Academic journal article The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies

Youth Unemployment and Armed Insurrection in Post-Military Nigeria: The Contending Issues

Academic journal article The Journal of Social, Political, and Economic Studies

Youth Unemployment and Armed Insurrection in Post-Military Nigeria: The Contending Issues

Article excerpt

Introduction

The challenges currently confronting the Nigerian state transcend the previously simple case of boundary disputes and communal clashes to become something much more complex like armed insurrection. Insecurity posed by different forms of insurgency is now the most conspicuous feature of the country. Besides wreaking all sorts of havoc on the country and its population, insurgency has attached to the Nigerian state the labels 'dysfunctional state', 'weak state' and 'failed state'. The murderous activities of Boko Haram, an Islamist terrorist group, have particularly constituted a serious threat to the security of the country, as well as its existence as a legitimate entity. There is no denying that the spate of insurgency that permeates post-military Nigeria is traceable partly to the air of freedom enjoyed by the citizens. However, as shall be demonstrated in relation to the reign of terror orchestrated by the dreaded Boko Haram in the north and the series of militant activities in Nigeria's oil-rich region, the excruciating pangs of poverty, deeply rooted in the unemployment profile of the country, are a major explanatory factor of why many young men partake in armed conflict against their country.

Nigeria's return to democratic governance in 1999 after fifteen years of military dictatorship provides the aggrieved in the country with an avenue to voice their grievances in a manner that was considered unimaginable during the military era. For instance, the people of the Niger Delta who had considered certain government policies inimical to their local interest seized the opportunity presented by democratic governance to intensify their quest for an equitable distribution of Nigeria's wealth. This campaign, however, took the form of armed struggle, with the youths taking a leading role. The ongoing campaign of terror in the northern part of Nigeria is a different type of expression of resentment, which also has never before been experienced in the history of the country. The question, therefore, is: what drives these young men to join armed groups? This is the fundamental question we aim to address in this paper.

This paper posits that the emergence of armed groups in the country's nascent democracy is firmly rooted in a myriad of socio-economic factors. However, for reasons of expediency, we have decided to focus on youth unemployment. Our central argument is that the swelling ranks of unemployed youths have fed the growth of insurrection in Nigeria. Unemployed youths are driven to violence by those conditions that give rise to frustration and hopelessness. This assertion gains currency amongst Nigerians, who believe that Boko Haram leadership takes advantage of the unemployment situation in the country to recruit young men, in particular into their ranks. Having been radicalised by controversial Islamic clerics who cajole them into believing that their efforts will result in an Islamic state devoid of corruption, as well as earn them a place in paradise, jobless youths, especially those in the north, become willing tools in the hands of terrorists.

This article will, above all, provide an overview of the recent history of Nigeria and of the principal contributors to its internal conflicts. This overview will become apparent as we discuss certain elements in particular - the widespread youth unemployment and poverty that give rise to frustration and aggression.

Theoretical Explanations of Insurrection

Scholars of conflict studies have, to varying degrees, postulated that conflict is a dependent variable in the sense that it is usually caused by other variables. Some have particularly linked societal conflicts to failure of the state (Rotberg, 2003; Zartman, 1995), while others maintain that aggression, caused by frustration, is at the heart of most conflicts (Dollard et al., 1939; Gurr, 1970, 1993). The state-failure thesis contends that the absence of a responsive state capable of delivering needed services sometimes propels nonstate actors, such as religious and community leaders, to intervene in ameliorating the plight of the poor and aggrieved members of society, who in turn reward the leaders with utmost loyalty (Maiangwa et al. …

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