By Muhammad Yakubu
Northern Nigeria, also known as Arewa, is the country’s most populous region. According to Worldometer, the northern region of Nigeria currently has an estimated population of 104,458,581, comparable to the entire population of Egypt, as contrasted with the 97,491,364 estimated population of Southern Nigeria. Worldometer is a reference website that provides counters and real-time statistics for diverse topics.
Northern Nigeria has always been the root of many Nigerian leaders and elites over the years. The story of Arewa, however, has been filled with many lows, as most of the leaders have done little or nothing to improve the region. The region has been deprived of proper education and good livelihood.
Yet, many accept as true that this is a deliberate action by the upper echelon of the elite hierarchy to deprive the people of socio-economic liberation, so as to be able to continually lure the blindfolded masses into voting them into office.
Nevertheless, the significance of Arewa’s advancement to the development of Nigeria cannot be overemphasised. Lest we forget, the north was a major contributor to Nigeria’s economy before the discovery of oil. Why is Arewa not contributing that much at the present is the conundrum I am particularly facing. Where would Nigeria have been if she didn’t let go of the famous groundnut pyramids even after the discovery of oil, is another question agitating my mind.
My grandfather, as my dad always told me, was a middleman for Swedish Groundnut-buying firm, Gaydou. That particular business activity aided foreign exchange of the country, as it helped generate employment opportunities locally.
Thus far, nothing like the above is seen in Arewa currently. The identity of the region that once played a vital role for Nigeria’s economy has been left to decay. Poverty, illiteracy, violence and doom and gloom are the stories coming out of the once region of hope. Hovering.
But all hope is not lost as we have enough reasons to bring back those magnificent old days. It is time that the region was given the education it was denied, and for the political class stopped taking advantage of its demographic dividend for selfish power games.
As much as they need Arewa’s votes to get into office, Nigeria needs the north for its economic stability. Many in Arewa are vigorously willing to use their God-given talent in contributing to the nation’s economic growth, but their efforts are not properly supported.
Poverty and lack of government’s assistance have left many parents with no options than to send their kids out to the streets to beg. The almajirai on our streets have defied all recommended solutions – due to the lack of political will. There’s a need to take these kids off the streets.
The almajirai, even if they are lucky survive malnutrition and other diseases, they grow up to be vulnerable to all sorts of social vices. However, I blame neither them nor their parents because they are being deprived of proper information and education to guide them.
This, in any event, hasn’t done any good to the nation as terrorist groups such as the Bokoharam insurgents are also using uneducated children to terrorise the country.
Therefore, in order to revitalise the country’s economy, Arewa has to be restored to the state its founding fathers intended for it. Those groundnut pyramids, even if not in that form, have to be back to help in contributing to economic stability and ultimately, eradicating the existing poverty in the region. The north has to be given adequate education, proper information has to be readily available at the grassroots and awareness level has to be higher.
Muhammad writes from Abuja