Arewa: One region, many issues

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Sani Danaudi Mohammed

Nigerians will always remember the 1960 independence of Nigeria that has its Prime Minister, Sir Abubabakar Tafawa Balewa, a northerner from Bauchi state, heads of state Gen.Yakubu Gowon, Plateau state, Gen. Murtala Mohammed from Kano state, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, Katsina state, Gen.Ibrahim Babangida, Niger dtate, Gen Sani Abacha from Kano state, Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar from Niger dtate, Musa Yar’adua and currently Muhammadu Buhari who returned as president in 2015, Katsina state.

The North has all the opportunities at their disposal to set a dtandard for a region with a brighter future and also to tap the available resources that should have today made the region the pride of the nation. It is rather unfortunate that despite these mentioned leaders we are currently left only with lamentations of a lost glory.

There was a time when the late premier of the North, Sir Ahmadu Bello, kept the region united and came with formidable and sound policies that would have made the region the major producer and exporter of food to the world. He planted the economic trees that should have been the pillars for employing all our restive youths who are now the foot-soldiers, terrorising us despite the presence of the high and mighty..The reputation of the North is fast fading away.

The current plight is taking us closer to our graves on a daily basis because unemployment and poverty have made it easy for criminals to recruit the youths. Leadership in Nigeria, particularly, the North that lacks mentors, has become a parrot cry as most of the elected politicians, especially members of the National Assembly, are sighted once after four years, which has continued to discourage many Nigerians on democratic institutions. The North is leaderless as the political office holders are helpless and powerless, considering the turn of events in the region.

If northerners would look into each other’s eyes to forsee the challenges confronting us and our generation, I think we would treat each other much more gently, with more love, patience, tolerance, and care devoid of the ethnic colouration that has divided us and is almost at the verge of collapsing the mighty North. I had the fortune to interact with few prominent politicians in the North and what I understand is that there is no leadership filters that can take the region out of the current happenings.

According to the greatest Northern orator and one of finest sons of the North Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule (Dan Masanin Kano); the purpose of history is to correct the past ills, adjust the present and plan for the future. Many people come from this school of thought with a renowned history but with less concern for the present neither giving the future of the region an attention its deserves.

It is only a few that decide for the majority with no workable plans at the detriment of millions. This has been the case in the North for quite some-time and it is becoming a humanitarian issue where abject poverty, high rate of unemployment, kidnapping, banditry, rape, drug abuse and illiteracy is now dominant discourse.

This has been the question the fortunate northerners have been asking without a single answer nor an attempt to solve what has been foreseen to be a problem in the region, if not the country as a whole. It has now reached a peak where these questions raised without an answer or solutions being proffered is throwing the North that used to decide for the entire country to a fowl that begs for alms to feed itself.

It is unarguable that the region has the highest number of serving and retired top military officers, the police, top political office holders, permanent secretaries at the federal and state levels, high profile traditional rulers, the richest business moguls in oil and gas. The Irony still remains that the North has always been the least developed region compared to the South.

This is nothing worth arguing over, but only a Northern hypocrite can stand with the North in 2023 to produce yet another president after President Muhammadu Buhari’s eight-year tenure. The region has had every opportunity to set itself on the pedestrian bridge of economic prosperity but failed. We don’t have leaders in the North who see opportunities even in the midst of a pandemic. We only have rulers not leaders who priorities the accumulation of power and wealth to the detriment of the downtrodden by advancing the course of their families.

Former American President John F. Kennedy said if you don’t provide for the poor then you cannot protect the rich. The conflict between the have and haves-not has now widdened as a result successive clueless regimes that failed to do justice and equity as public policies. Lack of commitment of leadership and political will to invest in the high population expansion of the North is now a time bomb that sooner or later may explode.

Lack of reoriented followership in the Northern region has been another serious concern because it has been said that people follow only the person they trust, but in our case we follow both due to ethnic and religious colouration without taking the congnisance of the service he/she may offer in return. The hoodlums we call leaders have turned most of us to mere errand and social media boys to keep defending lies, deceits and illusions at the detriment of the truth that is visible even to some of us the defendants.

This attitude of ours has reduced our capacity to challenge those in power and demand for better explanation of their stewardship, rather we have become complementary and life support jackets to failed politicians.They have failed to secure profitable jobs and empower us like they are up and doing for their children who are paid with lucrative business empires from funds siphoned from our common treasury. The youths have been reduced to SSA social media and handbag carrying machines to the wives of these shoeless elite who have traded our future with their corrupt tendencies of governance.

They come and go at the end of their tenure without executing a single project that is beneficial to all. Our lawmakers who should have made sound laws have failed to do so.The North has the highest number of federal and state law makers as bench warmers with many not attending seatings and those who attend are defending their inability to voice out our problems in both the red and green chambers.The most successful lawmakers are those who speak during plenaries, Yakubu Dogara and the current Deputy Speaker Maje Wase are references. The bench warmers have nothing to show beyond car gifts to their closest friends and political allies at the detriment of millions of voters.

The northern elite have succeeded in chasing away the youths with the true spirit of patriotism, passion and commitment for the realisation of the goals of our founding fathers that struggled to build and left behind a Northern Nigeria that was identified only as “Yan Arewa” (northerners). If Sir. Ahmadu Bello the Sardauna of Sokoto of blessed memory can keep the North united, a legacy 19 northern elected governors failed to sustain, is an indication that true leaders that shared his spirit exist only on paper.

One of the major challenges confronting the North is the way and manner politicians have succeeded in recruiting followers as either political thugs or aides on social media to destroy the hard-earned images of their others using abusive language on those perceived to be political enemies of their pay masters. It is only in the North that youths at their productive ages are used as guard men of campaign billboards and posters while the children of these politicians live flambouyant lives and drive exotic cars at the expense of these helpless young northerners.

One disheartening problem in the North is we don’t have an issue-based campaign where politicians engage their followers on what they have done and what they will do if elected. We have been greatly affected by the level of our understanding of issues and the continued misconception especially by those in power has further deepened our division along tribes and religion. Our imams and pastors are no more than spokesmen of government in both Friday and Sunday sermons. Do you know most of them live flambouyant lives? They are now faceless at the time dozens are being killled across the length and breadth of the North.

The North has lost its voice because upon all that is happening hardly stakeholders, political elite, pastors and the imams, youths association and women groups raise their voice or act because they have been compromised. The North must come together during this trying moment to find the direction of the region that is on self-destruction because all the perpetrators of the violence in North-west, North-east and North-central are northerners.

It is left to us to decide how best we can help our region, find its course and start a journey of new beginnings by nurturing the region on the principles of justice, fairness and equity left by the Sardauna of Sokoto who died building only the bridges of peace and unity of the Northern region as the first premier. We must know that history doesn’t just happen, we make history. We must stand up to write our history so that posterity will judge us well.

The leaders must know that the children they abandon today will chase them tomorrow. Despite our human and natural endowments in the North certainly we are not beyond one region that is battling with many issues.

Danaudi, National President of Arewa Youth Advocate for Peace and Unity Initiative, writes from Bauchi.