Social psychologists have established that massive youth unemployment and the failure of leadership at any level to secure a prosperous future for its upcoming generation of youths is largely the main recipe for insecurity anywhere in the world.
When youngsters have not been prepared to be productive or to eke a decent livelihood as responsible citizens, a bleak future hovers dangerously.
Youths become susceptible to bad influences’ and tend to turn easily towards crime and in most cases, violent and sophisticated crimes for survival. It is the nightmare of Nigeria, like most other countries in the world.
The spate of youth restiveness and violent crimes like kidnapping, abductions, armed robbery and an array of fraudulent acts perpetrated by youths in the country is a loud statement in this direction. The emergence and festering of Boko Haram insurgents is another shameful mirror of a nation which has deserted its younger generation or failed to secure and protect their future. This is not to say, idleness should lead to criminality.
The frightening youth unemployment in Nigeria explains why the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari is working assiduously to rescue Nigeria’s economy from recession to launch a more friendly and robust survival environment. It is reason the Presidency has attached much premium on job creation, youth and women empowerment and other poverty alleviation schemes. Taking youths off the streets for engagement into useful ventures is an obligation that cannot be ignored.
And it is not the responsibility of the federal government alone. It is much the duty of states government in same depth, it is also the duty of local governments in the country. Any state which wishes to escape the sobriquet of a failed state must consciously evolve measures to harness the talents of its youths. Sadly, political leadership at the state and local government levels have not seen this as a priority.
The flourishing wave of violent crimes have not even pricked their conscience to act in this direction. But it is the only panacea or antidote of dismantling the reservoir of ready recruits into violent crimes.
A post- apartheid South Africa faced a similar social problem, as years of segregation of the majority blacks by the white supremacists bred a frightening population of unemployed youth who accepted crime as a favorite pastime. A breather only came when the South African central government activated its public works department at all levels where youths were engaged in menial and construction jobs.
Nigeria adopted a similar approach in the past when militancy in the Niger Delta reached a damaging crescendo. Former President Umaru Yar’Adua launched the amnesty programme and empowerment schemes in the region.
The persistence of the flashes of Boko Haram terrorism is perceived from this prism and a consequence of the neglect of youth in the Northeast. It is amazing the number of foot soldiers at the disposal of Boko Haram. And deducing from the confessions of some repentant insurgents, it’s clear they were lured into the game because of idleness and the unyielding quest for survival.
It therefore means, unless and until governments of the affected states take determined steps to dislodge the huge population of idle youths, it will slow down or even obliterate the success so far recorded in the counter-insurgency war in the Northeast. It is quite relieving that some state governments in the Northeast have actually taken steps in this direction. The echoes have resonated in Adamawa, Bauchi , Gombe and Yobe states among others.
These states have evolved measures to productively engage youths in the post-insurgency era to take their minds off crimes generally and terrorism in particular. Some of the states have launched amnesty programmes to de-arm the youths of weapons in their possession.
Unfortunately, Borno state, which can sarcastically be described as the “father” of Boko Haram terrorism has not thought of either amnesty or youth empowerment. Many believe and like the prevailing conditions have suggested, the refusal of suicide bombs attacks to abate in Borno state is largely a consequence of this neglect.
Regrettably, the political leadership of Borno state symbolized by Governor Kashim Shettima or the political class in state are blind to this reality. They know the best path to follow, but none has devoted his time to it. It is partly responsible for the renewed atrocities of Boko Haram terrorists in bomb explosions and abductions.
It is disheartening to understand that the political leadership in Borno has wittingly consented to nourishing the negative mentality of youths in the state that crime and specifically, terrorism pays. It has done nothing to redirect this focus. In any case, it is now proven that there is no escape route for Governor Shettima and his team.
It is unconscionable for the state to look at the problem of defeating and winning the war against terrorism in the area as the exclusive responsibility of the federal government. It is this feeling of complacence that has compelled this lackluster posture on youth empowerment, which is the silent instigator of the current flashes of terrorism in the state.
The Governor has no choice than to bring his head down to engineer winning the war against Boko Haram terrorism through the social and political planks. He has to act now and very fast because the tide of time has ebbed dangerously against him.
Governor Shettima should immediately convene a parley of political leaders and stakeholders in the state to work out modalities to initiate and launch an amnesty programme and youth empowerment schemes as done by other states in the region. This is no time for pretense or resurrection of feuds with political foes. Public interest and the future of Borno youths should supersede any other consideration. If Governor Shettima has political enemies, it is time to open the page of reconciliation, hence the interest of the state and its safety is supreme.
Indeed, for the political leadership in Borno to have waited till this moment or relaxed until prodded into action is disappointing. Already, they have earned the tag of a failed state leadership. So, Shettima owes the people of the state the official obligation to do the needful by reversing this impression before it becomes consolidated enough to hurt and haunt his future political ambitions in 2019 and beyond.
Governor Shettima may wish to be reminded about the power of the people. It was the masses that powered the wind of change that ousted the deeply entrenched government of the PDP centre in 2015. It is therefore, disastrous for the political leadership of Borno state to continue to underrate the people, who alone, can decide their political destinies.
Nigerians know that military can only erase terrorism in the state once the political leadership is willing to do the needful. Borno state government should begin to think of youth empowerment by creating jobs, in the public service, construction industry; adopt the South African public works department model, as against the present practice where only topflight politicians hijack contracts, instead of breaking it into small bits to reach a greater number of people. The government can partner philanthropic organizations’ and the private sector to boast agriculture through friendly interest loans and repayment terms and so forth.
But if Governor Shettima prefers to sit and watch, the day of reckoning is already lurking in the corner. There is no doubt that his political future remains tied to the anticipated political victory over Boko Haram terrorism. He has the last chance to redeem himself. He can grab or ignore it to his peril.
By Mahmoud Mahmoud
Mahmoud, a sociologist writes from University of Maiduguri.