Divided We Have Fallen

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Divided We Have Fallen

 

By

 

George Akume

 

 

 

culled from THISDAY, June 1, 2006

 

 

The events of the last few years have brought home very forcefully, the consequences of our lack of unity and common purpose.  I shall highlight only a few of these consequences.  We are all aware of the privatisation of the nation's assets as part of the reform programme to make the economy more private-sector driven and thus more efficient.  This exercise has left the North a loser, as our people could not mobilise the kind of funds needed to buy stakes in the public institutions that have been privatised.  We lost out because the South has dominated the finance sector, including banking and insurance, which provided funds for these acquisitions.  Today, the Bank of the North, which was the sole financial backbone of the North, has been taken over as is the case with others like Lion Bank, Inland Bank etc.


The telecommunications revolution, particularly the GSM component, that has recently taken our country by storm, has blown past the North as we are left to be mere onlookers.  Investments in the telecommunications business along with the Information Technology sub-sector, are almost wholly in the hands of Southern entrepreneurs.  Given the importance of the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in the modern world, our lack of involvement in the business in Nigeria portends grave danger for the future development of the North.


It is perhaps in the area of education that the scales are so massively weighed against the North.  The educational statistics in every respect, be they enrolment figures, number of institutions, number of teachers, admissions into tertiary institutions, percentage of passes in WAEC and NECO examinations or what have you, show that the North is far behind the South. And this is in spite of the tremendous effort that I am aware have been made by states in the North in the area of educational development. In order to drive home my point, permit me to touch briefly some of these statistics.
It is common knowledge that almost every state in the South has a Federal University and a state university or a private university.  Some states such as Ogun, Ondo, Edo, Anambra, Rivers among others have all three.  Here in the North if my memory is correct, only Benue State may lay claim to three universities with the recent take-off of the NKST Church sponsored University of Mkar.  When combined with Federal and State Polytechnics, Federal and State Colleges of Education etc, we can begin to appreciate the advantage the South has over the North in terms of trained manpower and the socio-economic and political head start this gives the South.


At the political level, the recent nation-wide tension that the Third Term Agenda threw up showed that the formidable political unity that used to be the strength of the world is under severe strain.  Perhaps the several years of military rule, with emphasis on allegiance to the centre; the creation of states, with the recent polarisation of interests; and divided party allegiances have left their toll.  We must however, be reminded of the fact that 2007 is only around the corner.  If the North is to win the Presidency in 2007, which is due to it under the rotational system, then the time for unity is now.  Here again our royal fathers can assist by bringing together their prominent sons and daughters who are vying for the position of the President to adopt a common platform that would ensure that the North does not lose the post as a result of their mutual antagonism. Indeed, royalty can always gently admonish those who have backslided in our legislatures to order.


Our esteemed Royal Fathers, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, for the North to move forward to meet our yearnings and aspirations, we most first address some of the threats that have tended to undermine Northern unity.  First and foremost is the threat of ethno-religious and communal crises.  Almost every state in the North has been ravaged at one time or the other by violent conflicts of a religious, ethnic or communal nature, which have left untold human misery in terms of loss of lives, destruction of properties and displacement of large populations.    These crises have not only diverted much needed resources from areas of development but also torn apart long-standing bonds and destroyed mutual understanding and cooperation, which are the bases for unity.
Politicians and other elites in the North, who have tended to exploit our diversity for parochial ends, must have a re-think, and begin to give greater consideration to the common good.  If the elites in the North in politics, business and other areas of endeavour, reach out to one another in cooperation and understanding, we may begin to make a headway in our quest to reposition the North.  In this regard therefore, pressure organisations such as the Arewa Consultative Forum, the Middle Belt Forum and the Northern Unity Forum must begin to talk among themselves and build upon their areas of common interests.


Your Excellencies, Royal Fathers, ladies and gentlemen, I have spoken at length about the problems which confront our desire for unity and development in the North and in passing, alluded to some of the steps that we need to take individually and collectively towards finding solutions to such problems.  The quest for Northern unity is a task that must be accomplished.  How do we begin to accomplish it and what should be the role of traditional rulers? 


I would like to once again, underscore the important position of the traditional rulers as the custodians of our cultural values and the authority that has been recognized by our people over a long period.  As the authority that is closest to the people and is in constant touch with their mood, feelings and yearnings, you are in a better position to mobilise them to achieve the goals we may set for ourselves.  You speak the language our people understand.  You know their interests and can assist in articulating them for the attention of the relevant tiers of government.  You have the capacity to do this as indeed many of you have already been doing.   For you to be able to continue to discharge these responsibilities on a scale that the entire North will feel your impact however, you must be organised under a forum that will afford you the opportunity to share ideas and map out common strategies.


The Conference of Northern Traditional Rulers is a forum that I believe meets the need for such a platform of unity.  By the time you consider and adopt resolutions on issues of representation, frequency of meetings, leadership, among others, I am confident that the Governors of our states will be willing and able to support the forum to find its feet.  Unity among yourselves on a one-to-one basis is also important and should be promoted through exchange visits, inter-marriages and the award of chieftaincy titles to deserving subjects.  Unity and understanding among you will impact positively on your people and ultimately on the North as a whole.


We may also begin to achieve our goal of unity by reinventing and sustaining the vision and ideals of the founding fathers of the North, particularly the emphasis on one destiny, one love and one North.  There was a time when Northerners in positions of leadership took pride in helping their brothers and sisters to also climb up the ladder of responsibility.  With unity and understanding, we can begin to reclaim those virtues of being our brothers' keeper.
Similar to the reinvention of the vision of pioneer and past leaders is the necessity of upholding and promoting our core values as a people.  The North used to be synonymous with honesty, integrity, respect for elders and constituted authority, hard work among other positive attributes.  You, our traditional rulers, can assist the North to begin to recover these core values.  In particular, our youths must imbibe not only these values but in addition they must avoid quick and easy paths to success, embrace hard work, good character and high moral standards.  They are our insurance for a better tomorrow and we owe them the responsibility to bring the up aright.


The North must return to the practice of agriculture on a scale that makes agriculture the oil of the North.  Agriculture will not only guarantee our food sufficiency but also open up employment opportunities for the teeming number of unemployed able-bodied men and women.  With emphasis on agriculture using appropriate technologies for increased production, the North can open up new vistas in agro-based industries and meaningful rural development.  You, our traditional rulers, can assist our governments at the local and state levels to convince and enlist our youths in agriculture as there is pride, wealth and fulfillment in agriculture as a profession.


For us to move forward, the North must encourage full enrolment in education, particularly at the primary and secondary levels.  Furthermore, we need to encourage and promote vocational education so that products of our technical schools can be self-employed.  Our goal should be to strengthen the institutional capacity of our educational sector to gradually and progressively narrow the gap between the yawning gap that currently exists between the North and the South.


The necessity for and importance of peace, security, law and order as the ingredients of a conducive atmosphere that would promote meaningful development in the North cannot be over emphasised.  Related to this is the need to borrow a leaf from the Sardauna by encouraging strong enrolment into the military, the police and other professions. The history of Nigeria has shown that the military especially, will continue to play key roles in the power dynamics of the nation.


Your Excellencies, Royal Fathers, ladies and gentlemen, by way of conclusion, I want to emphasize that my call for a new approach to Northern unity is by no means a threat to the unity and integrity of Nigeria.  As a region with more than half the nation's landmass and population, a peaceful and developed North can only be an asset and not a threat to the Federal Republic of Nigeria.  As I mentioned earlier, the unity, progress and development of the North will provide strong impetus to the unity and progress of the entire nation.


As we look forward to the contributions of our royal fathers in the quest for this new unity, I want to end my address by commending the Chairman of the Northern Governor's Forum, His Excellency Dr. Bukola Saraki, for making it possible for this important conference to be held.  I commend the continued interest and support of my colleagues for sustaining the Governors' Forum.  I recall that in December 2004, the Forum convened the Conference on Peace Building and Conflict Resolution in Northern Nigeria.  I am convinced beyond any doubt that this conference, like the previous one, will give a welcome stimulus to the search for a new understanding in the North.
 

 Governor Akume delivered this lecture at the forum of Northern traditional rulers in Kaduna last week.

 

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