One would not be far from the truth by asserting that the major factor that is militating against the rapid social, economic, industrial and educational development of the core Northern Nigeria is the reluctance to embrace social integration and the nonchalant attitude towards Western education.
This phenomenon is accentuated on virtually all major streets of most cities across the federation, by the army of infamous Almajiris roaming around in search of sustenance through begging.
The most worrisome aspect is the presence of kids under the age of six looking haggard, malnourished and unkempt in the name of seeking of Quranic knowledge; for God’s sake no one should tell me it is an integral part of Islam, because Islam does not in any way encourage or condone begging much less that of a minor.
The truth of the matter is that the menace is simply is the result of the outright abdication of parents’ responsibilities, whereas the Quran has frowned strictly against child abuse.
Why is it that the same Hausa man that was born and bred in the city does not allow would not his children to go through such humiliating experience in the name of getting Quranic education? It is simply due to the effect of integration and assimilation of urban parents and children, who grew up in the midst of other ethnic groups that are basically learned and not the Hausa. The fact is that, there is no justification for the beleaguered Hausa man to remain backward in this 21st century.
It is on this note, I would want to make a clarion call on the governors of the core northern states to emulate their counterpart and governor, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, who has adopted a revolutionary step in the effort to bridge the lapses of social integration and assimilation through ambitious policies, programmes and projects, that would gradually but surely change the negative stereotype of the Hausa man in all ramifications.
The wide gulf in educational and technological advancement of northern and southern Nigeria did not begin yesterday. For instance, by 1960, the North with over half of Nigeria’s 50 million population had 41 secondary schools against the south’s 842 schools. Education was then confined only to the aristocrats while missionary activities were highly discouraged in the North.
Also, an estimated 1,300,000 southerners that came down to the North to take up available white collar jobs and residence in the early 60’s were not allowed to mix up with the commoners which would have accelerated social assimilation and ultimately bring about social advancement which the southerners came with. Instead, the southerners were herded and confined to Sabon gari which literally means strangers’ quarters at the behest of the local rulers and thus two radically different societies coexisted without any attempt by the traditional authorities to encourage gradual integration. This trend actually but negatively affected the development of a modern social environment of the core Northern axis.
Perhaps, being a good student of history and the adverse effect associated with the absence of social integration, Governor Ganduje incipiently initiated several policies and programmes that would change the negative narrative and perception of the downtrodden majority of Kano State, being an important integral part of core Northern Nigeria. For instance, in the educational sector, the governor has created the enabling environment which brought about astronomical increase in primary school enrolment. In recruiting teachers even southerners have been engaged. This would no doubt promote rapid integration.
In recent times, hardly can you come across newly engaged Almajiri children of Kano State origin within and outside the state. This is the outcome of Ganduje’s interventionist approach. On the economic part, the governor has introduced and initiated several interventionist programmes intended to improve the entrepreneurship attitude of the common man in Kano. Take commonest example: the road side tea seller (mai shayi). Hundreds of them drawn from across the state are being trained on basic principles of hygiene as well as empowering them with modern tools to promote their businesses, all in the effort to advance the standard of their lives to suit modern realities. Similarly, artisans such as street mechanics and tricycle operators drivers were trained in batches on modern techniques of their chosen vocation and provided with working tools.
In Kano today, even the women who fry and sell bean cake (kosai) were not left out. They were provided gas cookers and cylinders to reduce health hazards and prevent outbreak of fire resulting from leftover burnt firewood. On the social scene, the original concept of the sabon gari has been dropped to give room for cohabitation amongst the hitherto mainly southerners in sabon gari and their host community to live side by side.
Governor Ganduje went a step further to outlaw any form of discrimination against non-indigenes; the norm in Kano today is that everyone is treated as a citizen of the state.
What the governor is doing to change the negative perception of the Hausa man is gaining the support of the well-educated, exposed and civilized Emir of Kano, His majesty Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, who shares the revolutionary traits and inclinations of Ganduje.
For the first time in the history of the state, ethnic traditional leaders of Southern Nigerian origin such as the Igbo, Yoruba etc, are being integrated into the mainstream of the Kano Emirate Council, as special advisers to the Emir while also placed on the payroll of the emirate with admirable emoluments befitting their status. Surely, all these, are noble initiatives that would ultimately accelerate social integration and speed up the change in the negative stereotype of the common Hausa man on the street as well as diminish avenues of mutual suspicion among the diverse ethnic groups in Kano State and Nigeria by extension.
► Mohammed Isa Bilal, a director of Royal Publicity Publishing Company, wrote from Jos, via email