It is a prevalent belief that the fates of all human beings are interconnected; whatever affects one of us affects us all. And if that is the case it follows that the actions and inactions of those privileged by virtue of providence amongst us influences the lives of each and every person in the community.
The community in Northern Nigeria is an entity encompassing over half the population of this country; with widespread water resources, vast land, the most fertile agricultural soil in the nation, abundant natural endowments awaiting development, amongst so many other virtues. It is an entity I am so proud of, one which, once upon a time, yielded much power and produced the most selfless, patriotic leaders this country has ever witnessed, but today it is an entity in disarray. Today Arewa is but a ghost of her former self, crying out for redirection; desperate for salvation. As disparate as the performance of the founding fathers, our leadership now almost seems at odds with the spirit of building a strong, united and virile Arewa. Our standing is ebbed further because we are no longer perceived with the same pride, humility, unity and integrity we were once known for.
It is a pity that half a century since our independence, the north is forced to continuously refer to the person of Sir Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto whenever asked to produce a northern leader of selflessness, courage, distinction, dedication and detribalized sentiment. The Sardauna of Sokoto did for Arewa what Chief Obafemi Awolowo did for the Yorubas. But unlike the South West where the majority of the population is Yoruba, Sir Ahmadu Bello was able to unify the various diverse tribes found in the north. Although a Hausa/Fulani, the Sardauna regarded every northerner as one and the same. Never did he discriminate based on tribe and always, he would encourage people to practice their religion regardless of what it was.
Every person from Arewa was ‘his person.’ He appreciated the fact that the people of the north needed each other and needed a common identity as “yan Arewa” in order to function successfully and completely as an entity. So he taught the north to understand and value its differences and look upon them as its strength by accommodating every “dan Arewa” whom shared his vision to fortify and modernize the north.
In the Bible, in the book of Genesis it is written that, “the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers… Leaders are not born, they are made, and they are made just like anything else, through hard work…that’s the price one would have to pay to achieve that goal, or any goal.” The spirit of such a notion became a driving force for the Sultan as he went out of his way to scroll school results and observe common interactions in the hope of finding a promising, intelligent and hardworking “dan Arewa”, albeit Christian or Muslim, Nupe or Idoma, Fulani or Birom, Gwari or Ibira to groom for the future of the north.
However our problems in Arewa do not only lie solely with the leadership but the individuals and masses as well. Take, for example, the indifference of specific and certain business men we have in the north to the plight of our people? Having benefited from their communities, these specific Northern businessmen lack in their responsibility to their societies. It is a far cry from the actions of their counterparts in the south where it is common to see successful business men set up scholarships, health care initiatives and build schools.
When I was in law school I witnessed with a sense of self-disappointment how every single legal scholarship offered was from Nigerians of southern extraction, not even one was offered from anyone from the north. It is an ignominy to wealthy Northerners who display their wealth by donating hundreds of millions to ersatz presidential libraries and tens of millions for legislative, presidential and gubernatorial campaigns. How many non relatives have they educated in their neighborhood? How much farm lands have they donated to the local community? How many wells have they built in their neighborhoods? How many schools have they erected in the vicinity they grew up? How many scholarships have they funded in their villages? How many youths and young entrepreneurs have they inspired and empowered in their states? Since education is the major vehicle for development we must educate our youth because they are the future of the north. In the south almost all the advancement in education we witness is because of their personal and communal commitment. Southern parents strive for money in order to educate their children while we strive for money so that our children can drive the best cars in town. It is all well and good that during Ramadan, for instance, affluent Muslim northerners donate abundantly to the masses, but is that really enough? Zakat is performed by Muslims in the pursuance of a religious duty. In addition to this religious responsibility, there is a social responsibility upon all northerners, Christian or Muslim, to help revolutionize their people, develop their societies and pass the beacon of hope to the next generation.
Among the areas crippling the north are education, lack of regional identity, agriculture and commerce. These sectors need to be addressed in order for the north to get back on course. As concerned people, we in the north must literally go back to our roots and come up with innovative ways of amending our agricultural methods so that we can get the best from farming. The bulk of our population in the north is farming families and this is where our strength lies. We must expand and experiment with new crops and also improve the productivity of our farmers and their income. With our great population and our vast, fertile land, Arewa can become the center-point of farming and agricultural export in Africa. With this initiative our people will again serve as the apparatus of development, without this especially, our people will remain poor and unmotivated.
Today the vast population of the north is unaware and unemployed, snowed under by the countless number of Almajirai that don’t know any better. Our leaders need to stop using these uninspired youth as tools and instead steer them in the direction that will see Arewa thrive by educating them and empowering them. The north needs leaders with foresight and selfless service; we have no other choice but to unite and represent our people wholeheartedly.
There is a popular expression I have always found quite interesting that goes, “A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go, but ought to be…” If this is the case, then it is a given that Arewa is desperate for great leaders. We are desperate to be taken from where we are on the periphery of rupture and impoverishment to where we should be at the hub of harmony and progress. We cannot play an effective role in our own development unless we have such great leaders who are willing to deal and correct our deficiencies; great leaders who can encourage us to develop education, industries, communications and agriculture.
Arewa, the former powerhouse of Nigerian politics, an entity, once proud of its leaders and history is crumbling and struggling to stand as one unified entity. We have allowed religious sentiment and tribal bigotry to create the kind of dichotomy that never existed before. It is imperative at this sensitive and crucial stage for the north to come together and speak with one voice as we once did. Rebuilding and revisiting the legacy created to us by Sardauna is the only way we, as a people, can benefit in a country where unity is everything and diversity is nothing.
The north, can regain its credibility once those privileged by fate comprehend that the fates of all human beings are interconnected. Whatever affects one of us affects us all. And although they may not be amongst the tens of thousands of Northerners reeling from the loss of Sir Ahmadu Bellos’ legacy because they are living comfortably in the present, they must recognize that affluence and power is not a right but a gift from The Almighty. So if our leaders disregard the foundation the Sardauna set for them and abandon the north, then they also abandon their children.
I once read a prose which left an impression on me and confirmed to me that every action taken by mankind is never taken in isolation and whatever way we behave as ‘yen Arewa, will invariably be the testament of the way the North will develop, it said; “All mankind is of one author, one volume …As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come: so this bell calls us all….No man is an island, entire of itself…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls… it tolls for thee.”