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ACF chair, Ogbeh warns North destroying self

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Says leaders must end senseless killings

For Audu Ogbeh, the National Chairman of the Arewa Consultative Forum and former Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, it is time for the North to face the reality and stop making politics an industry.

Irked by the backwardness of the region, Ogbeh, in an exclusive interview with The Guardian asked politicians to rediscover themselves and their region for purposeful socio-economic and political development. He said there was need for stakeholders to work together in a productive manner, warning leaders to save the North by repositioning it for brighter future and ensuring end to senseless killings.

THE ACF Chairmen, who spoke shortly after the Forum’s National Working Committee (NWC) meeting in Kaduna, said the current insecurity as well as the poor socio-economic and political atmosphere in the North could worsen the backwardness, and set it poles behind basic development paradigms.

Ogbeh said the senseless situation, particularly in Kaduna and in many states where crisis persisted, was a disaster and not in the best interest of the region.

“This crisis is destroying the society. We are very distressed. But you ask, why are these crises happening now? I believe that, over the years, we must have made very serious mistakes. In development, the North is far behind the South.

“We are behind the south in education, we are behind the south in industrial growth. Looking through our records, you will find that Kano alone, in the last 40 years, has lost 126 industries. We have textiles in Kaduna too; all gone. In Jos, we had some industries that have gone. So, can you see that, slowly, there was a decline?

“There is increasing excitement in the North about oil money, Federation Account and others — a culture of depending on employed payment, employed service as source of living; almost everybody is depending on salary, particularly, in the last 10 years in the North; politics has become the major industry. This cannot make a society grow. I know every part of Nigeria has experienced economic shock because of some developments. Presently, agriculture does not even sustain most families due to some factors.”

OGBEH also lamented the dwindling fortune of the northern region, pointing out that it had lost its place as the third largest producer of groundnuts in the world, after the United States and Argentina.

However, he noted that the region had struggled to maintain its position as the second largest producer of sorghum in the world. “And we are doing well in some food crops too but the earnings from these agricultural products are no longer sufficient to do many things, particularly in education. Many of these young ones need education. Over the years, we have allowed agriculture and education to go their separate ways. So why should a child of five or seven years begin to roam the streets, instead of being in school?”

Ogbeh argued that, at tender age, children must begin to be built into responsible adults. “Today it’s not so; children of today want to be with their mummy and daddy because they eat a lot. These mistakes had happened and then Boko Haram came and the whole thing is spreading.

“We are deeply worried. That’s why we have started meeting and talking. We are looking for solutions and we want to join hands with our governors and legislatures to see what we can do.”

THE Arewa Chieftain recalled that the Boko Haram insurgency began in 2010 when Yar’Adua was president. It was at Abuja airport on his way to Brazil that the news of Boko Haram was broken to him (Yar’Adua). Immediately, he gave instructions to the Army to flush the insurgents.

“ Let me say, it happened in Algeria too. It took them 21 years to curtail the insurgents. Once you have this kind of situation in a country, it’s extremely difficult to curtail and end it immediately. It takes time.

“What is the size of your army? How many divisions do you really have? A country like Nigerian should at least have 20 divisions. Do we have this number? Again, can we pay these soldiers? How many policemen do we have? These are pertinent questions to be asked.

“But the size of army and police are grossly inadequate to man the territories. Look at our defence budget. It is also small. Even our national budget is small. Nigeria’s budget is smaller than that of the New York City.”


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