Rudderless North

Northern Nigeria is a classical example of numerical strength gone wrong, untoward events unfolding within its enclave is a culmination of decades of self-deception and self-destruction. The dark cloud of uncertainty that gradually accumulates over the northern sky has finally melted into torrents of calamities never before seen or imagined – the effect is an excruciating grief as the North is turned into a theater where the daily news is that of sorrow, tears and blood!

James Baldwin wrote in The Fire Next Time, that “the most dangerous creation of any society is the man who has nothing to lose, you do not need ten such men. Only one will do”, and Northern Nigeria harbours such people in multitudes, and illiteracy and poverty only breed more people with nothing to lose.

Every passing day unveils the North as a region in a cul-de-sac. It is entangled in a web of recurring violence that stems from sustained ignorance, deliberate poverty induction, raw communal intolerance, and dubious religiosity.

Otherwise, how could a region, dominated by Muslims – adherents of a religion whose first message to mankind is to read, and which places greater emphasis on scholarship – be the hub of stark illiteracy and ignorance. Millions of northern children that ought to be the cynosures of our eyes, end up as ignoble eyesores, wandering aimlessly under an archaic almajiri system of Islamic education – an education that eventually eludes them, as they are forced to live in squalid and degenerative conditions inimical to learning, and are always at the mercy of the street for food and clothing.

Not even the startling revelations from the North could awaken northern leaders from their deep slumber to realise that they are superintending over a region that is fast withering. A recent World Bank report indicates that 87% of Nigeria’s poverty rate is in the North! This report is an indictment of northern leaders whose style of leadership often incubates poverty. It only shows northern leaders as solely interested in the pomp and pageantry which power confers, against the enormous tasks which power should seek to accomplish.

In response to the growing criticisms of northern leaders’ poor handling of the education crises bedeviling the region, some northern governors often declare ‘state of emergencies’ in education in their respective states, but such policies have only proven to be no more than grandiose programmes designed to create a semblance of commitment, for they are not thorough and far-reaching.

The northern intelligentsia has shrewdly and successfully shaped the thoughts of its populace to become obsessed with power, they recklessly seek to acquire power only to end up using it as a tool to impoverish their people. They helped in turning the North into a people that enjoy floating in conspiracy theories, we are always on the look-out for an illusory enemy to blame for our woes, thus deliberately neglecting or unable to spot the enemy in ourselves. 

Any attempt to point out the flaws in us for correction is raucously contended, little wonder Emir Sunusi is passed off as an alarmist for his sustained admonitions against our crude ways, ways that even the religion of Islam that is widely proclaimed sternly detested.

It is often said that ‘pressure changes everything’, yet it’s not clear whether the persistent pressure hovering over Northern Nigeria will make it change for the better, or whether it will buckle under an exacerbating pressure. It is time for Northern Nigeria in its entirety to chart a course out of its predicament.

Ibrahim Zangina


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