By Sani Abdulrazak
Northern Nigeria being the most populous region in the country is blessed with abundant natural resources. From large uranium deposits, copper, tantalite and gold in the North West, to the abundant tin, lead, zinc and massive iron ore deposits in the North Central, and gypsum, kaolin and hydrocarbon in the North East among others. A region blessed with vast, lush fertile lands for agriculture, with its people so religiously multifarious comprising about 200 tribes having so much colorful cultural heterogeneity. They are known to be hospitable and accommodating with the highest sense of tolerance. But unfortunately today, terrorism, banditry, kidnappings and cattle rustling have become a paterfamilias of everyday life in the region.
It is apropos to note with nostalgia those days in the North when you only need to be human to live in any part of the region freely and peacefully, when you travel from town to town making adventurous stops at villages, relishing their locally prepared delicious cuisines with Fura da Nono, those times when the region was a model for unity and peaceful co-existence, the perfect Eldorado, until we got to the ne plus ultra of bloody insurgency in the North East, kidnappings, banditry and freelance killings in the North West and farmers/herdsmen clashes in the North Central turning this once peaceful region to a killing field, which has torn at the fabric of the country’s largest and most populous region. Extreme poverty began to make us see ourselves in tribes and sects paving way for discord and intolerance, soaking the region into mercaptan of hate and enmity. Northern Nigeria in a rupture of oblivion, abandoned their agriculture and groundnut pyramids for the natural resource of a distant land, and surrendered the labor, lands and capital that have sustained its people for centuries and chase after the ephemerality and fiddling comfort that comes with political power. Our human capital is channeled not for science and technology, innovation and industrialization but for advantages in elections and political intimidation.
The soul searching questions we need to ask ourselves are; how did we get to this quagmire, and what are the root causes of these lurid miasmas bedeviling the North? How did we go from the agricultural and industrial hub of West African sub region to creating a massive pool of savvy unemployed population of youth ready to be recruited into the hydra headed monster threatening our collective unity and coexistence? How did we collectively disobey the wise counsel and warnings of our religious and traditional rulers leading to the declension of our moral values? How did we show a laissez fare attitude to the Almajiri system for decades? Truth is, Northern Nigeria has never had it that perilous and there are no quick fixes to the region’s present tenuous situation. It is a collective effort required not just of the Government at the centre, Governors and other political leaders, but our traditional and religious leaders and the masses. Our solutions just like our challenges are within us. We must come together as one to surmount the insecurity in the region.
One very important aspect without which we cannot come out of this chronic brouhaha and befuddlement is that the masses must rise above partisanship, greed, materialism and politics to support the Government’s effort at addressing our challenges. There is also the need for all stakeholders to collectively liaise with the Government to develop a long term framework of addressing the farmers/herdsmen conflict in line with modern day agricultural best practice.
It is also not surprising that one of the root causes of our security challenge is the gargantuan number of out of school children in the North leading to high level of illiteracy resulting in the brobdingnagian level of poverty in the region breeding more children of anger and peeve. The state Governments of the region must as a matter of urgency address the Almajiri system of education, also, by declaring education up to senior secondary level not just free but compulsory. I must commend the Governments of Kano and Kaduna states for taking this bold step and it is our hope and prayers other state Governments of the region will follow suit.
The fons et origo of strife in any society is poverty, and Northern Nigeria ranks as one of the poorest in the world. One of the major causes of extreme poverty in the region is the dearth and death of mega factories; from Sokoto massive glass plant in Wurno, to Arewa Textile and United Nigeria Textile Limited in Kaduna, inter alia Kano Bottling Company, Ajaokuta Steel Company, Benue Cement PLC. They all died and with them millions of direct and indirect jobs. The Governments at all levels must collectively revive these companies in order to ameliorate the astronomical poverty level in the region. The state Governments also need to do more on youth empowerment and inclusion in governance. In order to save the region from becoming the poverty capital of the world, the governments at all levels must do more to empower the youth through start ups for businesses, skill acquisition workshops and leadership trainings.
Religious and traditional rulers as the fathers of the region have a very big role to play in restoring the region to what it used to be. They must reach out and work collectively with all stakeholders towards restoring peace and unity in order to move the region forward. Also, the government needs to do more on border security and patrol in order to curb proliferation of small arms and light weapons in the region, also, by establishing a paramilitary agency whose sole responsibility will be combing and patrolling the vast bushes of the region which serves as hideouts for these criminals.
The time to act is now; we must not succumb to conspiracy theories and kvetching as a source of consolation. Innocent peace loving Nigerians from Kebbi to Borno, to Zamfara, to Sokoto, Adamawa, Plateau, Taraba, etc must not continue to die defenseless. I have an unshakable belief that Northern Nigeria will rise above its present day challenges. We must begin to place priority on eradicating poverty, despondency, child destitution and illiteracy because so far, nothing has ever shaken the foundation of our collective existence like the hydra headed insecurity we find ourselves in. the picture is gloomy but there is hope.
Sani Abdulrazak, a Northerner and a Technologist at Ahmadu Bello University Zaria can be reached via email at email@example.com