Arewa Youth Forum Must Hear This —Joe Igbokwe



“Northern leaders and the world need explanation as to what led the North to the rot it is today. It was not magic but man-made as a result of deliberate manipulation of religion, self enrichment and pervasive corruption our leaders adopted to the detriment of the larger peoples of the North” -ACF Youths

The foregoing statement is an excerpt from the article I read online by Arewa Youths Forum published by Sahara Reporters titled “You must Apologize for The Impoverishment of North”, Arewa Youths Tell IBB, Abdulsalami. As a Mechanical Engineer and a concerned Nigerian who knows that a chain is only as strong as the weakest link, a concerned Nigerian who knows that the only way to get out of poverty is to be educated, and a concerned Nigerian who understands that you cannot plant cassava and go to harvest yam, I have been compelled to add to this debate if it can help the people of the North to look back to see where the rains started beating them.

I am constrained to contribute to this debate because the Arewa Youths Forum hit the nail on its head. I feel the need to add my voice to this debate because I know that the North is Nigeria’s weakest link for more than 60 years and there is no end in sight to reposition and repair the weakest link even in the next 50 years. I feel the need to make this intervention because the Northern youths need help and direction.

A foolish constituency, they, say is the hobgoblin of small minds. The state of Northern Nigeria is what it is today because of what the leaders have made it and I do not care whether the leaders were military or civilians. Alhaji Tafawa Balewa ruled Nigeria for 6 years 14 days, General Gowon ruled Nigeria for 9 years, General Murtala Mohammed, 6 months, Alhaji Shehu Shagari 4 years, 8 months, General Buhari 1 year 7 months, IBB 8 years, General Abacha 4 years 8 months, Abdulsalami, Abubakar, 11 months, Yar’Adua 3 years totaling almost 39 years out of 52 years of nationhood.

It is pertinent here also to put forward the summary of creation of regions, states, divisions and local governments in Nigeria between 1914 and 1996 for ACF Youths perusal: whereas the North increased from 1 region and 14 provinces in pre-1967 (before the military struck) to 20 states (an increase of 43 percent) and 414 local governments in 1999, including FCT; the South increased from 3 regions and 21 provinces in the same period to 17 states (a decrease of 14 percent) and 355 local governments in 1999. Therefore, the south that had more regions and provinces than the North in pre-1967 now has (in 1999) 3 states and 59 local governments less than the North. Added to this is the fact that the North has more Senators, more House of Reps members, more Ministers, and more Advisers at the Federal level.

In my Book: Heroes of Democracy published in 1999, I challenged the Northern Youths and intellectuals on pages 223 and 224 to challenge their leaders and speak the truth to power. Please read this “The North should begin to accept the obvious and painful fact that they will not die if other people from other sections rule Nigeria. Over protection of the Northern enclave for 35 years has left the North poorer in terms of everything. The youths of the North should be bold in asking their leaders what they have done with all the money stolen from the treasury. How many schools, universities, newspaper houses, radio and television stations, factories etc., have they built in the North with their loot? The Northern youths must be bold in telling their leaders that the power of a man is in his brain, they need not kill because of oil, because Michael Dells, Bill Gates and Emegwalis of this world have proved that wealth is not in oil but in the brain. According to the latest report from the Daily Telegraph, Bill Gates, 43, has been making $4, 566,000 for every hour of the past year and with his wealth growing at the 61 percent compound yearly rate it has enjoyed so far, he will hit the $1,000,000,000,000 mark in the year 2004. The Northern youths should be bold enough to remind their leaders the famous statement from the fathers of the Second Vatican Council: ‘that all acts of indignity against human life and against human person debase the perpetrators more than the victims.’ This assertion has been proved in Nigeria since 1960. The Northern youths and intellectuals should advise their leaders to stop using the armed forces dubiously controlled by them to terrorise other Nigerians, who demand nothing but a level playing field for everybody in Nigeria. If the North does the right thing by offering an olive branch to other Nigerians, they stand to gain from such a gesture. The North stands to gain if it opens up to other Nigerians and see them as equal partners in progress. Competition brings out the best in all of us.”

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Growth, development, and progress, have eluded the North in the past 50 years because of wickedness, greed and political irresponsibility. Northern Nigeria is now a killing field soaked with the blood of innocent Nigerians both young and old killed for no just cause other than hatred for people who are different from us. Northern Nigeria is now a war zone, and a land that devours its inhabitants, the land of gross and morbid wickedness, the Thomas Hobbs State of Nature where life is brutish, nasty and short.

The world is now a global village and the road to western education is now a 10-lane expressway. Those Northern Boko Haramists who are shouting from the roof top that education is sin are the greatest enemy of the North. They have done the greatest damage to the political entity called Northern Nigeria and it will take the North 50 years to recover from this mess. Someone said they have done what even the invading marauders could not do. A school of thought says if you think education is expensive and worthless try ignorance. The North has embraced ignorance for too long and the world is leaving them behind. If it is not tragic that Anambra State produces more candidates seeking university education every academic year than all the 19 States in the North put together, then tell me what can be more tragic than this.

The entity called Southern Nigeria must help the North to come to its level in terms of education otherwise the weakest link will continue to pull everybody down to their level. But will the Northern leaders have the courage to stop the Boko Haram menace and begin the process of genuine reconciliation with other Nigerians?


•Igbokwe writes from Lagos.

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