Nigeria's Internal Conflict Crisis - Tunde Alabi-Hundeyin II

Tunde Alabi-Hundeyin II is a Nigerian photographer who has helped raise awareness of internal conflict in Nigeria. Documenting the many hardships that are faced by his people, Tunde has highlighted multiple pressing issues from the Almajiri system to terrorist militias such as Boko Haram as well as addressing negative perceptions about people on the margins in the Global South. He has

taken his photography to a high level, working with UNICEF and having one of his projects, ‘Utopia’, exhibited in the UK, Nigeria, and the UN headquarters in New York.

The Almajiri System Leads to Radicalisation

The Almajiri system, in which young boys are sent to be tutored, is a form of Islamic education prominent in northern Nigeria. As Tunde explained, in most cases “the boys experience abject poverty, hunger, and abuse, roaming the street for alms, food or anything they can scrape from the community.” 

The Almajiri system has been widely criticised for acting as a feeder for terrorist militias who seek to take advantage of young vulnerable children. Due to the false hopes they provide, children often fall victim to these militias because of their desperate situation.

“The system inevitably makes them susceptible to anyone who promises them bliss, including terrorists who radicalise them with the promise of protection, peanuts, and paradise ... Now imagine a carefully crafted rhetoric about a better life and the possibility of religious martyrdom to a young uneducated boy whose next meal isn’t guaranteed? The system exposes them to terrorism, and it has been confirmed from news reports and studies that Boko Haram has recruited many Almajirai.”

These issues led Tunde to turn to photography as a means of making a difference and raising awareness.

"They do not attend schools or have shelter over their heads, no one is responsible for them, except for a few philantrophists or bodies who lend a hand." - Too Far from School - Tunde Alabi-Hundeyin II

"An Almajiri. In northern Nigeria, Almajiris are boys who are flung by their parents to remote cities for tutoring in Islamic education. Most of them end up becoming street urchins, due to neglect by their parents & tutors.” - Too Far from School - Tunde Alabi-Hundeyin II

“I feel that documentary photography should be a medium to prick the conscience of society, especially our leaders whose role should be to implement the vision for an equitable society. Lens-based media should be a platform for conversations about social change. My camera should challenge awful sights that have become the norm in the society, and it shouldn’t shy away from initiating discussions on sensitive and retrogressive socio-cultural or religious issues that the people have unconsciously embraced. Photojournalism shouldn’t pander to sentiments.”  

How Terrorism Causes Internal Displacement

Terrorism has left Nigeria in a state of internal conflict leading to many families fleeing their homes. “Since 2009, when Boko Haram (BH) launched violent attacks, two million people have since been displaced.” 

Photography has enabled Tunde to capture the effects of this displacement. His project, Utopia, “focuses the lens on families living in a displacement camp, investigating their livelihoods, children’s education, and their sense of community; how total strangers band together to support one another, feed and survive in the face of great difficulties living in shanties.” 

As well as having inflicted suffering across Nigeria, Boko Haram has heavily impacted education, especially that of young girls.

"Due to Boko Haram’s (meaning, “Western education is sin”) attacks on schools, government must put strategies in place to encourage pupils to attend schools. Some state governments give free education, free mid-day meals and free books." - Too Far from School - Tunde Alabi-Hundeyin II

“Boko Haram’s ideology brands Western education as being sinful and resists girl-child education, which has led to children being abducted from schools and school buildings being set ablaze and resulted in a growing fear among schoolchildren and especially girls.”   

One of the most familiar examples was in 2014 when 276 girls were kidnapped from their school dormitories by Boko Haram, igniting a global response

“The outcry by the global community helped in no small measure in 2014 when the Chibok girls were abducted. When local activists, led by Obiageli Ezekwesili, created the hashtag BringBackOurGirls, global icons like Michelle Obama, Hilary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, and Malala Yousafzai campaigned for their release through the media, leading to a viral advocacy against BH and mounting pressure on the government of President Goodluck Jonathan, who initially denied that the girls were abducted.” 

Although the global community rallied together for the release of the Chibok girls, this is not first time a similar event has happened in Nigeria. Since 2013 Boko Haram has kidnapped over 1000 school girls and awareness should have been raised from the beginning.

Utopia - Tunde Alabi-Hundeyin II

Utopia - Tunde Alabi-Hundeyin II

Without a shadow of a doubt, the situation in Nigeria and across the world has been improving due to the efforts of Tunde and other likeminded individuals committed to doing good. 

Under Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari “all the cities previously occupied by Boko Haram have been reclaimed and about a hundred girls have been rescued, but there is still relative insecurity in Nigeria’s northwest. Though the issues aren’t as bad as they were six years ago, there still exists the humanitarian consequences of displacement, loss of livelihoods, and trauma.” 

Although progress has been made, the issue is far from over, the struggle far from won. There needs to be an even greater effort in improving the situation, beginning with educating and raising awareness. Tunde does just this, seeking to make a change, through the lens of photography.   

Utopia - Tunde Alabi-Hundeyin II

Co-authored by Matias and Finley, who contributed equally to this work.