Nseobong Okon-Ekong

For many communities in Borno and Yobe states whose way of life was disrupted by the Boko Haram crises, gradual return to normalcy may not guarantee a reverse to their commonplace culture, according to teachers at the Yobe State University in Damaturu.

The university lecturers posited that a combination of emerging factors would significantly alter several aspects of the culture of the people, mostly in the negative.

Mr. Ali Haruna, a Clinical Psychologist who lectures in the Department of Sociology who is also Director, Centre for Research on Capacity Development and Humanitarian Studies, argued that there are positive and negative sides to the insurgency in the north east, and submitted that many displaced persons who find themselves in the cities and have become exposed to the good life may not be willing to go back to the villages, particularly women.

He said proliferation of insurgency has triggered incidents of sexual gender-based violence, hitherto unknown in this part of the country. “Most of the girls from the villages are being harassed by the host communities and most unfortunately by security agents, whose primary duty was to protect them.”

Stressing that there are two categories of Boko Haram recruits – those who joined willingly and those who were forcefully conscripted, he argued that in a situation where the trauma of Boko Haram activities are still fresh on members of the community, it would be difficult to reintegrate Boko Haram ‘operatives’ (who have been liberated by the military) back into the community without putting a stigma on them.

Haruna also drew attention to the vigilante group known as ‘Civilian Joint Task Force’. He said the informal method of their recruitment did not allow them to be put through a proper process of protecting their communities.

“These young men are mingling with security personnel who teach them how to operate guns. They now see themselves as people with some kind of authority. Look at the way they approach people. There is nothing that says that some of them would not have buried guns somewhere in their various communities with the hope of converting such weapons to carry out opportunistic crime.”

On a positive note, Haruna argued that the North-east has the most arable land among the northern states and if the government takes advantage of the large pool able-bodied young men through a planned, constructive engagement in farming, the region can be back on its feet in a period shorter than 10 years.

His counterpart, Alhaji Ahmadu Ibrahim who teaches Sociology of Development pointed out that defeating the insurgents on the battlefield does not mean an end to terrorism. He described insurgency as an ideology that can only be overcome by a superior ideology.

Addressing other impacts of the Boko Haram crises on the culture of the people, Ibrahim said the social and religious protocols that used to attend marriage are no longer observed as the insurgents forcefully take women and girls for marriage, while many marriages are contracted in the Internally Displaced Persons Camp without involvement of members of the nuclear and extended family.

Secretary to the Yobe State Government, Baba Mallam Wali, agreed that being displaced for a long period of time would definitely have some cultural impact on the affected persons and the society at large. “Now, we have a lot of widows and orphans who have become a burden on the society.”