The future of Northern Nigeria
The view which people in other regions in Nigeria hold is that the north lags behind economically, educationally and socially. This position is not hard to understand. The standard of living in the north, compared to the south, shows that the north isn’t better than the south, but for how long, must this remain so? The northern establishment needs to hearken to the advice of the Emir of Kano to embrace a social model for development, for advancement in education (western and local) as opposed to the emphasis on local to boost technology/globalisation and to embark on research or else the region will be doomed.
There are many non-governmental organisations operating in the north but the region hasn’t yet caught the developmental bug. The economies of the south that the north has grown so used to, cannot be relied on forever. It is incumbent on the players in the north to change this trend. As a people, the future isn’t possible if we are constantly in denial. Is the economy stupid? The harsh reality is that the economy isn’t stupid and instead of addressing it the players in the north have gone rogue.
The northern elders vow to defend the presidency but not the north. Is the presidency a family tree? How purpose-driven is the northern elite? It is common to see children with bowls at a time when they are supposed to be in school begging for alms in the north. I saw many in Gusau, Zamfara State the other day. A girl with a bowl on her head was selling “masa,” that nice northern cake. She had more than ten little children in tow. This was Wednesday morning; all of them were supposed to be in school but were loose on the streets. The girl was a good strategist. She appealed to your religious sense to buy the cakes for the “almajiris,” and may The Lord bless you. Many fell for her blarney and bought them.On and on she went from vehicle to vehicle soliciting. Her “masa,” as expected, thinned out.
In my reverie, I wondered why politicians in the north pull the religious wool over the eyes of a trusting following instead of providing them with economic stability. Every society has its most pressing challenges. People out there need education most of all. While in Sokoto, on a visit to the house of a boyhood friend in a zoned neighbourhood, boys with bowls in their hands went knocking from door-to-door announcing “almajiris are here” with pride. They have been indoctrinated to think it a way of life.
On my way back to Port Harcourt and at a feeding-stop in Kaduna, boys with bowls were eye-balling diners eating in a restaurant. Many diners acted princely by leaving leftovers which were grabbed quickly by the bowl boys. I had to act princely even without having my fill. It would have hurt my social conscience to not leave anything despite not being full.
When the youngest child of a former military ruler General Ibrahim Babangida got into matrimony a few days ago, the wedding guests were transported to the venue by 34 private jets. They were feted and lavished with all the accoutrements of wealth. What had these guests ever done for the benefit of their fellow countrymen? There were no businessmen or industrialists among them who strived to reduce levels of unemployment. Not one of them even had any intellectual property rights. It appears that all they had in common were positions that they occupied in government which allowed them to plunder Nigeria. What happens in the north is alarming. How can the region grow when teeming youths go about begging for nickels and food? Aren’t youths the leaders of tomorrow? Where are the northern leaders and whose interests do they serve?
How free is northern society without the schooling of her youths? How can rights of children and women be protected when the political and religious leaders have all lost the moral vision to lead? The youths I saw were tousled, disheveled, weary and stranded on a deserted piece of land. Long-term victory and spirit is needed for the re-birth of the north. But where are the people to send the bowl-carrying children to school so they can learn about their rights and duties as Nigerians? A society’s growth depends on this. If the north desires to compete with other parts of Nigeria then the leaders must stress the importance of youths’ understanding and the need to fight shy of groveling slavery. Groveling slavery inhibits civic participation which prevents the fight against social issues and injustice.
The problem with the north is with the elite. Anything around ethno-religious sentiments sits well with them. They entrench them to feather their nests. How can the role of democracy spiral downwards to the youths with Ethno-religious sentiments? And is that democracy? There should be a foundation superintended by northerners around growth and development of northern youths. Unlike many NGO’s which exist only in name to get funding from international donors, this foundation should have a register of contributions held by some northern governmental controlling body.
The activities of these NGO’s should be available for public scrutiny. Economists and political observers—have opined that the future isn’t possible if current realities are not addressed. And the current reality is one in which only the children of the elite get the chance to go to school in Nigeria and some special schools abroad where 0/100 in examinations are not frowned at and where no child is called a dull lad. They come back not being able to compete in industry in Nigeria, can’t do normal jobs and are appointed as non-executive directors in outfits where they can run off to play golf at a moment’s notice.
For the north to move forward, religious wars have to be tackled and put to an end by the establishment and government. The cost of war is not only economic, but also moral and human and it is impossible to have political and economic stability without social stability. Religious barriers are a major bane of the north. Nation-states today aren’t a novel concept and they accept that globalisation and multi-culturism encourage trade, movement and the breaking down of barriers in globalised world. Resources cannot be utilised without a large economic space. Resources on their own can only be put to use by man. Such a man can come from anywhere to put the resource to use for the good of all. Holding on to a presidency, defending it for symbolism’s sake will not save the future of the north. The presidency isn’t a resource that should be guarded.
Abah wrote from Port Harcourt.