We had a robust discussion with some persons on banditry and the best possible ways to curb it. The discussion went from the main issues that have caused this menace to its persistence. One thing I made mention of is governmental neglect of rural areas. It is at the root of this problem.
For some time, I have thought about this particular issue and its depth. I never really grasped it until some weeks ago when I travelled to Katsina.
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The large expanse of unending land is something that one cannot fail but notice. You cannot help but appreciate the blessings Allah has bestowed upon this nation. This nation is truly blessed, we just have leaders who have refused to think of what’s best for us particularly the northern leaders.
The one thing I noticed is the fact that each local government except for a few like Malumfashi and Charanchi, the rest were just a cluster of few buildings with a secretariat and nothing too significantly enticing.
Then I said to myself, the mess we are in may not likely go away in a long time to come with the way the rural areas are fashioned out.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I can categorically say that more than 50 per cent of us do not have any dealings whatsoever with our villages. We do not even know them. Once our ancestors moved to the more urban areas there seem to be a gradual shift and disconnect from the rural areas.
Many of us cannot trace our lineage up to 3 or 4 generations away. So, for many northerners, even if they visit their villages or know where their villages of origins are, their people there have never felt their presence in terms of any kind of contribution to the socio-economic and human/infrastructural development.
It was for this reason I took a brief look at the Igbo society and what we could learn from them. For the Igbo man, no matter what he achieves and what height, he has attained whether a professor, businessman, lawyer, etc. the Igbo society does not reckon with you until you are visible in your immediate community.
There has to be something to show for it, maybe a small road, scholarship for youth, etc. Your wealth must reach home no matter what part of the world you are based. It could be a gigantic house that befits your status. No wonder if you pass by Igbo villages, you will always see these monumental edifices competing with one another.
They have this Umunna system, a kind of kindred relationship amongst relatives that is closely knitted. They believe in communal connection which they practice diligently. The reason why at the end of the year, everyone must one way or the other shut down and return home to their villages to connect with family and friends.
If their own dies, he must be taken back and buried in the village. No man sells his father’s family land because it symbolizes the strength and continuity of the lineage.
That is where meetings are held, decrees are passed, agreements are reached, decisions are taken and are binding. If a kindred’s business is not thriving, the Umunna comes in to help out. A man cannot always just wake up and divorce his wife anyhow until the Umunna is involved since it was involved in the marriage in the first place. Sometimes, education is the responsibility of a community.
Furthermore, because of their astute business orientation, they have developed the apprenticeship system which makes a person serve under a boss for about six years before gaining independence to continue this empowerment cycle. Cubana rightly comes to mind.
Women are not left out; they serve as an effective pressure group for enforcing traditions and cultural norms. The different age grades societies perform both civic and military duties. Thus, security remains in the hands of the youth who belong to that age grade.
Why am I using the Igbo society as an example, this is because to a large extent, their communal way of life has kept their rural areas alive. Communal living fosters better relationships in the community which brings about harmonious living and some form of development.
No matter what disadvantages this kind of setting may have, the disconnect between the rural and urban areas has glaringly been minimised.
Unlike the north where we have unconsciously neglected rural communities and the concentration of most of us in urban centres without constantly touching our roots, has birthed so many of the problems we are grappling with today.
Certainly, no society can achieve its developmental goals without seriously addressing the issues of underdevelopment in the rural areas. The reason why many rural dwellers move into the already pressured urban areas in droves to seek better opportunities.
Infrastructure deficit is one of the reasons for the rapid growth of banditry. What if we were very connected to the rural areas, do you think the issues would have been this bad?
Government neglect has generally overwhelmed every sector, especially education in the rural areas.
What if we as individuals, weren’t this disconnected from the rural areas and we were conscious about communal living and ensuring that we emphasized our roles of human involvement towards the human development of those in these neglected areas?
What if no matter the heights we attained and no matter how far we are from this nation, there was a pull factor that brought us back home to our roots? We probably would have been dealing with fewer problems.
When next you see the Almajiri, or the street beggars, know that somehow, we are also complicit in creating them.
When next you hear of the attacks and kidnappings, know that we collectively brought it upon us when we neglected those underdeveloped areas.
When next we stumble upon issues of young girls getting married and divorced at tender ages and birthing countless children, own up and accept that we didn’t all play our own parts well.
It is sad that even within our various living quarters in the urban areas, places inhabited by the elite is strictly separated from the rest. Even when there are elites living with less privileged ones, they barely know what goes on with them.
There’s little wonder that the problem of the poor remains theirs because the rich have disassociated from the poor.
We cannot always wait on the government for everything.
We have a lot we could learn from the Igbo system of communalism.
The question is: Is it late to learn, unlearn, relearn and act?
Maryam Hamza writes from NDA Kaduna