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Rumbles from the north

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Northern NIgeria. PHOTO: ABC News

As an auditor, I used to work all over the North.
You could see the vast land, but they don’t have basic infrastructure and didn’t have jobs. That was about 30 years ago and it was like a time bomb.

When I was Chairman of Eko Hotels, I personally organized lectures to bring the plight of northern people to the Government, but Government turned deaf ears”.

J. K. Randle, ThisDay, Sunday Newspaper, March 24th 2019

There was a report carried by most Nigerian newspapers that Billionaire Aliko Dangote, while speaking at the 2019 Kaduna Economic Summit, had decried and lamented at the rankling rate of poverty in the North of Nigeria. In that report, Billionaire Dangote said that the land mass and agricultural potential of the North are more than enough not to downgrade the Region and consign it to poverty. This got me thinking, and therefore respond not only to issues raised by him but speak to the unresponsive Northern elites who have chosen an immature part that not only has spawned a shameful level of poverty in the North but is dragging the South equally down and in the mud with it. I recall in 2017 that Muhammadu Lamido Sanusi called out in the public space, that the North was using antediluvian methods to run its socio-political economy and that had the North East or North West of Nigeria been single countries, they would be the poorest on Earth. Of course, trust the ‘ostrich’ Northern elites, they were outraged and vilified a voice of reason and truth. As usual, the North that is keener, since Sir Ahmadu Bello days, to keep its illiterate poor in sufficient numbers for electoral and census purposes. They shouted the Emir down and reclined to its old consuetude.

And only a few weeks back, President Buhari, who ought to know, spewed out what indeed to me is more of crocodile tears, was quoted as saying that whenever he was passing by on roads and saw almajiris with begging bowls, his heart bleeds. Adding a rider, which is even sadder, from a President from the North, that for them (the almajiris), education seemed a luxury. It was then I knew that the North is an unfortunate case that we all as Nigerians must collectively address. In the course of getting this article started, an extremely helpful treatise from Premium Times on May 9th 2019, written by Majeed Dahiru and titled“ Lamentations After Self Immolation in Northern Nigeria” was published. It not only eased the scope of my analysis, but also gave confirmation to my thesis, and advanced me in the notion that leadership is not Nigeria’s core problem. It clearly is not any more for me.  For until the North’s structural template, which is in three layers of societal strata (which according to – Majeed Dahiru) is made up of the educated elements who sit atop the structure, the traditional religious elements and the uneducated poor masses – is dismantled we are all in Nigeria heading nowhere. It is this impossible structure that is only for the political and power interests of the top class and which can never create progress that is creating the stone feet of the North and a drag on Nigeria. The North relies permanently on a Fulani first doctrine, a patently false census figures (in terms of population in the North figures) and a bottom strata talakawas who are kept down deliberately. This is to ensure that the political, ruling and religious Northern elite keep the false narrative with their populace about the South being the “cheaters” and as those ‘depriving Northerners’ of their fair share in an incongruous unitary federation. The Northern elite keep using the indoctrinated illiterates, scoundrels, unskilled almajiris and miscreants to thumb printing for votes and turning those undiscerning millions, who we are told, into those who “love Buhari” and who consider him a “rock star” and an infallible “god”. So long as this is the scenario, we will keep having wrong choices of persons, not only of those who emanate from the North, to lead the country, but also impossible to unravel those impossible issues that make Nigeria to be going in the wrong direction.

It is this false read of the reasons for the poverty, banditry and kidnapping in the North that caused President Buhari to create his bogus Social Intervention Programmes involving “Trader Moni”, “Conditional Cash Transfers”, ‘National Home-Grown School Feeding”, “N- Power” and Government Empowerment Programmes” which are merely “Ponzi schemes” meant to address an “Almajiri Economy”.  Mr President sees the entire national landscape as – an almajiri country. Meanwhile, N472 billion has gone into the Social Intervention Schemes in the 4 years of Buhari’s presidency with dubious results as we now know. Truth must be told. The archaic Feudal System in the North is at the root of the Nigerian tragedy. It is an unfair and unjust system that consigns the millions of Almajiris (12 million, I read in all of the North, 3 million of which are in Kano) to a permanent life of illiteracy, begging and serfdom. How would such unskilled million persons transit to a modern economy? Like Dahiru Majeed asserts, in no other Muslim country is there such an entrenched injustice and perpetual serfdom. Saudi Arabia where our top elite Northern elites go for Hajj and lesser Umrah is as modern a Muslim country as can be, even if they have their oddities and peculiarities. Dubai a Muslim wonder city, a favourite stop of the Nigerian upper class and most vacationing and trader Nigerians is a 21st Century city with all the trappings of entering the 22ndCentury with all of Artificial Intelligence applications and Robotics. So, for anyone to keep precluding the rest of us from intruding in a “Religious North Only” experiment under the veneer that Christian Southerners are infidels and even Southern Muslims, “lesser Muslims” and as persons who are most unqualified to invest, sojourn or speak to the painful circumstances of years of wrongheaded religious fervour and hermetic treatment of their talakawas is wrong.

Nigerians must no longer condone this kind of thinking. For it is that neglect to restructure itself and Nigeria and to modernize that is dragging Nigeria down. It could have been addressed over the years, if only the “power distance” between the third tier layer in the Northern Society were addressed differently and built for not just a future Northern Society, but a future prosperous Nigeria. Sadly, if we may regard the “Hofstede Power Distance Index” as it pertains to Nigeria, in the words of Remi Adekoya (Business Day 9th May 2019), the less powerful members of a society, always the majority, expect and accept unequal distribution of power”. This, according to Adekoya, “signals a strong propensity in Nigeria Society (read Northern Society) to accept a hierarchical order with significant power inequalities that (have) no justification”.

This attitude is further reinforced by the Northern Political elite who ask the clergy to preach to the serfs in their places of worship that their serfdom is a virtue, prosperity as a vice, education as western, and I guess, as God ordained. This, of course means in converse, God has approved from Heaven, the overflowing blessings the Northern Elites enjoy. This then would explain the shoe shining boxes and polishes that Governor Gunduje used in “blessing” his Kano talakawas. And with the Muslim faithful in poverty and entitled to a minimum of four wives and with uncontrolled fertility, there would be enough “human supply” in 2023. Little wonder the Northern elite are speaking about holding on to “power” beyond 2030. Of course why not? The thumb printers are in their millions. The “future” is assured and power guaranteed. But I dare say, the dam is long broken. Debo Sobowale in the Vanguard wrote of the “revolt of the “slaves” in what he termed the “Revolt of the Almajiris”. What with the wide scale banditry and kidnapping, the genie is out of the bottle. When a kidnapper can make N10 million in an escapade, why take a bowl to beg and collect only N10 in a day? Northern Nigeria in its ignorance of not thinking strategically about the future has made itself a laughing stock. The crisis is what is now beyond what an occupying Federal Government with its panoply of Fulani and Muslim Generals, can contain with guns, muscles or admonitions.
Abolo, broadcaster and CEO Tonbole Productions, wrote from Benin City, Nigeria.

The horse has long bolted from the stable.

It will now take Nigeria as a whole to bring the crisis to a halt. The first natural response to the North, which has kept a deaf ear to the two twin demands of restructuring and state police must now urgently have a re-think, otherwise, we are on our way to an inevitable disintegration as no reasonable nation can condone this unending anomie, anarchy and no clear path to progress or a brighter future. If the North wants some help in its current helplessness and “exporting” destabilization and insecurity to the south, I would encourage them to assemble their intellectuals (which it has an abundance, but have suppressed under the guise of feudalism.) Secondly Femi Orebe propounded some bright ideas on Sunday May 19th 2019 in the Nation newspaper, p20, under the title Insecurity: It is Time for a Marshall Plan for the North). His ideas could seed a “revolution” to bring sanity to the North – like a rehabilitation of millions of Almajiris.  Out of 12 million school children, Northern billionaires can use their billions in uplifting the standard of living of the poor and talakawas in order to end their groveling and rankadede obsequiousness. The EFCC should closely monitor Governors while in office, in order to ensuring proper utilization and application of public funds. The Sambisa forest can be converted to a massive skill acquisition centre and a massive agricultural land. Lastly and most importantly, that in order that these ideas, conceived as a “Marshal Plan”, there should be a national recovery project where we all contribute funds, skills and manpower. These to my mind, if the Northern Elite would climb down from their “religious horses”, this is how, shoulder to shoulder, we can re-build our Nation.

Abolo, broadcaster and CEO Tonbole Productions, wrote from Benin City, Nigeria.


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