Northern Nigeria’ At The Threshold Of Nigeria’s 52nd Independence

Posted: September 30, 2012 in Uncategorized

By Justine John DYIKUK

Nigeria has been loosely or broadly segmented into North and South; no thanks to the colonial imperialists. The aim was simply to grease the erstwhile indirect rule system that later bore the golden goose, Nigeria, but whether she will lay the priceless egg is still very debatable. History shows that the indirect rule system suffered a deadly

blow in the South due to its failure to offer more convincing alternative than the established system that hitherto was in existence. The North conversely was the lucky bride as its romance with the colonialist enjoyed conjugal bliss of no small tasteful honey moon. This excited the local emirs who were already in place poised to facilitate “Divide and rule.”

The North as an entity is one of controversial commentaries as various sentiments often flow which always try to make a strict dichotomy between the ‘Core North’ and the unconstitutional ‘Middle Belt.’ Whatever the case is, the 19 Northern States as enshrined in the constitution reveals a journey from Benue to Borno, Sokoto to Kogi, Taraba to Katsina. Needless to point out that this enclave is blessed in so many ways. But if I may ask, what are the immense benefits of these endowments? This piece, therefore seeks to unravel how the North, which has been the envied darling of the nation, has now turned out to be so much of a burden to the rest of Nigeria; which is a sad irony to say the least. The writer in driving home the task at hand offers a ride through these tides which only those with objective and critical-optical lenses can view!

The Glorious Days of Yester Years

One recollects with nostalgia the wonderful and glorious days and years of this terrain. What readily comes to mind include: The erstwhile green revolution and agricultural boom with the famous groundnut pyramids of Kano and the rich plus robust livestock along the length and breadth of the North providing hides and skin for shoe making, bags, mats to mention but a few.

Tin mining in Jos, capital of the then Benue-Plateau exposed the natural weather and platonic formations that attracted locals and foreigners to work, commercialize and be domicile on the Plateau. The one-time ‘Jos Tin City buses’ created added comfort to residents. The textile industrie(s) situated in Kaduna, a Northern City unrivalled as regards federal presence, are sweet thoughts to recall!

The functionality of the Railway system not only connected the North and the South but enhanced a smooth voyage through the Northern States. Thus, journeying from Port Harcourt through Abba, Umuahia to Otukpo, Makurdi, Abuja, Kafanchan to Bukuru, Jos, would lead one up to Zaria and Kaura Namuda.

Trading was at its peak because there was some kind of free market around the area. Notable commercial towns were Jos, (Plateau), Kano and Kaduna. The relics of the extinguished ‘Jos Main Market’ speak volume of the time in question. Kano was warming up to become the commercial nerve center of Northern Nigeria as later events would show. Little wonder then, it is nicknamed tumbin giwa, which literary means, elephant’s stomach, because of its receptive and cosmopolitan nature!

The peoples of the North are blessed with various tribes and dialects; however, Hausa seems a major lingua franca. Whether imposed or freely accepted, this made for free communication and easy trading. As to this being later used as a tool for oppression and seeming domination by the Hausa/Fulani over other major tribes like Tiv, Chamba, Jukun, Ngas, Birom, Bare Bare, Gwarri to mention some, future unpalatable events were to show.

One might be lost in the litany of accolades this territory has achieved over time but recent events have often pitched their tents against seeming strides in the past. Where did the North go wrong? Is the existence the North alongside other parts of Nigeria throughout these 52 years of independence a blessing or curse?

The Sudden Soar Story

Various national/international social commentators have often bared their minds either in public or private on the twist of events in the North. Seminars, symposia and lectures have been held; papers, editorial/articles have been written; all in an attempt to trace the root of the problems deviling the North at a time it should be exploiting its potentials and showcasing them to the rest of Nigeria and the world. One of such brainstorming sessions for a better future was organized by the Arewa Youth Forum on 7th December 2011, in the ancient city of Kaduna, the then headquarters of Northern Nigeria. The choice of the venue was probably to underscore the philosophy and the importance of the meeting. It needs to be pointed out that the meeting was just one of the many organized by the Arewa Consultative Forum which some Middle Belters conceive as budurwan wawa, a fool’s bride; as it relates to them because it is perceived as being used as a political tool for maintaining the monolithic North.

The economic fortunes of the North in her majesty took a nose drive when a vast population embraced laziness, mediocrity and complacency. The air of an attitude of indolence and looking up to some rich or bourgeois Alhaji for one’s daily bread perhaps a hangover of the indirect rule system seems to make sway. At morning or evenings, it is typical to see a bee of almajiri or lousy and idling youths moving from house to house begging and praise-singing in the house of the so-called elite whose children are either studying in Oxford or Cambridge. Employing these directionless youth as political thugs is as easy as taking Fanta.

In the face of rising consumerism that typifies capitalist societies, insecurity started rearing its ugly head when local armed bandits went unchecked. These metamorphosed into full-blown armed robbery; thuggery and religious fanaticism that got clandestine support from ‘the high and mighty’ whose stock in trade is the sustenance of violence and terrorism, typical of the medieval era that glorifies instability and marginalization. Their targets have being basically, military formations and other security apparatus, schools, financial institutions, places of worship, perceived ‘foreigners’ and most recently, telecommunication installations. To say the least, the endless ethno or socio-political cum religious crises that have beset this region is nothing other than a human catastrophe.

Mutual suspicion, acrimony and aversion wrought by the Hausa/Fulani hegemony over and above other Northern tribes and the much talked about indigene and settler problem are major points which soared the apple of peace and concord.

The inordinate quest for power, its eventual loss by Northern power players who have milked Nigeria’s fatted calf for decades and an attempt to retain political leadership to the section belong to woes that have brought us were we are. Political statements of prominent Northern politicians before and after the post-election violence as well as intrigues of the ‘warm-up’ for 2015 lend credence to this fact. “If Yar’adua had lived and gone on to serve until 2015, that would have made for 43 years out of Nigeria’s independence, or fully 78% of the whole period of nationhood. Well, fate intervened in May last (2011-addition mine), and one thing led to another, until we are where we are today. From cries against “Northern domination” only a short while ago, here we are, with Northerners crying “short change!” and “marginalization!” to high heavens.” (Cf., Mahmud Jega., Introduction to Special Section on the North: Many big problems, but the seeds of the solution too, in Daily Trust, Friday 29 2011).

Implication(s)

There implication of these inglorious activities in the North by Northerners is, for the North, nonsensical and I make bold to opine, to the rest of Nigeria, a nuisance! Perhaps the biblical injunction “to whom much is given, much is expected” has been given a deaf ear. One would have not only imagined but expected the North to emerge strong and elegant after all these years of slurping the nation’s ‘milk and honey.’ Will hiding its head in shame surface? Far from it!

Suffice it to orate that a major implication of the appalling situation of things in the North is the relocation of individuals, goods and services by both foreigners and Southerners to the South as we are already witnessing. Kano, the North’s own ‘Lagos’ is gradually becoming a shadow of itself in terms of commercial activities.

A follow up from the above is the likelihood for Northerners living and working in the South to be marginalized, stigmatized/labeled or even attacked, as it has happened in the past. This maltreatment in place, federal character, national unity and integrity is put at a stand-still. What becomes of professionalism and the principles of the federal character commission?

As schools and students are targets of bombings and elimination, one does not foresee academics emerging from this part of the country especially in terms of quality and quantity. It implies that the North, compared to the South will be hundred years backward. One is not surprised at the submission of the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, the Most Rev. Matthew Kukah at a Nigerian Leadership Initiative Lecture in Abuja that, the reality catching up with the north is underdevelopment. Would we continue to glory over the feasts of the, Sardauanas, Kukahs (Bishop), Jegas, Angos, etcetera? What shall we offer our mother at 52?

The North’s Gift to Nigeria at 52…

As the former EFCC boss, Mallam Nuhu Ribdu would say concerning the North, “…We have new challenges that require new approaches and solutions.” (Cf., Mallam Nuhu Ribadu., December 7, 2011, InNews). We may have been wayward sons and daughters yet our mother beckons her children to rise up to the occasion. The past may have been miserable – the future holds keys to unlocking impossibilities. If complacency is shown the exit door and our people eschew ingenuity and industriousness, the road to success may not be impossible to thread. Being self-less, patriotic and daring about life’s challenges will engender growth and productivity.

Realizing that no progress can be achieved without peace, our people and leaders must learn to preach peace and peaceful co-existence. Mutual respect for the other person’s tribe, culture, religion, political persuasion, civilization and mentality is paramount. All must sheath their swords to embrace dialogue and reconciliation. So long as the North remains as North, we must learn to accept to live in peace and seek constitutional means to settle our squabbles.

We owe Nigeria peace, progress and stability for her to be rated high among the League of Nations. Father and son, mother and daughter, auntie and uncle; business tycoon and politician, traditional/religious and political leaders, military and paramilitary, captains of industry and civil servants must rise up to present a befitting gift to our Dear Nation at 52. If yours doesn’t build up, let it not destroy. Happy Independence, in advance, Nigeria at 52!

Fr. Justine John DYIKUK, a Catholic Priest, Freelance writer/poet and Public Affairs Commentator writes from CIWA, Port Harcourt, Rivers State!

Emails: justdyik@yahoo.com or justinejohndyikuk@gmail.com

You can follow me on Twitter: @just4realsquare

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