Red flag – The Nation

  • Northern leaders should make massive investments in population control and human development to avert catastrophe

Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, had the occasion early last week, to raise the alarm on poor human development indices relating to the North, which he urged the region’s leadership elite to urgently address. It wasn’t his first time making this case.

Speaking at the 60th birthday celebration of Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, the emir warned that the North might self-destruct if it persisted in the present mode.  Unless its leaders, he added, tackled the myriad challenges of mass poverty, millions of out-of-school children, high levels of illiteracy, malnutrition, drug addiction, and Boko Haram insurgency, the region might just be heading for catastrophe.

Sanusi said the ravages of these challenges on the North should make every genuine leader from the area sad.  He called for huge investments in human development sectors like education, nutrition and primary healthcare, among others.

The emir’s concerns were echoed by Senate President Ahmad Lawan, who alluded to reports estimating there wer between 13 million and 14 million out-of-school children in the North. Also speaking at the el-Rufai birthday celebration, he described this phenomenon as a grave danger to national health.

At a separate occasion, Katsina State Governor, Alhaji Aminu Masari, said mass education needed to be pursued in the North, to stem banditry and wildcat killings, lately recorded in his state.

Emir Sanusi anchored his worries on dismal realities of the region, which include about 87 per cent of Nigerian poor domiciled in the North. He apparently drew from a recent report by the World Bank titled ‘Advancing social protection in a dynamic Nigeria’ and issued late January.

That report said inter alia: “Nigeria experiences high inequality along geographic lines, with poverty mostly concentrated in the North and in rural areas… Almost half of all the poor lived in the Northwest,and the North accounts for 87 per cent of all the poor in the country in 2016.” It added: ”Regionally, the North lags far behind the South in every human capital outcome.”

The World Bank, as well, linked poverty in the North to the Boko Haram insurgency. ”The youth used by Boko Haram to partake in the conflict are jobless, without skills or trades, and are easily susceptible to radicalisation,” it said.

Emir Sanusi warned against continuing reliance by the North on quota system and federal character in getting jobs for its youths, at the expense of other parts of the country fielding qualified youths.

He said:  ”We need to get our northern youths to a point where they don’t need to come from a part of the country to get a job. And believe me, if we don’t listen, there would be a day when there would be a constitutional amendment that addresses quota system and federal character. The rest of the country cannot be investing, educating their children, producing graduates; and then they watch us, they can’t get jobs because they come from the wrong state, when we have not invested in the future of our own children.”

The Kano emir is reputed for brutal candour, and it isn’t surprising he spoke so frankly about challenges weighing down the North. Only that he spoke in a cultural context where high fertility rate is seen as a political asset, rather than a function of procreative indiscipline.

The northern leadership elite Sanusi appealed to, and among whom he frontlines, have not been very exemplary in restrained siring of offspring, even if they have the means to take care of own brood.  This largely accounts for the huge population falling outside the welfare safety net.

But he was on point about the need to be deliberate with huge investments on education. Kaduna, Kano and Borno states, among a few others, are current standard bearers, in committal of huge budgetary percentages to public education.

We agree totally with Emir Sanusi that the North’s salvation lies in the hands of its leaders.  So, northern leaders and the northern elite should seize the Sanusi red flag, and plot the path to northern developmental redemption.

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