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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

NORTH EAST AS NIGERIA’S BACKWATER


    Last Saturday, North East leaders under the banner of NORTH EAST FORUM FOR UNITY AND DEVELOPMENT (NEFUD) met in Bauchi to proffer solutions to the region unending problems that range from poverty, illiteracy, deceases to the mother of all 'Insecurity' that already crippled the region.  But, like most such forums from the region the deliberations of the meeting could not hold due to perceived politics and absence of commitment on the part of leaders from the region. The major casualty for the lack of united front and purposeful leaders from that part of Nigeria is the poor masses who continue to wallow in abject poverty. In all the major indicators of human development, North East is the worst in the whole country. Some of the most poverty stricken states in the country are concentrated in the region, in addition to being the incubating ground for Boko Haram and its insurgency activities. The biggest city in the region, and its commercial nerve centre, Maiduguri has since lost it vibrancy and dynamisms to other place such as Gombe due to the insecurity of the place. Maiduguri that have some of the richest people from the region and known for it peace and accommodation of strangers has since lost that, forcing thousands of people to migrate elsewhere where there is calm and siren atmosphere for business to prosper. What remains now of Maiduguri is a shadow of its former self. The same, to a lesser extent, is true with other major towns in the region such as Bauchi and Yola that are being ravaged by the same security threat on daily basis. In a response to the apparent underdevelopment and marginalization of the region, former Yobe state governor Bukar Abba Ibrahim threaten of more violence from the region if Federal government does not change it policy toward the region. The marginalization of the region can be seen in the 2013 budget presented to the national assembly by Mr. President. The former governor now Senator rightly observed that Boko Haram is a product of poverty, but the question is who and who are to blame. Is the federal government the only one to take the blame? 


  The first group of people to blame are the leaders from the region, that produced Nigeria’s first prime minister Tafawa Balewa (the golden voice) and such great people like Sir Kashim Ibrahim, Alhaji Muhammadu Ribadu,  and Brig. Zakari Maimalari. But the leaders of today, from the same region that produced these giants of humanity, are busy accumulating wealth for themselves and their children. Ask yourself how many of them are living in the region before the advent of Boko Haram crisis? They are very few, most of them have relocated to places such as Kano, Kaduna, Abuja, Lagos and Dubai (UAE) since before the advent of something called Boko Haram. Preferring to visit their states during Sallah festivals and Turbaning ceremonies. The region is left for the poor masses and street beggars to sort things out by themselves. Let compare some figures, in term of number of universities the North east has the least number (about 11) when compare with other two regions in the North, North West (16) and North Central (about 22 including FCT). Tertiary health facilities (Teaching hospitals), North East (2), North West (3), and North Central (4). The same is true with top government officers and political office holders: North East has head of service of the federation, chief of air staff, minister of FCT, Women affairs minister, EFCC chairman, PDP chairman; North West gets Vice President, Speaker, CBN governor, National planning minister, Security adviser, NDIC boss, PTDF chairman, IG of police, Custom boss, NNPC boss, acting FIRS chairman, Education minister; North Central boast of Senate President, Chief of Defence staff, Interior minister, information minister, Attorney General of the federation and so on. But, do not forget the fact that during Obasanjo first tenure the region got most of the juicy positions that were allocated to the North, including Vice President, Defence and Finance ministries.


  One major federal project that the region elders should have hurried Jonathan administration to complete is Kano to Maiduguri express way. This road in the whole North (when completed) can only be compared to Abuja to Kano express way that have in no small way boost the economy of the areas linked to it. The completion of Kano to Maiduguri will do the same to the region by reducing transport fare, increasing the availability of needed good and human resources to the region. Increasing movement of Agricultural products produce in the region to other parts of the country, and serving as link to other parts of Africa such as Chad, Niger, Cameroun, Central Africa Republic and Sudan. While the work on Lagos to Kano railway line continue albeit slowly, no one talk of that of Maiduguri to Port Harcourt; or linking areas such as Yola and Jalingo to Abuja by means of an express way. Then coming back to the issue of Boko Haram, it seems the federal government is not doing enough apart from the use of force. Like we have seen in the case of Niger Delta insurgency in the South-South, brutal use of force never solves any crisis anywhere around the world, dialogue and rehabilitation is the better alternative. There is need for massive job creation in the region to reduce the number of jobless youth who are easy target for those with dubious motives. Just like in the Niger Delta, youth from the region should be selected, thereafter, sponsored by the federal government for training abroad or somewhere in the country. Finally, politics of rigging and imposition of candidates on voters should be avoided, as some of the violence we are witnessing today are traceable to these ugly practices very common in the region and other sections of the country.

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