“The north must wake up now. It must not murder sleep.
The north saw nothing coming. Population was deemed strength. But it should have watched when others slowed down in breeding. It bred too many children and didn’t do much to care for them. They roamed the streets. Yet, it bred more. They forsook schools. And took to begging . Yet, it bred more. Those children, many of them, have gone feral. Now,the north cannot sleep. The north slept for too long.
Northern politicians lived in bubbles, in distant cities. Some governors literally ruled by ‘Wifi’. When they bothered to return to their state capitals, unemployed youths lined the streets to cheer them. In their narcissism , they said it was popularity. The naive jobless youths in their ignorance, considered them their own share of national big men.
So the northern politicians were safe and happy. They lived like lords, harvesting political rents. Their political estate was the large benighted population of the north whose votes made them national heroes. All they bothered about was winning elections and cornering privileges for their family and their friends.
The north is waking up. But it’s waking in fits and starts.
While it was asleep, corrupt politicians treated education as western adulteration of cherished conservative culture. The north lacked schools and teachers, and lacked hospitals and doctors and nurses. But their leaders couldn’t be bothered. The welfare of the poor was an abstract concept mouthed in campaign speeches.
Young doctors went for national youth service in the north and came back with tales of horror. Children and women died needlessly. Labour got obstructed and prolonged and the nearest hospital with a doctor was hundreds of kilometers away. Youth corps doctors were forced to do caesarean sections. We screamed when we shared the stories among st ourselves those days.
The governors preferred playing emotional religious politics to building productive human capacity. So while some other parts of the country focused on education, some governors made sharia a project and built a large population of illiterate Almajiris.
And I think the north was pushed into deeper somnolence by tranquilizers like quota system and federal character. You can disagree with me. But I know competition would have awakened the north much earlier.
The north is rising. But it is still groggy.
The traditional institutions and the politicians underestimated the long term consequences of their fixation on electoral contests. Political power brought roads and more local government areas. The Federal Government built a refinery and sited federal institutions in some northern cities. But there was almost no attempt to educate the poor. Children roamed. Schools weren’t properly staffed. The three tiers of government left the smaller towns and rural areas in abject poverty and utter hopelessness. The private sector was absent. There was literally no man power for anything meaningful.
The politicians and retired soldiers cornered positions and oil wells. They rode in their big cars and flew in jets. They built big houses and sent their children to foreign lands for education. They let the ignorant poor to worship them and let them flourish in their ignorance. It all seemed peaceful at least. The rich in Kaduna , Kano and Abuja, played their polo. The poor children in Gamboru couldn’t get vaccines. They had to rely on Bill Gates and foreign charity to get, when they got. Poverty and disease and desertification battered and bruised them. The poor , illiterate and hopeless, in the slums of the big towns, in small towns and in the bushes in the hamlets found solace in religion. Radical preachers sneaked in and taught them comforting extremism.
The chickens are coming home to roost.
Banditry has taken over the parts of the north not ravaged by Boko Haram. Zamfara had once toyed with religious extremism. That former center of religious activism is now the devil’s workshop. Evil became so rife the former governor was ready to negotiate with demons who massacred and burnt whole villages. Children who didn’t go to school, who spent their entire lives in the wild, dragging cattle from Timbuktu to Calabar, had become possessed. They have forsaken religion and embraced the devil. And Zamfara is now thinking a mass literacy programme.
Kaduna, the center of the north has not been spared. Ethnic fault lines have been sharpened by frustration and hopelessness. Politicians had driven wedges between the poor to feather their political nests. Millions of unemployed youths are now finding guns and finding devilish impatience. Violence has mushroomed. And Kaduna is fast acquiring the character of Lebanon.
Our law enforcement agents are working hard. But they are overwhelmed. Law enforcement was designed to check and correct an exceptional few. And not to contain an epidemic of madness. From Benue to Taraba, from Katsina to Zamfara, it’s been violence after violence.
The north is waking up. I believe. But it has to find mental clarity, quickly. The north must institute a comprehensive population control measure. The north has to lock the tap. Mops wont do. The north lacks the resources to care for the children that it is currently producing on an industrial scale. It can’t abolish child malnutrition , Almajiri culture, high infant and maternal mortality until it puts a leash on its birthrate. Until the north checks its population growth rate it cannot check the wild fire of poverty that is ravaging its communities.
The north must wake up now.
Boko haram and rampant banditry have stabbed the north into wakefulness. But the north is waking up only in bits. The north is still sleepwalking.
The north left the tap running for too long. It is now flooded with problems that teeming illiteracy and joblessness create. The north must turn off the running tap first. The north must institute immediate population control. Yes, it will have to curb Almajiri by democratizing education. But it must shut the tap first. Without an effective and immediate population control policy , the north and the country is doomed.
It’s unfortunate it had to get to this. It’s unfortunate it had to take banditry for the north to think mass literacy and abolition of almajiri culture. Yobe has no existing factory. A bulk of the population of the Northeast lives in IDP camps. The future looks bleak . And there is no sense of urgency yet.
Northern billionaires must think industrialization of the north. It must be intentional. The potentials abound. There is a strong youthful population. They can’t wait for Bill Gates and Jimmy Carter.
The north must wake up now. It must not murder sleep again.
Hassan Stan-Labo, a retired Colonel from the Nigerian Army with 36-years of active service to his credit.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.