There are many reasons to worry about the recent happenings in the country and especially the restiveness that engulf a larger part of Northern Nigeria. Once upon a time, Northern Nigeria was a peaceful, vibrant and promising region with a large ethnic group living side by side with its minority ethnic groups harmoniously. The region had a vibrant economy with a boosting agricultural industry and hardworking people.
The region was blessed with selfless leaders that have the respect of their subjects but who earned it, and were always willing to sacrifice for the well-being of their people.
However, immediately after the unfortunate incidence of 1966 and the civil war that followed things started changing and the oil boom in the 70s completed the story. Compared to its southern counterpart, the north was lagging behind in western education in the post-independence era, having initially rejected all forms of western education. The independence leaders aware of this challenge, deliberately adopted policies that would help in fast tracking both educational and economic status of the region so that the region will catch up with the rest of the country. Determined were they and their efforts saw the establishment of Bank of the North, New Nigerian Development Corporation, the great Ahmadu Bello University, the Kaduna Polytechnic, the New Nigerian Newspaper among so many developmental initiatives.
Unfortunately, their lives were cut short by unscrupulous army officers, pretending to be nationalists. Afterwards the leaders that took over from them were deficient in foresight and lacked the will power to carry on from where these patriotic leaders stopped. Corruption, embezzlement, arrogance and total disregard for the plight of their people compound the north problems.
Today as I write this article, the region is battling with over 10 million children roaming the street of cities, towns and villages of the north with no hope for any positive future, and without any formal education. But who cares? Not only this, the region represent one the poorest areas of the world with over 70% of the region’s population living in abject poverty. The region is twice as worst in many of the development indicators compared to the southern part of the country. Available statistics show that poverty is more prevalent in the North-East zone with a highest Human Poverty Index (HPI) rate of 48.90; followed by North-West with 44.15, North-Central is third with 34.65. The recent Human Development Index (HDI) of 2008-2009 reveals that Human Development Index value (the HDI value) in the North Central is 0.490, North West 0.42, North East 0.332, (Human Development Report 2009:10).
The worst is yet to come for northern Nigeria. The disaster in Bauchi and Borno of the Boko Haram and the never ending carnage in Plateau and in the crisis that rocked Zonkwa in Kaduna States immediately after the 2011 Presidential election says a lot of what to happen if our leaders continue to display the kind of ‘I don’t care’ attitude to the glaring crises rocking the region. Mentioning the problems can even be repetitions, but the fact remains that an ordinary Northerner feels cheated by his leaders. It was one of the reasons that led to the attacks on traditional institutions and residence of some elite in Zaria, Kano, Bauchi, Gombe, Yola and some parts of Katsina. The crises are enormous but their solutions rest on looking back at history and see what was it that helped the likes of Sardauna, Joseph Tarka, and Sunday Awoniyi to live together and executed the kinds of developmental programmes that still benefits the present generation.
If the north wants to remain relevant in the context of modern Nigeria, the region elite have to look beyond their selfish and immediate gains. The extent of the danger and the uncertainty which characterise the region can only be addressed when the elite become serious and sincere in addressing the region’s problems. Somebody has to listen now, so that the disaster approaching the region can be managed before it goes out of hand. Thanks and kind regards,
Kabiru Danladi Lawanti,
Department of Mass Communication,
Ahmadu Bello University,