North has been most unproductive zone in the country – Zopmal
President of the Middle Belt Youth Council, Emmanuel Zopmal, has blamed northern leaders and the elite for failing to lift the region out of poverty. He spoke to Isa Abdulsalami Ahovi.
What is your grouse with the Northern elders and leaders?
Since independence in 1960, the defunct Northern Region has been what President Donald Trump called us a “shithole” region. The insatiable appetite for political power by northern elites is the bane of Nigeria’s political development and economic growth. There’s no purposeful and committed programme of action, either by the central governments controlled by northern elites over the years, nor by the political leaders at the state level in the nineteen states.
For many people including some Southerners, they think the contemporary northern Nigeria is still a region but they do not know that it is broken into zones. General Yakubu Gowon’s idea of federalism put an end to a northern region, as states were created to cater for themselves, no more living under a monolithic entity called northern region. There’s no state created with the word “north” attached to it. Northern elites who propagate northern ideals have failed to know that 21st Century politics is driven by sheer vision of a people, not geographical demarcation anymore. We have a political class, which lacks common ideas to mobilise people for development, except to rig elections to remain at the Centre. They use northern concept as a springboard to hoodwink their gullible population and gain political power and relevance at the Centre. This relevance comes on the wings of the old glory of late Sir Amadu Bello, who was and has been the Lone Star of the northern agenda or project.
What are the realities that you want the north to know?
The Zone has the most unproductive population. Teeming millions of children and youths are out of school, unemployed, unskilled and in total despair. They depend on politics and political leaders for their daily bread. They believe that their future lies in the hands of politics and political leaders.
The second landmark disaster of the north is pestilence and diseases. The zone has the highest record ever, of leprous cases, blindness and polio victims. Most of the human pandemics emanate from the northern zone due to lack of public health awareness and policy by their leaders. I won’t forget to point out poverty and desertification of the zone. The soil has worn out due to over cultivation over a century now. Desert is now claiming everywhere, yet their politicians are busy dining and wining in luxurious hotels all over the world. This problem has been responsible for envying of the blessed Middle Belt region and Southern parts of Nigeria, for grazing and farming for their foods.
What do you advise?
The last major problem of the North is the insatiable appetite for political power that has bred terrorism, abject poverty, illiteracy and under-development. I was thinking the threats issued by the so-called coalition of northern youths will be based on these key challenges, but unfortunately they have chosen to own up those disasters and live with them and threaten others. They should canvass for private universities, colleges, and institutions from their leaders to reduce the high level of illiteracy destroying their zone, rather than craving for war all the time.
Northern elites have ruled this country more than any part of Nigeria yet they are the most backward people. They still fail to realise that political power is not their success factor. President Muhammadu Buhari rode on the back of this poverty-stricken population in the North to power in 2015 and 2019 respectively and it is obvious that he will leave them in their abject poverty condition by 2023. I want to see how northern people will blame any part of the country again for their persistent woes.
What do you think is in their minds?
I know the North will be plotting to retain presidential power against the convention of rotation. If political power were anything to boast about, the north would have become paradise by now and its people, the happiest in Nigeria.
I want to conclude that the Middle Belt is the hope of Nigeria. We have borne the brunt of neutralizing extreme poverty from the North, bear the burden of terrorism escalating all over the country, accommodate the illiteracy of the North, and feed their cattle on our arable farmlands at no cost. But unfortunately, it won’t last long from now. The looming revolution in Nigeria will definitely put everyone and part of this country on their tracks. It’s good if the North heeds the kind advice of Governor Abdullahi Ganduje that Ruga cannot succeed in states where Fulanis are not indigenes and also that of Governor of Borno state, Prof Zulum, that he has donated Sambisa Forest for the Ruga programme. Those lands are enough for any Ruga plans unless the Federal Government led by President Buhari is looking for trouble all over the country.
Middle Belt people should wake up and unite. God bless our ancestral home, Middle Belt.