By Muhammad Sabo Keana
Abuja: Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and one of the anchors of regional stability and if unstable or ungovernable, the region becomes endangered.
Sustainable Democracy is essential to Nigeria’s stability, but the practice of democratic values and principles cannot be achieved in an atmosphere of chaos, insecurity and constant fear of violence.
Children like the Almajiris who have suffered long-term abuse and deprivation at tender age, pose a dangerous threat to sustainable democracy. Through lack of accountability and poor leadership, successful government since the return of democracy have predisposed generations of children to social exclusion, violence and radicalisation, thereby creating significant threats to Nigeria’s existence and stability as well as to democratic sustainability in the country.
The consequences of such educational exclusion and neglect has already manifested in breeding hatred, violence and isolation, providing ideal recruiting platform for banditry and extremist activities that can truncate democratic values.
The absence of educational opportunities for young children liable to vote, presents a defect in the working of democracy. When a vast majority of the voting population are not educationally empowered to take rational decisions as it relates to the values of their votes, democracy becomes a mob rule, and because democracy entails the full participation of all citizens, the exclusion of many citizens from educational opportunities means permanent exclusion from full democratic participation in a country where eligibility to be voted for is indexed on educational attainment.
Almajiri Children will never be voted for into any elective position in their life because they lack the basic educational qualifications to contest an election. Tragically or so, these set of citizens who fill campaign rallies are again permanently excluded from accessing so-called democratic dividends in form of government jobs, and privileges that requires educational qualifications.
Invariably, they are condemned to a life of marginality in the informal sector and so, they are condemned to menial jobs. Because they are uneducated, they lack the ability to properly understand political problems, its relevance to their future and current challenges, hence, they care less for the value of their votes.
This makes the Almajiri child expendable. Most of them are undocumented in life and in death. They are thus invaluable assets for radicalisation and political violence, both existential threats to Nigeria and to the sustainability of its democracy.
The implications of these, is that, they can be used to put incompetent and corrupt leaders into public office. Such has been the features of democracy in Nigeria and Africa and this has continued to contribute to the suffering of people because of poor democratic decisions of uneducated citizens.
The implications and consequences of these untamed actions do not only affect them but every one. Despite the clear and adverse Almajiri children’s rights violation and its implications to sustainable democracy and attainment of a peaceful society, the government and society have continued to turn a blind eye to the issue.
We call on the new administration at all levels and across states to increase investment in the education of these children to guarantee their full democratic participation and inclusion in civic life, so as to ensure the future sustainability of democracy.
Muhammad Sabo Keana is the Team Lead, Almajiri Child Rights Initiative – ACRI