmerizing stars, I found solace in the belief that a way out of our quagmire exists. We place hope in our security outfits while remaining security-conscious, navigating the path to a brighter future.

*Sumayya Abubakar is a development worker, she is an educationist, and peace builder. She is the lead of Plateau based Muryar Fulani Peace Initiative Network Inc. She runs a schools’ system for marginalised populations in Plateau state, North central of Nigeria and can be reached at sumaiyaabubakar92@gmail.com*

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