By Ochereome Nnanna
Sponsorship of poor people’s weddings by governments and wealthy individuals is a common occurrence in our Muslim North, Arewa. The Kano State Government is very notorious for this practice.
They do it almost every year. In May 2019, the KNSG spent N300m to foot the wedding bills of 1,500 couples. The previous year, the number of couples who “benefited” from this gesture was 1,520.
This COVID-19 year, the Abdullahi Ganduje-led government last Friday, August 7, 2020, “married off” 100 widows and divorced women. This is part of the 1,000 mass weddings on the state government’s agenda for this year.
President of the Ninth Senate, Ahmed Lawan, has also embraced this gesture for his Yobe North constituents, comprising Bade, Jakusko, Machina, Yusufari, Nguru, and Kasurawa local areas. It will benefit 300 indigent intending couples.
As a statement from his office put it: “Beneficiaries must be of marriageable age and with nobody or means at all to finance their wedding”. Lawan is to pay their “dowry” (as the statement put it) and provide them with furniture. I did not see any amount to support their means of livelihood.
Sit back a moment and think about this practice which is obviously a cultural one in the Muslim North.
When a couple who has no means of livelihood or family support is brought together in marriage, the only possible outcome is the promotion of poverty. You are farming poverty just as you cultivate crops in a farm. It is bound to yield more abundant poverty. It does not even require intelligence to know this.
Why are Northern (Arewa) governors and “big men” always investing in the impoverishment of their grassroots, the so-called talakawa? Can we now see why in spite of the trillions taken from the Federal treasury over the decades for the benefit of the North it remains the real poverty capital of Nigeria and the world at large?
Privileged people go into government and stuff their pockets with public funds. They take a little out of it to sponsor mass wedding jamborees that will surely make the poor even poorer, thus widening the gulf between the high and the low.
It ensures that once you are born into such a family, your chance of breaking the surface is almost zilch. You serve a life sentence of poverty and destitution.
To worsen matters, the children from such families are immediately hustled into koranic “schools” to be brainwashed with religion. They become almajirai.
They are made to see Western education as an affront to their culture; the same Western education that raised people like Ahmed Lawan from obscurity to Senate president!
When the children of such marriages mature, they have no skills because they have no real education. They become the hewers of wood and drawers of water for the likes of Ahmed Lawan and their children.
They are used to perpetrate electoral fraud, political violence and to slaughter people when provoked. They become the “feeder teams” for Boko Haram and other foreign-funded terrorist groups, killing their own kith and kin, mostly the poor. Dog eat dog.
You may be wondering why Boko Haram is never short of volunteer fighters. Look no further. The simple explanation is that the children of the poor, having realised that there is no way out of the poverty foisted on them by the system, join the jihadists in hopes of a better future.
Boko Haram is simply a revolutionary guerrilla force seeking to overthrow the Sokoto Caliphate Islamic order which has nothing but pain to offer the poor. Poor people gamble on them out of desperation.
What the Kano State Government, Ahmed Lawan, and other members of the Northern establishment do to their people is called Weaponisation of Poverty. The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary says: “Weaponisation of poverty…is the manipulation of the social, cultural, and economic variables and/or dynamics as well as power relations so as to create conditions that engender (promote) poverty in order to achieve a set objective – political influence or economic exploitation”.
In Northern Nigeria, weaponisation of poverty is aimed at preserving the royal, political, bureaucratic and intellectual elite in their privilege while keeping the poor, destitute, and downtrodden in their poverty.
Sponsorship of mass weddings, religious brainwashing of minors and their denial of education, use of child voters, cultivation of the almajirai system, and other cultural practices are the means by which the Sokoto Caliphate has kept the talakawa in subjugation in order to preserve their own rule.
Unfortunately, after almost 60 years that the Sokoto Caliphate has ruled Nigeria directly or by proxy, aspects of their weaponisation of poverty have permeated even the South through vote-buying, arming of youths for elections, and giving them motorcycles after the election. These are meant to keep them poor, dependent, and unable to grow.
The human spirit can take subjugation for only a time. When you see the level of criminality and terrorism in Northern Nigeria, with Boko Haram, Al Qaeda, Islamic State, bandits, and Fulani militias running riot in mindless killings, it simply means that weaponised poverty has backfired. The weapon is now turned against the poverty cultivators.
Let those who have taken the Caliphate’s ideology of keeping the people poor to their states, constituencies, and villages in the South be warned that their own day of reckoning is insight. Already, the Nnamdi Kanu-led Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, IPOB, has broken off and is fighting Igbo leaders and politicians whom they now see as “agents of the Caliphate” working against the Igbo interest. Matters may soon go beyond mere rhetoric.
Nigerian politicians, especially Northern leaders like Ahmed Lawan, should repent today. It may already be too late. Stop weaponising poverty among your people. People will marry when they are ready, financially, and otherwise. Don’t meddle; it is none of your business! Get them educated and employable. Give them opportunities to grow and aspire to their highest capacities. Be their friend, not their enemy. Be their leader, not ruler. Stop enslaving them, in your own interest.
Mallam Aminu Kano, a grassroots political leader between the 1950s and 1980s who fought the Sokoto Caliphate’s oligarchist ideology (and lost) once said: “Nigeria will know no peace until the son of nobody becomes somebody without knowing anybody”. How right he was! The Caliphate North ignored him and declared war on the talakawa. Are you surprised they are fighting back?
The poor always fight back.