By Ibrahim Mustapha
SIR: The North of today is in flames. From Maiduguri in Northeast to Zamfara, Katsina in the Northwest and Kaduna in North-central, Boko Haram and bandits are making lives difficult for the poor inhabitants. The once peaceful Niger State has also become the home of bandits. Many rural communities have been overrun by the rapacious criminals wielding sophisticated weapons. What a sad development!
Did the region wake up one day to find itself in this sorry pass? Certainly, no. It is a long story of negligence, grievance, and injustice. These factors must have contributed to the present woes. Northern Nigeria is blessed with vast land and fertile soil for Agricultural production. In spite of this vantage position, 70% of its population are poor. There is high level of illiteracy with the rate of out of the school children the highest in the country. For decades, with the exception of the first generation leaders whose foresight and vision led to the massive investment in education, the region suffered total neglect from the successive crop of leaders who themselves are direct beneficiaries of our former leaders selfless service.
I shed tears when I saw the picture of the Kagara School where the abduction of over 27 students and their teachers took place. The picture depicted the poor condition of public schools in Niger State. Is Niger the only state in the North with dilapidated public schools? The answer is no. Most of our leaders pay lip services to the development of education. A trip to the Northern states will show how the region have suffered low investment in the education sector.
Poverty and illiteracy in the region are twin evils breeding the current insecurity. Some internal and external forces have been exploiting these problems to their own advantages. With multi-ethnic and religious composition, every tribe in the region is a victim of conflict waged by his other fellow ethnic group. These mountains of grievances from every angle have continued to fuel suspicions and hatred among diverse ethnic groups in the region.
Recently, the Fulani group claimed that the government has abandoned them. Also, that they are victims of cattle rustlers and of security agencies who connive with their leaders to extort them. The same with other ethnic groups who have suffered one form of violence or another. However, the inability of government to bring the perpetrators of many heinous acts to justice has not helped matters. Be it religious ethnic or communal violence, the promoters and perpetrators are not ghosts. They are known by the state. Instead of the long arm of laws to bring them to justice, they are allowed to roam free.There is need for northern governors to quickly proffer lasting solutions to the deteriorating insecurity in the region. The high rate of poverty and illiteracy should be addressed through good policies and programs. The governors should also look at the grievances being expressed by the different ethnic groups with a view to addressing them once and for all.
- Ibrahim Mustapha, Pambegua, Kaduna State.