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Northern politicians
From left: Governors, Tanko Al-Makura of Nassarawa State; Gov. Mohammed Abubakar of Bauchi State; Gov. Aminu Masari of Katsina State; and Gov. Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State,

By Donu Kogbara

MATTHEW Hassan Kukah, the always forthright and sometimes controversial Catholic Bishop of Sokoto, recently expressed the view, during an Arise TV interview, that Northern Nigerian political thieves are even worse than their Southern counterparts.

Kukah, himself a Northerner (from Kaduna State), said that his very active interest in human rights and social justice is rooted in his Christian convictions…and added that “anything that impinges on the state’s inability to make life better for the citizens under its care, not only irritates me but summons me to question the state.”

Immediate constituency

He pointed out that: “No part of this country has produced as many military or civilian Heads of State as Northern Nigeria…[and] the North still insists that it wants to hold on to power at all costs, yet it has lacked the capacity to translate this power into a meaningful and useful impact on the lives of even its immediate constituency.

According to Kukah, Southern kleptocrats don’t steal more than Northern kleptocrats but are better in the sense that they invest some of their ill-gotten gains in their communities – by building clinics/schools, tarring roads, giving poor children scholarships, etc.

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According to Kukah, 99 per cent of the North is infrastructurally underdeveloped and penurious; and there is absolutely “no evidence that a thief who served in Abuja or elsewhere passed here.”

I love Kukah’s bold, brave bluntness and totally agree with him. I once drove from Abuja to Sokoto and was shocked by the decay and destitution I encountered throughout this long journey.

Southern Nigeria is nothing to write home about. Frankly, it’s a mess. But it’s still much more vibrant and modern than Northern Nigeria. A few politicians from the upper half of the country, Governor Zulum of Borno State, for example – are working hard and trying to turn the tide and attracting considerable admiration for trying.

There will always be noble exceptions and dynamic, conscientious individuals who go out of their way to go the extra mile.

But everyone who is familiar with Northern big shots en masse (including some Northern professionals and NGO operatives who are sick and tired of the shortcomings of the grandees who rule the roost in their zone) says that the majority lack capacity and are scarily complacent, destructively feudal in outlook and selfishly unwilling to take their moral/practical leadership duties seriously.    And it’s not as if the consequences of this chronic negligence only affect the North. The entire nation is at risk when poverty per se and poverty-driven banditry/terrorism flourish. The entire nation is held back when millions of Northerners are deprived of education and forced to heavily depend on petrodollars.

The entire nation’s dysfunctionality is worsened when one of its segments is lagging so far behind other segments.

A Yoruba media colleague told me yesterday that “the South is useless, but the North is beyond useless; and we are not obliged to enter into a suicide pact with people who have nothing to offer us except Boko Haram, militant herdsmen and rampant illiteracy.”

In other words, Nigerian Unity is far from a Done Deal in many eyes and continues to be something that cannot be taken for granted. So what next?

One can only pray that typical Northern dignitaries undergo Pauline Damascene conversions at some point in the near future and quit flatly refusing to TRULY respect themselves, TRULY respect their talakawa brethren, pull their weight and fulfil their potential.

Do thieving VIPs really believe in God?

I RECENTLY discussed religion with a Naija girlfriend and would like to share some of my comments with Vanguard readers.

“I think that some folks simply don’t have a believing gene or bone in their body…and that the capacity to engage with God, Allah or pagan deities is an innate character trait that many people simply lack.

You either have it or you don’t.

In highly conventional societies like Nigeria, those who don’t have it often feel obliged to pretend that they do. But the reality is that many people in Nigeria are atheists or agnostics at heart…and are only paying lip service to Christianity or Islam or juju.

They don’t really believe that there is anything higher than themselves in particular and human being in general.

They don’t really believe in Judgement Day or in Heaven, Hell or Purgatory. They don’t really believe that they can be spiritually punished for wrongdoing; and their behaviour reflects this reckless worldly cynicism.

Would you kill opponents to win elections or purloin public funds that are supposed to be spent on starving orphans or desperately-needed healthcare if you really thought you’d wind up going to Hell?

Having said this, not all non-believers are evil. Many non-believers are staunch humanists who are nicer than many religious types.

I personally have tried to be more devout. But it doesn’t come naturally. I’m one of those people who believes in God but is rather half-hearted about the whole thing…and understands where atheists and agnostics are coming from.

One could almost describe the ability to profoundly believe in God as a special gift that provides some folks  with a spiritual crutch and emotional support.”

What do Vanguard readers think?

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