Understanding the problem of poverty in the north requires a lot of study and brainstorming. Interestingly, attempts have been made in the past to either explain or lament the problems facing Malam Bahaushe (literally translated as the Hausaman). This can be seen from numerous works like the poem composed by Malam Saadu Zungur in which he hypothesized that ‘as long as the Hausaman is engaged in begging, and his cap remains dirty, he will continue to live a shameful life’.
A student of Malam Saadu Zungur and the radical Kano politician, Malam Aminu Kano, spent his entire life trying to educate the people from the North about self-respect and the rewards of living a dignified life. In fact, one can hasten to say that the achievement of Malam Aminu Kano in politics is not politics itself, but using politics to teach the average Northerner to have self-esteem in order to emancipate himself from the bondage of poverty and perpetual servitude.
Anthony Kirk-Green’s theory on Malam Bashaushe, which tries to explain the core values of the Hausaman, Professor Abdalla Uba Adamu’s synthesis of the same theory, the works of Professor Aliyu Dauda on the same subject, numerous opinion articles by Dr Aliyu Tilde’s and Malam Bala Muhammad as well some of the programmes conducted during Adaidatu Sahu as well by Dr Salisu Shehu’s Gyara Kayanka point to the fact that the attitude of Malam Bahaushe is in need of serious reform.
But here is a point to think about. The same Hausaman that has today become a problem to his community has experienced a glorious past. Five hundred years ago and beyond, he developed a trade route that passes through the depth and breadth of the African continent, traversing several locations throughout West Africa, down to North Africa in what constitute today’s Libya, Algeria and Morocco. He embraced new inventions from the merchants that came to Hausaland from different parts of the world and fortified his culture, politics and economy.
Global historical figures like Shaikh Uthman Ibn Fodio, his brother Abdullahi, his son Muhammadu Bello, and his indefatigable daughter, Asmau bint Fodio were products of the same geographical location called Northern Nigeria. These were not ordinary figures. They were unique individuals who excelled in politics, military adventure and scholarship. Hugh Clapperton, the British envoy who met Sultan Muhammadu Bello, said he was awe-struck by the intellectual prowess of the Amirul Mu’minin (Commander of the Faithfuls) during their meeting. And, in recent history, the likes of Ahmadu Bello, Tafawa Balewa, Bukar Dip Charima, Aminu Kano, Murtala Muhammad, Waziri Junaidu and Yusufu Bala Usman did not descend from Jupiter.
So what went wrong? There are of course historical factors like colonialism, particularly how it disenfranchises a large section of the Hausa, Fulani, Kanuri and other tribes in Northern Nigeria and parts of Western Nigeria from full economic participation, firstly because of resistance to ‘western education’, and secondly because the colonial government was not keen in promoting ‘western education’.
There are economic reasons as well, like the discovery of oil which discourages agricultural production, luring a lot productive manpower from their villages to cities in search of easy money. Of course, this is not limited to Northern Nigeria; it is in fact a Nigerian problem and that of all societies that suddenly stumble on priceless natural resources.
At this juncture, let us pause and ask ourselves the question: Who are the leaders and role models in Malam Bahaushe’s community? Whose lifestyle does he cherish, whose children does he want his children to emulate, and whose achievements provide a talking point in the Majalisa (meeting points where peers sit and spend time together)? The answers are easy. Responders will most likely mention traditional rulers (whether at the local or regional level); Islamic scholars (who serve as the reference point on almost everything); and businessmen (who support the economy). At the risk of being accused of hasty generalization, I believe historical and economic factors in today’s Nigeria have sent the traditional rulers and Islamic scholars out of job. But that is not where the problem lie. The issue is, with the exception of few, this class of important people who should serve as pillars for our society, have become favour seekers rather stick to their their roles as consciences of the society, speaking truth to power.
So, in our society today, the attitude of seeking excessive favours, which cuts across the elites and the common man has developed into a culture which needs to be eradicated if we are to fight poverty. Before I left Ogun State during my NYSC, I met an elderly Igbo man, who stopped me on the road on recognizing that I am from northern Nigeria because of the way I dressed. “Young man” he said, “where are you from”. I said, Kano. He paused for a while and said, “I used to live in Kano in the 1960s; most of the industries were built with my labour. Back then, whenever an Hausaman served as your witness, it’s like God serving as your witness, but I understand that you too have changed…”. Sadly, the trust a lot of people have for our people has evaporated. And today, our people can lie just to acquire some privileges.
Join me next week by the grace of God for practical steps on how to fight attitudinal poverty in the north.
Dr. Yusha’u (email@example.com), a former staff of the BBC, is a public affairs analyst. He is a weekly columnist for PREMIUM TIMES