Noah Ebije, Kaduna
Emir of Kano, Alhaji Muhammadu Sanusi has lamented the high level of poverty and illiteracy in the Northern part of the country, saying that no leader from the region can boast of happiness.
Sanusi spoke yesterday at the 60th birthday celebration of Governor Nasir El-Rufa’i of Kaduna State.
He urged the leaders from the zone to invest heavily in education as well as ensure eradication of poverty among the people.
“When we talk about birthday, we talk about happiness. Just last week, someone asked me, are you happy? And I said I am not. And the person was surprised. Nobody who is a leader in the Northern Nigeria today can afford to be happy. “You cannot be happy with about 87 per cent of poverty in Nigeria being in the north.”
“You can’t be happy with millions of Northern children out of school. You can’t be happy with nine states in the North contributing almost 50 per cent of the entire malnutrition burden in the country. You can’t be happy with the drug problem, you can’t be happy with the Boko Haram problem. You can’t be happy with political thuggery. You can’t be happy with all the issues; the Almajiri problem that we have.
“So, we wish Nasir a happy birthday, but we do not want him to be happy as a leader. Because you are happy when you think you have reached a state of delivering and taking your people to where you want them to be.
“Now, because of the condition of Northern Nigeria, it’s almost correct now to say that, if you are seen as normal, if you are a governor in the North or a leader in the North, and you are seen as normal in the sense that you continue to do what your predecessors have been doing, doing the same thing, which has been normalised, then, there is something wrong with you, you are part of the problem.
“The real change in the North will come from those who are considered mad people, because you look around and say if this is the way we have been doing things, and this is where we have ended up, maybe we need to do things differently.
“If we have populated the government with middle-aged men, maybe we need to try younger people, maybe we need to try women. If we have spent our money and time on physical structures, maybe we need to invest more in education of our children. Maybe we need to invest more in nutrition. Maybe we need to invest more in primary healthcare.
“The truth is, if you look at what Nasir is doing in Kaduna, with 40 per cent of his budget in education, that is the only thing that is going to safe the North. I know that, when we say these things, they don’t go down well.
“We have been saying this for 20 to 30 years. If the North does not change, the North will destroy itself. The country is moving on. Quota system that everybody talks about must have a sunset clause.
“The reason that people like Nasir stands up and they are nationalists is that, they don’t have any sense of inadequacy. You don’t need to rise on being from Kaduna State or being from the North or being a Muslim to get a job, you come with your credentials, you go with your competence, you can compete with any Nigerian from anywhere.
“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 these issues of quota system and federal character.
“The rest of the country cannot be investing, educating its 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.
“So, as we celebrate Nasir at 60, we need to celebrate him as a public officer who is addressing the core problems of his constituency. It is education, it’s girl child education, it’s women’s right, it’s child begging, it’s parental irresponsibility, demographic growth, it’s managing a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious society and bringing them into one community where they are all citizens and he has done a lot that we can learn from.