Northern Nigeria is becoming a serious case study for most patriotic and nationalistic Nigerians. My definition of Northern Nigeria in this piece does not, in any stretch of imagination, include the middle belt whose people have been vigorously forging ahead even though they’d sometimes, based on our history, formed an unholy alliance with the core North to perpetuate some very heinous crimes against the South. We may allude that it was due to it (the Middle Belt) geographical closeness to the core North coupled with regional exigencies.
The giddying repetitive utterances by Godwin Adzuana Daboh over the issue of the presidency and his rigid support for the North‘s hold on it because of the principle of rotation seemed to have belied his anti corruption crusades of the 70s. How time flies! Knowing Daboh to be one of the opinion moulders in Benue state politics and Nigeria, I think, there is a need for the people of the middle Belt to take a critical and reflective look on their role in Nigeria’s history and to seriously see whether it is in the interest of Nigeria for them to continue to remain tied to the apron strings of the core North or to genuinely seek to align themselves permanently with the South in order to move Nigeria forward.
The naturally progressive people of the Middle Belt can do it. Late J.S Tarka did it by allying with Awo’s ACTION GROUP in the 60s. He almost succeeded if not for the ‘riki-shi’ (Hausa terminology) politics of the then Northern People’s Congress (NPC). And if Tarka had continued and had maintained that stand in 1978 by allying with a progressive Southern party, perhaps the scale would have by now fallen from the eyes of the core North political and military bourgeoisies.
My proposal is not a strange one. I believed that in order to liberate the core North from a number of it artificially created inadequacies, there is a need for a concerted and sincere effort by the progressive and forward thinking people of different regions to pull together. Don’t get me wrong, all the other regions have their peculiar inadequacies, but those in the core North have become persistently embarrassing to all of us. For the purpose of clarity, these core Northern states are; Bornu, Yobe, Adamawa, Kano, Jigawa, Zamfara, Bauchi, Katsina, and the lesser core states of Nassarawa and Kebbi.
If most of us want Nigeria to be one, then there is a need for the people of the Middle Belt to be ready to take a strong, firm, and ideological paradigm shift in their cosy relationship with the core North. In this context therefore, I am not looking at only the Talakawa/ Almagiri problem, the various vexatious religious conflicts and its bloody attendant consequences and, the settler/indigenes bloody clashes; no, I am looking at a larger picture which now includes the failed attempt to blow up an America passenger airliner by Farouk Umar Abdu Mutallab, the son of Nigerian banking bourgeoisie, Alhaji AbduMutallab. The dizzying schmaltz that his action has generated, where some die hard Yemeni acted as the young boy’s Svengali, is not unexpected. I have always had this prickly feeling that one day, an export of our ugly recurring religious crisis would come to pass. What a fulfilled prophesy!
Since 1960 we have been living in that country like a people with lack of quality leaders while in actual fact, we have in abundance, very good, articulate and intelligent people who could lead that country to our well defined and chosen El-dorado but who have been held back by a system they have unwittingly found themselves in. How long do we have to continue living as if we have no clear vision of what we desire as a nation?
If Obasanjo did not mean mischief for the country, a country he has vowed and to keep as one no matter the cost, why did he not choose a person like Professor Attahiru Jega as the PDP presidential candidate for the 2007 election if actually he (OBJ) wanted to choose an educated and incorruptible person from the North? Even if Jega was not a card carrying member of the PDP, he should have drafted him into the party in the interest of the country and for the purpose of sincere governance. Besides, there are a lot of intelligent and brilliant products of Bayero and Ahmadu Bello universities among other universities that OBJ should have picked from, but he chose to give us a lame duck as president, using the incumbency factor to good effect. Today, we don’t even know which social problems to confront squarely and aggressively because most of these problems are so intertwined and interwoven that they have now mushroomed and are effectively branching out.
It is in the light of all these that I have decided to socially problemitize the core North and to take a bird’s eye view of some of its problems waiting to implode. The region has become so risk averse that every year it has never lagged in upping the ante of religious blood letting. There is therefore a need to use the late Professor Paulo Freire’s holistic or problem-probing approach in dealing with the region otherwise more feisty Farouk Abdu Mutallab will spring up from there. In other wards, in applying my suggestions, it has got to be started comprehensively in the above named states at the same time. Put differenly, to start my suggestions in Sokoto and Jigawa, leaving out the other states, would render my suggestions useless and ineffective. We need to be proactive and more socially responsible. No doubt, Farouk was from a rich family, a prodigal son perhaps, but we need to address with passion the more dangerous one that has been staring at us.
I believe that to be incorporated in our defined “one Nigeria project” is the understanding that the liberation of most of the peoples of the core North from misery and indigence, is a sufficient condition for the liberation of Nigeria. If the Nigerian STATE continues to fail in containing the Almagiri scourge, then the Nigeria of our dream would be lost. An average Almagiri is a victim of a system. As a sub-culture, the Almagiri is a by-product of the simultaneous working alliance between an archaic exploitative feudal tradition and a Menshevik core north bourgeois, elitist and exclusivist class. Overall, the rigidly entrenched core North system promotes a seemingly class distinct syndrome of ‘Ranka’dede’. The gamut of problems confronting our country hinged on the fact that most Nigerians hide behind culture and tradition to condone, commit, and perpetuate evils and atrocities. A typical example is the oppression of women which seems to run across all Nigerian cultures in one form or another.
In a country with enough mineral (crude oil) and human resources, leaving the Almagiri to wonder and beg for alms on the streets of these core Northern cities and villages is not in the interest of our “one Nigeria project”. It is now commonplace to state that Nigeria is the only country in the world that has crude oil; has accumulated enormous money from it over the years and has these recurring yearly bloody religious clashes often carried out by a large segment of the poor and marginalised Almagiri class. These people have got to be engaged in one form of economic activity or the other. They have got to be gainfully employed. The Northern ruling elites have the will power to get them employed but their pecuniary class interest keeps blindfolding them. The problem with members of the ruling class in Nigeria is that they are busy building a revolution that would kill them.
This is why the South and the Middle Belt need to team up to liberate Nigeria from an impending doom whose form and pattern one cannot really discern. The onus lies on the middle Beltans to take the initiative. The purpose and benefit of such realignment is not regional; it is for the survival of corporate Nigeria. This position is further reinforced by the rev
elations in the two books among others written by middle belt intellectuals that seem to have bared it all on the dichotomous relationship between the middle belt and the core North. These books are: THE KADUNA MAFIA (1987) by Dr. Bala Takaya and Dr. Sonni Gwanle Tyoden and, THE MIDDLE BELT IN NIGERIAN POLITICS (1993) by Professor Tyoden. These are good books whose contents would further open the eyes of most Nigerians. Social dynamics is all about change. It is either the change is qualitative or quantitative. In Nigeria, since 1960, we have been moving from one worse political-cum-military government to another.
However, among the Almagiri as a mass, are hidden raw talents that are wasting away. There are those whose raw anger can be channelled to the game of Rugby and the American Base balling. These two games require the raw strength and energy that are being wasted by our youths in the various theatres of religious riot. There are those who can play football; who are tall enough to play basket ball; who can play Darts, Volley ball, Judo; make a living out of playing organised competitive Ludo games, Draught; who can make a living out of athletics, crickets, cab driving, Table tennis, Lawn Tennis, wrestling, cycling, boxing, swimming. Etc.
These are sources of income in Europe and America. They are the physical and economic engagements that has been making these two continents tick. There is nothing special about Europe bearing that their governments have created the enabling environments that allows citizens to prove their worth. Citizens can unleash their potentials and keep trying and pushing until they’d sometime excelled in them. What ever an average citizen is good at, the STATE in partnership with a properly organised PRIVATE sector, encourages the individual to prove his worth. This is why, in the English Premier league, footballers earn between £50,000 to £150,000 a week playing football. This is why you see some earn about £400,000 per annum playing Rugby and Crickets. This is why most of us could see that Usain Bolt (the Jamaican sprinter) is now earning a living doing what he loves best: breaking world records in the 100 metre sprint. Most English athletes pay their bills with their constant annual presence and participation in world and European Open Athletic championships, Indoor sports and there are many of such year round competitions. Excluded from their weekly/monthly wage are sponsorships from big corporate organization.
Those in the game of Lawn Tennis make their living in that sport. As such, there are graduated prizes to be won in the Australian, American, and the French Tennis Open Championships. The same goes for Wimbledon Tennis and, the Canadian, Japanese, Chinese and Dubai Tennis Championships. All these go with appearance fees and, if a player goes through each group stage in these Tennis tournaments, that player’s money goes up. In other wards, the more you win and move to the next stage, the higher you earn. This is why Europe and America have left the rest of the world behind. Every talent have been harvested into a profession and every profession is a money spinner.
The lesser ones like plumbing, semi skilled electrical engineering work, painting, cleaning, hair dressing, manicure and pedicure, hair cutting and plaiting, security, nursing, fencing of buildings, cutting down of trees, mowing of grasses, trimming of flowers, care-assistant/support working or nursing assistant, shoe cobbling, First Aiding and Fire Fighting, Tailoring, Washing and Dry cleaning services, street cleaning, and Acting, have all been professionalized in Europe and America. In the UK, it is better for you to buy a new shoe than to take an old one to a shop for repairs. The same economic principle applies to cars and most household appliances.
The governments of the core northern states should be made to be more accountable to their people. To create the enabling environment for these poor youths to make a living is not beyond them. They can do it. The major bug bear is their class interest which they have consistently shielded by their continual leeching of the poor. Now, apart from the fact that most of the core states implement free education, they should also make the acquisition of skills compulsory. Having created the enabling environment, these states would then enact a law or laws making it a punishable offence for any indigene not to be either in school or in any of skill acquisition centres. They should implement this policy and its law with the effectiveness and speed with which they had implemented the Sharia law in their states; and, with the pious audacity and clear cut vision with which Lamido Sanusi is doing his job of sanitising our banking sector.
The law should have effect if an implementation Task Force, which is a fail-safe measure, is in place that would see to it that any group of adults seen roaming the streets was apprehended. They should be arrested and if found guilty, be tasked to render “Community Service” in the state e.g., to sweep and clean the streets for a specified number of weeks; after which, the youths would sign undertaking to be of good behaviour and to start attending skill acquisition centres. This will act as a deterrent to others. There should be a centralised data bank where detailed information about these people are stored. If we do not encourage the core Northern states to embark on this project, I can safely forecast that what the young Farouk Umar AbduMutallab wanted to do would be a child’s play by the time Al Qaeda agents penetrate the poor Almagiri in this region and dazzle just £100 or $100 in their faces. I rest my case.