By Halima Imam
The question on the mind of every Northerner is, “How did we get here?” What went so clearly wrong that got us to this ‘low’ we are forced to live with today? Ours was a region of tolerance, a people who are very homely and accommodating, and a group that was never materialistic. A population of over ninety million ravaged by insecurity on all fronts, hunger, illiteracy, poor family planning, and women empowerment issues at the rock bottom of discussions.
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees in their 2019 statistics of refugees and internally displaced persons in Nigeria and Lake Chad for 2019 put the figures at over 294,230 refugees and over 2.7 million internally displaced people in the North Western part of Nigeria. According to the Internal displacement monitoring centre, displacements due to disasters affected 157,000 people along the 19 Northern states, 248,000 people affected due to conflict and violence, and 2,583,000 internally displaced persons in the North West and North Central States.
Data on the National literacy index published by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) shows that Northern States have a towering illiteracy level in Nigeria with Yobe state having 7.23%, thereby gaining itself an unfortunate title of the state with the majority of illiterates in Nigeria. The dispiriting record of Yobe sees Zamfara (19.16 per cent), Katsina (10.36 per cent), Sokoto (15.01), Bauchi (19.26), Kebbi (20.51), and Niger (22.88) closely behind.
The North has been tagged backward, shallow, crude, illiterate, ignorantly populated etcetera. In recent times, Northerners have had to endure being tagged terrorists or potential terrorists. Even though some of these stereotypes are not completely true, they are not far-fetched. These should ideally leave every single Northerner disconsolate. The region struggles with so much wealth inequality that if no urgent step is taken, we might be well on our way to surpassing the mother of wealth inequality: South Africa.
The fact that bandits have made life a living hell for the people; farmers fleeing from their unharvested farms, people killed in their numbers and villages razed to the ground, is very upsetting. Our women and children abducted, raped and forced to live a nightmare. The consistent eerie silence that comes from our elders, elites, religious leaders, stake holders and government is beyond disappointing.
Reports say that some of these bandits ravaging the North are teenagers handling very sophisticated weapons with an obvious bank roll from some influential people. Boko Haram menace has crippled the North East: A people once known for so much peace and tolerance now have to live life constantly looking over their shoulders. Children made orphans, wives becoming widows, landlords rendered homeless and the list goes on.
Kidnapping has evolved from the roads to houses. People seized and sometimes killed by these thugs who believe that no one has the time to come after them, hence doing as they please. They ask for whatever amount they wish for, and kill whenever it tickles their fancy. From Kaduna, to Zamfara, Katsina and through the 19 Northern states, it’s tales of insecurity, hunger, poverty, inequality and death. Do we not have elders who are concerned? Or are they just concerned about how bottomless their bank account gets?
The insecurity in the North is starting to take a toll on food production and food prices in the entire country. The fear of being attacked on their farmland leaves farmers preferring to protect their dear lives, rather than risk a trip where they might never return home. In fact the consequences are there in the market, and skyrocketed food prices leave us mouth agape with incredulity. The North is gradually turning into a grave yard and our blind loyalty and ‘Yallabai’ mentality will further plunge the North down the path of stagnation.
The North makes it seem like a woman’s ultimate trophy and reward is being a wife, women are made to stay in the background without any form of empowerment that makes her fix the world around her. Empowering women with skills to become climate change mitigators in their homes and communities will go a long way. Educating the girl child will automatically change the World, because she will raise her children to be a gift to the World. The World is changing and women in every part of the world have proven that they can be independent, an asset and a force to reckon with. Northern women have to be given priority; they deserve to be empowered in so many ways.
We don’t have to put our shame in the pockets of our “Getzner shadda”, hide behind tinted exotic cars and move our family to developed countries just because we do not want to be human enough to care about the distasteful happenings in the North.
When silence gets to a point, it becomes misconstrued and often, mistaken for consent. In our silence, we have consented to the ills that have overshadowed us. We have left things to work themselves out enough. The North needs her people to stand firm and save her children. The time for words and actions is long overdue. Reclaiming the lost glory of our people should be our passion. Proffering solutions to the controversial complication of events in the North is what those who can, should do continuously. We cannot let pride, ego and a dying humanity consume us.
The North needs functional literacy; the governors in the North must make education enshrined in skill acquisition by flooding the region with technical colleges. Policy makers need to get off their ‘comfy seats and chill offices’ to make sure that insecurity is fought off with a double iron fist. People who battle poverty and so many societal vices already battle death on a daily basis. Those with guns, bombs and knives should not be let to roam amongst them. That’s too much for a region to bear.
We have to be vocal. We must bring the issues that kill us in our numbers to the fore. Leaders in whatever capacity have to stand and speak against evil. We should not be left in constant fear of “Who is next?” We must collectively solve our problems because just like every other person alive, we must choose life. If we don’t speak up and take action, our continuous silence is simply consent.
Founder (Climate action Team)
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Sky Daily