Widows, Orphans and the Price of Failed Governance, By Zainab Suleiman Okino

There is this particular viral WhatsApp message that makes a mockery of the population of women worldwide and why they should desist from doing shakara for men, for the consequence of the possibility of remaining spinsters for life.

Although the WhatsApp message factored in the effects of wars, which, to a large extent, claim the lives of men and render their wives widowed.

No empiricist in his wildest imagination, would think that 22,000 widows and 44,000 orphans could become victims of, not a conventional war but so-called banditry in a State that has a governor, council chairmen and security agencies, all living at the expense of government allocations. Zamfara State has a population of 3,278,873 in a country of about 200 million people, yet in peace time, 22,000 women and 44,000 children became widows and orphans in less than three years. This is besides the vulnerability of the other contiguous States of Katsina, Sokoto and Niger, with their own shares of chaos and a growing number of victims too. For a fact, the activities of Boko Haram, banditry, terrorism, kidnapping, insurgency, criminal herdsmen and cattle rustlers combined, have become a national malaise, but Zamfara’s is depressing.

Therefore when Senator Kabiru Marafa (Zamfara Central) raised a motion in the Senate and revealed the appalling situation of things in Zamfara State and the apparent helplessness of the victims, it also raised many unanswered questions. What really went wrong and why are the people left to their own devices? Is it really about banditry, Fulani/local vigilante rivalry or there is a political dimension to it?

We all know that Zamfara is a treasure trove of mineral resources being mined illegally by agents of influential people and their Chinese collaborators; but then why is it that despite the chaotic state of things in Zamfara, these illegal miners, including the Chinese among them, are never kidnapped for ransom like they do to the locales? Who are their protectors? With the bandits even raping women and taking away young teens, imagine the mental torture of parents whose teen daughters have been violated and what the future of that girl/victim will be if she lives to tell the tale.

Anyway, beside the political aspect to the issue, which is immaterial in comparison to the humanitarian catastrophe, Marafa’s expose is indeed worrisome. He said “the problem of insecurity in Zamfara State is deteriorating on a weekly or even daily basis”, a development he said called for urgent national action and legislative intervention from the parliament.

According to a Blueprint report last week, the senator was quoted to have said that, “heinous activities of different categories of mindless criminals or killers in the state, like armed bandits, cattle rustlers and kidnappers, among others, were creating serious humanitarian crisis in the State that must be addressed very urgently.”

“Since 2011, as a result of the activities of the criminals in the State, an estimated 11,000 males, who left behind an average of 22,000 widows and by extension 44,000 orphans, have been killed. These figures are just…conservative estimates because the figures are far, far higher.”

“The bandits, especially heavily armed kidnappers, operate with little or no resistance in Gusau, the capital of the State, leaving less than 75 per cent of people in Zamfara unable to sleep in their houses.

“The situation has nothing to do with politics because my own blood sister was brutally murdered in her matrimonial home in February this year and even two of my cousins outside the state capital few weeks back,” he said.

There are even reports of these widows and orphans begging for food to eat on the streets of Gusau, the State capital.

Although the upper legislative chamber resolved to set aside N10 billion in the 2019 budget as an intervention fund for tackling the problem of insecurity and the resultant humanitarian crisis, billions of dollars will never be enough to assuage the emotions of the people and bring back their loved ones.

The Zamfara tragedy, coming shortly after Boko Haram’s devastation of the North-East (is the insurgency or war really over?) says a lot about the declining glory of this vast and rich region. The ever caring and emotional Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State, who has governed for almost eight years, even with terrorism threatening to thwart his efforts to reconstruct the State and rehabilitate the people, once disclosed that the insurgency has left in its trail, 54,911 widows and 52,311 orphans, and they are still counting.

In a surprise twist, our leaders engage in globe-trotting and appealing to the international community to come and invest in a country whose capital city, Abuja, is not safe as armed robbers/kidnappers now go about with their POS machines and use these to extort money from their victims. Is it not wishful thinking to go invest in Zamfara or Borno State where bandits and insurgents rule the roost?

Just like Zamfara, my heart bleeds for all the widows and orphans of needless wars. More than 2.7 million Syrians have fled their country, with more than half of them being women and children. In one district in Syria called Kafranbel local council, a quarter of the 850,000 inhabitants have been widowed or orphaned or both. In Yemen, widows comprise 25 per cent of the people and more than half of the population are either orphaned or live in abject poverty.

After the lamentation, I do hope that the so called N10 billion intervention funds for the widows and orphans would actually be spent on rehabilitating them such that they can live normal lives again. However, in the interim, an immediate relief fund is required to save a very bad situation.

Now, after humanitarian efforts, how do we get our country back from banditry, insurgency and armed robbery? No one person has the solution, however leadership should be more endearing to the people, live among them, share in their problems and curtail insecurity and frivolous displays of ill-gotten wealth.

So sad that the WhatsApp message referred to above is actually a sad reflection of the plight of women worldwide.

zainabsule@yahoo.com, http://www.zainabokino.blogspot.com; 08098209791, text only.

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Categories: Column, Opinion

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