Which way for the North? By Maijama

Sir Ahmadu Bello

It has been the tradition of many in the North to pay tribute to Sir Ahmadu Bello, Sardauna of Sokoto, the first and only Premier of the defunct Northern Region of Nigeria every January to commemorate his assassination along with his other compatriots in Nigeria’s first military coup that took place on January 15th 1966.

Sir Ahmadu Bello was everything that any society could hope for as a leader. He was selfless; he had vision; he was courageous; he was fair and just, and above all, he was not corrupt having left behind only one personal account that was in the red and only one personal house in Sokoto, with not even a plot in Kaduna, the regional capital.

Sir Ahmadu Bello toiled for the North; served the people selflessly and diligently; and died for the North. Forty-six years after his demise, his name is still being mentioned with reverence and respect even though about 80 percent of the population did not even know him when he was alive. His name has to be invoked to bring any semblance of unity and credibility to any initiative in the region.

However, Sardauna’s beloved North is now a caricature of its former self. The political sophistication and sagacity of the northern people is now history. All the noble values that the northerners held sacred, such as honesty and integrity, are now no more.

With the exception of a few, almost all his successors to the northern leadership are some of the most corrupt public figures in Nigeria today. The north is one of the most backward regions in the world today thanks to pervasive corruption and maladministration. Worst of all, the north is today one of the most volatile parts of Nigeria. This sorry state of affairs came about as a result of years of neglect, insensitivity and indifference of most succeeding leaderships.

Neglect of education, especially in the last three decades has contributed in no small way to the backwardness of the area and its people. There are schools and even more classrooms but there are no teachers or teaching materials. Consequently, there are more students but very few who pass examinations to be gainfully employed. There is a direct correlation between literacy and productivity.

No government can mobilize the citizens for any meaningful development when they are called ignorant. Indeed only an ignorant population can be aroused to kill themselves over primordial and parochial considerations. Education is the key to any societal development now and in the future.

The north has comparative advantage in agriculture with large arable land and very resourceful forests, rivers and lakes. But, over the years the land is gradually being lost to desertification due to indiscriminate felling of trees, overgrazing and soil degradation. Reckless sinking of boreholes has also reduced the water level further down.

Unplanned dam constructions have also destroyed some rivers and lakes. Over the years, government intervention in agriculture has been reduced to annual importation of fertilizer and the corruption that goes with it. The ultimate beneficiaries are not the real farmers, but contractors and government officials.

Of the 774 local government areas in Nigeria, 414 are in the north. Instead of bringing development and government closer to the people these LGA’s have become centres of corruption and profligacy. Worse still, many of those LG officials are not elected. They owe their appointments to patronage. They are therefore unaccountable to the people.

No wonder they dip their hands at will into the treasury and spend public funds as they like. There is virtually nothing the third tier of government is doing in terms of delivery of service to the people. They only wait for subvention to share with their godfathers and the state legislators who clear them for appointments in the first place.

The state governors have become emperors in their domains. They have absolute control of the state machinery; the state assembly members are mainly there by their grace, and are not even aware of their powers in most cases anyway. And by virtue of joint accounts as well as state independent electoral commissions they take effective charge of the third tier of government. With their control of these two lower tiers of government they, in many cases, try to dictate to the federal government. The traditional institution is also at the mercy of the governors who can dethrone ruler or create chiefdoms from an existing domain at will.

The north has absolute control of the legislature at the federal level, but the representation is nothing to write home about in most cases. Worst still, after every election, very few are reelected thus, only very few are experienced enough to know what to do and how to do it. If the legislators were alive to their responsibility, they would have checked the excess of the other arms of government. The only oversight these ones know is how to pursue contracts and bribes.

Due to the fact that most elders, religious and traditional leaders are relying excessively on government patronage, they cannot call anyone to order. Many of them shamelessly go to these corrupt government officials seeking for one favour or the other. Any government of the day, however detrimental it is to their people, is sure of getting their blessings and support.

The cumulative effects of all these is the current state of anarchy in most parts of the north. The people do not know where to look up to, of course they resort to prayers, but others take the law into their hands, which, in many cases finds expression in ethnic and religious colours but in reality is socio-political.

And if any society refuses to spend money to train its people to become useful citizens, such as the 15 million almajirai roaming the streets of the north with no food, shelter or good clothes, it must be ready to spend money to keep them behind bars for crimes. History is always on the side of the oppressed.




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