The young man up north is potentially a keg of gunpowder. And it is not his fault. The girl up north, on the other hand, is dangerous just because she is powerless. The girl child harms by doing nothing just as the boy harms by doing everything.
The girl does not go to school, does not fight on the streets, does not wield a gun, or even rail at a devious parent. Yet, she marries before she falls in love; she weans a child before her womb is ready, understands rebellion but cannot read. She is the anti-hero who must watch and suffer tyranny and even dare to enjoy it. She is a victim by being the bait and bearer of suicide bombs. She is an unwilling serpent; he a battering ram.
The boy is testosterone. He is a vascular boil. His veins run fire and fury, even cold fire. He is angry and lets the world know it. The girl child recalibrates her rage into acts of obedience. She achieves a sort of loss of memory through work of obedience. Hers is a revolution of obedience. The young men are revolutionaries of rebellion. They hold the gun; they slash machetes in the air and through throats. They have no relationship with remorse.
The north is witnessing a generation of angry young men. England had such a generation once, in the 1950’s and 1960’s, and they did not tear away into orgies of primitive slaughter. They were Promethean in nature, and they fought in words and turned the society into self-awareness. One of the writers who embodied that movement of angry young men was John Osborne, who wrote a scathing play called Look Back in Anger, set symbolically in the life of a couple who must implode because of what they knew about themselves and their pasts.
In the north, the rage has a strange physiognomy. They have faith and murder on one side. On the other, they have mammon, or material greed. Also with murder. It is a rebellion of god and mammon, where both are demons in solidarity. While in the northeast, we see the use of religion as a platform for dissent, in Zamfara, it is gold. It is even a corruption of the fight for justice. It is like Mr Gould in Joseph Conrad’s Nostromo, where a search for social justice is subverted in a banana republic style by some men who seem sold to the devil. Gould is a corruption of gold.
So, the protest is half god, half goods. So, god and mammon become the canvas to overturn all that is spiritual and temporal. They do that by pillaging for the seductions of temporary delights. That is why some of the roads up north that used to be easy passages are now infested with kidnappers. Human beings of the high class now have to surrender some of their loot for freedom. Henry James in his great novel, The Portrait of a Lady, defines wealth as the ability to exercise freedom. The kidnappers abduct the rich so they can use it to gain freedom. It is a contradiction the goons can live with. The flame is hotter than ever with bandits having their run, and the government triumphing more in rhetoric than on the ground.
On the god side, they have changed the narrative of the Koran to fit their sense of history and their line to enlightenment. Peace is now violence. Submission is now subversion. Love is now hate, like in the scene in Romeo and Juliet where one of the love birds say, “my only love is my only hate.” Or in the words of Satan, once an archangel, forswears righteousness and proclaims, “all good to me is lost.”
Those who want gold want it for themselves. It’s an age of talakawa awareness. But the danger of the approach so far by the Federal Government is that we think the answer to violence is violence. We have been spending billions on war, but we cannot gain peace by war. We can only gain it by love.
Love is the scarce commodity in this narrative. Not love in the mere sentimental sense. It is love as work. The great example of that is actually going on in Borno State, where Governor Kashim Shettima has unleashed a great legacy of wooing the poor and disenfranchised. His weapon is education. Recently when Bill Gates visited Nigeria, he noted that education and health care are the pillars of development. Historian Tacitus noted this centuries ago.
Shettima has been at work. He has done that especially well in the building of primary schools. A visit to some of them open the eyes to what a governor can do even with limited resources and, especially, in times of war. The schools occupy large expanse of land, each classroom is air-conditioned. They have boarding houses. The issue of boarding houses go straight to the heart of the crisis. The boarding facilities command the envy of even first-class universities anywhere. Some of the students, especially girls, are Boko Haram orphans. The boarding houses are not just for school time, but even on holiday periods. Since they have no parents, the child’s home is also the school.
In one of the schools, the quote from Malala heralds you: “With a gun, you kill a terrorist. With education, you kill terrorism.” Just as Governor Shettima inspects one of the schools, a girl walks around, and the governor holds her. She is probably eight or nine. She is a Boko Haram orphan. Her name is Fatimatu. The governor calls the education commissioner and says the girl must be accommodated in one of the schools.
“If the girl is not in school, very soon somebody will set her up for marriage,” lamented Shettima. That is the sort of danger the girl child faces. The schools are not all the governor has done. In a two-part series titled:Borno Diaries, I had recorded is transformative work in all sectors. Yet after spending about seven hours inspecting his doings over a year later, I saw an explosion of brand new work I did not include in my earlier instalment, including the schools named after Kingibe, Modu Sheriff, Buhari, Kachallah, etc. Massive models of learning.
Is it the utility factory that produces everything from yarns to bags, to pipes? Or is the hospital that has the best diagnostic equipment for MRI in West Africa, and the biggest for breast cancer diagnostics? Or is it the green house that is setting the stage for disruptive agriculture? And Shettima was once a lecturer in agriculture.
The schools are models for anywhere in the country, and each of them occupies thousands of pupils. They are fed in the schools. He even built a school for the Bororo Fulani. It met resistance initially, but now it is getting oversubscribed. The schools have a teaching technology called Kayan. It turns the teaching board into a sort of computer, and it helps the teacher convey knowledge. It is novel and ground-breaking.
That is how to turn violence into opportunity. It is not by piling up a contractor’s dollars in a babaringa. Shettima is no doubt a star of his generation, and he has done this in defiance of a rage of young men. Shettima’s war is a revolution of peace. We have been spending billions on war, with tales of corruption and diversion of funds. Recently a video went virile of soldiers served rice without meat or fish. We buy aircraft and we multiply deaths. Knowledge is the game changer just as the movable type unfurled the industrial revolution, the Renaissance, Reformation, rise of cities, the burst of mass newspapers and ultimately the revolutions that began with the French. Knowledge brings trouble before it brings peace.
The novelist of the absurd, Albert Camus, once wrote that “peace is the only war worth waging.” That is Shettima’s legacy.
Lifeline for Chairman Chukwu
It was not easy for me to see Christian Chukwu in a picture last week. He is reportedly ill. He is a Nigerian hero, and he brought pride and glory to his country and also his club Enugu Rangers in his prime. Such persons ought to be nurtured and preserved. It was cheering though that Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi rallied support for him and enabled Chukwu’s friends to render support. He also gave him a job in the management of the Rangers International just as Fashola did for best of them all, Haruna Ilerika. Efforts like that opened the way for Femi Otedola to donate $50,000 thousand to enable him travel abroad. We still need you, Chairman Chukwu, one of the most charismatic defenders we ever had and an all-round gentleman