By Aliyu Aliyu
Contemporary and Futuristic Engagements:
Who else would have championed the cause of climate change and desertification if not Newton Jibunoh. Newton Jibunoh it was who in 1965 at the age of 27 crossed the world’s largest desert (via the Sahara desert) alone.
He has had expeditions from London to Lagos and Lagos to London; all by road in a passionate attempt to create awareness on the issue of desertification. His ‘’Desert Warriors’’ reality TV was initiated to stimulate youth participation and bequeath an enduring legacy to fight desertification. He has carried out sensitization and tree planting tours in Kano and other places.
These were not established by the region’s cash Alhajis and retired Generals or even its professionals even when we are the ones most threatened by the impact of the raging desertification. It was Newton’s idea; solely his. In furtherance of this paradox, the 2010 third edition of the conference on climate change in Lagos had desertification as one of its themes. It did not hold in Yobe, Borno or Sokoto, it held in Lagos and the last time I checked, Lagos was not in remote or immediate threat of desertification yet she attracted professionals and experts from all over the world to come and brainstorm on the issue. How many northern Governors were there? Where are the SL Edus of the north, the Nnimmo Basseys, the Desmond Majekodunmis, and the Tunde Akingbades?
In other parts of the country, all sorts of groups are formed to draw government and even international attention to the groups interest, hence it is not unusual to hear of Albino groups coming together to protest against discrimination (and their agitation has recently made JAMB consider giving them extra time during its exams), market women associations, landlords’ associations, etc where issues of common interest can be discussed and which in real terms is able to draw significant attention than they would as individuals. These associations are also political rallying blocs. Who says the Iyalajes in Lagos don’t have a say in the ACN government?
Despite the age long dominance of northerners in the cattle business, no animal rights’ activist has come out of the region to fight for the rights of animals that are most often than not cruelly transported throughout the length and breadth of this country; and tormented before their eventual slaughter in the most furred and undignified abattoirs our local governments parade everywhere.
The Diasporan Alliance
All sorts of Nigerians in the Diaspora associations exist all over the world; from U.S. to Britain to Germany etc. Some of them have even established NGOs in London like Shola Lana of Nexgen. Northerners are neither the brains behind the formation of such groups nor the forces that propel them. Why bother?
Who are the dealers of electronics, phones, computers, milling machines, generators, and boutiques even in the heart of Kaduna, Sokoto and Kano? Who are the imports and exports barons, spare part dealers, building materials merchants, pharmacists and drug merchants? Who are those that dominate the printing industry from Kaduna to Zaria thorough Sokoto to Bauchi, Zamfara etc?
Do northerners parade the best of machinists, technicians, radio and TV technicians, auto mechanics, master welders, carpenters and exquisite furniture makers? Is dry-cleaning, fumigation, industrial / large scale cleaning our turf? In the fashion arena, the most innovations, the daring designs, the creative and contemporary designs in the fashion industry are not from the north. How on earth could they be? Our tailors and dressmakers have remained tailors, nothing more. Not a single one of them has taken his / her expertise to the next redefining level and become fashion designers with brand identities both at home and abroad. Not like those of Dakova; Frank Oshodi; Tiffany Amber; Deola Sagoe ; Tsemaye Binitie; Mike Asikolaye, Mudi (Fashion Design) Adebayo Jones, etc and hence my initial avoidance of the usage of the term. Not even our famous Bukar zanna / Kube caps nor the Muhadu a banki or Marufiya versions can be pinned to a designer north of the Niger.
Are our caterers and event managers in the north the pace setters in the field? Are we the most sought after chefs in Sheraton, Transcorp, Le Meridian, Oriental or Protea hotels? Do we run the most successful hotels in any part of the country?
On a tragic note you may remember the heart-rending story of little Pwashikai Nideno, the five-year old miracle baby whose vagina and rectum were mutilated and left to die in a pool of her blood in Dong Village, Adamawa State. Hospitalised at the Yola Specialist Hospital, all she needed was five million naira for a vaginoplasty operation in Egypt – a procedure to reconstruct her private part and rectum.
Pwashikai’s case put Adamawa State government to shame; put the entirety of its political gods to shame; its women folk without exception and by the same stretch of culpability the entire northern region. But the gold medal should go to the first ladies of Adamawa State (all four of them) and the deputy governor’s wife. In this regard, the newspapers reported: ‘’ ...the wife of the Adamawa State governor, Binta Nyako, was one of the contributors. She donated the sum of N50, 000 when she visited Pwashikai at the hospital... in company of the association of international female lawyers. The wife of the Adamawa State deputy governor, Bala Ngillari, also made a cash donation of N50, 000 when she went to see the little girl. “If Pwashika was the biological daughter of the first and second ladies of Adamawa State would a paltry N50,000 (which does not even equate the worth of their jewelry) be the best they would do for her? If they could not go the whole hog to give N5, 000,000 to a dying baby, could they not use their clout and ’’political goodwill’’ to marshal the millionaires’ wives of Adamawa and women of goodwill there to save a life? Was it not a motherly call? Ironically, the largest donation came from an individual in Lagos who insisted on remaining anonymous!
Recognitions and Awards:
Since its inception in 2005, the future awards have drawn the world’s attention to a crop of emerging youngsters in Nigeria but then how many northerners make the cut? How many of our people make the cut at the Thisday awards, Silverbird, The Sun, Media Trust, Leadership etc?
Viewed from this prism, would it not be safe to conclude that poor may after all be a euphemism to describe the parlous state of our calamity? Is this how Allah destined it? Or to my Christian brethren north of the Niger, is this how Jehovah, Elohim, or Yesu Almasihu decreed it? Between 1931 and 1945, Japan occupied China and humbled them as a result. In 1945, Japan was brought to its knees by the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; yet from these ominous recesses these countries rose to become global powers today. Were countries like Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and the likes not written off as having the remotest prospects of gargantuan rise as evident today? Despite all of the bleak and gloomy prophecies, they rose to become great nations the world admires and doffs its hat for today.
The north and indeed Nigeria can learn a lesson or two therefrom. I am not a self loathing individual; and my disquisition doesn’t in any way attempt to promote sectionalism nor regionalism, far from it, I only wish to draw the attention of a slumbering people to the “very minute” details that actually make the whole worth calling whole after all.
What is it exactly that drives the peoples of the South-East, and South-West to dare and to achieve? Are they wired differently? So why do we settle for less? Shall we turn to science, eugenics, religion or even superstition for answers? But while we are at it, the fundamental questions still stare us in the face: Who made the north poor? James Ibori, Peter Odili, Dipreye Alameyesiagha,or Lucky Igbinedion? What strategies are being put in place to get the north out of this poverty trap both at the level of governance and at the individual/group intervention levels?
We can choose to remain in the back seat or choose to move ourselves by the bootstraps. We can begin the redemption now or wait till some distant future to earn for ourselves a place of respect – a place where we are not viewed as savages and with this much disdain – a place where we can compete and contribute to the sustenance, peaceful co-existence and prosperity of the one and only country we have and truly love – Nigeria.
• Aliyu is a Masters student of Public and International Affairs, University of Lagos.
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