By ABBA MAHMOOD —
Telling the truth is always good, and the best truth-telling is to tell yourself the truth. If truth must be told, northern Nigeria is in a sorry state. It is a caricature of its former self, thanks to the cumulative effect of selfish and visionless leadership. Like the rest of the country did for the southwest in 1999, during which all the presidential candidates came from that zone, in 2019 all the major political parties in their wisdom have agreed to field candidates of northern extraction. It is therefore very important to not only look at the number but also the quality of those being presented or presenting themselves and also look at the challenges facing the region now and in the foreseeable future. The first task was started last week on this page, the second is being attempted below.
Agriculture is the main occupation of northerners as it is for most parts of Africa. Today, it is becoming very difficult to go to farm in many parts of the north. This is because kidnappers and armed bandits attack the farmers. It is even worse for pastoralists, as cattle-rustling has become rampant. What is the future of a people who cannot feed themselves not because they don’t have fertile land but because government cannot provide security for them? Another thing is that the farmlands belonging to ordinary farmers are being confiscated with the active support of the leaders and given to outsiders: it happened in Jigawa State where 12,000 hectares of good farmland belonging to thousands of households was given to a Chinese group to grow sugar cane for practically peanuts.
The future of any society is with its youth. If the current crop of northern youth are the future as it should, then the region is doomed. The children of commoners are out of school while the children of the elite are drug addicts. In fact, even those from low class are drug addicts; it only depends on which drugs and how much they can afford. Education, whether in the western or eastern sense, has been destroyed completely as the schools are not functioning and religious scholars are teaching extremism. Those children of the elite who are privileged to go out and study have turned out to be neither African nor European. They have jettisoned their cultural values and have imbibed the worst of the western culture. They do not know their history; they only know the latest European league matches.
The worst challenge is lack of inter-communal harmony. The people profess religion, and each divine religion that we know, at least Christianity and Islam, teaches peace, love and good neighbourliness. When the holy books say love your neighbour they do not say Muslim or Christian or Hausa or Berom. Each simply says neighbour. In fact, even animals as fellow creatures of the Great Creator are to be treated with compassion according to all our religious teachings. Today, in the name of religion there is tension in every part of the north, whether inter-religious or intra-religious, due to sect differences.
Since the advent of the Buhari administration, even inter-personal relation is becoming very sour. He surrounded himself with mainly those he knew, but many are not on speaking terms although serving the same master in the same government. The fight against corruption is restricted to only the northern arm of the corrupt elite. Most of those who stole billions who are from the other parts of the country are walking free and have their assets in their hands obviously free to fight the government at the appropriate time, while those of them from the north who stole far less are the ones facing the law. Until every thief is treated equally this will continue to be seen as selective justice.
Banking is at the centre of every modern economic activity. There is no single bank that is owned by northerners. Over three years since the Buhari regime came to office, it is even worse since there is no deliberate effort to help the disadvantaged section to catch up with the rest and start competing on equal footing. What type of structure of the economy can we expect when one sub-section of the country controls 17 banks out of the existing 23 while a major section does not control even half a bank? This is a present and future danger.
And in the next 10 to 15 years the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) will be manned by absolutely useless people. This is because since this government came to power, recruitment is not done based on merit but based on lists from powerful individuals who put their mediocre children to this sensitive economic agency. You always reap what you sow. The southwest is the most advanced part of Nigeria because it has entrenched merit and has made education a priority so that everyone knows his or her rights and responsibilities. In the north, the only industry thriving and providing employment for the street urchins and drug addicts is political thuggery. No wonder every village and township has only party flags and not any industry.
Benue is known as the food basket of the nation. It is in terrible shape with various ethnic militias fighting each other. Plateau was known as the home of peace and tourism with its serene weather and good environment as well as hospitable people. It is now a theatre of war between and among various ethnic and religious groups. Borno was known as the home of culture and tradition. It is now devastated by terrorists. Kaduna is the state of residence of President Buhari and the capital of the north. It is being destroyed by bandits. Kano is the political base of Buhari. It is devastated by poverty and political thuggery. And the government looks indifferent to all these or seems helpless and hopeless about it since there is nothing concrete to address these yet.
The greatest asset of any society, apart from its people, is land. The north controls 72% of Nigeria’s landmass but this is being lost. Commercial activities, even petty trading, are being lost to others. The people are not being deliberately equipped by the various governments to become productive, to take the economy of their communities in their hands and to be sufficiently educated and equipped for the 21st century age of ICT economy. And the worst thing is that with all these challenges confronting the region, there is no clear leadership let alone coherent strategy to confront them.
History is on the side of the oppressed.