Thursday, September 23, 2021

The North and its perilous elite, by Prof. Abubakar Liman

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Jaafar Jaafar
Jaafar Jaafar is a graduate of Mass Communication from Bayero University, Kano. He was a reporter at Daily Trust, an assistant editor at Premium Times and now the editor-in-chief of Daily Nigerian.
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In known history, the elite are the social cluster entrusted with leadership, with the responsibility of organizing individuals and groups in the processes of securing the future as well as guaranteeing the wellbeing of members of society. The elite are saddled with the task of building society through the old mechanism of social contract abstracted by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. By virtue of their education and training, the elite earned the right to provide direction to society. Their intelligence, sagacity, wisdom (a very rear commodity these days) and their overall edge in learning and enlightenment have qualified them to become the searchlight for pathways. Therefore, the health of any society largely depends on how the elite run the affairs of their society. If on the one hand a society is robust, vibrant, dynamic, purposeful and progressive look no further than how the elite handle the affairs of such society. But if on the other hand, society is ossified and backward seek the answers from the elite handling of that society. Either ways the elite are responsible for the fate of society. The ordinary folks have never had endowed with the wherewithal to organize society to any end. This golden rule applies to all modern societies including our own.

Based on its history, Northern Nigeria is a product of colonial project. The region was extracted from the scattered territories and states from which the British colonizers cobbled northern Nigeria for their own colonial interests. Similarly, the idea of uniting northern Nigeria and southern Nigeria was also for the purpose of colonial ends. Here we are now in the postcolonial phase of our history struggling to build something meaningful out of our inherited colonial legacy. Of course, this is happening in a broader historical context where the entire nations of the world were structured as colonial holdings. How do we extricate from the burden of that callous experience? Does it mean to decolonize is to reverse achievements recorded by society in the colonial era or to alternatively to wind the hand of the clock back to some pristine era? Methinks the task ahead for northern Nigerian elite is rediscover their historical role. They must know the necessary ingredients for moving society forward. As a matter of urgency, they should source realistic ways and means of forging ahead amidst the complexities churned up by our post-colonial social order. Our forefathers did it successfully. To the best of their abilities they built northern Nigeria upon the colonial legacies they have inherited from the British. There’s therefore nothing to stop us from replicating such feats if we so wish.

The problems of northern Nigeria started when northern elite colluded with members of their military wing who seized power through coup to run Nigeria aground. Our elite have forgotten that the army is only trained to destroy and not to build society. Military institutions anywhere in the world are never given the task of social engineering in times of peace. Indeed, our elite are carried away by the comfort of perpetually controlling Nigeria through their military proxies. In fact, it is now they are painfully realizing that controlling politics of the nation without controlling the economy is a mere pipedream, it does not take society anywhere as the situation in the North proves it. As our region suffers decades of neglect and decline in all social indices, our elite ignobly busied themselves doing nothing with their pretentious posture of building Nigeria. In their own naïve way, they think intrigues rather than well thought-out serious business of social planning and development of society from feat to feat. We have failed in all measurable criteria as the huge mess we found ourselves in is proving.

The first generation of northern Nigerian leaders had a good idea of how society should be run; how to develop human capital through education; how to build strong institutions; how to create and sustain values and ethics; and even how the region should be transforming industrially. They carefully evaluated the economic potentials of the region and earmarked where what industry should be situated and markets for manufactured products. In their ambitious regional economic development plan, they targeted that by the 1980s northern Nigeria would have been completely industrialized. But all that plan and focus were abandoned by the generation that has succeeded them for some boggy phantom of white elephant projects, which were haphazardly contrived in the name of national development. The northern elite are at the center of promoting such scam at the expense of attending to the needs of their region. Everything they did was done through the patronage of our northern military leaders.    

In the North every right thinking person, educated and uneducated, is coming to terms with the painful realization of the collective failure of our elite. As the elite of other regions of our country have now made a point of duty to rediscover their mission as they vigorously pursue economic development goals, the North is in downward spiral. Our elite are everywhere suffering from a creative deficit otherwise. In other parlance, it is known as failure of imagination. In the sort of geopolitical contestation that is defining politics in Nigeria the North is made to just passively react to the initiatives of our opponents from other sections of Nigeria. Our ineptitude can be seen in how we enter the political contests for restructuring the polity and resource control. We have since lost track of the significance of deploying strategic thinking and principles of planning in all that we do as a people, as a region. Instead we are only good at pursuing selfish interest, inanities, vanity and self-aggrandizement. 

We tend to forget that although history and culture have accentuated our differences, geography is however gluing us into a single bundle. Whether we like it or not, the North cannot be spatially disemboweled. Northern elite are not thinking beyond the immediate. Every nucleus of northern elite, Muslims and Christians, today only finds comfort in the midst of their kith and kin. Arising from that we are made to cringe in the face of any kind of difference. We find it difficult these days to tolerate anybody that is different from us in culture, in values and in religion. Herein lies the need to evolve national culture and values, something that we can all connect to despite our cultural differences. Before our very eyes we allow the region to be dragged into bottomless pit of senseless violence and pogrom in the name of everything other than reason and rationality.

Whether the violence that is threatening to destroy the entire region is engineered by outsiders or not, we are to blame for allowing it to fester beyond our control. How can we allow it to happen knowing fully well that nothing good comes out of violence and mayhem except misery? How can we allow agents of our common humanity to succeed in excising us? How can we not see the futility of promoting divisive fault-lines rather than development blueprints by enemies within and outside the region? In this regard, we are all guilty for accepting to be thrown into the quagmire of religious bigotry and ethnic irredentism. It is no longer news that the North is a diverse region. Ethnic and religious diversity clearly defines northern Nigeria. In this sense, God almighty did not consult anyone when He so willed that the geographical territory called northern Nigeria should be populated by plural identities. It has not been His desire to implant a homogenous group in the region. Our society is thoroughly heterogeneous even though the postmodern religious puritans on both sides do not like our diversity. We must learn to come to terms with this reality if we have not already done so.

As things are right now, the ruling elite do not seem to have a clue of what to do to avert the slide of the entire region into a state of anarchy. There is nothing on our horizon to show that our elite really care about the gradual dismantling of the North. The political elite in our region that are touted to be doing well are those that are curating neoliberal agenda, an agenda that I believe is intensifying the collapse of the North. There is no strategic thinking on northern Nigerian society and economy. There is also no concerted effort whatsoever to redress our problems outside media noise. As the uncertainties in the world become heightened, current generations of northerners need to start thinking seriously to secure the future of the region. We must take our destiny in our own hands for positive development of the region.          

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