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Addressing the problem of the North – Blueprint newspapers Limited


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Long before the peoples of Nigeria were amalgamated by the smooth machinations of Sir Frederick Lugard, the region that would be called Nigeria was made up of many cultures, modes of leadership, vassal, and independent kingdoms. When in 1914, Lugard considered it a good business move to merge the northern and southern protectorates, I shudder to think that the Queen’s administrators might have anticipated that a country so tense and rife with conflicts would ensue. 
That these two regions couldn’t be more different than East from West, should have given an inkling that a marriage between them would not come without a lifetime of intense negotiation, adaptation, and tolerance. Despite that fact, it made business sense for the British Government to join the less educationally flourishing North as the husband and the more literate South as the wife.

With entrenched ethnic and religious diversities that run as far back as northern Nigeria’s religious and spice trades with north Africa and southern Nigeria’s earliest contact with the missionaries, old history continues to rear its ugly head as the nascent nation attempted to cohabit as a unified nation. The civil war of 1967-1970 was a testament that pretending that the Nigeria marriage was as calm as a duck on water, did not paint the full picture of struggle, agitation, and strife under the surface. The utter desolation of the war reminds students of Nigeria’s history of our one humanity and that never again shall the country of today’s 200+ million people resort to febrile bloodlust as a means of self-determination. 
It was therefore no surprise when Nigerians led by nationalists designed the 1999 constitution, the issue of representation for emergence as a national leader continues to gain commendation as a brilliant invention. The constitution, though with some flaws, had removed any suggestion of zoning as a prerequisite for leadership, perhaps to encourage broader representation against entitlement. However, as with all things about the law, the letter of the law is as important as the spirit of the law. It is for this reason that many proponents of a Presidential shift to the South, especially the South-East (which has been underrepresented in the Presidency since independence), hinge on their argument to the matter of equity. 
But, as political pundits who perhaps make up only 1 percent of the population squabble over who gets what in Nigeria, the other 99 percent of Nigerians groan under the weight of illiteracy, unemployment, insecurity, and a Per Capita that has regressed to a 40-year low.
It must be easy to get swept up by conversations around what region gets what position when we refuse to decide what ideology must guide the future Nigeria that we should be building. This lack of a clear roadmap beyond what region gets its share of the assumed national cake has made us oblivious of the plight of the 40 percent Nigerians who live below $1.70 a day. People who can neither afford a stable income, food, healthcare, and education for their household.
With a population that has risen by 180 percent in the past 40 years, our GDP per capita during this same period is projected to rise only by a meager 5.5 percent in 2021. This rise in population irrespective of the region should cause us to lose sleep knowing that by 2050, we are projected to be at over 400 million people still occupying the same 923,768 km² land area. So, if we think that we have it bad now with farmers-herders crisis, banditry, kidnapping of school children, poor infrastructural and human capital development, we need to have a rethink. If the story of the past 40 years gives us an inkling of how a once giant nation poised for per capita growth can regress, then I shudder to think about the next 40 years.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
To avoid the mistakes of the last decades of financial waste, dependence on a sole extractive product that turned Nigeria into a rentier state, we must aggressively invest in people (all 200+ million of us). We must build, nurture, protect and secure the lives of Nigerians irrespective of region or creed. To do this, we must invest in developing a knowledge-based economy that thrives on innovation and entrepreneurship. One that houses Africa’s largest professional outsourcing and exports its human capacity by earning through international remote work.
We must build a viable market economy where the government takes its hand out of dabbling into the market, especially the foreign exchange market and judiciously hold its role as regulator. It is also time to either completely jettison the federal character provisions or create a full overhaul that values efficiency. While a solid proponent of equality myself, I believe that at this stage, it is far less evil to pick people who can and who will do the job, over picking people in the name of equality who cannot do the job. As a northerner, we do not need our person to fix the problem of northern Nigeria. What we need is an objective and effective leader who is unbiased and can be held accountable to deliver results within concrete KPIs.

In delving into the issue of the ban on open grazing, I see it as a premature move, like putting the cart before the horse. What is progressive is for southern States to see the north’s drought problem as a Nigerian problem and not a Hausa/Fulani problem nor a farmer-herder crisis. Having more arable land, southern States (leaders and the people) should create investment opportunities for businesses to build and operate ranches within the region. One whose success will make the Fulanis favourite Red Mbororo cattle breed a rival to Argentina, Ireland, Brazil, or South Africas.
Nigeria must show the north a better life, one that says that your out-of-school children are our collective problem. Your underage marriages and lower literacy rates are Nigeria’s collective problem, and any birth beyond a family’s ability to fully cater to the child is a collective burden to Nigeria’s scarce resources.
In 2007 under a northern President, the Niger-Delta enjoyed some respite from the spate of kidnappings, vandalism of pipelines, and military occupations because the nation arose for the South-South region. Today, it is time for Nigeria to arise for the north. We must remember that when the earliest onslaught of Boko Haram began, many in the south thought it a northern problem until even the FCT became a target. Then they called it out for the terrorism that it is. Same with cattle rustling (10years ago), which graduated into today’s banditry.

Like the proverbial Greek myth of Achilles, Nigeria, the giant of Africa, with its indomitable 200+ million people can meet its disastrous end if there is no deliberate intervention in northern Nigeria. Without the north being carried along, there will be no growth for the rest of Nigeria. With a burgeoning population, this is a critical mass too vital to be left in the hands of northern elites alone. This number must be harnessed to become a ready resource that will export technical innovation, creativity through the arts and craft to the world come 2050 and beyond. I hope that under a southern president of the future, the north will receive true and full respite from religious terrorism and banditry. But this will all be wasted if, the entirety of Nigeria does not wake up and smell the coffee.
Jatau-Kyari writes from Abuja.
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Blueprint Newspaper is a Nigerian daily print newspaper founded and published in Abuja, Nigeria. While https://blueprint.ng is the online version
Chairman/CEO: Mohammed Idris, FNIPR
Chief Operating Officer: Salisu Umar
Chairman, Editorial Board: Zainab Suleiman Okino
GM-Finance/Accounts: Ajibola Oyetubo
Head Administration & Human Resources: Nuhu Sani
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Editor (Daily): Abdulrahman A. Abdulrauf
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Editor(Weekend): Adoyi M. Aba
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