Media: The north’s lamentation over the years of a south-western dominated press and biased media coverage and reportage of events concerning the region has not birthed world class media options – the type Al Jazeera unleashed upon the world to the consternation and humbled admiration of CNN, BBC and others in the league. Knowing full well the role of the media in shaping public opinion and setting the news agenda, one of the pillars of politics in the South-West and perhaps its greatest political figure alive established The Nation newspapers, and the duo of TV and Radio Continental.
Another political figure from Ogun State founded the Compass Newspapers; and yet another undying flame from the south east established the Sun Newspapers. From Ovation to Genevieve, True Love, Complete Fashion, Arise, City People, Four-Four-Two, Research gate, where are we taking the lead? In which of these sectors do our magazines flourish? Aviation, Agriculture, Automotive and Parts Construction, Consumer Goods, Business, Banking, Finance, Education, Environmental Issues, Food and Drink, Healthcare, Information Technology, Tourism, Logistics, Real Estate, Security, Telecommunications or Transportation? The north is left out of these niches.
How many TV and radio stations exist in Lagos alone? As at the last count I had listed a dozen TV stations and 28 radio stations. How many are there in the entire 19 northern states? Where are the north’s media moguls both serving and retired who worked both on the national and international scenes? Are they not inspired and equally challenged by Ben Murray Bruce’s accomplishments with the Silverbird Group.
Out of the “ blues’’ came Jimoh Ibrahim’s National Mirror like a thunderbolt. In no time National Mirror has carved a niche for itself on newsstands despite the perceived saturation. Every day I stop by to take a glance at the headlines at the vendor’s, the one question I
ask myself is where the north’s voice is in the newspaper and magazine industry. Not a single magazine exists that celebrates northern excellence and showcases the few success stories of the region. The only semblance to that came by way of the stint of the novel publication Sardauna Magazine which started out as a Student’s Union magazine in ABU. But it should interest you that Sardauna Magazine’s success had to take Rilwan Hassan, a Yoruba boy (though he calls Zaria home which is beautiful) to birth. Since 1962 when ABU was established nobody thought of the idea till Rilwan came by. Daily Trust, Leadership, People’s Daily and now Blueprint cannot do it alone for the north both as a voice and as a platform. The TV stations here in Lagos consciously avoid them during their headline reviews.
Academics: The north no doubt has men of great intellectual alertness and sound disposition of mind and judgment but is it not laid bare for all to see that the ratio of scholarship in the north pales to near insignificance when compared with the South West? How many northerners are actually pursuing second degrees or Ph.Ds? How many of our professors and
Doctors are lecturing outside northern universities like Ife, Nsukka, Unilag, Ibadan, etc? How many of our professors and Doctors are lecturing in foreign Universities? I know quite a number of Nigerians who are lecturing in Harvard, Cambridge, Oxford, School of African and Oriental studies and a host of others and you can guess where they are from. How many private universities are there in the north? Ogun State alone has 10. How many private schools (primary and secondary) are in the north and of those that do exist aren’t they established and run most competently by non- northerners?
From ABU to UDUS to Maiduguri to UNN, Uniport, Unical, Abraka etc you find south westerners and south easterners in search of education and not just that they are excelling in academics in all of these institutions and beyond. But how many of our Modibbos, Faizals, Jatuas, Ishayas, Mainasaras, Asabes, Rakiyas, Altines or Asmaus are in other institutions of higher learning outside the north?
Who else other than Prof. Ayodele Awojobi would have challenged the department of engineering in ABU to finish a four-year degree course in three and go on to become the first African to be awarded a Doctor of Science (DSc) at the Imperial College London, a degree which Wikipedia says is “only exceptionally and rarely awarded to a scholar under the age of forty.’’ He remained “the youngest professor ever in the Faculty of Engineering, University of Lagos, and the first ever to be expressly promoted from associate to full professorship within a week’’
Who else other than Dr. Chike Obi would have been the first Nigerian to earn a Ph.D in mathematics? Who else other than Prof. Teslim Elias would have become Governor of the School of Oriental and African Studies, London? Which other woman would bag a Ph.D at the age of 26 other than Dr. Tope Adeyemi or rival Miss Adejoke Ogunlana as the youngest lecturer in Nigeria at age 22? Would it ever have happened in ABU, BUK, UDUS? And even if it did happen would it still not be them? Who else other than Peter and Paul Imafidon (the wonder twins) would have made history in far away Britain becoming the youngest ever mortals to pass A level mathematics at age seven?
Since the establishment of WAEC in 1952 and JAMB in1977, who have been the top 10 students year-in year-out? Northerners? Certainly not! Is the north comfortable that in 2011, only 17 out of the 18,000 secondary school students who sat for the National Examination Council examinations in Gombe State, made five credits? What is the SSCE enrolment ratio that exists between say Yobe and Bauchi states on the one hand and Imo and Ekiti states on the other?
Permit me to ask: Which primary school did Dangote, Dantata, IBB and company attend? And what is the state of those primary schools today? Has Adamu Ciroma, who has been in government since independence; and so remained until he got tired and made way for his wife to carry the baton served as a catalyst to re-modeling his primary school to be one of the best in his state?
Is it any wonder that the reference bookshops from Zaria, to Kano, Minna, Kaduna, Sokoto, Maiduguri etc are not owned by northerner? We aren’t even among the big players in the books and stationery arena, yet year in year out thousands of students go to ABU, FCE Nuhu Bamali Polytechnic, FUT Minna, UDUS etc to get an education.
Private Enterprise and Professionalism: Last year I started to write a number of articles which I later abandoned among which are: ‘’ Entrepreneurship and the Northern abyss‘’, ‘’Tony Elumelu, Jim Ovia and the rest of the north’’ and ‘’Before Dangote’s Exit’’ among others. While a great number of the articles did not develop beyond their proposed titles, the inspiration behind their themes remains the same till this moment. Is it not worth asking today as ever before how many northern business enterprises dot the northern landscape? How many northern concerns provide consultancy services for services ranging from the establishment of new businesses to accelerated performance, growth or evaluation of existing ones?
How many retired policemen and women, personnel of the State Security Services (SSS), National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) or the Armed Forces have gone the way of private security consulting? Need I say of course their inputs would have contributed significantly in the fight against the book haram wave of terror?
Just the other day I watched a documentary on the power sector reforms and as expected not a single consultant from the mass of consultants spoken with were northerners. Not a single energy consultant, analyst or expert of northern extraction. The only northerner I saw throughout the duration of the documentary was as expected in the government cadre! Yet from ABU to BUK, UJ, UDUS et all, our universities have departments of electrical engineering. To what use have our northern scholars put their Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Oxford and RGU trainings among others? Where are the gurus and thinkers of the region?
How many northerners have pursued ICT know-how to compelling levels of expertise? Of all the Microsoft certified Web developers, Microsoft this, Microsoft that; Oracle this, Oracle that; and the Java masters among other ICT levels of excellence I read about, northerners aren’t usually on the list. Who are the custodians of ICT expertise in Nigeria: its mastery, deployment and maintenance? Who are the pioneers and trailblazers of enterprise solutions?
The bulk of the legal luminaries and chartered accountants in this country come from a particular section of this country and the north doesn’t belong in the league. Any need to lose sleep over that? Who are the country managers, the trail blazing figures, of Nokia, Samsung,
Standard Chartered Bank, Citi group, Ericsson, Siemens, Huawei, HP, Baker Hughes, Saipem, Coberon Chronos, Toshiba, Accenture, Google, Ernst and Young , Price Water Coopers (PWC), DFID , World Bank, UNICEF, UNIDO etc? They certainly are not northerners.
Do we constitute the majority of pilots or aeronautic engineers in Nigeria even when NCAT is in the heart of Zaria? Who else but Imoleayo Adebule, 23, would be Nigeria’s youngest pilot? Do we run the most outstanding agencies in the heart of the north providing a one-stop shop for human resources solutions from recruitment to training; and outsourcing etc? .
Is it a case of a lack of platforms to showcase our achievements or the deliberate neglect or downplay by the media (dominated by the south west) that has consigned us to the back seat and to so remain or both and even more? Do names like those of FRA Williams, Afe Babalola, Diya Fatimilehin, Jide Taiwo & co, Osas & Oseji challenge the north?
Dear reader, how many northern owned franchises do you know? Shagalinku? Yahuza? And then… Well I’m scratching my head in case you aren’t. I could bet on both my eyes that if either or both businesses belonged to a Yoruba or Igbo man, Shagalinku would have been serving hot tuwon shinkafa and man shanu in London and America in the least; and Yahuza
would have been selling his suya on the streets of LA (Los Angeles), Dubai and Malaysia (lest I forget, Toks Odebunmi is already doing so in London and Kehinde Olajide has taken Zobo to the next level in the U.S). Interestingly, very recently I met a young and sharp boy in Unilag (University of Lagos) who had put arrangements in place to buy Yahuza’s franchise and spin money for himself in Lagos. No dulling.
• Aliyu is a Masters student of Public and International Affairs, University of Lagos.
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