By Nazifi Dawud Khalid
Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, has lamented the backwardness of Nigeria’s northern region, saying its predominantly Muslim population is still living in the 13th Century era of Islam.
Mr Sanusi, who spoke at the ongoing Kaduna State Investment and Economic Summit, KADINVEST 2.0, on Wednesday, said unless Northern Muslims develop the courage to confront their challenges, the region would never attain development.
“We have adopted an interpretation of our culture and our religion that is rooted in the 13th century mindset that refuses to recognize that the rest of the Muslim world has moved on.
“Today in Malaysia, you wake up and divorce your wife that is fine. But you give her 50 percent of all the wealth you acquired since you married her. It is a Muslim country. In Nigeria, you wake up after 20 years of marriage, you say to your wife, ‘I divorce you’, and that’s it.
“Other Muslim nations have pushed forward girl-child education; they’ve pushed forward science and technology. They have pushed forward the arts. We have this myth in northern Nigeria, where we try to create an Islamic society that never existed,” he said.
The emir also observed that if the Northeast and Northwest regions were independent countries, they would have been poorer than Niger, Chad and Cameroon, which are being considered as some of the poorest countries of the world.
“We are in denial. The north-west and the north-east, demographically, constitute the bulk of Nigeria’s population, but look at human development indices, look at the number of children out of school, look at adult literacy, look at maternal mortality, look at infant mortality, look at girl-child completion rate, look at income per capita, the north-east and the north-west Nigeria, are among the poorest parts of the world,” Mr Sanusi said.
“As far back at 2000, I looked at the numbers, Borno and Yobe state, UNDP figures, Borno and Yobe states, if they were a country on their own, were poorer than Niger, Cameroon and Chad.
“Nobody saw this because we were looking at Nigeria as a country that averages the oil-rich Niger Delta, the industrial and commercial-rich Lagos, the commercially viable southeast, and you have an average.
“Break Nigeria into its component parts, and these parts of the country are among the poorest, if it were a country. And we do not realize we are in trouble,” he added.
Mr Sanusi berated the practice of burning books covering themes of love romance which he said are taboo topics in the north, warning that if the practice continues, it would harm the chance of women to get better lives.
“We need to understand the roots of the problem of northern Nigeria. Burning books, it happened in Kano, what is the crime of those books? They were writing about (love), and love apparently is supposed to be a bad word,” he said.
“In a society where you don’t love your women and you don’t love your children, you allow them to beg, you beat up your women, why should anyone talk about love?
“We are fighting culture, we are fighting civilization. We must wage an intellectual war, because Islam is not univocal; there are many voices, there are many interpretations, there are many viewpoints, and we have for too long allow the ascendancy of the most conservative viewpoints. The consequences of that is that there are certain social problems,” he said.