The recent military intervention had only a short term repercussion to the crises of banditry. The permanent solutions can only be realised if the future of disadvantaged children is given due consideration. This problem can be remedied simply through youth empowerment, free primary education, vigilance and local security enhancement…
The map of Nigeria is broadly divided into two main parts traceable to the historic amalgamation of the Northern and Southern Protectorates in 1914. This is has been further subdivided into six geopolitical zones more recently, although this has no constitutional backing but is a respected cartographical convention in political discourse. According to Wikipedia, the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria are major divisions in modern Nigeria, upon which the country’s economic, political and educational resources are often mapped out. The recognition of this diversity brought about the introduction of federal character to ensure that all public service institutions fairly reflect our social groups to include the linguistic, religious, ethnic, and geographic diversity of the country. This is mainly to ensure that no section of the country is at a disadvantage. The ruin of the North continued despite the pursuit of egalitarianism by the Constitution and northern elites’ continuous grip on power and lucrative political positions. This part of the country lags behind in all economic and social indices. Drawing an analogy from statics in 1980, the poverty level between the North and South was put at 43.5 per cent. And the gap between the two regions widened within 20 years, with the poverty rates of both the North and the South growing to 73 per cent and 53 per cent respectively.
The disparity keeps on degenerating despite the resources allocated to the 19 northern states from the centre and the solid mineral resources bestowed upon them as natural gifts, strengthened by the vast span of arable land. Expert have argued that the reliance on federal allocation resulted in the reluctance of the states to explore their internal generated revenue (IGR) potentials. This was depicted in a 2017 survey which showed that the IGR of Rivers and Lagos States was many times larger that those of 14 of the 19 northern states. Thus, expert posited that the growing economic inferiority of the northern states could be ascribed to the failure of the northern elites to uphold the market mechanism as a means of income generation and redistribution but rather stuck to the distribution of oil revenue as a means of survival.
Several excuses were given for the ruin of the north, some genuine and others flimsy, as a number of such cannot survive any empirical discourse. Such excuses can only be tendered by northern leaders to score more political gains. As the southern states keep progressing with more school enrollment, manufacturing, and higher per capita income, their northern counterparts remain backward, with all subventions and interventions rechanneled into the coffers of the elites. The expected development rather materialises only in the mansions they build, the flashy vehicles they showoff, the flamboyant graduation ceremonies of their children and the lavish lifestyle that stems from our commonwealth. Empathetically, the ruin of the north is propelled by menaces that include but are not limited to abject poverty, income disparity, insecurity (mainly kidnapping and cattle rustling), dilapidated and near absence of infrastructure and social amenities, a high infant mortality rate, low literacy, drug abuse, misguided political and religious leaders, excessive corruption and abuse of public office, and misalignment of priorities. These self-inflicted issues have derailed almost all the northern states from making any headway, despite the fact that the north remains the country’s political powerhouse.
Principal offices held by northern elites have not reflected in the lives of the resident of the locales but these have instead created a smooth mechanism that empowers some miscreant capitalist in extorting what is left to the populace in the guise of constituency projects. The monthly subvention hardly reaches people at the grassroots, as no state government is ready to surrender to the third tier of government its share of the national cake. Even at that, local government chairs have turned into political appointments only for those who chose to be adamant to the misapplication of the third tiers’ funds. The persistent oppression by the elite has denied the children of the have-nots all their supposed birthrights, thus creating persistent dissatisfaction in the mind of the younger generation. To douse their mental stress, the disillusioned youth who are denied access to education embraced drugs as means of relief from a reality that gives them no hope and no glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel. The situation, coupled with the influx of weapons mainly through our porous borders, has nurtured criminality. People who are denied the good life from tender ages have grown up with the desire to own cars and houses just like the children of the so-called big men who they see from afar driving and riding all sorts of flashy vehicles. These thoughts in the mind of the teeming youth have exploded into severe criminal activities; hence, forcing the country to its knees.
The recent military intervention had only a short term repercussion to the crises of banditry. The permanent solutions can only be realised if the future of disadvantaged children is given due consideration. This problem can be remedied simply through youth empowerment, free primary education, vigilance and local security enhancement, effective mechanisms for income redistribution, complete overhaul of the Almajiris education system, probity and accountability on the part of public officers. Also, social and cultural reorientation, establishment of more technical institutions, elaborated entrepreneurship development schemes and structured micro-financing. These steps if carefully embraced would certainly create social and financial inclusion among the teeming youth population.
Social and economic inclusion in the north can as well be achieved if state governors will put all hands on deck in confronting the phenomenon. Our youth closely watched the Arab spring and recent unrest in Sudan, which saw the end of sit-tight leaders. The northern leaders should focus on this simple reality to guarantee the future of their pampered children and extend their continued stay on the nation’s payroll that hinges on federal character as an excuse. The northern part of the country has all it takes to achieve economic growth and development, considering its arable lands, solid mineral resources, water resources, human resources and solar energy, which have the potentials of increasing internal generated revenue and reducing reliance on federal subvention and allocation. Northern leaders need to come up with development plans based on each state’s priorities and monitor the implementation of these plans irrespective of regimes changes. In a nutshell, leaders should develop a culture of fiscal responsibility, give due regard to their people, show remorse to them for past abuse, avoid any showoff, do more to demonstrate a sense of belonging and effectively deliver on the expectations of the electorates. This action, if upheld, will save our northern leaders from possible revolt as the desire for change remain in the hearts of many Nigerians.
Nasiru Aminu Ahmad, a chartered accountant, is a public finance and corporate governance expert.