Boko Haram and the girl child.

The Northern elites have failed Nigerians in the North. For 26 years, political power has resided in the North but yet, the rate of poverty and inequality is higher in the north than any other part of the country. Societal unrest is brought about by one major factor which spreads across the board. That factor is inequality. Inequality is the factor responsible for the huge gap between the rich and the poor, the educated and uneducated, and more importantly, men and women. To illustrate this point let’s analyse the boko haram situation closely.

Boko haram was initially thought to be a fight against Western education, which is what their name represents. But as they became more sophisticated in their methods of terrorism, it increasingly became clear that the group may have had a more political agenda with the root cause being an unsolved and unsatisfactory social problem. If the north had better institutions in place that made sure welfare issues ranging from education to employment were taken care of, there would not be so many young men on the streets that would be easily incentivised to join a terrorist group. Boko haram is a symptom of the failure of the Nigerian state, but more specifically, a failure of the northern elites who seem to be very comfortable while the gap between the rich and the poor keeps widening. What’s depressing about the whole issue is that women, young women are caught up in this battle of socio-economic deprivation. Women are the ones suffering the most from all of this. Apart from the kidnapping of the chibok girls, so many other young women have been kidnapped by these terrorists and then put through unhealthy and unsanitary conditions. Months ago, it was reported that the Nigerian army had successfully rescued some 300 girls and unfortunately after health checks, it was found that 237 of those young women were pregnant.

Here is the problem. These young women, majority too young to be mothers, would suffer from the psychological trauma of having been kidnapped, then raped over and over by men who terrorised them. Then they will give birth to children out of wedlock, but worst, for men who caused them so much pain and distress. These kids will forever be a reminder of the trauma these young women went through. Nigeria at the moment lacks the appropriate facilities to heal the mental trauma these women are going through, and integrating them into the very society that made them susceptible to this sort of terror has to be the biggest injustice ever. These women, currently wallowing in poverty, will raise these innocent kids in the same environment that put them in harm’s way. If they bear sons, their sons will be born into an environment that could potentially make them very susceptible to join terrorist groups. If they bear daughters, these daughters will be born into the same environment that makes them susceptible to being kidnapped, raped and treated like slaves, just like their mothers.

The fact is this, the Northern leaders have to realise that if the masses keep being poor and there are no immediate and long term plans to solve this deep social issues, one day, the rich will also know no rest. It’s not okay to just capture boko haram members and think the problem will go away. That’s akin to putting band aid on a gunshot wound. The deeper social issues that create these sorts of rise in terrorism are what our leaders should be focussing on.

Another important issue that needs immediate attention is the way women are treated especially in the north. Nigeria has to take its women more seriously. Women are the reason there is even a society in the first place. When you empower a young woman, this extends to the whole community. Girl child education should be taken more seriously than the salaries of politicians. If majority of women were educated in the north, a lot of the problems currently faced would be nonexistent. For example, maternal mortality, child mortality, employability/entrepreneurship. Education can lift them out of poverty, making them less susceptible to getting married at a young age or dying of vagina fistula. They will become more independent, make decisions on their own and make decisions about their fertility. They would have a say in society rather than be treated as subordinates or married off early to earn their parents money.

If you have a look at the current leadership statistics, only 8 women are senators out of 109, and only 16 HOR are women out of 360. To break this down, 7% of women are senators while 4% are part of the house of assembly. This means that when these decision makers have to make decisions concerning women, the majority (men) would end up making the decisions for women. This is abysmal. This has to change.

With the changing socio economic climate, our leaders have to prioritise and they need to realise that being in public office is to serve the people and not a self serving appointment. The two areas to focus on are poverty, and girl child education/women empowerment. The fact still remains that this society will not progress without tackling these important issues. These poor uneducated women will give birth to sons who would most likely be unemployed and will have political grievances. These political grievances will become a force worse and more sophisticated than Boko haram in a few years. When this happens, the elites will have no peace. To solve a problem, go to the root cause, inequality. The Nigeria you create today is the Nigeria you will grow old in tomorrow. If it is not conducive now, then you stand the risk of directly getting affected in old age. The girl child you educate today may be the woman who carries out your life saving surgery tomorrow. Think!