Northern Nigeria

Where is the wealth of millions of children born in the wild to herdsmen, born into the servitude and perpetually slavery of roaming thousands of miles with cattle to earn crumbs?

By Dr. Ugoji Egbujo

They won’t face reality. They won’t accept facts. In the North, the chickens are coming home to roost.

The northern elite are the most short-sighted and selfish in Africa. The breed of the Aminu Kanos and the Sarduanas have gone extinct. The preoccupation of the bulk of North’s political leadership, a rapacious, self-conceited bunch masquerading as politicians, political mercenaries is political conquests rather than development. How could anyone run a parched ground like Yobe and sleep well, let alone have time for national politics?

I know politicians in the south and elsewhere in the country are not better, but the south’s situation is not as stark as the North’s. In not resisting westernization, the south’s culture has masked the equally gaping southern political leadership deficiencies. The south has fairly good literacy levels. The south has no good healthcare and public schools but the south has teachers and exports doctors to the West. The south could yet crumble, but the North is already in tatters.

That’s why the continuing somnolence of the North’s public has become tragic.

For so long northern governors competed for farcical righteousness. They competed to institute the sharia. Sharia is good. But the adoption of religious fanaticism as state policy by politicians to hoodwink the people and win elections was costly charlatanism. They got the votes but didn’t give them education and jobs. All they did was legitimize extremism, encourage more children to embrace the Almajiri system, and indirectly bolster the idea that western education is corruption. The governors watched and frolicked in Abuja as school enrollment figures plummeted.

Zamafara, the erstwhile throne of righteousness, is now tired of sharia. Zamfara directly negotiates with outlaws. Some days ago, Mr Matawalle, the Governor of Zamfara, in a blatant display of empathy for bandits, literally justified banditry. He said some of the bandits were not criminals. They were wronged people who took to assault rifles and RPGs to fight for justice the way they knew best. This is the same Zamfara where people lost their limbs for petty theft. The same Zamfara where a former deputy governor placed a fatwa—kill on sight order— on a Nigerian journalist for alleged defamation. In today’s Zamfara, the governor now sympathies with insurgents, terrorists. That is the story of the North.

Quota system, federal character, and differential cut-off marks can only do so much. They can fetch a few unmerited positions which the occupants would use to fatten their egos and pockets. They can’t create jobs and healthcare for impoverished millions who live miserably, threatened by a burgeoning desert.

The North’s elite is culpable. The North has experienced a frightening population explosion. Everybody knows that the pace of population growth in the North has far outstripped the country’s economic growth. But desperate to retain a hold on power, the northern elite love the skyrocketing population numbers. So they have failed to initiate any population control measures. They have no hospitals. They have no schools. They have no teachers, yet they will do nothing to check the burst.

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Children who are unschooled and unsheltered will invariably end up streets urchins and intensify societal decay. They know. Yet, in the face of that ticking bomb, we are often reminded that every child comes with his own wealth. Where is the wealth of millions of children born in the wild to herdsmen, born into the servitude and perpetually slavery of roaming thousands of miles with cattle to earn crumbs?

The chickens are back to roost. We will reap what we have sown.

Before our eyes, banditry has seized the North. Kaduna, Katsina, Zamfara, and Niger. Taraba, Benue, Plateau have had their stories. The Northeast is already desolate; the northwest is falling apart. Rather than hold village meetings every day, weep together to find lasting solutions to these problems, the northern elite have their eyes on 2023 and Abuja calculations. Sometimes I wonder if we shouldn’t just surrender sovereignty to the European Union so that our local politicians can concentrate on being local government chairmen.

The minister of defense, in a veiled jab, called us cowards. In their days, he said, they used to stand up to violent criminals. Their days were the Maitasine days, I guess. But now, he has suggested, we must not sheepishly surrender to bandits. He urged us to confront insurgents with RPGs with bare hands. Please forgive the minister. He is out of touch. When he tried to recant, he said he wanted us to be courageous. He moves around courageously with armed security guards. It’s not his fault.

Honestly, the courage missing in the North is not that which can lead to a bloodbath when bandits who seek to dine with governors and collect bags of ransoms come to abduct school children. The courage missing is that needed to confront the governors and hold them accountable.

The ordinary people in the North are easily seduced by the political conquests of their leaders rather than developmental projects. They are delirious when their leaders win federal appointments and become big men. The courage they need is the courage to force accountability. The courage to prioritize their reality—poverty, illiteracy, and misery—above the vanity of their selfish leaders’ ego diameter.

Rather than hold village meetings every day, weep together to find lasting solutions to these problems, the northern elite have their eyes on 2023 and Abuja calculations.

But that courage will come. I know the North’s masses have the innate capacity, the effervescent temperament to turn around quickly and chase away political ineptitude overnight. But they are still slumberous. The spark they need will come quicker if regional autonomy is granted. The stark pictures of the regions, juxtaposed side by side, in a restructured federation, will rouse fury. When powers are devolved and resource control ceded to the regions, a healthy rivalry will ensue. The people of the North will see their potentials and see their nightmarish decline in 3D.

Today, any governor can hide under the federal government. After restructuring, the federal government will be so thin and so naked it can not conceal anybody’s ineptitude. Some healthy regional rivalry had begun in the first republic. When regional governments return, Northeast youths’ migration to Lagos to become okada riders alongside literal refugees from Niger Republic will become visible.

While we have an obese Abuja, the northern political elite can live in abject self-deceit. Aminu Kano was worried about the poor. He mingled with them and made them his preoccupation. Today besides a man like Gov Zulum and El Rufai, perhaps, many other governors do not understand the depth of the problem. They do good talks, pay lip service to development, and sleep well. They are not shocked by the data that has the core north in the neighborhood of a wretched Afghanistan. When regional restructuring and resource control forces the truth on the North, it will see the lies and rise. It will find the Aminu Kanos and it will recover lost grounds.

The North thirsts for the naked truth, but its leaders are soothing it with clothed lies.

Vanguard News Nigeria



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