Azama: Disruption and the Quest for Social Change in Northern Nigeria
Recollection of a broken social hope which often leads to a disruption of youths’ and women’s social aspirations, for social change, requires a reawakening of conscience and interrogation of unsatisfied social order through organizational mobilization. The proliferation of our youths’ and women’s blind submission to political campaign in Nigeria is alarmingly begetting shpilkes and pills of unease to desire for an immediate turnaround by any critical sociological observer. This is why we founded the Azama Youth Development Association (AYDA).
History of Azama
It was so scary when in 2019 Nigeria’s general elections I discovered that 85% of those involved in political campaign and it’s brouhaha were women and youths, and that not even 5% benefits from the gains of the campaign indulgence. 45% of these women were those who were married before, while 35% were youths and 20% were married women. These women were unwittingly following the political bending by the rains of promises, heavens of hope and expectation created by the politicians.
Many lost their marriages in the course of the political campaign, and some fell for the trap of drug addiction, rape and sexual harassments. More lavishly, the youths lose their social conscience, self worth, and a sense of being functional and productive in the society. Sociologically, the repercussions became a saddle of concern for me and I saw that as an opportunity to implement some of my knowledge of sociology to bring social change. So we organized an association and indulged into the political antsy game.
The Rise of Azama
Fortunately, we got fame very quickly and many younger organizations rushed under us not in alliance but in total dissolve of their own associations. Meanwhile, out of the one thousand plus (1000+) members we had in our political organization, I later discovered, joined us because of the climate of hope we nurtured by our ability to take them see the big politicians at the time, and because many of the great politicians have either by themselves or through their representatives have visited the association, seeking for alliance. This made the popularity of the association viral! Everyone was talking about “Azama.”
Campaign in Gombe State, Nigeria
As the secretary general of the association, and often the moderator of the various political events we carried out, I started to infuse an orientation to our members by highlighting the ways in which we can utilize our population for good, during and even after elections. Though mostly their interest was on money and other gifts that the politicians give out freely, we tried to give them practical examples.
For instance during a political campaign in Gombe State, there was a woman with her child on her back jostling in the midst of a chaotic crowd quarrelling over detergents that’s being shared. Security fanned away people with cane and she was buttressed against a wall, before she could relieve herself of the push, her baby was already dead. But the most pathetic aspect of it all was that, few consoled her as she was crying soberly, and she was walked out the crowd; however, the sharing continued and other women continued to push in to get their own.
Many mothers lost their children, and later ended up in radio stations giving announcements of search. Some were taken away and raped and dung to be found later, and others were sexually harassed including married women. Many families were overshadowed by unwavering consequences of an unenlightened political indulgence. As such, there was need for a political campaign hygiene. I began to understand that poverty was really the beckoning tune our youths and women dance to. As such, these unbearable sacrifices which any society wouldn’t wish to make just for a political campaign cause has to be curtailed.
Transformation of Azama
With the little money we got, we tried and registered the association with the then Gombe State Ministry of youth and Poverty Alleviation (now Gombe State Ministry of Youth and Sports Development) in December, 2018 even though some of the members didn’t want that. And that was the decision that began to change the association’s direction from a purely political to youth and women development Association that advocates for practical social change.
Empowering Women and Youth
Though it was in the middle of campaign struggles, yet we initiated programs that will empower youth and women, mitigate poverty and drastically reduce unemployment at least among our members. Because, as we thought, the reason why these women and the youths lack direction and are taken away by the drums of the political campaign, and are made to dance to the beats of false promises, illusory hopes and deluding expectations were poverty, unemployment and illiteracy.
Had it been that these women and Youths have jobs they were doing or some certain skills they sustain their lives with, they wouldn’t have time to leave their business at all to go and spend 7 hours unwisely on the uncertainty of getting probably #500 from a campaign. We weren’t advocating for abstaining from campaign, but only unsatisfied with the way our youths and women participate in it and how they are treated.
Azama’s Organizational Period
So we gradually structured the operational model of the association, designed constitution, created offices and instantiated enlightenment and human social empowerment programs. We began to expand the scope of our skills acquisition program, and within short period of time many could make little money from the cosmetology courses they were taught.
The products were even used as part of our political campaign contribution to the aspirants we supported. And they bought lots and lots of them. Later on, we informed our members that we were working on a project that will change the future of the association and of course impact directly the members of the association, and the general public at large. And that was when we took a very tough decision, a really very tough one indeed.
Therefore, after we campaigned and made good relationship with the aspirants, gave or shared with our members the bounties we have gotten so far, we then suspended the activities of the association and informed our members that they should go out and vote and that after election, we would give a general come-back call for an important meeting.
Azama’s New Movement
After elections were carried out and winners and losers reclined to their relative stances, we called on our members to come back for a new fresh, politics-free movement for the benefit of our youths and women in the state. “If we can gather in support of a politician under a common organization (party) where we will hardly gain something that can sustain our lives for the next 2 months, then why can’t we do similar thing for something that’ll sustain us for the rest of our lives?”, Chairman said.
As expected, out of a thousand plus members, only 17 people showed up in the first meeting. We introduced confidently the new aim and objectives, visions and missions that we wanted to guide our new course of running the association. The Secretary General stood and gave the following lines as part of his introductory declaration:
“The escalation of poverty and unemployment rates in the Northern Nigeria has been tremendously alarming, which therefore, imperatively calls for an immediate reaction from concerned individuals (youths and women), organizations, agencies and government to tackle the situation. When it comes to out-of-school children, they are majorly in the North; and it remains a troubling slur for our youths and women to always recurve to the degrading tags of poverty and unemployment labels. Thus, as passionate chauvinistic youths who care for the Reformation of the North, resolve to organize ourselves under Azama Youth Development Association (AYDA), Gombe State.”
The Name “Azama”
The name “Azama” is a mixed breed of both Arabic and Hausa languages, which literally means “strong intention and effort at something” or relatively “indefatigable effort, commitment and dedication to something”. We thus, hope to dress in the name for our efforts, commitment and dedication towards reforming the Northern Nigeria from the shackles of poverty, unemployment and illiteracy to define us.
It was deliberate that we added “Gombe State” in the association’s name. This is because, Gombe is regarded as the heart of Northeast, center for commerce, peace and harmony. Any change that we wanted to institute in the Northern Nigeria, if sparked from the heart of the region, it will soon illuminate the rest of the Northern states.
Skills Empowerment Program
We began to diversify and expand our “Skills Empowerment Program” to achieve our aim of mitigating poverty and unemployment. We didn’t have money to sustain the program, so we started to fetch contributions from among us, and sought for people who have great skills or handcrafts that are willing to come and volunteer by teaching their skills to our members.
We started with tailoring and cosmetology, and gradually many showed up to contribute their quota. And the skills number increased as the teachers and as well the students too. Moreover, though slammed by the Covid-19 pandemic, yet we will be graduating one hundred and fifty (150) youths and women who are well-trained in various productive skills by February 2021 ending despite the serious funding challenges we have been facing and lack of venue. Because at the moment we use a government school on Weekends basis.
Even though we cannot bring back that lady’s child who died during the campaign, cannot repair the marriages destroyed or restore back the losses made, we at least now give back hope, socioeconomic security and a good mindset to these youths and women in order to be self reliant and productive in the society.
During the program, by inviting invigorating people with robust experiences politically and socioeconomically—mostly university lecturers, good politicians and local business champions—we keep on enlightening our members the right way of participating in politics as good citizens, how to benefit from it without unbearable sacrifices, and how to be self reliant and productive to mitigate poverty and unemployment among themselves.
Education and Enlightenment Program
With encouragement and suggestions of our royal fathers, the security agencies which we have visited, we saw the need to initiate or formalize in extension the foundation’s second program: “Education and Enlightenment Program”. The program aims to support out-of-school children, foster adult education/literacy Programs, and organize orientation to general public against social vices: drug addiction, political thuggery, etc through series of lectures and enlightenment programs every three months.
Later on, we established “Azama Orphanage Empowerment Foundation” through which we empower orphans with skills, and education supports. And we are hoping to reach 250 empowered orphans by March, 2021.
Final Thoughts on Azama
Sociology teaches a lot, shapes and molds enough, and overall, provides one with critical censor mindset to sieve society’s problems and offer lasting solutions for the betterment of humanity. It is thus imperative for Sociologists to constantly observe social institutions and the impacts (positive or negative) they espouse to our people, especially youths and women. Because, when one part of the system is dysfunctional or yielding abhorring results, it affects all other parts and creates social problems, prompting social change which thus requires a great effort in turning things round. Only through this we can make sociology counts in our society!