Memo to northern governors

Today it is 53 years since the first and only Premier of the defunct Northern Region, Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardaunaof Sokoto, alongside some other eminent first generation Northern Nigerian politicians, was brutally murdered in Nigeria’s first coup d’état.

Those who critically studied Ahmadu Bello’s autobiography “My Life” will certainly testify to how larger-scale changes in the society where the eminent politician lived were reflected. Politicians of the days of yore meant business.

However, no matter how hard today’s politicians try – all of us maybe – they may not do as Sardauna et al did. The commitment, selflessness and the zeal to serve are not the same. Yet, as Sardauna’s biographer, John N. Paden, agued, one importance of studying such a life-writing is to see how much a key individual can influence redefinition or change value. Northern governors are expected to learn from this.

Sardauna’s legacies stood towering huge and tall. He established the Northern Nigeria Development Company (NNDC), Northern Nigeria Investment Limited (NNIL), and Bank of the North (BON); Broadcasting Corporation of Northern Nigeria (BCNN), New Nigerian Newspapers, government girls’ colleges, women teachers’ Colleges, Kaduna Polytechnic, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria (ABU), ABU Teaching Hospital, Kaduna, Ahmadu Bello Stadium, Hamdala Hotel, just to mention but a few. But many of those initiatives — New Nigerian Newspaper, Bank of the North and the like — have irredeemably collapsed and those that do exist are on life support. It is unimaginable that the 21st century Northern Nigeria has no voice.

Since then a lot has changed. Almost all the warning alarms Sa’adu Zungur’s ‘Arewa Jumhuria ko Mulukiya’ and Mu’azu Hadejia’s ‘Wakar Ilimin Zamani’ sounded have fallen on deaf ears. The disastrous outcomes they had forecast in their poems are already unleashing mere anarchy in the land. Bad leadership has begotten bad followership. Immoral attitude has given way to moral decadence. Dishonesty and corruption in leadership have brought all the semblance of disintegration. The region is in a perpetual movement to only-God-knows-where. 

43 years later, the Northern Governors’ Forum under then the stewardship of Governor Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu of Niger state, in 2009, launched a N20-billion appeal fund to establish Sir Ahmadu Bello Memorial Foundation, with a view to raising money to immortalise the late Sir Ahmadu Bello, Sardaunan Sokoto, through training of youth and inculcating in them the right attitudes Sardauna had preached and practiced, ranging from altruism to leadership by example.

Ahmadu Bello et al were foresighted. When the north was aiming to walk the street of self governance, all they demanded from the integral parts of the region was unity, knowing well uniformity could not be achieved. Today, the 19 northern states of Nigeria constitute almost 73 per cent of Nigeria’s territory, with about 60 per cent of its population, currently exceeding 100 million people; but the north is still groping for a searchlight and the darkness is inky.

A United Nations report predicts that in less than 34 years (by the year 2050), the north’s population will zoom up to over 240 million, overwhelmingly youthful. Comparatively, the scale of the northern dependency burden will not only frame its demographic crisis, but also condemn the region to remain at the bottom of Nigeria’s development indices.

Now, the north is serving under the yoke of environmental degradation, widespread poverty, declining per capita income, fragile infrastructure, low education standards, endemic violence, economic stagnation, local governance failures, and rising youth unemployment.

The UN’s prediction may well be spiteful, but if one looks at the current situation of Northern Nigeria, where the spate of killings, kidnappings, banditry, cattle rustling, eroding family institution and many more one is constrained to say the organisation’s prediction is partly spot on. The challenges are making a strong footing.

Security challenges posed by kidnapping, banditry, cattle rustling and their attendant effects on businesses on one hand, mismanagement and unemployment on the other have done a great damage to the north. A report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) has it that 3,641 people were killed in Zamfara state alone since 2015 and 31,402 fled crises-torn communities for dear life, according to the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA).

A special edition by Daily Trust of Thursday, July 25, 2019, entitled Banditry and Kidnapping in Nigeria, perhaps as part of the Media Trust Limited’s intellectual sadaka (contribution) towards addressing the state of insecurity in the country, had the opportunity of interviewing experts on livestock production, political science, international relations, crop science from the academia and leaders of some Fulani associations in the country.

The resource persons are unanimously of the opinion that government at all levels has failed in its primary responsibility of protecting lives and property, creating jobs or an enabling environment for economic development.

As Yusuf Bala Usman of blessed memory would write, some state governors of the northern states have refused to fund serious researches on the region’s ecology, geology, history, economics, as well as constitutional and legal rights, even though some of those researches will have turned semi-dry areas of the region into arable land and created thousands of jobs for its army of unemployed youth.

Notwithstanding the above, northern governors are said to meet in Canada this week for a two-day summit, from August 1 to August 2. The summit is said to be centered on education, solid minerals, agriculture, health subsector and the economy. If the objectives of the summit are achieved, then the region is taking the right step in the right direction. In no time the region will undergo an intensive rebuilding process.

We cannot singlechandedly underplay the efforts some northern governors are making to address some of the burning issues bedeviling the region. Of course, some states are doing everything necessary to establish Ruga settlements, re-model almajiri system of education, and improve educational or healthcare facilities, but others’ efforts are decimally poor.

At Canada, on their way back home or here in Nigeria, wherever northern governors are, they should remember that here await for them millions of men and women young and old whose right to social security they promised to provide. Therefore, the governors should consider the following.

One, the north is facing myriad of security challenges. For the region to arrest the situation, the governors must collectively come together, form one solid chain of force and confront the situation head-on. Until peace runs like waters in the streets of Katsina, Zamfara and Kaduna states concurrently, there will be no peace in each of the states.

Two, fireworks alone cannot solve the security challenges. The governors should go back to the drawing board, make greater investment in education and healthcare, create jobs and an enabling environment for economic development. 

Three, political differences must be shelved. Political activities should be confined to election season. Without political will to address the economic, security, health and educational challenges, the region cannot reduce the number of youth roaming the streets or arrest the spate of kidnapping and banditry in especially the Northwestern states.

If we were to apply the time-honoured dictum attributed to Indian revolutionary philosopher, Mahatma Ghandi, “be the change you want the world to see” supposedly, say, to the northern governors, we are indirectly suggesting that the governors should cut down the cost of governance and inject the funds into serious human development projects in the region.

Abdulhamid writed via [email protected]

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