By Abubakar Barde
According to the 2006 census, out of140,437,790 people, the north forms about 56.95% of Nigeria’s population. Age range from 14 to 36 constitutes about 40.78% of Nigeria’s entire population and though one is only eligible to vote from age 18, 14 to 36 very well covers the youth demographic in the country. Putting those statistics side by side implies that North as the most populated region; must share a large chunk from the over 40% youths in Nigeria which automatically makes the stake of the youths as high as any other. That being said, allow me to discuss some realities that we as northern youths need to face.
At the very least, four distinct nations were tailored into one great and mighty nation called Nigeria by the amalgamation of the Southern and Northern protectorates in 1914. The Hausa-Fulani (North), the Yoruba (West), the Igbo (East) and the Bendel (Niger-Delta; South) tribes had cultures and traditions so unique from one another that each could have easily passed for an independent country. The colonial masters might have had other plans to have joined these cultures but it turns out to be a blessing in disguise as it has made Nigeria the most powerful black nation in the world.
Taking a bus ride through the states of Nigeria, it is indeed an astonishing sight to behold how the vegetation beautifully changes right before your eyes from one region to the other; which has given us the opportunity to farm virtually any plant known to man with ineffable mineral resources embedded beneath our soils. Each of these major ethnic groups mentioned is generously blessed but if I am permitted to be a bit selfish, hardly any is as privileged as the north.
The north constitutes 2/3rd of Nigeria’s population which implies potentially the largest labour force and for a supposedly industry-based economy, the north occupies about 724,321.00km2 of the nation’s 923,768 km2 land area. This by implication provides the ample space for the situation of industries all over its expanse with relating ample manpower to service those industries. Placed in such a position, it is therefore conclusive that there should be no region agitating for the unity of Nigeria more than the north because if Nigeria as a nation prospers, there are more northerners benefiting in population figures than every other region and there is no gain saying that same goes for suffering should the nation be failing. It therefore becomes appalling that some would only see one use for the North’s numerical strength – the ballot box.
An article written by one Dr. Ismaila Farouk recently surfaced who tried so hard to paint the Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo as being nepotistic in his appointments. This is a dangerous path to be taken by anyone who has the love of the north at heart and I feel the need to speak on behalf of Northern youths that Ismaila Farouk does not represent our views. We have all voted for a government that would deliver us from the strong grip of corruption and by divine arrangement, we have a President that is so en-synched with his vice that in his absence, he is well and ably represented. Both Muhammadu Buhari and Yemi Osinbajo are too focused on delivering the promises they have made in 2015 to be talking about the next election but unfortunately that cannot be said about a few others who are so desperate to break the formidable bond simply due to their over-ambition for 2019. I need to remind many that there was a time almost everyone thought it was impossible to defeat an incumbent no matter how fed up the electorates are, of the leadership. Therefore if there is any government that is evidently convinced that a government can be voted out of power, it is this administration, which is why I believe they are placing all hands on deck to get the approval of the electorate on the mandate given to them first, before they go seeking for another.
Talking about the ambitions of Yemi Osinbajo to become president come 2019 and your tangible evidence is the appointment of a few principal officers that work with him shows Dr. Ismaila’s naivety and ignorance of the democratic transformation Nigeria has gone through. We had a government that had all the ministers and all the heads of parastatals working for it yet it lost because the people were grossly dissatisfied. Some are in the habit of raising storms in tea cups just to fan their agenda and when one views Dr. Ismaila Farouk’s article at surface value, one would almost be inclined to think that for all the moments Buhari had not been around, Osinbajo relocated the State House to either Lagos or the Redeemed Christian Church of God’s (RCCG) headquarters.
I feel countering the article by listing the northerners working with the Acting President is a response too dignifying because as a Nigerian, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo has every right to nurse an ambition to become the next President of Nigeria after President Muhamadu Buhari be it 2019 or 2023 but the bottom line remains, none of them has declared any intentions as at yet. While all of Nigeria regardless of religion are praying for the quick and lasting recovery of Mr. President, some are fomenting conspiracy theories and trying to instigate the North to feel marginalized in an administration where they have the President, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, the Ministers of Defence, Interior, Justice, Agriculture, FCT, Education, Environment, Youths and Sports, Information, Aviation, Women Affairs, several Ministers of State as well as the Heads of both chambers of the National Assembly. With all due respect to all the mentioned portfolios and disrespect intended on the appointees of the acting president, if change does not reach the north through all these, then I doubt much what significance a few appointed by acting president can do. We must shy away from all pettiness if we must grow as a region and in fact, a nation.
The likes of Dr. Ismaila Farouk are the breed of northerners that have misguided us over the years that instead of going to the South to bring raw materials to the countless factories we have established in the expanse of our lands in the north, we are most famous there as shoe shiners and securities. I have searched throughout the internet but could not find any digital print of the acclaimed Dr. Farouk other than the post in question. He is inciting a division within this government yet he does not even respect us enough to show his identity. I am confident his hope is to cause an uproar among the youths so that we blindly fallout to the roads in protest but we are a new breed of northern youths that will no longer be gullible to these naysayers and people of ill intentions. We are a new set of northern youths that understand more than ever before, the need for our unity to deliver on a government of our collective dreams.
In the 2015 elections, the APC joint ticket of Muhammadu Buhari and Yemi Osinbajo won by a total of 15,424,921 out of 29,432,083 votes cast. 17.7% of the registered voters in the majorly Yoruba speaking states gave APC 2,735,339 which was about 163,580 more than the votes needed to defeat PDP’s 12,853,162. So let us face a glaring fact that without the support of the Yorubas, and even the1,419,939 collective votes from South-South and South-East, the dream of toppling an incumbent government would not have been realized because let us also face another painful fact – only about 31% of the registered voters in the north voted for President Buhari who is also from the North. We may pride ourselves that we delivered 70% of the vote that brought in the government but the reality is that it would not have been enough if no other region played their own role.
Another reality remains the fact that the entire north is predominantly Muslims does not in any way undermine the large number of Christians in the region. So if we for a minute accept the unfortunate reality of religion playing a big role in our nation’s politics; the large number of Muslims in the north might have voted for Buhari for his religious inclination just as a large number of Christians voted for him because he had a pastor as his running mate. I pray we someday revert to the state where religion is a very distant consideration in choosing our leaders just as Nigerians voted for MKO Abiola and Babagana Kingibe in 1993 despite the duo being Muslims, but before then, let us be mindful of those who only incite ethnic and religious differences when they want to score cheap political points.
By 2019, they issue of those appointed by both President Buhari and Prof. Yemi Osinbajo will be trivialized by their scorecard and achievements of the first four years so I beg Nigerian youths youths, let us not let any shortsighted person, make us believe otherwise. Our future together is brighter than the greedy ambitions of a mysterious few.On another matter, it is hard to believe that one is praying for the health of the president who is still very much on the seat, while at the same time scheming for who succeeds him in the next election. President Buhari has trusted Osinbajo to occupy until he returns, the best way to show him our love and support is to trust Osinbajo as well and not sidetrack or distract him with baseless banters.
Nigeria is estimated to have a population of 191,835,936 in 2017 and with infrastructure already over-stretched; the county is predicted to reach a population of 398,507,704 in 2050 which indicates how much we all need each other to sustain the country in the next hundred years. All that lie before us and what we need to conquer together goes beyond people who cannot think beyond the 2019 elections.
Abubakar Barde is a Youth leader and activist