By Henry Umoru, Assistant Politics Editor
AS the country clocks 60 today, it will be very difficult to determine if Nigeria is a success story or a failed state against the backdrop of where we are coming from, where we are, and where we ought to be. However, we can measure the growth of Nigeria with an X-ray of the North, the largest of the three political regions at independence in 1960.
In the First Republic, the North was a monolithic and homogenous entity where the sense of belonging was unique and unparalleled. The people saw one another as one body with a common purpose and shared a common identity to a very large extent, irrespective of tribe and or religion.
What was paramount to the people at that time was the geographical entity called North in which the people were brought and bonded as one people.
The development of the North in terms of socio-economic strides in the First Republic was centred around what one would describe as the visionary spirit and leadership of the regional leader and Premier of the defunct Northern Region and Sardaunan Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello. He was born June 12, 1910 and killed on January 15, 1966.
Sir Ahmadu Bello’s leadership was exemplified in the way he worked consciously and harmonised the people without discrimination under one North. One of the things that made the Northern region stand out was the fact that Sir Ahmadu Bello ensured that appointments into positions in his cabinet were spread across board.
That was why the late Chief Sunday Bolorunduro Awoniyi from Mopa, the Okun speaking part of Kogi State was his private secretary. For his closeness to Sir Ahmadu Bello, the late Awoniyi was nicknamed Sarduana Karami (Junior Sarduana).
It is on record that as his true son and disciple, the late Sir Ahmadu Bello respected Chief Awoniyi and bought him latest editions of Bibles for his use, as his private secretary. He would always say to Chief Awoniyi anytime on his return from overseas trip, “Sunday have you read the latest edition of the Bible, I bought one for you.”
During Sir Bello’s time, development projects, educational and health institutions were evenly distributed.
For example, even though Sir Ahmadu Bello hailed from Sokoto, he built the first University in Northern Nigeria, the Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, Kaduna State and not Sokoto while the Federal College of Education was located in Kabba in the present Kogi State.
In the First Republic, there were also economic projects/institutions that were owned by the North as a region that assisted the Regional Government to give the people a sense of belonging. Such included the Northern Nigeria Development Company, NNDC, the New Nigerian Newspapers, Bank of the North; Ahmadu Bello Stadium in Kaduna; Broadcasting Company of Northern Nigeria in Kaduna, now Radio Nigeria, Kaduna; Leather Research Institute, Zaria, Electricity Meter Company Limited in Zaria, Gaskiya Ta fi Kwabo, the first newspaper published entirely in Hausa, the largest language in West Africa, Barewa College in Zaria, then College of Advanced Studies in Zaria, School of Nursing, Wusasa, Zaria, among others.
Arising from the vast land resources in the North, the late Sardauna took advantage of it and focused on realising potentials of agriculture that proved a huge success. The Kano Groundnut Pyramid and the establishment of many textile industries in the region like Kaduna Textiles, Arewa Textiles, Funtua Textiles, Fine Textiles, Northtex, Supertex, etc., led to the empowerment of farmers in the production of cotton which was the raw material needed for the Textile companies and even the Peugeot Automobile, PAN designed to assemble new vehicles. All these made places like Kakuri, Sabon Tasha, Barnawa, Trikania, Angwar Muazu, among others boom in population and business.
With prosperity in abundance for the populace, it was easy for other economic and social developments to take place.
During the first Republic, the economy of the North was managed in the most efficient manner as the monster of corruption was alien to the system. Incompetence and mediocrity were discouraged.
Now, it is a complete departure from the past as our leaders care little or outrightly do nothing about the industrialisation of the North. Most of the industries in the entire North, especially the Textile companies are all dead, Peugeot Automobile is gone, the textile in Funtua, Katsina State is since dead. Kano which used to have many industries is also empty. New Nigeria Newspapers is now moribund. One would say unequivocally that the economy of the North has fully gone under.
Unfortunately, these gains were mismanaged by subsequent administrations particularly the military, whose leadership pursued personal gains to the disadvantage of the people. The subsequent leadership capitalised on fault lines of ethnicity/tribe and region to divide the people in order to have a stronghold onto power as appointments into offices and considerations for developmental projects were based on primordial considerations which ended up creating wide gulf and disdain among the people.
One would ask what has changed since then? When we compare and contrast, what Ahmadu Bello did in the First Republic is far fetched from the present day practice where the Federal University of Transportation, Air Force Hospital, Army institutions are all located in Daura, the home town of President Muhammadu Buhari, just as majority of federal appointments are concentrated and allotted to Katsina State indigenes to the disadvantage of other states in the North.
Over-centralisation of power
As Nigeria attains 60 years of political freedom, a host of the goog tidings things have changed. Regional autonomy has been replaced by monthly sharing of oil money to all tiers of government. National leadership now suffers from over-centralisation of power at the centre and this has turned national politics into a bloody contest. All the governors of the 19 northern states now wait for the end of every month for their Finance Commissioners and Accountant Generals to travel to Abuja cap-in-hand to collect the monthly allocation from the Federation Account.
Unlike Ahmadu Bello, who demonstrated a capable leadership style that first lifted the Northern Region to compete with other regions in terms of infrastructural development and political relevance during the First Republic, with no acquisition of massive wealth, property for himself and his family, the North has been unfortunate with the kind of leaders that have emerged therefrom.
Over 90 percent of the leaders the North has produced can be seen as being self centred, accumulating wealth, with one leader having houses in Angwar Rimi, Malali, GRA, all in Kaduna; Asokoro, Maitama, Garki, Guzape, Minister’s Hill, among others in Abuja.
Some of the past and present leaders of the North have failed to provide the leadership for the region that would have ensured rapid development in all sectors. The question is where is the old Groundnut pyramid, where are those hides and skin? Where are the other numerous agricultural produce the North was known for?
Where is the peaceful and harmonious coexistence the North was known for where there was no difference between tribes which explained why many Yorubas, old Bendel, among others lived in Kano, Maiduguri, Kaduna, Sokoto, Katsina, just to mention a few, established businesses and had property.
In Kaduna, unlike in the past where people lived together peacefully, played together, ate together in Tudun Nupawa, Tudun Wada, Abakpa, Rigasa, Narayi, Barnawa, Sabon Tasha, Badarawa, Kabala West, Angwar Muazu, etc, it is no longer the same as there is a sharp division of where certain people cannot even go to or stay because of tribe and religion.
Infrastructural developments, ways of life are completely different. Go to Sabon Tasha, Narayi, Kakuri, Gwari, Gonin Gora, Unguwan Romi, Nasarawa, Marraban Rido and Karji then drive to Tudun Wada, Unguwan Rimi, Badarawa, Unguwan Shanu, life is no longer the same.
The way forward
Amid all these, the question is what is the way out of these problems? Though it may prove very difficult to still have one united, monolithic and homogenous North as it used to be again, one would require a leadership with focus, purpose and selflessness to galvanize the people of the North as one body owing to the hardened positions of the people as a result of lack of trust in one another and feelings of being used and dumped particularly by the minority tribes in the North.
We need the emergence of a sincere visionary leadership that must replace the present contraption of national leadership in order to stall further move to the precipice by the Nigerian state. Only a genuine leadership committed to the corporate survival of the country can save Nigeria from the journey of self-disintegration it has embarked upon.
One major issue that must be nipped in the bud is the critical role religion and ethnicity are now playing in the polity. We need to return to the regional arrangement or develop new political units to serve as basis of determining the future of Nigeria.
If our leaders care, they should bring back the dead Groundnut pyramid, the moribund Textile Companies among others.
As Nigeria clocks 60 years, we need to address demands for regional independence by various groups agitating for the dismemberment of Nigeria. Insurgency and banditry, including the unprovoked cold-blooded murder of defenceless communities in the country by armed groups, must stop.