Emir of Kano Muhammad Sanusi II has warned that the North would destroy itself if it fails to address the challenges of poverty, millions of out-of-school children, malnutrition, drug problem and Boko Haram insurgency.
The monarch said no present leader of the North could afford to be happy in the face of the multitude of challenges confronting the region, hence the need to reverse the trend.
Speaking Monday in Kaduna at the 60th birthday anniversary of Governor Nasir Ahmed el-Rufai, Emir Sanusi said, northern leaders must follow the example of el-Rufai by investing in education of children in the region, noting that it’s the only thing that would save the region from self-destruct.
He said leaders of the region must move away from doing things the old way, which had produced the same negative results, to investing in education, nutrition and primary healthcare.
The emir also cautioned that the region cannot continue to rely on quota system and federal character to get jobs for its children at the expense of the other parts of the country, which is busy educating their own children and turning out graduates.
He said: “When we talk about birthday, we talk about happiness. Just last week, someone asked me, are you happy? And I said I am not. And the person was surprised. The truth is nobody who is a leader in the Northern Nigeria today can afford to be happy. You cannot be happy about 87 per cent of poverty in Nigeria being in the North.
“You can’t be happy with millions of Northern children out of school. You can’t be happy with nine states in the North contributing almost 50 per cent of the entire malnutrition burden in the country. You can’t be happy with the drug problem, you can’t be happy with the Boko Haram problem. You can’t be happy with political thuggery. You can’t be happy with all the issues; the Almajiri problem that we have.
“So, we wish Nasir a happy birthday, but we do not want him to be happy as a leader. Because you are happy when you think you have reached a state of delivering and taking your people to where you want them to be.
“Now, because of the condition of Northern Nigeria, it is almost correct now to say that, if you are a governor or a leader in the North, and you are seen as normal in the sense that you continue to do what your predecessors have been doing, doing the same thing, which has been normalised, then, there is something wrong with you, you are part of the problem.
“The real change in the north will come from those who are considered mad people, because you look around and say if this is the way we have been doing things, and this is where we have ended up, maybe we need to do things differently. If we have populated the government with middle-aged men, maybe we need to try younger people; maybe we need to try women.
“If we have spent our money and time on physical structures, maybe we need to invest more in education of our children, maybe we need to invest more in nutrition, maybe we need to invest more in primary healthcare. And the truth is, if you look at what Nasir is doing in Kaduna, with 40 per cent of his budget on education that is the only thing that is going to save the North. I know that, when we say these things, they don’t go down well.
“We have been saying this for 20 to 30 years. If the North does not change, the North will destroy itself. The country is moving on. Quota system that everybody talks about must have a sunset clause.
“The reason that people like Nasir stand up and they are nationalists is that, they don’t have any sense of inadequacy. You don’t need to rise on being from Kaduna state or being from the North or being a Muslim to get a job, you come with your credentials, you go with your competence, you can compete with any Nigerian from anywhere.
“We need to get our Northern youths to a point where they don’t need to come from a part of the country to get a job. And believe me, if we don’t listen, there would be a day when there would be a constitutional amendment that addresses these issues of quota system and federal character.
“The rest of the country cannot be investing, educating its children, producing graduates and then they watch us, they can’t get jobs because they come from the wrong state, when we have not invested in the future of our own children.
“So, as we celebrate Nasir at 60, we need to celebrate him as a public officer who is addressing the core problems of his constituency. It is education, it’s girl-child education, it’s women’s right, it’s child begging, it’s parental irresponsibility, demographic growth, it’s managing a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious society and bringing them into one community where they are all citizens and he has done a lot that we can learn from.
“We have just heard how he has developed himself over the years. He is a Surveyor, he is a lawyer, he has got Masters degrees, he has had over 80 certificates from Harvard, because education is what makes a man.
“So, I am proud to count Nasir as one of my friends. I usually say I have to keep him as a friend, because he is the only person in Nigeria beside whom I am considered a moderate. People usually go to him and say talk to your friend the Emir or your friend Sanusi, same way people tell me, talk to your friend Nasir.
“It is important to realise that the positions we hold are transient and they do not define us. Anybody can be called a governor, anybody can be called an emir, a commissioner or a minister, but at the end of the day, but you should know that, God had given you a chance to do something, do leave a mark and impact people’s lives.”
Recalling some controversies around the celebrator, the emir said: “When he had issues with teachers in Kaduna state, some of his friends came to me to advise him because he was in his first term. That he should not take such risks, he can lose election. I said, okay I will advise him, but I knew he was not going to listen to that advice. So, I told him what people were thinking, he said, your highness, if the people of Kaduna want to vote me out because I want good education for their children, let them do it. And I agreed with him.
“After winning an election, you should be governing, you should not be in a campaign mode for four years. You were elected to serve, if people appreciate it and vote for you, fine, if they don’t, you have done your bit.”
…Ooni lauds governor
In his remarks, the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, paid tribute to Governor el-Rufai, saying Nigeria needed leaders like him. He described the governor as a small-statured man with massive engine capable of pulling anything to achieve result.
He noted that, Nigeria needed leaders like el-Rufai, who would take tough decisions to achieve great results.
Lawan eulogises El-Rufai
Also speaking at the occasion, Senate President Ahmad Lawan said for Nigeria to surmount the challenges bedevilling it, all leaders in the country must, as a matter of urgency, come together to ensure the security and welfare needs of the people were adequately met.
Presenting a book “These Times: Selected Writings and Speeches by Nasir El-rufai” in honour of the celebrator, he said: “Those of us in leadership positions, we know what we need to do. We need to have the courage and commitment and sustain them.
“Nigeria is at a crossroad, and more than ever now requires the unity of the people. The issues bedevilling Nigeria today requires that all leaders, at all levels and in all parts of Nigeria need to come together.
“What we need is not only infrastructure, but we need the capacity building of the people. In this part of the country, this report has been consistent and apparently, little has been done to reverse it.”
Lawan, therefore, called on the federal government to immediately introduce policies that would return the over thirteen million out-of-school-children back to school, so as to curb the rising illiteracy in Nigeria.
He said the report of 13 million or 14 million out-of-school children mostly in the north was dangerous for the country.
“Today, we are challenged by insecurity; sadly it is all over the country. This requires that all of us at every level of government come together and work to ensure that lives and properties of citizens are protected.
“The story is bad, everyday it is either kidnapping, assassination or some kind of banditry that leaves our people and communities shattered and destroyed.
“I want to take the opportunity of this celebration to send this message, that as leaders, we owe the people, not only the explanation, but actions”, Lawan added
Lawyer speaks on his client
Taking his turn at the tribute galore, El-Rufai’s lawyer, Abdulhakeem Usman Mustapha, SAN, said he was shocked upon discovering his client had 83 certificates from Harvard University.
Recalling the encounter, he said: “There was a time El-Rufa’i was dragged to court for not having certificate. And as we were about to get to the court that day, he dropped me in his car and handed me a bulky envelope.
“When I opened the envelope, I discovered he has 83 certificates from Harvard. And when I asked him how come? He said, A.U, when my peers were busy buying exotic cars, houses and other luxurious things, this is what I was doing with my money.”
The event had in attendance Lagos state Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Edo state Governor Godwin Obaseki, Ekiti state Governor Kayode Fayemi, Plateau state Governor Simon Lalong, Minister of Transportation Rotimi Amaechi, Minister of Finance Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed, and APC National Chairman Adams Oshiomhole.
Also in attendance were former APC National Chairman, Chief Odigie Oyegun, former Zamfara state Governor, AbdulAziz Yari, and Managing Director Nigeria Ports Authority Hadiza Bala Usman among others.