THE GROWING YOUTH RESTIVENESS IN SOUTH EAST

BY DONS EZE

We knew it would come to this level: that is, that there is going to be the wasting of human blood, destroying and burning down of treasured property. We had earlier cautioned against it, and pleaded that wise counsel should prevail on both sides, but nobody seemed to have listened. And so, the catastrophe is beginning to manifest, which is unfortunate.

One major factor that is responsible for the near state of anarchy we currently witness in the country, the South East inclusive, is joblessness. Nigeria has millions of idle, jobless or unemployed youths who roam the streets looking for something to do to keep them busy, to hold body and soul together, but there are none.

As they used to tell us, “an idle mind is the devil’s workshop.” So, the devil has been at work in many parts of the country, including the South East, and will not likely give up, until something concrete and urgent is done.

There is a world of difference between the jobless youths in the North who are being recruited to fight with the Boko Haram insurgents, and the jobless youths in the South East, who are fighting for a new Utopia, the resuscitation of the defunct Biafra Republic.

While the youths fighting with Boko Haram are largely uneducated and are driven by religious zeal to wreck havoc in society: the thought of being welcomed in Paradise with seven beautiful virgins if they kill an infidel; the youths fighting for the reactivation of Biafra, made up mainly of semi-skilled artisans and fairly educated, but jobless youths, are driven by the economic circumstance of Nigerian society. As Karl Marx told us, it is the economic base that determines the superstructure of society. In other words, it is the economic base that determines every other thing that goes on in a particular society.

Specifically, the greviances of the youths in the South East are two-folds. They are not happy with the Nigerian State, which treats the Igbo as second class citizens, and which denies them a stand or accommodation in the Nigerian political arrangement. They are equally not happy with the political leaders of the South East, who they see as self-serving and greedy, as stooges or agents and collaborators of those who do not wish the Igbo well.

The Igbo youths see the Nigerian environment as suffocating, and the paths of the Igbo strewn with thorns. They believe that the Igbo have no future in Nigeria, having been excluded from the Presidency of the country, and considered not fit to occupy top positions in the Nigerian Armed Forces, the Police, or any of the security agencies.

The Igbo youths are equally not happy that their own people are being chased from pillar to post in different parts of Nigeria, their property destroyed, looted, or confisticated, and at the same time, denied of what rightly belongs to them.

Now, there is somebody out there, who through persistent daily broadcasts, has been drumming into the ear of the Igbo youths, about their hopeless situation in Nigeria. He gives them the hope and comfort that since the Nigerian State had rejected them, had failed to give them jobs, failed to give them opportunity, or create a level-playing field for them to realize their potentials, and denied them the highest office in the land, top positions in the security agencies, etc., that there lies ahead a better place where all their needs and aspirations would be met or fulfilled, which is Biafra.

He assures them that in the new Utopia, all the people living there would be free to order their affairs the way they like, and that they would not anyway play second fiddle to any group of people. He presents Nigeria as a failed state, and or “a Zoo”, where its inhabitants act and behave like animals, and where the government takes care and gives more attention to animals, rather than to human beings.

The Igbo political elites are not spared. He accuses them of selfishness, people who only are interested in what would benefit them and their acolytes. They hardly care about the needs of the youths entrusted into their care: provide them with jobs or design any youth empowerment programme that would help to sustain their loyalty and support, which is the main reason for the growing restiveness in the area.

Because of the growing difficulties in the country, and the government not doing anything to ameliorate the situation, the man’s radio broadcasts begin to make meaning to many of his listeners, while a lot of people begin to believe in him and to follow him.

For the South East political leaders, rather than counter these allegations by providing basic needs for these jobless youths, they chose to play the ostrich, and to wield the big stick, to decimate the youths, in order to cow or intimidate them. They equally teamed up with the enemies of the South East to criminalize the youths, to proclaim them terrorists, and to ostracize them.

Like they say, he who is already on the ground, needs not fear any fall. In the same vein, you cannot beat a child and tell him not to cry, these youths begin to mobilize in order to fight back, using all resources at their disposal. Now, the crisis is assuming a higher dimension and continues to fester by the day, to all parts of the South East.

Every now and then, we hear about one attack or the other perpetrated against the security agencies, the killing of some policemen, and the burning down of one property or the other. These were things that would not have happened if the political leaders in the South East were alive to their responsibilities, if they had taken some proactive actions. But they did not.

The security situation in the South East is increasingly becoming more trickish and complex. At present, we have the Fulani herdsmen, who kidnap, kill and burn down houses and farmlands, which is the main reason for the springing up of these different security outfits in the South East, such as the Eastern Security Network (ESN), Ebubeagu, and of course, the Nigeria Police, and other security agencies.

It is possible that some miscreants would be hiding under the canopy of one or two of these security groups to cause mayhem in society – burn down public and private property, kill people, etc., and we would be looking towards the direction of that one particular group that we hate, the group we have criminalized.

The governments of the states in the South East should therefore rise to the challenge by objectively getting to the root of the problem in order to tackle it once and for all. It is not a matter of marshalling out battalions of soldiers and policemen, or creating one security agency or the other, to regiment or crush the restive youths.

It is a matter of providing JOBS for the youths, something to engage them, to keep them busy. Majority of the youths in the South East are hungry, and as they say, a hungry man, is an angry man. Such a person will continue to vent his spleen on the system, no matter how hard you try to hold him down.

Dr. Dons Eze, KSJI

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