Although the futuristic question of: “After PMB, what next for Arewa?” may sound simply far-fetched, in reality, it is not.
When President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) won the 2015 election, indeed ever since he ventured back to partisan politics, most of the hopes & expectations from the masses, especially in the core North, were heaped on this singular soul, as if he had a magic wand, like Moses, who could magically transform their lives as soon as he assumed power.
This perceived expectations, with its extreme version exhibited by die-hard & sometimes almost-‘psychopathic’ loyalists, is reminiscent of the pre-historic stories of the type of worship exhibited by the post-Sokoto Jihad generation of illiterates, who in their blind groping of their faith continued to cling to an unfathomable mirage that their Shehu’s death (a la matyrdom) translates to their ‘salvation’. That was what gave rise to the then Hausa cliche: “Ai Shehu ya roka mana”, which roughly translates to: Shehu’s prayer has cured our sins.
As for the elites on the other hand, theirs was more circumspect. However, whichever side of the spectrum one belongs, the pertinent question that should be on the lips of many Nigerians currently piloted by our ‘son-of-the-soil’ almost four years into this national journey is: Why has the lot of his flock not fared any better?
Indeed, many would arguably say the masses in the North are worse-off economically: indeed some would even say more than ever before. Could this be true? Well, let’s consider the facts.
An incontrovertible fact about the country’s current economic state is the widespread poverty among the populace.
According to recent media reports, Nigeria is already regarded as the poverty capital of the world, with it’s economy currently growing less than its population growth, and economists fear that the poverty level in the country is bound to rise.
Particularly in the last three years, poverty has assumed alarming and distressing proportions with the vast majority of Nigerians remaining trapped in appalling and horrendous conditions.
Right now, at this very moment, there are millions of Nigerians roaming the streets, who have not yet had anything close to breakfast, not because they are unwilling to but because they have nothing to eat, and there is no respite from the next-door neighbour.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), 15.99 million Nigerians were unemployed as at the third quarter of 2017. In contrast, the number of economically active or working age population (15 – 64 years of age) increased to 111.1 million during the same period.
The 2018 figures further indicate that the economy remains fragile, as GDP growth slowed down in the second quarter of this year. growing 1.5 percent in the quarter, a downturn from the 1.95 percent growth recorded in the first quarter, despite the trillions of naira spent on fiscal stimulus, yet population growth continues steadily, at 2.5 percent.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasts that the country’s income per capita will continue to decline till 2023, which will reduce the standard of living of the average Nigerian.
The Federal Government itself said that no fewer than 80 million Nigerians lived in poverty. That’s the verdict on the whole country. If one narrows the beam on the North, the true picture is truly more pathetic, to say the least.
A recent Punch Editorial published on April 29, 2018, titled: “Breaking the vicious grip of poverty in the North” says it all.
In a scathing but brutally honest piece, it begins its shocking and ominous admonishing thus: “Yet another report highlighting the pitiable underdevelopment of northern Nigeria is trending.
But, like numerous previous missives, the region’s leaders are carrying on, seemingly unconcerned and unashamed at presiding over the world’s poorest territory in the midst of plenty”.
Sadly, till date nowhere have Arewa citizens even remotely exhibited any understanding, nay appreciation, of this heart and gut-wrenching scenario let alone any desire to stem the ugly tide.
Indeed, anytime I return home to ‘my people’, apart from the unmistakably burgeoning population explosion that confronts me at every street corner, particularly young adults, most of whom are unemployed and/or unemployable because of lack of basic education. One would see them sitting on benches or under shades of trees and home verandas a.k.a majlis.
Sadly, in almost every casual chat with most of them the only ‘achievement ‘ they would quickly ascribe to themselves is that of adding a bride. Any reference to either their futuristic economic status and fate and all you’ll get is: ‘Sai Buhari!’..
This attitude reminds me of a book I once read, titled: “The Freedom of No Choice”; about how some die-hard Shiites in Iran become so much slaves to their cause that they have ultimately become ‘free’ of their slavery. In this case, my people have become blind loyalists to a mere perception, so much so that the future does not seem to exist for them post-PMB.
Even an entry-level student of critical thinking would have wondered what could happen to his lot, which is presently nothing to write home about while his own so-called ‘son-of-the-soil’ is calling the shots, when the baton eventually changes hand?
While the youths in the southern part of the country are focused on achieving their short, medium & long-term goals, by taking the responsibility of ensuring that they only elect credible leaders among themselves, their counterparts here are busy groping in the dark.
While serious societies are busy honing in on various strategies towards making theirs a more structured one, not only educationally but economically, ours here’d rather prefer to ‘outsource’ their economic fate and political destiny to desperate and clueless political scavengers, like the proverbial Shiites or ‘Dan Fodio monks.
Whereas youths in the South are maximising the opportunity offered by the Internet age, our young ones here are chasing their loot-infested politicians for their ‘slice of the cake’.
Whereas their counterparts are engaged in scientific and technological education pursuits and acquiring skills that’ll make them relevant in this new global village, ours are busy pan-handling from one politician to the next.
Recall the now famous passionate open letter written by General Adebayo (rtd) to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu published in Vanguard newspaper of June 19, 2016; in it the retired General made a compelling appeal to Tinubu, who is the unofficial leader of the Yoruba political elite, on the state of affairs of the Yoruba nation.
A letter to a leader who, according to him, is ‘imbued with unusual native intelligence, uncommon people skills and unrivaled foresight’.
Do we have such a leader in the North (apart from the self-acclaimed Generals arrogating such to themselves)?
Where in Arewa can we source for a leader who can critically discern between piloting the ship of state from the stern rather than the rear, leaving his lieutenants to do as they please while mostly concentrating on stopping pirates pilfering from it’s petrol tank rather than steering the Nigerian ship through the ever-murky and uncharted territories.
What appears to have escaped the consciousness of many of my people is that post-2023, an uncertain political fate awaits them for the next eight, or even sixteen, years if the rotation principle of our political system continues to subsist.
As for Arewa’s economic destiny, it has become clear that unless an emergency summit is initiated by true Arewa compatriots, to clinically and painstakingly plot a true Master Plan for its people in the short, medium and long term, with specific timelines, such a ship is sure to remain rudderless.
It is already crystal clear that the country’s resources would not be sufficient to cater for the growing population, which tend to lead to more poverty, more people out of jobs, loss of income and all the negatives that typically comes out of it.
That is why we need to have inclusive growth that can lead to development, reduce unemployment and cater for the needs of the people, which automatically affects their standard of living. Or else, this ship of state is sure to capsize sooner or later, God forbid.
As for us in Arewa, at least some of the citizens would be ‘free’ from their slavery.