“The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch and do nothing”….. Albert Einstein.
The geographic North, currently prespected into three zones namely North East, North West and North Central, is still reasonably bound by common socio-cultural outlook, shared historical experiences and destiny. The region though diverse in nature is comparatively more accommodating, peaceful and economically stable; courtesy of the defunct regional government that cultivated inclusiveness and balanced development across parts of the region. This was until late 70s when the fortune of the North took a turn for the worse, culminating in the current disposition where the quality and sanctity of life and property are in dire strait, especially on the far flanges of the region. Metaphorically, the north seems to be falling apart similar to the W.T.Yeat’s famous poem which constituted the title and theme of Chinua Achebe’s great novel (1958) which says; ” Things Fall Apart; the center cannot hold.
Mere anarchy is loosen upon the World (maybe the North now).
And the Falcon (the led) cannot hear the Falconer (Leadership)”. The theme explores how bad choices by individuals and /or societies could bring about their downfall, similar to the crisis presently threatening corporate existence of the North.
Available estimate indicates that about 3 million persons have been displaced internally, 100,000 or so killed and about 9 trillion Naira (net present value) spent on counter insurgency/terrorism war apart from missed opportunities (Figures from various UN/ World Bank sources, former Gov. Shettima and former Gov. Yari of Borno and Zamfara states respectively). But then how did the North come to this stage of desperation? Why are the challenges not abetting? What are the necessary measures to be undertaken to rescue the situation?. Before reflecting on these questions, a short resume’ on some of the egregious forces at play in the North is pertinent, which could be referred to as the region’s “Misery/Depressing Index”.
THE MISERY INDEX: DISECTING THE NORTH
The challenge of extreme poverty: According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) Report (2019/2020), nine (9) out of the ten (10) poorest states in Nigeria are in the North. And about 90% of the over 87 million Nigerians living in extreme poverty (less than $1.9 per day) are domiciled in the region. This translates to about 77 million souls. The Brookings Institute, Data Lab (2019) even projects a higher national figure for Nigeria and designated the country as ” the poverty capital of the World”, with the north western and north eastern hones of the region, being the hardest hit with far reaching negative consequences.
Low level of school enrollment: According to UNICEF report (2018) only 53% of children (5-14 years) attend primary School despite the fact that it has been declared compulsory by Government. Poverty, ignorance and poor appreciation of Islam combined to subvert the said policy. This leaves about 10.5 million kids (over 90% of which are from the far north) roaming the street. The lucky ones could find themselves in fairly organized Tsangaya/Islamiyyah schools, while the rest are left at tender age to forage for food, with bleak future. A phenomenon that renders the region to the vagaries of widespread child abuse, child trafficking, rapes, street urchins and drug abuse. These children become easy recruits for crimes and violence (e.g Insurgents using them as child suicide bombers) and equally depriving the region of future manpower/professionals in an increasingly competitive national environment.
Mass Youth Unemployment: The current composite unemployment figure in Nigeria is around 20%. Among the youth segment in the North it is 55%, these are persons that are completely unemployed or unemployable on account of lack of basic qualifications, skills or work ethics. In numerical terms persons in this category (18-35 years) which number about 30 million (33.5% of region’s 100 million souls). As the saying goes “the idle mind is the devil’s workshop”, and so in the North the devil has more than enough workshops to engineer myriad of crisis and violence using the jobless youths.
Insurgency and Terrorism: The North East zone has been the epicenter of Boko Haram (BH) and its breakaway faction of Islamic State In West Africa Province (ISWAP. To date, BH/ISWAP Jihadist insurgency has claimed over 35 thousand lives and displaced over 3 million people according to the 2019 UNHCR report. The former Governor of Borno State, K.Shettima, (Murtala Mohammed Memorial Lecture, Abuja 2017) put the figure death at three times as high and economic loss at $9 billion!. Further more, prosecuting the counter Insurgency war has cost the Federal Government over N6 trillion as at 2017, according to figures from the Institute of Security Studies (ISS,2017). The figure could reach N9 trillion, in net present value. A whole national budget lost!
Banditry and Marauding Herdsmen: Banditry by herdsmen in North West and parts of the North Central has been rife, equally claiming thousands of lives and million naira worth of property. This phenomenon in the North West according to the former Governor of Zamfara, Abubakar Yari has consumed the lives of over 3,000 people as at April 2019 in Zamfara state alone. The crisis having spilled over to neighbouring states of Katsina, Sokoto, Niger and Kaduna, the death toll could reach 6,000 and still counting. It is also estimated that more than 300,000 persons are believed to be displaced as villages got razed down and thousands of livestock rustled.
Farmers and Herdsmen Conflicts: The North central has become the epicenter of deadly conflicts between farmers and herdsmen. States such as Benue, Plateau, Taraba and parts of Niger and Kaduna states continue to be hotbeds of such crisis. Hundreds have been killed on both sides and billions of naira worth of property lost. The Global Terrorism Index (GTI) put the number of lives lost to the perennial conflict at 1,700 (GTI, 2017/18) with about 50,000 displaced. The current figures are certainly much higher.
Social Convulsions: The North as a whole has witnessed over 60 episodes of serious ethno-religious and socio-political crisis in the past three or so decades and still persisting. Inter and intra Communal and ethno religious crisis are rampant among the Jukuns and Tivs, Hausas and Katafs, Fulanis and Bachamas, Fulanis and Katafs, Fulanis and Birom, Hausa and Birom, Muslims vs Christians, Maitasine Islamic sect vs Sunni/Tariqa group. Periodically, this precarious relationships among the group tend to boil over into full fledged violence/riots such as Maitasine uprising in Kano, Maiduguri and Yola in the 80s, then the Kaduna, Jos, Kafanchan, Zankon Kataf, Yelwan Shendam in the 90s and some replays in the 20s, at a great cost to human lives and properties. Many of these hotspots are still festering across parts of the North.
Pervasive Lawlessness: The challenge of Law and Order in most parts of the North has become intractable giving rise to numerous opportunistic crimes and violence in the form of kidnappings, abductions and even targeted assassinations. The victims of these crimes could be individuals or groups, on the highways, at home and even schools (like the case of Chibok and Dapchi students). Over the past decades, about 2000 persons are believed to have been kidnapped for ransom, robbed or killed across the region. Some of the high profile abductions include those of Elder Statesmen S.A. Monguno, Magajin Garin Daura Alh. Umaru Hafizi, Sheik Ibrahim Suleiman Kano etc. Others were not lucky and they lost their lives in targetted murder. This group includes; Gen. M. Shuwa, Emir of Gwoza Shehu Timtah, the Adara of Kadara, Sheik M. Ja’afar, Sheik Albani Zaria, AVM A. Badeh, CAN Chairman in Michika and many District/ Village Heads in rural North West and North Central region. Yet others escaped the attacks by whiskers such as the former Emir of Kano, the Shehu of Borno, Emir of Bauchi,
Sheik Dahiru Bauchi, Dr.Sheik Ahmad Gumi and Muhammadu Buhari (during the 2015 campaign). These bloodthirsty criminals have turned major highways and their arteries insecure across various parts of the northern region, thereby grounding social and economic activities to a near halt.
Rising Drug Use Pandemic: The illicit drug and opioid crisis in the north is better underscored by recent experiences in Kano (state). A BBC undercover documentary (2019) discovered that about three (3) million bottles of codeine based cough syrup are consumed everyday. The governor of the state corroborated this disposition by announcing during the 2020, International Day Against Drug Abuse And Illicit Trafficking. that N1billion worth intercepted drugs(caplet/tablets, shisha and cocktails of local intoxicants) were destroyed. The Kano experience when extrapolated across most of the North would give a mind boggling numbers in the region of about 20 million doses/servings of Illicit drugs daily involving mainly the youth, security agents and even housewives. Experts can tell that the insurgency, banditry/terrorism, herdsmen attacks, kidnappings and abductions and rampant cases of rape, are partially fueled and driven by drugs. In 2017, for instance, the Government of Borno State was forced to pull down a whole neighborhood in the capital for being a drug trafficking nerve center. The story is the same in most parts of urban and rural North.
Crisis of Motivation and Vision: The challenge of governance, poverty and illiteracy has given rise to mass ignorance and lack of foresight. The north is thus suffering from lack of motivation and drive, creativity, innovation and competitive spirits among the generality of the people especially the youth segment. Take the example of sports. Statistically the population of the young (the youth and the middle aged) in the North comes to around 50 million. This is more than the entire population of Mali (14)
Senegal (14) put together. Same for Cameroon (22) and Code d’voire (21). Individually, it is more than Kenya (47), Algeria (43) and Saudi Arabia (33). From their active segments of respective populations, these nations consistently present formidable teams and competitors in global FIFA tournaments and Athletic
Meets. The exploits of Cameroon, Senegal, Mali, Algeria, Saudi Arabia have been commendable. Kenya along with her neighbor Ethiopia dominates the Marathon races. This is regardless of the varying religious and racial backgrounds of these countries. The North, except for a few individuals like Amokachi, Garba Lawal, Tijjani Bababgida and lately Ahmed Musa, could not even contribute meaningfully to the national team talk less of representing Nigeria at the global sporting stage. Same obtains in the spheres of innovation and entrepreneurship.
Twisted religious preaching: Religion is supposed to moderate, motivate and guide the conducts of its adherers in the world and the hereafter. However religious practices in the north come short of these ideals. Religious practices are being weaponized or used as a cover for character flaws (i.e ignorance and laziness). Preachers cherry pick provisions of the religion to justify for the laziness and lack of foresight contrary to early scholars who engendered scientific inventions and innovations similar to what currently obtains in Muslim Malaysia, Indonesia, UAE, Iran etc. The typical northern Muslim preacher duel on such externalities faith such as moon sighting, polygamy, the almajiri system, dress codes and general appearance while expecting the almighty to send “manner from heavens”. Lack of vision and motivation has made majority of the youth to settle down for menial lifestyle with high sense of entitlement. President Buhari allegedly called them “lazy generation”. And Soyinka went further to refer to them as “wasted generation”.
Check out the pilgrim lodges and camps during Hajj and Umrah seasons in Mecca and Medina and picture of dysfunction becomes more apparent. This is aside those having a running battles with the Saudi Police over visa issues, street trading and /or begging whom are usually dehumanized. Suspected cases of drug mules and disguised prostitution are equally disproportionately high among pilgrims of northern extraction.
This disposition ultimately gave rise to a society in which there are increasing phenomena of:
(a) Kingship without royalty (sarauta ba mulki)
(b) Knowledge without wisdom (karatu ba ilimi)
(c) Riches without wealth (kudi ba arziki)
(d) Faith without compassion (ibada ba imani)
(e) Clever without sense (wayo ba hankali)
These are evidence of dysfunctional society which ought to be stemmed.
SUPERINTENDING THE DECAY, AFTER THE NORTH’S GOLDEN
The socioeconomic decay and the precipitous crisis that bedeviled the north started after the region’s “Golden Era’ (1950-1970). From that period onward, the promise of solid foundation for development, growth, gave way to stagnation and ultimately economic collapse with far reaching consequences for the region.
Paradoxically, the sustained decline in the fortunes of region which started manifesting in the mid 70s and continued till date, happened under the Administrations/Regimes of persons of Northern extraction. During the intervening 45 years (1975-
2020) period Northern leaderships (Buhari 1, Bababgida,
Abacha, Abdulsalami, Yar Adua, Buhari 2), account for 27 years. This is aside the 15 years shared by Balewa and Gowon bringing the total to 42 with little to show for it in terms sustainable development. Whatever foundation these part leaders built, it has been proven to be un-enduring in the light of the current crisis. This is however not discounting the growth (not development) in the educational, health and infrastructure sub sectors. Same for growth in religious favor among the masses in region, all with limited impact on the way of life of the people. Regardless, the disposition of the North has not always been crisis laden.
Life in rural defunct Northern region was simple, secure and characterized by honesty and mutual trust. Members maintained good neighborliness and moral rectitude derived from local culture and tradition. Villages and hamlets normally had one or two, small clay/thatched mosques/churches with barely literate imams/pastors leading and/or providing the basics of practices and worship. There were no police posts or courts. Primary school teachers were the only indicators of government presence. The office of the school headmaster and the traditional thrones highly respected. . Children belonged to the community and subject collective socialization, enforcement of discipline being an integral part. One could drop his key or purse and somebody who picked would simply hang somewhere conspicuous for the owner to see and retrieve. Farmers would safely store their harvest on farm until when needed and nobody would contemplate stealing. Thus, people were able to live life consistent with Islamic or Christian tenets without being schooled.
Northern highways and feeder roads were the safest. So safe that many a traveler preferred night journeys as some motorists claimed that engine performance was better. Cases of robbery and kidnapping were highly unlikely. People were concerned with issues of vehicle breakdown or accident but not robbery or kidnappings . Security checks on highways were in general devoid of extortions.
Those who attended tertiary institutions in the North in the 70s and 80s especially the only university, The Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), it would be recalled that students could drop their laundry in front of their dormitories while they proceeded to class for the laundry men to pick, wash, press and returned, without fear of being stolen. Cafeteria and health services were also great. On the part of student body, issues of exam malpractices or certificate forgeries were very rare.
The Government that administered the defunct Northern Region was a model inclusiveness and balanced development which engendered high sense unity and belonging across the broad spectrum of the polity. The late Premier, Sir Ahmadu Bello was a pragmatist and a visionary leader who governed devoid of sentiments, irrespective of tribe, religion or creed. The composition of his cabinet is a study in good governance.. It’s common knowledge that the northern administration at various levels under him were highly diverse and drawn from all corners of the region. Those who featured prominently include; David Lot, Peter Achiemugu, G.U.Ohikere, Hassan Lemu, Michael Audu Buba, Dr. R.A.B.Dikko, Aliyu Obaje, Rwang
Pam, Abudu Obekpa, Isa Koto, Abdulrahman Okene, Tanko Kuta, J.A.Aberigbe, Usman Sangari, Partrick Dokotri. Others were Sunday Awoniyi, Bukar Shaib, Ahmed Talib, Isa Kaita, Yahaya Gusau, Ibrahim Biu, Ibrahim Damchida Biu, Liman
Ciroma, Adamu Ciroma, Muhammad Lawan, Waziri Ibrahim, Sir
Kashim Ibrahim, Ahmadu Commasie, Abba Jiddun Gana, Musa Dagash, Ali Akilu, Muhammad Jega, Chukuma Nzegwu Kaduna, etc. Same with his result oriented human capital and infrastructure development programs. Policies that he pursued selflessly. He equally protected the interest of the north jealously and promoted same, to any length.
Later day crops of politicians, military generals and the police, some of whom ruled the country were products of Sardauna’s Vision for one United North, given their diverse backgrounds in terms of religion,tribe and geographical spread. Recall the backgrounds of Gowon, Abacha, Bababgida, Murtala, Kamselem, Gambo Jimeta, MD Yusuf etc and the picture of diversity and representation becomes clearer. Similar patterns followed, in the distribution of developmental projects eg the College of Agriculture Kabba, the Forest Reserves/ Plantations in Mokwa, Falgore, in parts of Nasarawa/ Plateau states, Secondary Schools in Bida, Dekina, Keffi and Okene. They are some of oldest and still some of the best in the region.
The foregoing could be said to represent the golden era of the north which sadly was made to give way to decay and crisis under the watch of successive leadership of persons of northern extraction. Leading to the current near-anarchic state of the north.
VOICES OF REASONS IN NEED OF COORDINATION
The descent to crisis had not been unnoticed by some patriotic northerners. Many have shouted themselves hoarse cautioning various Administrations to no avail. These voices of reasons cut the broadest spectrum of the northern Nigeria from traditional ruler, technocrats, theologians, the press, elder statesmen/women, the business class, NGOs, Youth and women groups.
Royal Highnesses like Sultan Abubakar, former Emir of Kano
Muhammad Sanusi II, The Shehu of Borno, The Etsu nupe,
Attah Igala Amoboni, the Tor TIV plus such Excellencies like El Rufai, Lalong, Zulum have on occasions, expressed concern over receding fortunes of the North and its peoples. Some Elder
Statesmen/women have also not been mincing words over the plight of the region. They include; IBM Haruna, Ango Abdullahi,
Sen. Adamu Abdullahi, Sen. Dansadau, Bukar Abba Ibrahim,
Ahmed Joda, Adamu Fika, Chief Dabo, Ahmadu Ali, Tanko Yakasai, Dr. Junaidu Mohammed etc. Technocrats are not left out, as they lend experiences to stem the drift. Persons like
Yayale Ahmed, Dr. Bukar Usman, Hakeem Baba Ahmed, Audu
Ogbe, Ahmed Al’mustapha, Falalu Bello, Antony Sani, Mike Kwanashie, Mamman Sir.Kashim,
Muhammad Ibrahim Biu, Amina Muhammed (UN), Inna Maryam Ciroma, Abubakar Muhammed (‘Dana), and a host of others have continued to draw attention to the challenges.
Academics/Activists and public affairs commentators have metaphorically been up in arms providing contexts to the national problem and propounding options as well. In this relentless group are Aliyu Tilde, Obadiah Mailafiya, Usman
Bugaje, Attahiru Jega, Nuhu Ribadu, Naja’at Muhammed,
Haruna Yerima, Sunday Okpanachi, Isa Ibrahim Jibrin (Jibo), Isa
Aremu, Yadudu, Aisha Ismail, Asma’u Joda, Mairo Mandara. The Ulama and Clergy have literally been enjoining faithfuls to cultivate peace, harmony and moral rectitude. Among these classes of ulamah/ clergy are Sheiks Dahiru Bauchi, Ibrahim
Saleh, Bala Lau, Ahmad Gumi, Kabiru Gombe, Isa Fantami,
Daurawa, Rijiyar Lemu, Ibrahim Suleiman etc. On the pulpit Rev. Kukah, Hayap, Arch Bishops Onaiyekan, Kaigama and many others have been preaching peace and praying for Divine intervention to stop the needless bloodletting in the North. Members of the Fourth Estate; publishers and the pressmen tirelessly help keep the challenges on the front burner. Individuals like Muhammad Haruna, M. Jega, Mvendaga Jibo, Yakubu Mohammed, Dan Agbese, Nda-Isiah, Hannatu Musawa, Kabir Yusuf have been doing their best in highlighting the carnage.
The industrial and business class have been extending their resources for the betterment of the north in terms of job opportunities and income, these group includes the likes
A.Dangote , T.Y. Danjumma, M. Indimi, AbdulSamad, Bola Shagaya, etc readily come to mind in this compassionate group.
Through advocacy, sensitization and enlightenment some Association by Farmers, Artisans, Youth and Herdsmen have been pushing the boundaries of peace and unity. The AFAN, MACBEN, Gan Allah, Muh Ojoro etc.
The leadership and concerned members of some occupational and sociocultural organizatins such as the Apex Farmers Association of Nigeria (AFAN), Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, Fulani
Development (FUKDA), Gan Allah Fulani Development Association of Nigeria (GADFAN), Arewa Youth Consultative forum (AYCF), Miyetti Allah Castle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN) etc have been part of the process of finding peace in the north. Especially individuals like Muhammad Oroji, Bello Badejo, A.Nguroje, M. Bambado and Y.Shettima.
SOME CONTEXTUAL ANTIDOTES
The quest for antidotes could start by convening a rescue initiative comprising willing northerners and friends of the north to work out a roadmap. By harnessing some of these voices of reason, among others. In the interim however attention could be paid to some current challenging issues.
Leadership recruitment system: Contemporary Leadership deficit as experienced in the North needs to be evaluated and remedied through an improved recruitment system. Happily, the inclusivity model evolved by the government of defunct Northern Nigeria is there to benefit from. The two major faiths Islam and Christianity also prescribe leadership qualities in the affairs of man. Granted that what a society throws up is a reflection of its disposition, deliberate effort should be made to identify and cultivate the emergence of good leadership, instead of leaving the process to forces of inequities (money, nepotism, religious bigotry etc). Thus, the leadership questioned in the north needs to be standardized and enforced through massive public enlightenment .
Reviewing the nation’s security architecture: This could be done by enhancing citizens participation as well as creating state police cadre as part of the overall security system for, a nation’s security architecture cannot rise above her citizens levels of patriotism, moral values and integrity, given the direct correlation between these elements and performance of the security system. It is therefore necessary to enact a legislation for the establishment of State Police similar to the defunct Native Authority (N.A) Police of the past. Furthermore, a strategy to involve the public and local leaderships especially in the areas of actionable intelligence information gathering, should equally be evolved and given legal backing. Security business should be every citizens business. Beside it is practically impossible for a force of slightly over 300,000 personnel to police a population of about two hundred million.
Fine tuning the counter insurgency/terrorism war strategy: The counter insurgency, terrorism and banditry war across the region has become increasingly daunting and tending towards stalemate after an initial gain. A too scary scenario to contemplate. Common sense dictates , the military campaign needs to be galvanized at high command levels and approach. New blood should be injected into the leadership while a rethink undertaken with respect to the Super Camp (SC) strategy. Nigeria adopted the SC from the USA operations in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan to minimize exposure. It is premised on such factors as; high troop mobility system, effective air cover (planes, satellites, drones) and efficient actionable intelligence gathering. They also use the local forces (the Kurds, Iragi and Afghan army) to man the vacuum/spaces between the SCs. It is therefore more of defensive rather than offensive strategy. And it’s sustainable impact on USA counter insurgency/terrorism campaigns in the theater of war had been have minimal prompting premature exit (Syria) and initiating dialogue with the Afghan Taliban. Adopting where the basic premise of the approach are missing i.e fast and efficient troop mobility, communication system, actionable intelligence, air cover, vacuum/space manning), simply renders such Camps sitting targets, vulnerable to bands of insurgents/ terrorists to attack and plunder. Counter insurgency/terrorism warfare requires more of offensive/ trailing strategy with its attended risks, than defensive one. Troop safety is priceless but then troops cannot afford to be too safe.
Regulating religious preaching and interfaith: The Government working in tandem with major Religious Groups and Sects should sanitize the current unwieldy and conflict prone religious terrains in the North. Religious bigots and poorly schooled/ learned clerics have taken advantage of authorities’ aloofness and public tolerance to spew all manner of misinformation, misinterpretation and insults on persons not sharing their views points. Such incendiary postures have ignited ethno-religious conflicts across the North aside the confusion and disorientation they sow in minds of the highly impressionable youth.
Dual language educational system: Introducing dual language educational system in Muslim majority parts of country especially the North could forestall and secure the youth as well as the future of the region from being corrupted by violent religious ideologies. Thus, Arabic and English language should be taught together to enable the young Muslim kid to read the Quran and understand it just like his Christian counterpart reading the Bible. Nations such as Morocco, Malaysia, Indonesia, UAE etc run this dual system to the extent that by a child complete secondary he/she is proficient in the tenets of his/her faith as other conventional subjects of arts and science. This model of education if successfully implemented would go a long way in moulding the youth including those in the almajiri system of education. The latter (almajiri system) being a contentious issue in the Muslim north.
General insecurity in the north occasioned by Boko haram/ ISWAP insurgency in the north east, Banditry/ terrorism in the north west flanges and menace of herdsmen in the middle belt have conspired to set region’s path of development by a couple of decades back. The rough magnitude of collateral damages in terms of lives lost, properties destroyed and psychological trauma visited on victims are too enormous. In quantitative terms to date about 100,000 lives have been lost to the crisis, N9 trillion expended and over 3 million souls displaced aside from the massive psychological trauma visited on victims and a growing distrust across segments of the society and swash of enclaves outside government control; elements that are reminiscent of symptoms failed/failing state. Things cannot continue his way else the Nigeria as a corporate entity shall fail to endure. There is nothing to suggest that Nigeria is too big or otherwise to fail. The lessons of Somalia, Afghanistan, Congo DCR, the former USSR , Libya etc are instructive. It is therefore time for Northerners and indeed Nigerians of good will to come forward to literally save the “North” from the North. In no particular order, this is therefore calling men and women of ideas, means and patriotism/conscience to come forward to work on redeeming the situation. Somebody like Dan Giwa Umar could for example take the lead alongside the likes of
Aliko Dangote, Mathew Kukah, Kabir Gombe, Obadiah Mailafia, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Amina Muhammad (UN). “A stitch in time saves nine” so goes a popular adage.
Abdullahi Gunda Abubakar, writes from Kaduna.