Religion as the opium of the poor has completely replaced industries and other productive employments.
The issue of violent crimes in Nigeria did not start with the advent of Boko Haram, the murderous gang that falsely claims the propagation of Islam as its underlying mission.
The country have been contending with several violent crimes before now. Crimes such as armed robbery, kidnappings, ritual killings, political assassinations, domestic violence etc have been prevalent in our dear country since independence; and indeed during years of colonialism.
That these crimes are on the increase is basically a product of lack of good governance as evident in mass unemployment, dearth of industries, corruption, disdainful display of stolen wealth and lack of cultural and moral values even in remote communities.
Until the early years of this millennium, Lagos, Kano, Port Harcourt and Ibadan were the strongest industrial base of the Nigerian economy, apart from oil.
There were industrial layouts in these cities where active factories producing textile materials, chemicals, pharmaceutical products, cement, shoes, bags, tides and skin, plastics, food, and other necessities were bubbling with productive activities involving several millions of Nigerians youths engaged in active employment.
Apart from the layouts in Kano, Lagos, Ibadan and Port Harcourt; there were strong industrial presence in other cities such as Ilorin where Tate & Lye, Philip Morris, Coca Cola etc engaged several young Nigerians as employees. In Okpella, Edo State, there were almost 3000 workers engaged at the Bendel Cement Company. Some more at the Bendel Flour Mill at Ewu.
Kaduna was home to several textile firms, just like Ilupeju, Oba Akran, Oshodi, Ikeja were in Lagos; as well as Sherada industrial layout, Bompai etc in Kano.
There were rubber plantations in most parts of the south south as well as the South East. Enugu was booming with coal production. Plateau State blossomed with mining. Indeed, Nasarawa State, which has the highest deposit of mineral resources in Nigeria had better life when the old Plateau State existed. Nassarawa still has the largest deposit of mineral resources of global quality and commercial value at the international market.
When workers close from work in these cities, a visitor will mistake the crowd on the roads for football fans coming from the stadium after a major international match.
What has happened now is the reality of the complete shut down of these industrial layouts because the factories have either relocated to other countries or folded up completely, throwing out several millions back to the streets, unemployed.
What has now taken over industrialisation is religious fanaticism, which is more "decent" than armed robbery. While churches has become an industry that is growing faster than any other "industry", having acquired dead factory houses and converted them to churches with those thrown out of employment as members. Today, the crowd coming out of church services have outnumbered those coming from work in multitudes.
Religion as the opium of the poor has completely replaced industries and other productive employments. And the faithfuls, who are largely unemployed, watch as a very tiny few come to service in convoys of stolen riches.
In the north, where the impact of unemployment is much more harsh and religion is consequentially deep, as well as other disadvantages such as access to education as a result of growing poverty being consequence of absence of markets for farm products and the collapse of industry, people like everywhere else have taken to deeper reliance on divine interventions. And of course, this have now subjected the Holy Books of the Bible and Al -Quran to all sorts of interpretations.
The thoughtless adoption of neo liberal social economic policies originating from imperial countries of the west without local contents that are people driven caused the disappearance of industries and employment as well as the growth of private accumulation of wealth at the detriment of society in general.
Resulting from these is the resort to self help clothed in kidnappings, robberies, internet scams, terrorism and other deadly crimes that have cost lives and properties unabated.
What has happened in the Nigerian situation is that apart from infrastructural absence, policies driven by neo liberal interests stunted growth; any growth that should have provided food, shelter, and anything capable of making a citizen live in average comfort.
The social economic and political burden of the crisis created by this is what has manifested in violent crimes like terror attacks, robberies etc; in the absence of a conscious radical political mass revolution that can displace the subsisting anti people system. For now, the only palliative we can have even within the existing system is good governance, which can only be achieved through clean and transparent choices of leadership.
The cost of these attacks is clearly evident in economic inactivity and a serious government need to give a holistic solution in terms of developing home grown policies that will return industries, create jobs en masse through infrastructuctural renewals, access to quality public education, moral regeneration and disciplined political class who abhors corruption and corrupt processes.
Denja Yaqub is an Assistant Secretary at the HEA.