Noah Ebije, Kaduna
Kaduna State governor, Nasir El-Rufai has said that, Nigeria consists of two countries: a developing South, and a backward, less educated and unhealthy North, with the highest number of poor people in the world.
El-Rufai equally lamented that the northern region has development indicators similar to that of Afganistan, a country at war.
Speaking in Kaduna on Saturday at the Northern Youth Summit organised by Northern Hibiscus, an NGO, El-Rufai however said that the problems of the region must be addressed collectively as a group of 19 northern states governors, not as individual states.
El-Rufai said the summit whose theme was “Awakening the Arewa Spirit,” was very timely, adding that “when we talk about awakening the spirit, it means the spirit is either sleeping or dead. Therefore, this summit is very important, just like our keynote address speaker has said.
“But, looking at the statistics, Nigeria appears to be a middle-income country. But, if we segregate those statistics across states and zones, you will see that in terms of human development indicators, Nigeria consists of two countries; there is a backward, less educated and unhealthy northern Nigeria and a developing, largely educated and healthy southern Nigeria.
“We have to speak the truth to ourselves and ask why is it that northern Nigeria has development indicators similar to Afganistan, a country still at war?
“We have the largest number of poor people in the world, most of them in northern Nigeria. Nigeria also has the largest number of out-of-school children, virtually all of them in Northern Nigeria.
“Northern Nigeria has become the centre of drug abuse, gender violence, banditry, kidnapping and terrorism. We have also been associated with high divorce rate and breakdown of families. These are the challenges that confront us. This is the naked truth that we have to tell ourselves.
“We must, therefore, as leaders at all levels have a conversation about the way forward for our part of the country. Because increasingly, as many of you must have seen on social media, we are being considered as the parasite of the federal economy, even though, that is not entirely true. Because northern Nigeria still feeds the nation. The richest businessman in Nigeria is still Aliko Dangote, not someone from southern Nigeria, thank God for that.
“So, we still have a lot to be proud of. We should be proud of our culture and tradition, as well as unity. You hardly can find someone from northern Nigeria convicted of 419 or being aYahoo boy. That is something we should be proud of.
“We are generally considered to be more honest and less corrupt than other Nigerians. That is something we should be proud of. In addition, our demographic superiority gives us a very powerful tool to negotiate in politics. And that is something we should be proud of, and we should preserve. So, we have every reason to unite and not be divided.
“I, therefore, call on you the youth; you account for 80 per cent of the northern population and the future of this region lies in your hands, not in the hands of Dinosaurs like me. I’m 59 and among the oldest five per cent of the northern population. I shouldn’t even be governor; I should have been governor ten years ago. But ‘na condition make crayfish bend,’ so we are here.
“But, why are we here? In my view, we are here to prepare the next generation of leaders. That is why the agenda for this summit is very important. So, you should take the panel discussions very seriously and come up with very clear and implementable decisions that you will circulate to all of us elected to lead in northern Nigeria.
“I urge Northern Hibiscus to send recommendations from this summit to the Chairman of northern state governors’ forum. We have to do something about the situation of northern Nigeria and we must do so as a group of 19 governors, not individual state governors.” El-Rufai said.
Also speaking, the sponsor of the event and immediate past Chairman of House of Representatives Committee on Appropriation, Hon. Abdulmumini Jibrin said, while the North was in dire situation, the region has not lost everything. “There is growth everywhere and so many leaders have emerged.”
Jibrin who analysed the need to reawaken the Arewa spirit on sociocultural, economic and political spheres, said family unit remains the bigger challenge faced in the region as it contributes to high rate of divorce, late marriages, drug abuse and destitution.
Looking at the economic aspect, he noted the need for job and wealth creation to build businesses, understanding competition, marketing and funding in entrepreneurship. He said there is little or no money available at commercial banks to loan small and medium enterprises because government borrows an average of N1 trillion annually with N600 billion to N700 billion interest from first line charge.
The lawmaker called for role models across board, adding that “we have to mould leaders, we have to create ourselves into leaders,” he said.
In her opening remarks, founder of Northern Hibiscus Initiative, Aisha Falke, said the summit was organised to examine the numerous challenges of the North, with a view to finding lasting solutions to them.
She also disclosed that, Northern Hibiscus had also taken the bull by the horn with a 16-year action to empower the youths with useful skills, especially those who are not privileged to have formal education.