Explosive North: Open Letter to Northern Politicians, By Salihu Moh. Lukman

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The living reality in Northern Nigeria is very explosive. If anyone is interested in finding the practical meaning of the Hobbesian description of life being ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short’, just look at what life is in Northern Nigeria. Indices of poverty, unemployment, inequality are beyond description. Conditions of schools and hospitals is, to say the least, depressing. The civil service, in virtually all the nineteen states, is only a shadow of itself, with hardly any public service activity taking place. Our illustrious and respected traditional institutions have been devalued and reduced to state of hopelessness. Most of our religious leaders and centres are far removed from God’s way of life. Few industries exist in the region. And on account of insecurity, agricultural activities, which is the main stay of the economy of the region, is highly on the decline.

No need to go into conventional statistical analysis of out of school children, number of people living in Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps. Not to talk of problems of drugs and substance abuse. Problems of broken homes and abandoned children is quite alarming. As it is, the North is an explosive waiting to explode. We have lost virtually all our homes, our families and our children. Every person with human feeling should be saddened with the reality of what the Northern part of Nigeria has become. Sadly, even the one strength the North is known for, which is strongly united political leaders, has been lost.

More than anytime in the political history of Nigeria, the North has never been disunited without any semblance of political leadership like we have in today’s Nigeria. Partly, on account of lack of unity, the quality of political leadership in the North is sharply on the decline. Many so-called politicians are Internally Displaced Persons/Politicians (IDPs), especially once they are out of office. Those in office today are potential IDPs. Consequently, the worst among us, with hardly any commitment to resolving the challenges facing the North, find their way to political leadership in the North simply because they can cheaply access elective and appointive offices and control public resources, which is largely mismanaged and privatised.

Perhaps, the opportunity for Northern political leaders to redeem themselves and return the North back to rational order with committed leaders capable of responding to the challenges of the region was blown away during the tenure of former President Muhammadu Buhari. The painful reality was that no leader in the political history of Nigeria gained the kind of national acceptability former President Buhari had at the beginning of his tenure. The closest was Chief M. K. O. Abiola whose election was annulled by the military regime of Gen. Ibrahim Babangida. More than any Northern political leader, former President Buhari undisputedly won the votes of people from both Northern and Southern Nigeria, which could have been used to produce new crop of selfless leadership for the country. Selfless leadership is required to put every part of Nigeria on the roadmap to national development.

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Golden eight years between 2015 and 2023 was lost. Instead, the country, especially the North became worse off with crisis of insecurity taking over everywhere. Problems of poverty, unemployment, drugs and substance abuses, etc. becoming almost peculiar characteristics of the Northern region. Unfortunately, here we are under President Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu who got majority of the votes that won him the Presidency from the three regions in the North but seem to be only interested in taking advantage of the lack of unity among leaders in the region. Certainly, not his fault and if he is uninterested in challenges facing the region, no one, especially Northern political leaders, should complain.

Partly, on account of lack of unity among leaders in the North, President Asiwaju Tinubu has marginalised the people of North-Central in the political leadership of the country. It is quite depressing that President Asiwaju Tinubu could marginalise the people of North-Central in the manner he did without leaders in the North showing any concern. In addition to marginalising the people of North-Central, he imposed Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje from North-West as National Chairman of APC, which is the ruling party. Out of all the political leaders of North-West, he finds no one who is better qualified but Dr. Ganduje with all the baggage of corruption allegations and poor political relations with other leaders in Kano State, including the Kano State Government. Partly, because of the poor relations between Dr. Ganduje and Kano State Government, the revered Kano Emirate Council has been plunged into avoidable crisis with no end in sight and President Asiwaju Tinubu is pretending to be uninterested.

So far, one year has pass into President Asiwaju Tinubu administration. No doubt, Northern political leaders are becoming weaker and more disorganised. Even the Vice President, Sen. Kashim Shettima GCON, who is the highest office holder and by virtue of that should have served as the needed rallying point for Northern politicians, is anything but a political leader. With every respect, hardly any official of the current administration of President Asiwaju Tinubu from the North, including Sen. Shettima, is willing and able to take the needed risk to defend the interest of the North. Painfully, what is emerging is that most leaders from the North are more concern about self-preservation in the government.

Because of self-preservation, already scheming for 2027 has commenced. Within the Presidency there are indicative cold war dynamics and positioning, which is alleged to be responsible for the praise-singing disposition of Vice President Shettima. The National Security Adviser (NSA), Mal. Nuhu Ribadu has devalued an exalted office almost to the status of a Protocol Office to President Asiwaju Tinubu. Virtually all other Northern politicians holding offices in this government, including the Secretary to Government of the Federation (SGF), Sen. George Akume are absentee public servants who have been reduced to members of a choir group poorly singing ‘on your mandate we stand’ irrespective of the shaky and staggering reality being demonstrated by the mandate holder with reference to poor service delivery and crashing living conditions in the last one year.

Despairingly, opposition political leaders are hardly any better. With hardly any exception, they seem to be only interested in their narrow ambition to contest for office in 2027. The question of uniting political leaders and developing the needed political framework to respond to national challenges is hardly given any consideration. It is quite worrisome that we have crashed, both as politicians and as a region, beyond rational reasoning. More worrisome is the fact that we imagine that we can continue like this, and perhaps current leaders impose themselves on Nigerians in 2027.

We need to caution political leaders in the country that things are about to get out of hand any moment from now especially in the North. If care is not taken, hungry people who are everywhere in the North will start breaking into homes and looting properties of innocent citizens. The other danger is that innocent citizens going about their normal businesses could be attacked on the streets by hungry people. Regrettably, all we do as politicians is to go about doing things the old way and most times promoting the primordial sentiment around ethnicity and religion as reasons for our failings. The truth is that Northern politicians are the problem of the North and by extension the country. Certainly, Northern politicians hold the remote control for the explosive in the region.

Until the North wake up and get its politicians organised, united and committed to providing the needed leadership to resolve the challenges of the region, the explosive, which the region has become may go off anytime soon. It may go off largely because of the default mindset of an average Northern politician of today’s generation who only think about himself/herself alone. Any other thing, including public service and responding to societal challenges is not his/her business. For the North to wake up and change this default mindset, conscious effort must be made to develop new frontiers of political organisation in the region and in the country. Such new frontier of political organisation must be strategically about building a formidable team of respected Nigerians who could deploy themselves within the structures of a political party based on the commitment of mobilising human and material resources to resolve challenges facing the North and by extension the country.

The mistake of the past, especially with reference to former President Buhari and now President Asiwaju Tinubu whereby frontiers of political organisation was development based on individual ambition to contest election must be avoided. Developing frontiers of political organisations based on the ambitions of former President Buhari and President Asiwaju Tinubu has only produced the current monstrous reality of electing emperors and overloads who are succeeding in disintegrating the foundation of Nigerian democracy.

As it is, there is now a prevailing atmosphere of fear among political leaders. Structures of virtually all the registered political parties have been demobilised. None of the parties is organising meetings and none is recruiting members. In fact, hardly any of the registered parties and its leaders are debating what is to be done to resolve our current national challenges, especially the explosive waiting to explode in the North. Most political leaders and parties are afraid of taking initiatives that could begin to mobilise Nigerians in a different direction. And as far as the APC and President Asiwaju Tinubu are concerned, they believed they could deploy the advantage of being the so-called ruling party to win the 2027 elections even as they have failed or are failing to respond to challenges facing the country.

Remarkably, this is a complete contrast of the records of President Asiwaju Tinubu in Lagos State. Some of us who supported the emergence of President Asiwaju Tinubu did so with reference to what he did in Lagos, notably being able to recruit generation of successive visionary leaders for the State and putting in place the development blueprint that gave birth to modern Lagos State. So far, the Lagos reality is no where near what is emerging under the Asiwaju Presidency. Given the absence of any plan, governance by impulse seems to be the order with wide range of speculations all over the political landscape.

Yet, Nigerians expect our democracy to perform miracles. So long as political leaders are not willing to take the needed responsibility to start organising the new frontier of political organisation, which can hold elected leaders accountable based on which they are able to respond to societal and national challenges, our democracy will continue to produce emperors and overloads and our challenges will continue to get worse. Worsening situation will continue to spread across every part of the country. Nigerians must be reminded that the crisis of insecurity in the country was predominantly located in the North-East and some parts of North-West in 2015. Sadly, it has now covered the whole of the nineteen Northern States, South-East and parts of South-West in different ways.

Above all, it has become an explosive in the whole North waiting to explode. If care is not taken, like the problem of insecurity, the explosive in the North, which is largely a product of hunger, unemployment and collapse of economic activities may spread to other parts of the country. It will be tragic if that is allowed to happen. Nigerian politicians must wake up and do the needful. Northern political leaders must make the needed sacrifices and begin to work for the detonation of the explosive in the North. Such sacrifices must be reflected in the willingness and commitment of leaders to participate in the development of new frontiers of political organisation in the country, which should subordinate elected leaders and make them accountable. Anything short of that could make the explosive in the North to explode and spread to other parts of the country.

May God Almighty touch the hearts of all our political leaders in the country. May He also strengthen the capacity, drive and wisdom of patriotic Nigerians across every part of Nigeria to unite and develop the vanguard for the formation of the new frontiers of political organisation in the country. May God Almighty make the new frontier of political organisation successful in Nigeria capable of reforming and transforming Nigerian political parties to produce new generation of accountable and responsive political leaders across every part of the country. And May He crown the new frontier with victory in 2027 and even before 2027 immediately detonate the explosive in North. Amin.

Salihu Moh. Lukman
Kaduna

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