The northern debacle
I refer to Luke Onyekakeyah’s opinion pieces with the titles: ‘Is Nigeria’s population the biggest in Africa?’ and ‘Appointments: Is this Northern Nigeria Petroleum Corporation (NNPC)?’ published in The Guardian Newspaper of 26 May 2020 and 02 June 2020 respectively. His arguments were apt and incisive and I do not seek to counter them. I write to join in the debate and to look at issues from another angle. Census fraud is not synonymous to only the north; every region in Nigeria is guilty of such fraud, although the north appears to be smarter than other regions. Nowhere in Nigeria is developed to the extent that would require mass movement of people. Show me one state in Nigeria that is highly technologically advanced and employs thousands of people not one. And so the narrative that coastal regions should have higher populations of people than arid regions due to perceived high standard of living without visible infrastructure on ground is flawed. There is nothing like something for nothing.
Besides, wasting the essence on bed to increase population is not dependent on locality, geography and weather conditions. I have travelled far and wide locally in Nigeria enough to know that the country is a big-lemonade. That may be applicable in other parts of the world but not in Nigeria that is not socially stable. When a polity is not socially stable, you cannot have economic and political stability. Every society develops a culture that is best suited to itself. The northern people believe in early marriage as opposed to late marriage. Most Southerners delay marriage until in their late thirties and forties, at that time most northerners are already grandparents. Buba my boyhood friend got married in our teens, if he is alive today, he may be a grandfather, trust me. In my forties, I have two children.
Girls are married off in most cases before they attain the age of puberty, and the poor not the rich marry more than one wife with an average of ten children per wife after which they ask The Lord to look after the children. Is this applicable in Southern Nigeria? So we need to look at issues from a balanced perspective to educate the public fittingly. What determines growth in population is economic, cultural, social and political. Why do I see many southerners in the arid north? They should be in the coastal regions in Nigeria to work and increase the population but how commercially viable are the coastal regions of Delta, Port Harcourt, Bayelsa, Calabar, Rivers (save for Lagos) to attract a large pool of immigrants? On appointment into positions in NNPC. It is highly vexing to have a section of a country dominate all other sections. You would think this country belongs to the north but the same trajectory plays out in banking, oil and gas sector and International Non-Governmental Organizations dominated by people from South West Nigeria. As well as the structural advantage enjoyed by Easterners in the retail business and the grooming of their kinsmen but the Fabian tactics employed to disempowered non-Easterners who are in the same line of business and who ply their trade beside them.
The problems of Nigeria lie with the majority tribes. Kenule Saro-Wiwa referred to them as the, ‘big-for-chopping majorities.” To have the Managing Director say that northerners appointed into various positions of NNPC and its subsidiaries were mentally fit is immodest and insulting. I am not surprised because he may be carrying out the wishes of his principal who has shown clearly that he is patriotic and not nationalistic and holds dear to heart the ethos of Social Darwinism. The ideals of nationalism should be superior to the interests and concerns of a selected few. Nigeria regrettably does not have nationalistic establishment players. Many a player believes in prejudices and bigotry. We also have to understand the buccaneering streak in the northern character when it comes to the civil service. Pre- civil war, northerners were not interested in the civil service. The civil service top echelon was controlled by South Easterners and South Westerners. The high level of nepotism in the civil service left northerners with no choice after the war to hold on to the civil service as a family tree. A northerner in our era is not complete without a civil service job. They call it pensionable jobs. While the southerner believes in working for and saving his pension today, the northerner believes in tomorrow and in The Lord to take care of eventualities without plan.
Before the Olusegun Obasanjo presidency, the civil service was not really lucrative. That did not worry the northerner, they accept jobs in the civil service, bid their time and attend many training courses, locally and abroad such that when there are openings, the system recommends them over and above other people who did not groom themselves for such chances and these people begin to go on a crying jag. Southerners, many, are always in a hurry. A job in the civil service is not as fulfilling for them as it is for northerners. We need to be politically active. Life throws opportunities our way and it has been proven, that the smartest, most brilliant of the lot in life are not front-runners in the field of success. Southern Nigerians should take a cue and compete with northerners on a level playing field in the civil service. Southerners should aspire to be in the civil service the way northerners have made it their stronghold.
Greatness should not be a bugbear for those who cannot aspire to it and greatness is not a forte for a particular class of people. After all Jews have won many Nobel Prizes but not all Jews are ingenious. The sociopathic detachment of some northern leaders from the affairs of Nigeria but campaigning only for northern interests while enjoying the wealth got from other regions is not healthy not only for northern interest but for Nigeria. The unvarnished nepotism promoted by people of all regions has destroyed this country. Nigeria as a result is a sleeping beauty.
•Abah, is a Teacher, Speaker and Campaigner, wrote from Abuja
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