The state of underdevelopment in the north has been giving many sons and daughters of the region concerns. As Nigeria enters New Year today, RABIAH LABARAN examines the problems and the way out
The North which is a larger part of Nigeria comprising the north east, north west and north central has remained in perpetual poverty since after the administration of Sardauna of Sokoto and Tafawa Balewa, who due to their fear of God, patriotism, justice, love for their people, prudence, transparency and accountability have remained the best and the most incorruptible leaders Nigeria and particularly the north ever had. Since then what we have been getting for administrators are mere rulers and not leaders. Rulers who lack the initiative to generate revenue from their area of jurisdiction; think out of the box to provide aid for the weak and the vulnerable, improve agricultural practices and open up industries that would mop up almost all the teeming unemployed and who lack the will power to enlighten and sensitize its teaming population on the right values that can move the region forward towards a greater height.
Abacha, Shagari, Yakubu Gowon and Babangida all led this country at various times but never left much indelible mark or affected the lives of the teaming population of the north positively. Among all the regimes, it is only the rich that grew richer, but their influence only festered in the political arena. Murtala Muhammed, Muhammad Buhari and Umar Musa Yar’adua all had good intentions during their past regimes, but their administrations were untimely truncated by unfortunate incidents (death and coup de tat).
The governors and ministers and even top ranking civil servants from the north hardly had anything much to offer to the people, they rather stash the accumulated monies amassed (legally or illegally) to their families and cronies immediate needs and accumulate assets all over the place (both at home and abroad), and going on foreign trips in order to prove their grandeur status in the society. Such topnotch like the former national security adviser is a peculiar example of those who have cheated Nigeria and the North in particular, but we have so many of them.
Winning of the 2015 election by president Muhammadu Buhari did not come by accident, it is another divine opportunity to rebuild the country especially the North economically, administratively, socially and in value system.
The most annoying and irritating value system among Northerners that keep the region perpetually backward include the following: Bad governance: Leadership is service not personal vanity or personal aggrandisement of self and cronies and not bothering about the fate of the poor, uneducated and unemployed in their midst. Not minding the fact that occupying a political or public post is to improve the condition of lives of the people and not personal aggrandisement; the major reason why the North has remained backwards.
Lack of patriotism on the side of the elite is a key factor. Lack of focus in contributing their quota towards the upliftment of the status of their brothers and sisters down in the North through job creation and consequently wealth creation (not necessarily through white collar jobs).Many politicians had opportunities of economically revitalizing their region but subconsciously failed to do so.
Engaging in acts of corruption. Such as stealing public funds and cutting corners by our kith and kin, thereby impoverishing the rest of us. The culture of Maula (psychophancy) and Almajiri system: The wrongly propagated norm of begging and hero worship is rampant among poor Northerners who prefer to beg for easy money from the rich, instead of working hard to earn a living. The main reason why rich Northerners steal is in order to meet up with the numerous demands of their relatives and cronies. That is why the ban on street begging by Kaduna state governor Mallam Nasir El-rufai is a good step in the right direction.
Misconception of Western education: As advocated by half-baked religious teachers, many Northerners think that western education especially for the girl-child is a waste of resources because it ends in the kitchen. They forget that western and religious education will impact positively every sphere of her endeavour (either business or marital life). This mentality reflects the startling revelation that over “70% of North-western women aged 15-49 are uneducated”. This was an assertion made by a renowned gynaecologist Professor Hadiza Galadanci at a workshop in Kano. She affirmed that that makes the regions the biggest with uneducated women in the country. So if women are an asset to a nation I am sure Northern women are not among, with this level of illiteracy. And when women who are the mentors of the children are not educated, you can imagine the ripple and multiplier effect this will have on the socio-economic development of the region and the nation at large.
Laziess and lack of initiatives: A typical Northerner is lazy, lacks initiative and likes to reap where he has not sown: they never try to borrow a leaf from the Igbo’s who are known for their doggedness and industry. They have forgotten that you can only be rich by what you have worked for not the peanuts that are loathingly thrown at them by the supposedly rich in the society who never show the poor how to make money.(Stop giving them the fish show them how to fish) so that they can be independent and not pests, as some rich men want the poor to be.
Entrenchment of wron values and beliefs: Upholding wrong values and beliefs by Northerners i.e. (a) If a woman is well educated, she will go wild and refuse to respect her husband.
(b) If a woman is vying for a political position and goes for late evening meetings, she must be seeping her way through to get to the position. (c) Women are not meant to lead they are meant to be led, neither are they to be wealthy, wealth it is the exclusive preserve of men. (d) Your generosity is measured by the number of people you can feed on a daily basis, or the number of people who depend on you for their livelihood (even if you have to steal to meet-up with the demands. (e) If you are highly placed in the society and people don’t gather in front of your house or you don’t share money, that means that you are “eating alone”. The poor believe that every rich person is a thief or must be engaged in dubious acts. (f) If you are strong willed, principled and incorruptible, people call you a wicked person, while if you are the opposite they call you a good person and celebrate you.
All these superstitious beliefs are what have kept the North behind. Before I end this article, let me offer my unreserved advice to our dear president, president Muhammadu Buhari .The proposed N5000 should be channelled appropriately to the elderly who are no longer strong and employable and also the physically challenged. While the teeming unemployed Nigerians could be made active through giving them free skill acquisition trainings and providing ready markets for their goods and services. Secondly, teeming unemployed persons could be actively engaged on federal and state owned farms and industries for a monthly pay.
Thirdly a tin of milk per child in our primary schools is good enough for the anticipated school feeding program. Fourthly, curbing corruption in the public service by de-emphasizing certificates and emphasizing expertise and output will also go a long way in improving productivity in the public sector. Fifthly, corrupt persons or those who have stolen public funds should not be executed like what obtains in some countries like china.
They should rather be made to return the stolen funds and be made to provide free labour on federal or state owned farms to serve as a deterrent. Sixthly, medical experts who operate private hospitals should not be allowed to work in public hospitals in order to eradicate divided attention. Lastly, Nigerians expect to have a toll- free line with contact numbers that could be used to reach the president to offer useful advise and suggestions that would move the country forward, since many Nigerians are passionate about the change process.
Labaran is a Kaduna-based social researcher